Welcome to today’s edition of the Dogwood Daily. We’ve got a round-up of all of today’s Virginia news coming right up.

But first…

Congratulations Madam Speaker! Yesterday, Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) officially became the first woman to lead Virginia House in its 400-year history.

Five things you need to know today …

  1. The U.S. Justice Department says ERA can no longer be ratified– The U.S. Justice Department has claimed that the Equal Rights Amendment can no longer be ratified because its deadline expired in 1982. In an opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel made public Wednesday, they said that the ERA Resolution is no longer pending. Advocates argue that the text of the amendment did not include a deadline, so it is eligible for ratification indefinitely as a result. Virginia is expected to ratify the amendment during the current General Assembly session, making it the final state needed to do so in order for it to be added to the U.S. Constitution. -The Washington Post 
  2. Northam highlights Virginia’s diversity– Gov. Ralph Northam described an increasingly diverse Virginia in his first State of the Commonwealth address to the Democratically-controlled state legislature. Northam highlighted the state’s growing population, environmental protections, and efforts to make to make economic success more wifely accessible in his hourlong speech. He also made sure to highlight Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), the first female House Speaker in the Commonwealth’s history and President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), the first woman and African American elected to that post. Northam said “the changes in this General Assembly reflect the changes in Virginia.” -Richmond Times-Dispatch  
  3. Activists rally for local control over Confederate monuments–Activists gathered in Richmond on the first day of the 2020 General Assembly session calling on lawmakers to give local governments the power to remove war monuments. Currently, cities and counties have to get permission from state lawmakers before they can remove or change war monuments. The issue gained attention in recent years as city councils have voted to remove Confederate monuments only to be prevented from doing so by the law. Jalane Schmidt from Monumental Justice Virginia said that the demonstrators aren’t necessarily calling to remove the monuments but think the power to do so should belong to local governments. -Richmond Times-Dispatch 
  4. Rural schools consider consolidation– As the populations in rural counties in Virginia continue to decline, many school leaders are struggling to decide whether or not to consolidate schools. Counties’ school populations have declined by as much as 27% since 2012, and those numbers are expected to continue to fall. So far, some small cities have chosen to continue operating separate school systems but costs may eventually force them to consolidate. -NBC12
  5. State’s largest coal mine re-opens– Virginia’s leading underground coal mine re-opened after workers were briefly furloughed last month. Coronado Global Resources furloughed employees while the United States and China reached a trade deal on coal exports. Jack Pauley, Coronado’s Vice President for Human Resources, also told the Bristol Herald Courier that high coal inventories played a role in the furlough decision. The move marked the end of a turbulent year for the state’s coal industry, INMET Mining LLC also briefly furloughed employees earlier in December and Blackjewel LLC filed for bankruptcy. -Bristol Herald Courier