Welcome to today’s edition of the Dogwood Daily. We’ve got all the Virginia news you need to know coming right up.
Did you know today is #EqualPayDay? The average woman loses $10,086 a year because of the pay gap between men and women. Here’s a list of things women could afford if the pay gap was eliminated.
5 Things you need to know today
- Virginia teachers leaving the profession at an alarming rate – From 2007 to 2017, the number of unfilled teaching positions in Virginia surged by 40%, with high-poverty school systems suffering disproportionately. This has led to school leaders bringing teachers out of retirement to fill position while some classes have gone through entire school years without a full-time teacher. The Republican-controlled General Assembly did include Gov. Ralph Northam’s 5% teacher pay raise in the approved budget this year, though it only included $12 million for additional counselors rather than Northam’s proposed $36 million. These changes, while positive, don’t address the structural issues that many teachers have complained about, with one teacher lamenting that “we’re not dealing with the structural stuff. We’re just constantly dodging the train that’s coming and that really wears on you.”
- More money for affordable housing? – When the General Assembly convenes on Wednesday, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam will ask them to add $4 million to the affordable housing fund in order to help solve the growing housing crisis in the Commonwealth. As the cost of living has increased across the state, advocates have increasingly fought for more funding to solve the issue. The housing fund received $5.5 million in the state budget this year, but according to analysts, even an additional $4 million would fall short of what’s needed to put a real dent in the crisis. For Northam’s amendment to pass, all Democrats and at least two Republicans in both the House and Senate would have to vote yes and it’s unclear whether any Republicans will cross party lines to help solve the problem.
- Government gonna’ govern – The assembly will also take up all other vetoes and amendments from Governor Ralph Northam, giving legislators one last chance to pass major bills. Issues to be addressed include Gov. Northam’s amendments to provide funding for improvement of I-81 via increased tractor-trailer registration fees and an increased diesel tax. The assembly will also decide on a Northam amendment that would end the practice of suspending driver’s licenses over unpaid court fines and another that would ban drivers from using hand-held cellphones.
- Fighting food deserts – An estimated 37 million Americans live in food deserts, and many of those food deserts are in Virginia. If you live in a city and have to travel more than a mile to buy healthy food, you live in a food desert. In rural areas, a trip of more than 10 miles indicates your residence is in a food desert. It’s an issue across the state, and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA) are eager to tackle it by co-sponsoring a bill that would provide tax credits and grants to grocery stores, food banks, and other organizations that provide healthy foods in underserved communities. State legislators attempted to tackle the issue as well with SB 999, co-sponsored by which passed the Senate unanimously before dying in the House of Delegates. Richmond residents agree that something needs to be done, but want to make sure it doesn’t fuel further gentrification.
- Fairfax accusers call for hearing – In an emotional appearance on Tuesday’s “CBS This Morning,” Meredith Watson echoed Dr. Vanesa Tyson’s call for an open hearing in the General Assembly in which they and Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax can all testify. Fairfax, who continues to deny both women’s allegations of sexual assault, has said a law enforcement investigation is a better path, claiming that a hearing would devolve into a “media circus.”