Dead or alive
Virginia’s General Assembly has been hard at it for three weeks now, tackling the 2,000 or so bills legislators filed. While most bills will die quietly in subcommittee, here are a few survivors—and committee casualties.
A judge has already ruled Virginia’s law that suspends driver’s licenses for unpaid court fines is likely unconstitutional. The Senate got with the program January 25, and passed a bill that repeals the state “debtor’s prison” law 36-4.
Finding out about the best happy hour could get easier, thanks to legislation allowing the advertising of drink specials that has passed both the House and Senate. This, too, was preceded by a lawsuit in which a northern Virginia restaurant owner claimed ABC regs violated free speech.
A bill that would exempt menstrual products from sales tax cleared a Senate committee 14-1 January 25, but the “Dignity Act” still needs to make it out of a House subcommittee.
While all the gun safety bills championed by Governor Ralph Northam died in subcommittee, Republican Senator Dick Black’s packing heat in church bill cleared the Senate January 24 in a 21-19 vote on party lines.
A bill that would allow localities to set their own minimum wage was killed in a House subcommittee 5-1 January 22.
Undocumented immigrants are not allowed to have driver’s licenses in Virginia, and that won’t change with the January 23 demise on party lines of a Senate bill that would have allowed temporary driver privilege cards.
Delegate David Toscano’s measure to limit campaign contributions by utilities like Dominion to $500 died in a House subcommittee January 24.
Quote of the week
“It doesn’t help us as a community for our mayor to be out there in the public criticizing the people who live here.”—Adam Healey, Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau interim executive director, on marketing guru Jerry Miller’s Facebook live, to which Mayor Nikuyah Walker replied, “[Y]ou are the type of citizen who allows the soul of Charlottesville to remain ugly.”
Experiment gone wrong
The mother of a Greer Elementary student said her 6-year-old was traumatized by a social experiment teacher Vicky Chen conducted. Chen, who has been placed on administrative leave, separated her students by eye color, and gave candy to only the ones with blue eyes for her MLK Day-themed lesson on equal opportunity and inclusiveness. Activists say Chen further marginalized students of color, who typically have brown eyes.
Another creative writing prof
UVA Professor Jeffery Allen has been placed on administrative leave with pay after being charged with felony strangulation and misdemeanor domestic battery in November. He follows English Department colleague John Casey, who was on leave for a year and then retired in December after a disciplinary panel found he violated policies on inappropriate sexual contact with a student.
Master Charles Cannon, founder of the Faber spiritual community, died January 24 at age 73. In 2008, Cannon was in Mumbai at the Oberoi Hotel when it was attacked by terrorists and 162 people were killed, including father and daughter Alan and Naomi Scherr, who were with a group from Synchronicity. After the attack, Cannon and Kia Scherr, wife and mother of the two slain Nelson County residents, called for compassion and forgiveness of the murderers.
California-born Tamyra Turner, 73, a former Charlottesville School Board member who started the city’s Juneteenth celebration in 2000, died January 16. A professor of English literature who taught most recently at PVCC, she met her husband, former Charlottesville NAACP president Rick Turner, at Stanford. She served on a number of boards, including the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, the Jefferson Madison Regional Library, and the Virginia Festival of the Book steering committee.
The man who wore a Confederate flag-patterned tie to a county school board discussion of banning Confederate imagery will not seek another term. Jason Buyaki, who’s been on the board since 2011, also caught the ears of community parents and activists in October when he questioned climate change and the nature of fossil fuels.
Charlottesville native Natalie Hoffman was convicted January 18 after leaving water and food for migrants crossing the desert into Arizona. Hoffman, who was working with the group No More Deaths, was charged with entering and driving in Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge without a permit.
City Council hired Lynchburg deputy council clerk Kyna Thomas to become its clerk and chief of staff for $105,000. City spokesman Brian Wheeler, who makes $116K, has filled in since former council clerk Paige Rice took the chief of staff job in July for $98,000 and left in September.
Child porn charges
Albemarle police charged Avocado Capital co-founder Forrest Butler, 58, with two counts of child pornography distribution January 22. He was released from jail on bond and will appear in court April 8.
Wawa on the way?
The county’s Architectural Review Board has approved plans for a Wawa convenience store and gas station off Route 29 and Proffit Road. It could be built by the end of the year, as long as the Board of Supervisors gives it a thumbs up.
Free tax help
The local branch of the United Way is offering free tax preparation for most taxpayers with household incomes of $55,000 or less. Through its program called Cville Tax Aid, partners such as the UVA Community Credit Union have prepared nearly 20,000 returns since 2007, and organizers expect to help more than 2,700 community members this year. To schedule an appointment, call United Way at 434-972-1703 or visit www.CvilleTaxAid.org.