By Ada Romano, photos by Luke Witt
Thousands of supporters greeted the Democratic presidential candidate and front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders in Richmond Thursday, just days ahead of Super Tuesday.
Some hopefuls were turned away despite the venue change from a 1,500-occupancy music hall to the Arthur Ashe Jr. Athletic Center which holds 6,000 people. The bleachers roared as supporters held up signs, chanted and stomped with excitement.
Hometown musicians Lucy Dacus and No BS! Brass warmed up the crowd before activists, community members and one of the state’s first-elected Latina legislators stumped for Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont.
The crowd cheered as Charlottesville City Councilman Michael Payne called for a political revolution.
“The reason I am here this afternoon is the same reason that each and every one of you are here,” Payne said. “Because you see in yourselves, in your families and in your communities that every single day that goes by where we do not challenge and change the status quo means homelessness, it means rationing insulin and medicine, it means choosing between rent and health care.”
Del. Elizabeth Guzmán, D-Prince William, took to the stage, asking: “Are you guys feeling the Bern?”
“He has a consistent message of progress,” Guzmán said, who was elected to the House of Delegates in 2017 as part of the state’s blue wave. “We had a base here in Virginia in 2016 that believed in his message and voted for him.”
Sanders’ platform includes providing a path to citizenship for immigrants without documentation, medical care for all and free public college for all. These ideas have been considered radical by some, but Sanders argues that these are basic human rights.
“We know that our immigration needs fundamental reform,” Sanders said. “We’re going to sign an executive order that ends all of Trump’s racist immigration policies. As the son of an immigrant, I take this issue personally.”
Since his 2016 campaign, Sanders has called for free college education for all and to eliminate student debt in the U.S.
“The world has changed. The economy, technology have changed,” Sanders said. “Public education from K-12 is no longer good enough. We need to make our public colleges and universities tuition-free.”
Sanders, who supports universal health care, has long criticized the U.S. health care system. He told the crowd about traveling to Canada with a group of diabetics. According to Sanders, the cost on insulin went down to one-tenth of the U.S. market price.
“Together we are going to end the international embarrassment of the U.S. being the only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all people everywhere,” Sanders said.
The crowd cheered as Sanders promised to legalize marijuana by executive order. Sanders said he would expunge the records of those previously convicted of marijuana possession.
Protesters like George Paton stood outside and voiced opposition to Sanders’ political ideology.
“I am a capitalist; I think Bernie is a socialist and a communist,” Paton said. “If there is a communist in Richmond, I want to be there on the sidelines.”
Sanders ranks No. 1 in an average of national polls for the Democratic nomination; a frontrunner with twice the lead over Joe Biden in second place. After a slim victory in the recent New Hampshire primary, Sanders easily clinched a win in Nevada.
The Virginia Democratic primary will take place on Tuesday, March 3. In the 2016 primary, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton received 64% of the Democratic votes to Sanders’ 35%. Sanders garnered the most votes in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties. Richmond ranked No. 4, with just over 14,000 votes cast for Sanders.
Sanders encouraged the crowd to go out and vote.
“This primary takes place in the midst of the most consequential and important election in the modern history of America,” Sanders said. “I am asking of all of you, please come out to vote.”
United Way offering free virtual tax preparation service ahead of July 15th federal tax filing deadline
Virginia households earning under $66,000 are eligible for United Way’s free virtual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.
With the federal tax-filing deadline extended to July 15, and Virginians receiving an extension for state returns, United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg is offering free virtual tax preparation services to households with incomes below $66,000.
Traditionally, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is held at 16 tax sites across the region, but as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit has shifted its focus to assisting taxpayers virtually until the tax sites can safely be reopened.
United Way partnered with Code for America to bring GetYourRefund to the region, allowing its local team of IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers to virtually assist taxpayers with completing and electronically filing both federal and state returns. To utilize the program, participants need just a smartphone with a camera or a computer with access to a scanner.
The program also encourages people to think about ways to save, implement financial best practices, and make plans for achieving financial independence. And for those with low to moderate-income, the service helps eligible taxpayers take advantage of potential tax savings through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
“For many around the region, the last few months have been difficult to navigate, but we’re pleased to be able to ease some of the anxiety and stress that those who haven’t filed yet might be feeling,” said James Taylor, president & CEO of United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg. “We knew a shift to virtual preparation was important because this service has made a tangible difference for local families over the past 10 years, particularly for those who have taken advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit.”
In 2019, local United Way volunteers helped secure more than $3 million in tax refunds for 3,667 households in our area. Families who took advantage of the service received a total of $838,300 in EITC funds from the IRS. The average household income for customers was $22,900.
Find more information here.
Library of Virginia reopens to researchers by advance appointment beginning today
During the initial reopening phase, researchers will be able to use the collections by appointment Tuesday–Friday, 10:00 am–4:00 pm.
The Library of Virginia has announced that its reading rooms will reopen to researchers by advance appointment beginning at 10:00 am on Tuesday, July 7, 2020.
During the initial reopening phase, researchers will be able to use the collections by appointment Tuesday–Friday, 10:00 am–4:00 pm. To make an appointment, please call 804.692.3800.
COVID-19, which prompted the Library’s closing to the public in mid-March, continues to pose a serious public health risk. The Library’s reopening plan includes new health and safety protocols based on the latest guidance from the Governor’s Office, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What to expect when returning to the Library:
- Appointments required to use the reading rooms in order to ensure space availability on a researcher’s preferred date
- Signage describing coronavirus symptoms – Please do not enter the building if you feel unwell or have a fever
- Face coverings required in the building at all times
- Physical distancing of six feet required in all public spaces
- Face masks and hand sanitizer available for the public
- Frequent cleaning of restrooms and surfaces in public areas throughout the day
- Returned books quarantined for three days before being available for use again
- The Exhibition Gallery, the Virginia Shop, our conference rooms, and the reading room at the State Records Center will remain closed
For additional information about what to expect on your visit, take a look at the COVID-19 Update: Guidelines for Researchers, page, which will be updated regularly.
For more on how to use the collections, click here.
Some of the New Laws that Go into Effect on July 1st
Hundreds of new laws in Virginia go into effect Wednesday, July 1st. Here is a quick rundown of some that we thought you should know about.
- Ban on the possession of firearms by a person subject to a restraining order.
- Background check on all firearm sales and a limit on handgun purchases to one a month
- Lost or stolen guns will need to be reported within 48 hours.
- Tougher penalties for leaving a loaded, unsecured firearm in a reckless manner that endangers a child.
- Local governments will have more authority to ban guns in public spaces, such as public buildings, parks, recreation centers, and during permitted events.
- Extreme Risk Protective Order, allowing authorities to temporarily take guns away from people deemed to be dangerous to themselves or others.
- Rolls back provisions including a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion and a requirement that women seeking an abortion undergo an ultrasound and counseling.
- Removes the requirement that abortions be provided by a physician. This allows nurse practitioners to perform them.
- Removal of strict building code requirements on facilities where abortions are performed.
- Health insurers will be limited to charging a maximum of $50 per month for insulin.
- Creation of a state health insurance exchange, rather than relying on the federal marketplace.for people to buy health insurance.
- No person may be arrested, prosecuted, or denied any right or privilege for participating in the state’s medical cannabis program.
- The ‘Virginia Values Act which makes sexual orientation/gender identity protected classes of discrimination.
- Ban on conversion therapy (exemption for “faith communities”) for those under the age of 18.
- It will be easier to change name and gender on a birth certificate.
- VA Department of Education must create/implement policies for treatment of trans students.
- Picture ID is no longer required to cast a vote. Voters will be able to show voter registration documents, bank statements, paychecks or any government document that shows the name and address of the voter.
- Local governments across Virginia will have the authority to remove or contextualize Confederate monuments on their town, city, or county property.
Minimum Wage Increase
- May 1, 2021, increase to $9.50/hr – This May start date reflects a delay passed during special session due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- July 1, 2022, increase to $11/hr
- July 1, 2023, increase to $12/hr
- July 1, 2025, increase to $13.50/hr
- July 1, 2026, increase to $15/hr
- Citizenship no longer required for in-state tuition but still must meet Virginia residency standards.
- Removes the requirement that school principals report misdemeanors committed at school to police.