When the Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, Charlottesville residents Eugene and Lorraine Williams could not have imagined the General Assembly that supported segregation would one day give them a standing ovation. Yet that’s what happened February 6, when the highly partisan House of Delegates rose in unison to applaud them and their lifelong efforts to assure that all people were treated equally.
House Minority Leader David Toscano carried the resolution to honor the couple, who led the NAACP in the 1950s and who filed suit to desegregate city schools. “People in Charlottesville would rather close their schools than have white and black educated together,” said Toscano, referring to Massive Resistance, which, with the approval of the governor and “complicity of the General Assembly,” allowed Lane High School and Venable Elementary to close.
Eugene, now 87, and Lorraine, 89, went on to form Dogwood Housing to provide affordable housing for low-income families. The most moving part of the day, said Eugene, “was the number of black legislators who came up and shook hands and said, we wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for you.”
Said Toscano, “Eugene and Lorraine changed Charlottesville forever. They changed the state forever. They changed the country forever.”
BILL BY BILL
A look at some of the session’s legislation—living and dead.
Pass: Delegates Rob Bell and David Toscano’s bill mandating DNA collection of those convicted of certain misdemeanors. A similar bill has already passed in the Senate.
Fail: Delegate Rob Bell’s amendment that would have stalled the grade-separated interchange at U.S. 29 and Rio Road did not make it into the House version of the budget.
Unknown: Senators Creigh Deeds and Emmett Hanger’s SB 1338, which repeals the 2004 law that allowed interstate natural gas companies to enter private property without written consent, is still before the Commerce and Labor Committee.
Pass: Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam casts the tie-breaking vote on SB785, which makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identification. A similar bill in the House died in committee.
Pass: Delegate Steve Landes’ bill banning inmate possession of obscene materials passes the House 86-13 February 4, with Delegate Joe Morrissey, himself an inmate, voting against the bill and calling it unconstitutional.
Pass: A person with a debilitating epileptic condition and with the recommendation of a practitioner of medicine or osteopathy may possess cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil, according to a bill that passed the Senate February 5.
Pass: A House bill that could prevent more instances of handcuffed 4-year-olds in public schools like the recent one in Greene County passed 98-0 February 5. A similar bill passed the Senate January 27.
Pass: Senator Lynwood Lewis’ bill banning primates as pets passed the Senate February 5.