Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Unveils Agenda
For Immediate Release
January 16, 2008
Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Unveils Agenda; Introduces Officers
(Richmond, VA) Today the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) released its legislative agenda for the 2008 General Assembly Session and introduced its newly elected officers.
The VLBC officers for the 2008 General Assembly session are:
Chair Delegate Dwight C. Jones
Vice Chair Delegate Kenneth C. Alexander
Secretary Senator Mamie Locke
Treasurer Delegate Jeoin Ward
Chaplain Senator Donald McEachin
“Getting our priorities right in the 2008-2010 biennial budget is the number one issue this session and the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus will play a pivotal role in that process, given its expanded representation on the two money committees and the number of new committee chairs among our members, ” said VLBC Chairman Dwight C. Jones.
Delegate Jones explained that the policy objectives the Legislative Black Caucus will pursue through the budget and in legislation are true to the Caucus’ stated mission of “voicing the legislative concerns of people of color and other historically underrepresented groups throughout the Commonwealth” and consistent with the six major objectives that form the Caucus’ covenant with its constituents adopted last year.
“These policy objectives are reflected in the broad-based legislative package that we announce today — a package that includes: i) legislation that focuses on economic security issues including pay day lending, enhanced enforcement of the minimum wage laws, and financial literacy; ii) protecting voting rights including restoration of rights to those who have served their debt to society; iii) improving health care by attacking health care disparities and reforming the mental health system; iv) promoting healthy communities by continuing to focus on responsible, common sense gun laws; v) helping to ensure everyone has a home by focusing on affordable housing; and v) criminal justice reform.” Delegate Jones added.
“Our number one budget priority continues to be funding for the proton beam treatment facility in Hampton Roads, Delegate Jones said. And, he added, “the Caucus is united in its support for ending pay day loan abuses and expanding the Commonwealth’s pre-k education programs as recommended by the Governor.” Finally, Jones said, “with expanded representation on the Assembly money committees, the Caucus is looking forward to playing a strong role in passing the Governor’s higher education bond package (which will fund important projects at Norfolk State and Virginia State) and to enhancing the funding for the teaching loan scholarship program that will help bring quality teachers to schools in our communities.”
“As a part of its goal to offer economic opportunity to all Virginians, the Caucus continues to support repeal of pay day lending,” said Senator Donald McEachin (D Henrico). “The average Virginian who borrows from a payday lender gets 12 payday loans per year and pays $840 to repay a 6-month $300 loan,” McEachin said. “We are united with the Family Foundation, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the Virginia Organizing Project, the AARP and others in seeking an end to this financial exploitation and abuse.”
HB 176 Database for payday lending (Delegate Ware, D Roanoke)
HB 730 Repeal of payday lending(Delegate McClellan, D Richmond)
HB 1404 36% interest rate cap (Delegate Jones, D Richmond City)
SB 156 Repeal of payday lending(Senator McEachin, D Richmond)
SB 670 36% interest rate cap (Senator McEachin, Henrico)
“Enhanced minimum wage enforcement is also a priority for us this session,” said Delegate Dwight C. Jones (D Richmond City). “We want to enhance penalties for the most serious violators and beef up the staffing for wage enforcement at the Department of Labor and Industry and the Office of the Attorney General so that every worker gets the pay that he or she has earned,” he continued. Jones also pointed out that “an added benefit to tougher wage enforcement is that cracking down on sweatshops and wage violators would be one of the most effective deterrents to employers recruiting undocumented immigrants who gain an economic advantage over their competitors by exploiting vulnerable people.”
HB 1038 Minimum wage enforcement (Delegate Jones, D Richmond)
Delegate Lionell Spruill indicated that the Caucus continues to believe that “financial literacy is the key to enhanced economic success,” and said that the Caucus will be seeking to strengthen financial literacy education by requiring 12 classroom hours of instruction.
HB 1272 Financial literacy education (Delegate Spruill, D Chesapeake)
Senator Donald McEachin (D Henrico) expressed pride in the fact that the Legislative Black Caucus is taking a leading role in the Governor’s initiative to reform the Commonwealth’s mental health programs related to evaluation and treatment of mentally ill criminals. “Reforming our mental health system is a bipartisan priority following last year’s tragedy at Virginia Tech, and we are pleased that the Black Caucus can provide leadership on this important issue.”
SB 440 Mentally ill defendants; treatment and hospitalization
Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D Richmond City) spoke about the role that the Caucus will take in supporting the Governor’s initiative to reform health care and provide improved access through the VirginiaShare Health Insurance Program. “I am honored to be a co-patron with Delegate Phil Hamilton (R Newport News) of HB 593, which will provide health insurance premium assistance to allow eligible low-income working individuals to purchase health insurance coverage through a certified VirginiaShare Health Insurance Policy,” said McClellan. “This program will help the Commonwealth begin to address the serious problem of the working uninsured in Virginia, and move us toward a day when every Virginian will have equal access to quality, affordable health care,” she concluded.
“Another important quality of life issue important to the Caucus is the disparity in health care and medical outcomes that exists in Virginia’s minority communities,” said Senator Mamie Locke (D Hampton). “We are committed to building healthy communities, and we need to start by ensuring that all Virginians have access to cutting edge health care. Studies show that African American men are more than two times more likely to die of prostate cancer than white men. And, a recent study of geographic disparities in prostate cancer deaths indicates that from 10% to 30% of geographic differences in medical outcomes may relate to access to care. That is why our number one budget priority this year continues to be funding for the proton beam cancer center in Hampton Roads that will bring a promising new cancer therapy to Virginia and to a part of Virginia where the incidence of certain cancers is greatest.”
Virginia continues to restrict access to the ballot box for thousands of Virginians. Restrictive laws on absentee voting, early voting, and restoration of rights must be set aside in favor of full and free ballot access,” said Senator Yvonne Miller. “We need to do more to assure that all voters can get to the polls and make informed choices once they enter the voting booth,” she added. “That is why the Caucus is again introducing legislation to amend the Constitution to permit greater legislative involvement in the restoration of rights, and to amend our laws to assure fuller access to the ballot box for all Virginia voters, particularly our senior citizens and those without private transportation,” she concluded.
HB 1278 Early voting (Delegate Spruill, D Chesapeake)
SJ 7 Constitutional Amendment; Restoration of rights (Senator Miller, D Norfolk)
“Healthy communities are communities free from gun violence, and that is why the Caucus is supporting responsible gun regulation that will protect children and other library patrons” said Delegate Mayme Bacote (D Newport News). “It is also time that we finally close the gun show loophole that allows guns to be sold without the community security provided by instant criminal records checks,” said Senator Henry Marsh (D Richmond City). “It is also important that we give police officers information about guns in the possession of those against whom protective orders are entered so that they will be aware of the availability of firearms when they are investigating subsequent allegations of family abuse,” offered Delegate Jeion Ward (D Hampton).
HB 697 Control of firearms, libraries (Delegate Bacote, D Newport News)
HB 814 Information in protective orders about firearms (Delegate Ward, D Hampton)
S 32 Control of firearms, libraries (Senator Locke, D Hampton)
SB 109 Transfer of firearms, criminal record check (Senator Marsh, D Richmond)
“Ensuring that the criminal justice system works fairly and in a manner free from bias is a matter of essential vigilance for the VLBC,” said Delegate Onzlee Ware (D Roanoke). “That is why one of our budget initiatives will be to secure funds for a full time staff person in the Department of Criminal Justice Services to work on training and other matters related to bias-based policing and racial profiling,” he added.
“Another area of concern highlighted by the Governor’s Commission on Sexual Violence is the practice of requiring sexual violence victims to submit to lie detector tests as a condition of going forward with the prosecution of the crime committed against them,” said Senator Louise Lucas. “I am pleased to be carrying the Governor’s bill that would conform Virginia law to the federal Violence Against Women Act and end this practice in Virginia.”
SB 164 Use of polygraph on sex offense victims (Senator Lucas, D Portsmouth)
A member of the Governor’s Commission on Sexual Violence, Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D Richmond City), is carrying the Governor’s bill that would end the arcane practice of allowing a defendant in a statutory rape case involving a minor to escape punishment by marrying the child. “It is past time to repeal this law that is a throwback to another time,” said Delegate McClellan.
HB 597 Crimes; effect of subsequent marriage to child over 14 years of age. (Delegate McClellan, D Richmond City)
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) is a bi-partisan organization committed to voicing the legislative concerns of people of color and other historically underrepresented groups throughout the Commonwealth. The VLBC is dedicated to improving the social, economic, educational, and political status of African Americans in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Among the purposes of the VLBC is to serve as a force to raise the consciousness of non-African Americans about the contributions made by African Americans throughout the Commonwealth.
The six major policy objectives that form the Caucus’ covenant with its constituents are:
· The VLBC will seek to bring economic opportunity to all Virginians.
· The VLBC will seek to protect the right to vote and to make voting more accessible.
· The VLBC will seek to make quality educational programs and schools equally available to all Virginians.
· The VLBC will seek to promote healthy communities.
· The VLBC will seek to assure that every Virginian has a home.
· The VLBC will seek to ensure that the criminal justice system is fair and just.