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Thursday News: Trump Takes Aim at Transgender Kids, the Environment; Republican Times-Disgrace Strikes Again


by Lowell

Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, February 23.

  • Governor McAuliffe Signs Bills to Continue Fighting Opioid Epidemic

    ~ Focus on prescribing and help for recovery ~

    Richmond – Governor Terry McAuliffe today signed several bills that will help fight the epidemic of opioid abuse and overdose.

    “Abuse of opioids continues to kill Virginians,” said Governor McAuliffe. “We recognize that addiction is a disease, not a moral failing, and our proposals for this General Assembly session focused on preventing addiction and providing treatment for those who suffer from it. While our overdose death statistics, sadly, continue to rise, each number represents a family that is suffering. We will use every tool we can get to continue this fight.”

    Although final numbers are not yet available, the Virginia Department of Health projects that more than 1,000 people died from fatal opioid overdoses in 2016. If those projections hold, 2016 will have seen a 33 percent increase in the number of fatal opioid overdoses compared to 2015.

    “Opioids and prescription drugs are extremely addictive and make recovery very challenging,” said Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam. “We must continue to emphasize addiction prevention. I commend the Governor’s administration and General Assembly leaders for working together in a bipartisan manner to expand the state’s prevention efforts and to increase access to substance abuse treatment.”

    “This is a real ‘all hands on deck’ moment,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “The heroin and opioid crisis is touching families who never imagined they would confront something like this, and yet now are fighting something that feels so overwhelming. These bills are a big step in the right direction, and I’m really proud that our response recognizes that this is a complex, multifaceted problem that calls for a comprehensive set of solutions.”

    “Getting this legislation approved has taken the work of legislators from both parties and many stakeholders,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Bill Hazel. “This work is proof the opioid epidemic is not a partisan issue, but a public health emergency.”

    Legislation proposed this session focused on helping people toward recovery, and helping doctors implement better prescribing practices.

    Since 2014, when he established the Governor’s Task Force on Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse, Governor McAuliffe has been committed to finding solutions to the opioid epidemic.

    In addition to the legislation, Governor McAuliffe is in the process of reviewing new Board of Medicine regulations on prescribing opioids to treat both acute and chronic pain. Importantly, these new regulations will require that when a person with addiction is prescribed buprenorphine to help assist their recovery, they also get the counseling critical to providing a long-term path to a sober life.

    Governor McAuliffe signed the following bills:

    · SB848 (Wexton) and HB1453 (LaRock) allow community organizations to possess and dispense naloxone to those that they train to use it.
    · HB2317 (O’Bannon) allows local departments of health to administer harm reduction programs in parts of the state with very high rates of HIV and Hep C. These programs will exchange dirty syringes for clean ones, offer testing for Hep C and HIV, and connect people to addiction treatment.
    · HB1786 (Stolle) initiates a family assessment and plan of care from local social services if a child is found to have been exposed to substances in utero. This connects the mother to treatment if necessary and provides services to ensure the safety of both the mother and the child.
    · HB2165 (Pillion) mandates that all opioid prescriptions will be transmitted to pharmacies electronically by 2020 and creates a workgroup to study how to implement this change.


    WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement on President Trump’s decision to roll back mandatory guidance on protecting the civil rights of transgender students in public schools:

    “I am disappointed by the Trump Administration’s decision to roll back protections for transgender students in public schools. All students are entitled to a safe learning environment, and I worry this will damage efforts already underway in our public schools to protect members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination, bullying, and violence.”

    Last year, the Obama administration released guidelines to help schools protect transgender students under Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in education on the basis of sex. Yesterday, the Departments of Education and Justice rescinded those guidelines.

  • Robert Reich nails it:

    A remarkable – and remarkably revealing – comment from Mitch McConnell yesterday. Nearly 1,000 protesters showed up at an “invitation only” talk he gave in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Some of them chanted “No ban, no wall, Mitch McConnell take our call.”

    “Why are they protesting?” McConnell asked, rhetorically. “They didn’t like the results of the election. … They had their shot in the election. … But in this country when you win the election you get to make policy. I always remind people, winners make policy and losers go home.”

    Sorry, Mitch. In a democracy, losers don’t go home. They continue to fight for what they believe is right.

    And winners don’t get to do whatever they please. They’re bound to laws and to the Constitution. If they’re public officials, they have an ongoing responsibility to listen to their constituents – even those who may disagree with them.

    Mitch, you’re a public servant. And you serve all the people, not just people who voted for you or for Trump.

    If you don’t understand this, you have no business representing anyone.

  • Governor McAuliffe Dedicates Renovated Capitol Square Building in Honor of Civil Rights Pioneer Barbara Johns

    RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today dedicated a newly renovated state office building in honor of Barbara Johns, who as a teen in 1951 led a group of students to walk out of their Farmville high school in protest of the dilapidated conditions, paving the way for a lawsuit that led to the desegregation of the nation’s public schools.

    “Barbara Johns didn’t simply lead her classmates in a protest of inequitable schools. She led a group of young people and an entire nation to realize that courage was blind to age and race, and that real change requires action,” said Governor McAuliffe. “The walkout she led kicked off an extraordinary chain of events that eventually invalidated the deception of ‘separate but equal.’ Having her name placed among the other giants in Virginia and American history who are celebrated on Capitol Square is a fitting tribute to her legacy.”

    “Working in the Barbara Johns Building will be a daily reminder to me, my team, and all those who pass through our doors that we must commit ourselves every single day to the pursuit of justice. Barbara Johns showed our Commonwealth and our country that progress is not always easy or inevitable. It requires courage and leadership, often from a young person who can still see injustice with clear eyes,” said Attorney General Mark Herring, who joined McAuliffe at the dedication and whose offices are housed in the building.

    “Words cannot adequately express how excited and appreciative we, the Johns family, are that Governor Terry McAuliffe has chosen to name the beautiful Ninth Street Office Building after Barbara,” said Joan Johns Cobbs, Barbara Johns’ sister who joined her in the walkout. “It is, indeed, an honor and we are eternally grateful for your thoughtfulness and generosity.”

    The classically-styled building originally was constructed as the Hotel Richmond, one of the city’s first high-rise buildings and an epicenter for Richmond and Virginia politics during the first half of the 20th century. The hotel was the brainchild of Adeline Detroit (“Addie”) Atkinson, a self-made businesswoman who secured financing from banking magnate J.P. Morgan to fund the project. The 1904 eight-story building was expanded in 1910-1911 to add an 11-story wing and a two-story addition to the original building. The extension was designed by John Kevan Peebles (1866-1934), the architect responsible for the 1906 renovations that added the temple side wings to the Thomas Jefferson-designed Virginia Capitol. The hotel housed the winning campaigns of five governors between 1945 and 1965 and was the home of Richmond’s first radio station, WRVA, for three decades. The Commonwealth purchased the building at 202 N. 9th Street in 1966 and converted it into office space, renaming it the Ninth Street Office Building.

    The Department of General Services worked with Department of Historic Resources on a major renovation of the building that restored the grand hotel lobby, including its marble flooring and monumental staircase, ornate plaster details and trim, and stained glass skylight. The rehabilitation also reopened the original second-floor balconies and restored the historic two-story ninth-floor ballroom, featuring refurbished ornate plaster details and trim. The project was completed in 2016 and earned LEED Gold certification. In 2009, the building was listed in the Virginia Landmark Register and the National Register of Historic Places.

    “The renovation of this iconic building is the perfect marriage of historic preservation and modern sustainability principles,” said Chris Beschler, Director of the Department of General Services (DGS). “The Barbara Johns Building is the latest in a series of Capitol Square building rehabilitations where we were able to provide a contemporary space for the government to conduct business while also honoring the structure’s place in Virginia’s history.”

    McAuliffe and the Johns family unveiled the plaque that will hang in the building, and a portrait of Johns will adorn the grand lobby.

    Johns was a student at the all-black Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville when she became frustrated by its overcrowding and poor conditions and by the school board’s refusal to build a new high school comparable to the county’s school for white students. On April 23, 1951, the high school junior led more than 450 of her classmates as they walked out of the school and marched to the courthouse and to the homes of local school officials to protest unequal conditions. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sent civil rights lawyers Oliver Hill and Spotswood Robinson to Prince Edward County to meet with the students, and they agreed to file a lawsuit, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, in federal court on their behalf. (Dorothy E. Davis, daughter of a local farmer, was the first name on the list of students wishing to file suit, hence the case bears her name instead of Johns’.) The Supreme Court later combined its ruling in the Davis case with four other similar cases in what became the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision that declared segregation in the nation’s public schools unconstitutional. Rather than obey a court order to integrate its schools, Prince Edward County closed all public schools from 1959 until 1964.

    Fearing reprisals against their daughter for her part in the student strike, Johns’ parents sent her to Montgomery, Alabama, where her uncle Vernon was serving as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. She lived with her uncle’s family while she completed high school and then studied at Spelman College in Atlanta for two years. In 1954, she married William Rowland Powell, a minister. She moved with him to Philadelphia, where she raised a family of five children and worked for 24 years as a school librarian. She did not participate in the civil rights movement in Philadelphia or elsewhere and never spoke about her contributions to the movement as a teenager. Her husband and children only became aware of her involvement late in her life, when she was contacted by someone interested in making a film about the Moton student strike.

    Another building on Capitol Square is named in honor of Oliver Hill, and in 2008 the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial celebrating the contributions of Johns and other citizens of Prince Edward County was unveiled in a prominent location in Capitol Square, close to the Executive Mansion.

  • Video: Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring speaks at Barbara Johns building dedication


    • Transcript of AG Herring’s remarks:

      Change in this Commonwealth and this country has always come when brave individuals stand up and demand their rights. And so often, it’s been led by a young person who can see injustice with clear eyes.

      In 1951, a young Virginian did an extraordinary thing. Barbara Rose Johns looked at her cramped, dilapidated schoolhouse.

      She saw an injustice for exactly what it was, and she stood up for what was right.

      She demanded that which the Constitution guaranteed her, and which her Commonwealth denied her.

      Just 16 years old, and yet, putting one foot in front of the other, she began a journey that would wind its way to the highest court in the land, facing off against monumental adversaries including her own state government, and generations of “the way things have always been.”

      And in Virginia, there are few things more powerful than “the way things have always been.”

      As Barbara herself said, “it seemed like reaching for the moon.”

      Soon after their courageous walkout, Barbara, her classmates at Moton, their families, and their amazing attorneys from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund found themselves facing off in court against the man who then held this job-the attorney general of Virginia.

      It’s somewhat shocking to remember that in 1952, the Attorney General of Virginia initially won that court case.

      He won the case, but at what cost and for what gain?

      Did it advance the cause of liberty to convince the court that segregation was part of Virginia’s culture and history?

      Did it promote justice to argue, against all commonsense and decency, that segregation affected white and black students equally?

      Did winning that case give one more Virginia child a shot at their dreams?

      It took the U.S. Supreme Court to make plain what should have been clear all along-that separate is inherently unequal, and that no American should have to suffer the indignity of discrimination, especially when imposed with the sanction of the law.

      You’ll see as you leave here today that the wall behind you bears the words justice, equality, and opportunity.

      I think about those words a lot-what they mean to us as Americans and to me and my team working on behalf of the people of Virginia.

      With every decision I make, I try to think about whether we are pursuing justice, promoting equality, and expanding opportunity for all Virginians.

      Because the Attorney General isn’t just the government’s lawyer. The attorney general has a special obligation to fight for and protect the people he or she serves.

      That is why it is so fitting, and even restorative, that the building we call home will bear the name of Barbara Johns and serve as a daily reminder that the injustices of the past must not be repeated.

      We have come so far since that walkout in 1951, even as we recognize how far we still have to go.

      It is shameful that Virginia denied so many of her own sons and daughters an opportunity to pursue their dreams and get an education, first through segregation, then the massive resistance to integration that was plotted, in some cases, in this very building during its previous life as the Hotel Richmond.

      That injustice reverberates through the generations and we still have work to do to heal these wounds.

      But today, I can’t help but feel optimistic and hopeful, as the children and family of Barbara Johns stand side by side with the Governor and the Attorney General of Virginia to dedicate this building in her honor.

      The Barbara Johns Building will be a lasting, daily reminder to me, my team, all who pass through those doors and all who visit our Capitol that progress is not always linear or inevitable.

      Change doesn’t just happen.

      Justice requires courage.

      It is something that we must commit ourselves to every single day.

      And when we are confronted with injustice, we must not turn away or wait for someone else to fix it.

      When we are confronted with injustice, we must see it for what it is.

      We must be like Barbara Johns, and stand up for what is right.

  • From NARAL Pro-Choice VA;

    Budget Conferees Eliminate Block Grant to Fund Long-Acting Birth Control
    Grant would have provided education for medical providers, expanded access for low-income women

    Richmond, VA – Late last night, select members of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees released their agreed-upon conference report for the Virginia state budget, after nearly a week of haggling over discrepancies between the House- and Senate-approved versions. On the chopping block was a $6 million appropriation, championed by Governor Terry McAuliffe and Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, that would have provided funding for long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs). An amendment proposal to eliminate coverage for Medicaid-eligible women who seek abortion services following a diagnosis of a totally incapacitating fetal anomaly did not pass through the Joint Conference Committee.

    The conference committee, composed of 10 Republicans and three Democrats from the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees, did eliminate a $6 million federal block grant to create a pilot program for expanding access to LARCs like IUDs – some of the most effective and popular forms of birth control. Conservative legislators have frequently used debunked science to falsely claim that IUDs cause abortions.

    “Every Virginia woman deserves the freedom to choose what birth control method is best for her – regardless of her income and without interference from politicians quoting junk science to push their ideology,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “Clearly, the health of low-income women is not a priority for the General Assembly.”

    A similar program in Colorado resulted in a 40% decrease in unintended pregnancy. Advocates pointed out that not all forms of birth control are created equal, and that a woman’s ability to select the birth control method that works best for her shouldn’t depend on her income or where she obtains her health insurance coverage. Every woman should have information and access to the full range of contraception options so that she, in consultation with her health care provider, can decide which option is right for her.

    The elimination of the block grant follows on the heels of a rare bipartisan victory with the passage of HB 2267, which allows women to get a full year’s supply of birth control pills at one time through their health insurance provider.

    “The elimination of LARC funding shows that there is still a lot of work to do to improve access to the full range of reproductive health options for uninsured or underinsured women,” said Keene. “HB 2267 is a victory we should savor, but by its nature it only applies to women who have private health insurance. Combined with the General Assembly’s refusal to expand Medicaid and nationwide threats to insurance coverage and birth control access, the elimination of the block grant from Virginia’s budget is just another callous disregard of the healthcare needs of low-income women and families by politically-motivated politicians.”

  • Quizzical

    Tar sands oil politics
    The Pipelines Behind The Epic Paul Ryan-Koch Industries Feud – The Huffington Post

  • If there is a god….PLEASE let this be true! LOL


  • Quizzical

    A couple of environmental stories. First, the Smithsonian is breeding kiwis in Front Royal
    Second, there’s a feral hog problem down in Texas. So in this great land with those second amendment rights and over 300 million firearms, plus legions of proud hunters, what is the solution? Poison the hogs with warfarin. Pitiful.