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State legislature tackles budget amendments amid coronavirus fallout

The General Assembly’s reconvened session Wednesday was abnormal as the House dealt with technical difficulties, disruptive protests and House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, collapsing at the podium.

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By Emma Gauthier

The General Assembly’s reconvened session Wednesday was abnormal as the House dealt with technical difficulties, disruptive protests and House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, collapsing at the podium.

Filler-Corn was standing for over three hours before she fell, just as the House was going into a break. Emergency medical services immediately attended to her and she resumed her post after an hour break.

“She looked like she was ready for a break, and then I looked down and suddenly, I just heard a collapse,” said Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria. “By the time I looked up she was down.”

Lawmakers considered holding this session remotely. Levine said Republican delegates were concerned there would be technical difficulties, so legislators opted to meet in person but not in their respective chambers.

“I think it was that they wanted to make it as difficult as possible because the Democrats are in control,” Levine said. “But they’re not going to stop us from going forward, if we have to risk our lives, we will risk our lives, but we shouldn’t have to.”

Delegates congregated under a tent on the lawn of the Virginia State Capitol. The session was punctuated several times by technical difficulties, even delaying the start. The Senate met a few miles away inside the Science Museum of Virginia.

Legislator sat at tables set up roughly 6 feet apart to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus. Many delegates wore face masks, but often removed them when speaking. Some delegates elected to wear gloves, though that was not the majority. Sen. George Barker, D-Fairfax, wore a mask and sat inside a plexiglass structure that lawmakers jokingly called “the cage.” Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax kept his face mask on while at the podium, though Filler-Corn opted not to.

Virginians for Constitutional Rights 2020, formerly Reopen Virginia, gathered outside of the Capitol to protest Gov. Ralph Northam’s stay-at-home order. Northam’s order was recently extended to June 10. Protesters cited the tanking economy as the reason the state should reopen. The protesters, most in vehicles, honked their horns for nearly three hours as they drove a circuitous route around the Capitol. At times legislators strained to be heard amid the cacophony of horns.

The protest and technical difficulties did not impede the session from conducting business. Of the 100 delegates, 95 were in attendance. All 40 senators attended the Senate session. Some delegates elected not to attend due to COVID-19 related concerns, Levine said.

The House, with 97 items on the agenda, started by accepting Northam’s only vetoed bill: HB 119, a measure to define milk. The bill would only allow products that are “lacteal secretions” from a “hooved mammal” to be labeled as milk, excluding products such as almond, oat and soy “milks.”

“Not only are [dairy farmers] not making enough money on their milk, they are now dumping it down the drain,” said Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, the bill’s sponsor. “My bill was to send a signal that we sympathize with you and want to offer our support.”

Lawmakers grappled at length with issues related to the budget, which must be amended in response to the economic blow of COVID-19. Northam suggested 181 total amendments to the budget bills. The governor called for a freeze on many budget items and said that new circumstances required lawmakers to revisit initiatives such as early childhood education, more affordable college tuition, and pay increases for public employees and teachers. Northam said in his amendments that he may ask lawmakers to reconvene at a later point to vote on these items after they have reforecast state revenues.

Northam’s recommendations included $55.5 million for “sufficient disaster declaration authorization” and $2.5 million for “deficit authorization for housing.” The House accepted these amendments.

Lawmakers rejected Northam’s budget amendment to delay existing capital projects “in order to address cash flow and debt capacity concerns resulting from the COVID-19 emergency.”

Northam’s proposal to push the May 5 municipal elections to November was contested. Initially, the House voted along a slim majority not to adopt the amendment. After debate, confusion and technicalities, the amendment passed with two votes. The Senate, which accepted most budget recommendations, did not vote on moving May elections. Levine, who voted to accept the amendment, said this means elections will be held in May, despite public health concerns. He suggested that since the Senate did not vote to move the elections, the senators should man the polls.

Other budget recommendations approved by the House and Senate:

  • Increase nursing facility rates by $20 a day per patient in response to COVID-19.

  • Provide authority for the Director of the Department of Corrections to discharge or reassign certain inmates until July 2021.

  • Expand access to long acting reversible contraceptives.

  • Authorize the governor to appropriate Congressional funding related to COVID-19.

Many of the other legislative amendments were technical and made minor changes to some pivotal legislation passed in the historic session. The session marked the first time since 1994 where Democrats controlled both chambers of the General Assembly and the governor’s office. Two of Northam’s recommendations to the marijuana decriminalization bill, HB 972, were rejected, regarding an extension for the study on the legalization of marijuana and not allowing a trial by jury for the civil penalty of simple possession.

The governor’s recommendation to delay the $9.50 minimum wage increase from January until May 2021 was accepted after several impassioned pleas. Other lawmakers voiced concern that the economy can not handle increasing the minimum wage. In the Senate, Fairfax cast a tie-breaking vote to accept the bill’s delay.

A major concern during the reconvened session was that all in attendance take precautions amidst the pandemic.

“This is definitely unique,” Filler-Corn told the Washington Post. “Health and safety are a top priority.”

Levine wished that the session had been held remotely for safety reasons, but understands that it was necessary to meet, even if in person.

“Any of us could have [the coronavirus] and the longer we all stay in this environment around each other, the more likely it is that it will be transmitted,” Levine said.

Each session began at noon and after over eight hours of discussion, voting and interruptions, the House erupted in applause when they came to end. The Senate adjourned shortly after 10 p.m.

“Am I willing to risk my life to continue to serve this commonwealth?” Levine said. “Yes, I got elected for it, I’m going to take that risk, but we shouldn’t have to.”

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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2nd Street Festival Announces Full Schedule

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The 2nd Street Festival will return this fall, live and in person, Saturday – Sunday, October 2-3. Marking its 33rd year, the festival celebrates the rich culture of the historic Jackson Ward neighborhood in Downtown Richmond. This FREE event is produced by Venture Richmond Events.

Over the years, it has grown to be one of the Mid-Atlantic’s largest street festivals. Thousands visit historic Jackson Ward to reminisce about the days when 2nd Street was the heart and soul of Richmond’s African-American community and was known as “the Harlem of the South.” Today, Jackson Ward continues to be a thriving neighborhood and community.

The 2nd Street Festival is an annual celebration and homecoming over two days that features three stages of live musical entertainment along with popular food vendors, a marketplace and Artists Row to shop, and the Richmond Metropolitan Antique Car Club.

We’re really excited to be back in the Jackson Ward neighborhood,” said Sharon Bassard, Booking and Festival Manager at Venture Richmond. “This year’s lineup features Richmond favorites and up-and-coming artists. From Jazz to Reggae and Gospel to R&B, you’ll be able to find a stage over the weekend with your favorite music – all for free! We ask everyone to be a “good neighbor” and show kindness to one another by following our health and safety guidelines, encouraging you to be vaccinated, wear a mask, and maintain distancing while attending the festival.”

Venture Richmond Events continues to closely monitor CDC and VDH guidelines for COVID-19 protocols for large, in-person outdoor events. A commitment to safety and adherence to local, state, and federal ordinances and recommendations will guide all decisions regarding in-person events. (see COVID-19 guidelines)

 

 

2nd Street Festival 2021 Stage Schedule
(Subject to change)

WAVERLY R. CRAWLEY MAIN STAGE (sponsored by Virginia Union University)

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 2

  • 11:50 – 12:35pm N.F.U.S.I.O.N.Z.
  • 1:10 – 2:10pm I Would Die 4 U; A Musical Tribute to PRINCE
  • 2:30 – 3:00pm Dancing with Mama D
  • 3:30 – 4:30pm DJ Drake and MC Choco
  • 5:30 – 7:00pm Plunky & Oneness

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 3

  • 1:00 – 1:30pm James Johnson Jr
  • 2:00 – 2:30pm Virginia Union University Gospel Choir
  • 3:00 – 4:00pm J Tucker and The Krewe
  • 4:45 – 6:00pm Mighty Joshua

JOE KENNEDY JR. JAZZ STAGE

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 2

  • 12:00 – 1:15pm Joe Kennedy, Jr. Scholarship Recipient Chet Frierson
  • 1:45 – 2:45pm Debra Dean & The Key West Band
  • 3:15 – 4:15pm Saxsmo “Stepping Out”
  • 4:45 – 6:00pm Nathan Mitchell

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 3

  • 1:00 – 1:50pm Ashby Anderson’s Vibe
  • 2:10 – 3:10pm Larri Branch Agenda
  • 3:30 – 4:30pm Jazz In The Spirit
  • 5:00 – 6:00pm Curv Appeal

EGGLESTON HOTEL COMMUNITY STAGE

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 2

  • 12:00 – 12:10pm Welcome – Historic Jackson Ward Association- Janis Allen
  • 12:30 – 1:10pm Young Prince Charles
  • 1:40 – 2:00pm Richmond Urban Dance Company
  • 2:30 – 3:30pm Bak N Da Day
  • 4:00 – 5:00pm Drew Miles and Company

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 3

  • 1:30 – 2:00pm Chiquita Cross
  • 2:30 – 3:15pm DJ Milk D
  • 3:50- 4:30pm Glennroy & Company
  • 5:00 –6:00pm Testiphy Band

Saturday’s Headliner, Plunky & Oneness

For over 50 years, Richmond saxophonist, songwriter and producer J. Plunky Branch has been at the vanguard of Afro-centric jazz, funk, R&B, house music, and go-go, weaving these interrelated musical forms into a forward-looking message of empowerment, positivity, and cultural awareness. Along with his band, Plunky & Oneness, he has appeared in concert with some of the biggest names in Black music, including Patti Labelle, Ray Charles, Earth Wind & Fire, Frankie Beverly & Maze, LL Cool J, Chuck Brown, and more. His song “Every Way But Loose” was a top-ten soul music chart hit in London in the 1980’s and his hit single, “Drop,” was released in 2007. He also wrote “2nd Street Jaunt,” a song that Venture Richmond used in TV commercials promoting the 2019 festival. He will be performing at the festival on Saturday, October 2 from 5:30 – 7:00pm at the Waverly R. Crawley Main Stage.

Saturday’s Featured Jazz Stage Artist, Nathan Mitchell

Nathan Mitchell was recently named one of the final nominees for a 2021 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album for his newest release Donny, Duke and Wonder. He will be featured on the Jazz Stage Saturday, October 2 from 4:45 – 6:00pm.

Sunday’s Closing Performance, Mighty Joshua

Closing out the festival on Sunday, October 3 from 4:45 – 6:00pm is reggae artist, Mighty Joshua, whose soulful exploration in the evolution of sound creates an expression of reggae for the modern day.

Official Festival Poster Artist, Unicia Buster

Purchase an official 2021 2nd Street Festival poster designed by local quilter and artist, Unicia Buster. The new poster will be unveiled on September 23, watch on Facebook Live! Posters will be available for sale at the festival, or at Plan 9 Music in Carytown and online at Plan9Music.com starting on Monday, October 4.

Jackson Project Weekend Activities

The JXN Project is a historic preservation project that celebrates the 150th anniversary of Jackson Ward by properly contextualizing the origin story of the nation’s first historically registered Black urban neighborhood. JXN is designed to excavate, elevate and educate the hidden histories of the city’s sixth ward, which inspired an effort to erect honorary street designations in honor of notable Jackson Wardians, also known as “Unveiling The Vanguard.” The 2nd Street Festival is partnering with JXN as they virtually unveil the vanguard by video released across their social media and website on October 2. Also, on October 2, festival-goers are invited to engage in a socially distanced, self-guided tour of the honorary street signs. For all details, visit www.thejxnproject.com and follow @TheJXNProject on all social media platforms.

Radio One’s “2nd Street MIX” Weekend

Back again for another year, 2nd Street Festival partner Radio One’s “2nd Street MIX” weekend will get you ready for the festival by bringing you mixes from the hottest DJs in the city! Tune into 99.3/105.7 KISS FM on Saturday, October 2 from 4:00pm-midnight and Sunday, October 3 from noon-7:00pm. Hear mixes from DJ King Tutt, DJ Drake, and DJ Lonnie B playing all your favorite 2nd Street Festival hits!

FREE Walking Tours, guided by Gary Flowers

Venture Richmond Events will provide FREE guided walking tours led by Gary Flowers who has a four-generation family connection to Historic Jackson Ward. “Educating the public to the place Historic Jackson Ward holds in commerce, education, and dismantling racial segregation in the United States of America is critically important to me,” Mr. Flowers said. These 60-minute tours leave at 1:00pm on Saturday and at 1:00pm on Sunday. Tour groups meet on the sidewalk at the Maggie Walker National Historic Site, 2nd & E. Leigh Streets.

Update on the Kidz Zone

Due to the highly interactive nature of the activities planned for the Kidz Zone, the 2nd Street Festival will not host a family area this year. The Kidz Zone, produced by the Children’s Museum, is a robust and engaging, much-loved, part of the Festival. However, due to the close proximity required for those activities and the lack of an approved COVID-19 vaccine for children under 12, we believe cancelling the activities is best for the safety of our littlest patrons. The Children’s Museum will be back to produce the much-loved Kidz Zone in 2022.

For information about the 2nd Street Festival, please visit: https://venturerichmond.com/our-events/2nd-street-festival-2021/

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PHOTOS: Fall Line Kitchen & Bar opens Thursday inside Richmond Marriott Downtown

Located at 500 E. Broad Street within the newly renovated Richmond Marriott Downtown, Fall Line offers an upscale-casual eatery with ingredient-focused comfort food alongside regional craft beer and cocktails.

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On Thursday, September 23rd, Fall Line Kitchen & Bar, a new restaurant in downtown Richmond, will open its doors for dinner service.

Located at 500 E. Broad Street within the newly renovated Richmond Marriott Downtown, Fall Line offers an upscale-casual eatery with ingredient-focused comfort food alongside regional craft beer and cocktails.

“We’re excited to start showing guests what our talented team has put together and giving the community a taste of what Fall Line has to offer,” said Peyton Powell, Fall Line’s head chef and a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Paris. “We’ve developed a creative menu featuring dishes including lump crab hushpuppies and truffled bucatini.”

Throughout the month of October, a portion of Fall Line proceeds will go to support RVA Community Fridges, a nonprofit organization providing free food to Richmonders via community refrigerators. The restaurant will donate $1 for every signature cocktail and $1 for every cornbread appetizer purchased.

Fall Line offers an indoor dining area that seats 124, an outdoor patio that seats 34, and indoor bar seating for 59. Also available is a private dining room for up to 30. Initially open for dinner Tuesday through Thursday from 5-10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 5-11 p.m., Fall Line plans to soon expand hours and offer a lunch, breakfast, and brunch menu. Reservations for the restaurant can be made via OpenTable.

Fall Line is continuing to hire for a number of positions, including cooks, servers, bartenders, hosts, dishwashers and support staff.

Fall Line’s name is a nod to the geological feature that shaped Virginia’s landscape and the location of Richmond. At the Fall Line, the James River flows over a series of rapids, or “falls,” and crosses from the hard bedrock of the Piedmont to the softer sand and clay of the Coastal Plain. The restaurant’s design evokes a distinct sense of place and highlights the variety of landscapes created by this geological feature.

Designed by //3877, the restaurant draws inspiration from the natural and geological world, including a can’t-miss mural of a Kingfisher bird created by local artist Hamilton Glass.

For more information about Fall Line or to join the team, visit www.FallLineRestaurant.com or follow the restaurant on Facebook and Instagram.

     

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Emancipation and Freedom Monument Unveiling on Wednesday

The project to build the monument began as part of the Virginia Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the abolition of slavery in the United States.

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The Emancipation and Freedom Monument will be dedicated and unveiled in a ceremony on September 22, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. on Brown’s Island in Richmond.

The project to build the monument began as part of the Virginia Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the abolition of slavery in the United States.

The monument, designed by Thomas Jay Warren of Oregon, features two 12-foot bronze statues representing a man, woman, and infant newly freed from slavery. Dedicated to the contributions of African American Virginians in the centuries-long fight for emancipation and freedom, the monument highlights notable African American Virginians who have made significant contributions to the emancipation and freedom of formerly enslaved persons or descendants. The base of the monument features the names, images, and brief biographical information of ten African American Virginians whose lives were dedicated to Emancipation and freedom — five individuals from the period before Emancipation through 1865, and five who continued to work for freedom from 1866 to 1970.

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