The Virginia legislature votes to end student lunch debt lawsuits, Richmond’s biggest LGBTQ community organizations merge, and Dr. Jill Biden is visits the Capital.
This one isn’t Virginia specific, but it’s definitely worth noting.
1803 – That’s the year in which, on this date, the U.S. Supreme Court establishes its right to apply judicial review and determine the constitutionality of laws that Congresses passes. According to some, this case, Marbury v. Madison, is the most influential ruling in U.S. history.
Bill To End Student Lunch Debt Lawsuits Passes
A bill to prevent school boards from filing lawsuits against students, or their parents, for not paying for school meals or for having school meal debt passed the General Assembly yesterday.
The bill’s sponsor, Del. Danica Roem (D – Manassas), says while it’s a victory, her bill doesn’t go far enough. She’s demanding universal free school meals.
“School meal debt as a concept should not exist and school meal debt shaming, likewise, should not exist,” Roem told NBC29. “We are talking about penalizing children and keeping children from eating. Or shaming children for their parents’ financial situation. Both of which are messed up and shouldn’t happen.”
The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 29-10. But before it becomes law, it goes to Governor Northam’s desk for approval.
Diversity Richmond and Virginia Pride to Merge
The two largest LGBTQIA+ community organizations in Richmond, Diversity Richmond and Virginia Pride, are merging their operations beginning in April. They made this announcement yesterday.
Diversity Richmond, founded in 1999, provides social and cultural queer programming, events, and information to the Richmond community. Virginia Pride, a nonprofit created in 2006, organizes the city’s annual Pridefest. Pridefest attracts more than 40,000 people to Richmond every year.
“We are confident that this merger will amplify the impact of the work of our organizations and allow us to better serve not just the LGBTQ community, but the entire Richmond region,” said Diversity Richmond Board President, Luise Farmer.
Virginia Pride President Stephanie Merlo agrees that the merger will help both organizations reinforce their existing programs.
“In recent years, Virginia Pride has experienced exponential growth of our events, including an annual PrideFest that attracts more than 40,000 people, and has seen the significant impact of our advocacy efforts to make the Richmond region a better place for LGBTQ people to live, work and visit. Merging with Diversity Richmond will ensure we continue to build on our legacy of success,” said Merlo.
Assembly Approves Removal of Racist Statue
A statue on the Virginia Capitol grounds commemorating segregationist and racist Harry F. Byrd Sr. is one step closer to removal. With a vote of 36-3, the Virginia Senate approved a proposal directing the Department of General Services to remove it.
Harry F. Byrd Sr. is a former Virginia Governor and U.S. Senator. He was the head of a political machine known as the Byrd Machine, or Byrd Organization. But in response to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, Byrd used his considerable power to promote the “Southern Manifesto,” an agreement he got over a hundred Southern politicians to sign agreeing to resist integration. The statue commemorating this racist segregationist is added to the Virginia Capitol grounds in 1976.
Now, the bill’s sponsor, Del. Jay Jones (D – Norfolk), says it’s past time for the statue to be removed.
“Racism and its symbols, obvious and subtle, have no place in this new Virginia decade,” Jones said to ABC News.
But before the statue can be removed, the bill needs a signature from Governor Ralph Northam.
Also, our reporter Arianna Coghill was providing live coverage of the Senate Floor yesterday. Check out her thread below for a fuller picture of what happened.
Question of the Day: Should Politicians Use Campaign Funds for Personal Use?
Assembly Declares Racism A Public Health Crisis in Virginia
A bill to declare racism a public health crisis in Virginia also passed the Virginia General Assembly yesterday.
If signed by the governor the bill would expand the charge of the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Health Equity. This office will now have to address racism as a public health crisis. Also, it will have to look at all policy efforts in the future through an intersectional race equity lens.
Additionally, the bill directs the department to create a permanent commission studying racial inequity in Virginia law. Best of all, the bill requires all elected officials, staff members, and state employees to receive training on how to recognize and combat implicit bias.
The bill’s sponsor, Del. Lashrecse Aird (D – Petersburg), released a statement saying that systemic racism “defines the Black experience in our nation and in our Commonwealth.”
First Lady to Visit Richmond, Virginia
In her first official trip outside Washington D.C., First Lady Dr. Jill Biden is visiting Richmond today, according to NBC12.
Today, she’ll tour the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)’s Massey Cancer Center. There, she’ll meet with several researchers.