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Virginia Organizing February 2012 Newsletter: Leap Year Edition

February 29, 2012 4:12 pm by: Category: Community Voices A+ / A-


Broken Hearts at the General Assembly

On Valentine’s Day, over 100 Virginia Organizing supporters from Abingdon to Arlington made their way to the Capitol to express their disappointment with the General Assembly’s emphasis on partisanship and ideology instead of  kitchen table issues like the economy and education.

“Virginians voted for legislators who promised to work on jobs and the economy and instead have focused on far-flung legislation like restricting voting rights, lifting the one gun per month limit, restricting gay adoptions and drug testing public assistance recipients,” said Sandra Cook, Chairperson of Virginia Organizing.
Wearing stickers that said, “The Virginia General Assembly Broke My Heart,” participants distributed empty heart-shaped boxes of candy to all 140 legislators. Inside, instead of candy was a note saying, “Disappointed? So are we! We want a General Assembly that works for All Virginians.” The candy boxes were distributed with a letter and factsheet explaining the specific policies of concern.

“I’m disappointed that instead of working on jobs, the legislature is working hard to restrict voting rights. I grew up in a Virginia in which all of my relatives paid a poll tax each year to vote. I see voter ID bills as another tax, only this time the expense is incurred by all poor and vulnerable citizens – white, black and brown. It’s a travesty that our elected representatives are engaged in voter suppression instead of job creation,” said Janice “Jay” Johnson, board member of Virginia Organizing.
The group also marched to the Bell Tower for a rally bearing broken heart signs that emphasized the General Assembly’s misplaced priorities.

With chants like “Turn Around, Better Run, The General Assembly’s Packin’ Guns” and a rendition of the Supreme’s classic “Stop in the Name of Love,” the Broken Hearts Day proved an unusual and light-hearted critique of a deeply controversial legislative session. “As long as the Virginia General Assembly has priorities that are out-of-whack, we will continue to remind them that they work for everyone,” added Johnson.

What has the General Assembly been working on instead of jobs and the economy?

2012 General Assembly Priorities by the Numbers:

32 bills increasing the tax giveaways and loopholes for big corporations;
13 bills making it harder to vote;
9 bills attacking Virginia workers’ rights;
34 bills dealing with handguns;
12 bills interfering with women’s private medical decisions;
12 bills criminalizing immigrants;
13 bills insinuating that being poor is shameful;
3 bills restricting gay adoption rights.

Voting Rights from 2012 or 1912?

The 2012 Virginia General Assembly seems intent on taking Virginia backwards. Senator Dick Saslaw of Fairfax summed it up perfectly: “It seems to me there are people here who would like to repeal the whole 20th century.”

The right to vote and choose our leaders is at the heart of what it means to be an American. The voter suppression bills that are being considered right now threaten the very fabric of our democracy. The House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate have each passed differing versions of a bill that would require a voter to present identification or cast a provisional ballot, reducing the likelihood of their vote counting.  According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, in 2010 nearly 60 percent of provisional ballots cast were not counted. While either chamber will tweak the bills, it’s clear Governor Bob McDonnell will have a voter suppression bill on his desk to sign.

Virginia Organizing has held actions opposing the voter suppression bills in Norfolk, Martinsville, Fredericksburg and Abingdon.  It is estimated that 500,000 Virginians lack the proper voter ID and could be kept from voting if these laws are passed. These bills will disproportionately affect seniors, minorities and low-income Virginians who may not have the required identification.

Please join us in reminding Governor McDonnell that Virginia is for Voters, not voter suppression.
Take Action Today: Call Governor Bob McDonnell (804-786-2211)

Fighting for a Fair Budget

As the Virginia General Assembly debates the upcoming budget, Virginia Organizing is speaking out on the need for a balanced approach. The House and Senate budgets simply continue the cuts-only approach that is hurting working families and slowing our economic recovery. Virginians need a balanced approach to the budget that includes new revenue so we can invest in our future. Instead of taking a balanced approach that includes reforming costly tax loopholes, both Chambers have resorted to borrowing and accounting gimmicks.

On February 15, the Staunton Chapter hosted a forum on budget cuts to public education, featuring the superintendent of Staunton schools. The Fredericksburg Chapter is planning a similar forum for the first week of March. Check our website for more details and please contact your legislators. Tell them to hold out for a budget that invests in education, public safety and transportation, not more wasteful tax loopholes.

Click here for more information about the budget choiceswe've made in Virginia, and how we can better address the current challenges we face to ensure future prosperity.

The Virginia General Assembly’s Health Exchange Gamble

On February 8, the Senate special subcommittee on health insurance failed to recommend any health exchange bills despite previously acknowledging the irresponsibility of waiting and denying months of work from the Governor’s hand-selected health reform panel. That means the Virginia General Assembly, under pressure from the McDonnell administration, has decided to stall on the Exchange until after the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on the constitutionality of certain provisions of the new federal health care law. The Supreme Court will begin arguments in March 2012 with a ruling expected in June.

Both critics and supporters of the health care law have implored Virginia to move forward with a health exchange bill in order to secure federal dollars and to maintain the flexibility to create an exchange specifically designed for the Commonwealth. The federal government will set up exchanges for states that cannot prove by January 2013 that they are able to run their own. The looming 2013 deadline provides that the Virginia General Assembly will either need to schedule a special session later this year or blow through a deadline that could cost the state millions in federal funding.

“I am disappointed that the Virginia General Assembly is putting off creating an exchange.  It is a classic example of ‘Why do now, what you can put off for tomorrow?’ Our legislators are playing a game of chicken, which could result in the loss of federal funding. The exchange could impact half a million Virginians and should not be slapped-together at the last minute,” said Ray Scher of the Virginia Organizing Health Reform Committee.

Virginia Organizing will continue to push for a consumer-friendly health exchange. Stay tuned for updates on upcoming activities surrounding the two year anniversary of the health care law and the Supreme Court hearings.

Click here to learn more about the Health Benefit Exchange

February 2012

Chapter News

►After the Virginia General Assembly failed to take any action on predatory lending this session, the Charlottesville Chapter held a protest on February 25 outside of Bank of America in opposition to the bank’s funding of predatory lenders.

►The Norfolk Chapter joined the Deltas, Missing Voter Project and the Virginia ACLU in hosting, “Democracy’s Ghosts” a Film Screening and Forum on Voter Suppression in Virginia: Past, Present and Future.

►The Harrisonburg Chapter kicked off “The Rockingham County 287G Listening Project” which aims to collect the stories of how the community has been impacted by the local 287G law enforcement arrangement which unfairly profiles local immigrants.

►Board member Gabrielle Brown represented Virginia Organizing at a State of the Union amplification event at the White House.

►The Washington County Chapter has blanketed the area with yard signs educating property owners on a controversial measure to lift the local gas drilling ban.

►Twenty students at the University of Virginia are on day 12 of a hunger strike protesting the low wages paid to campus employees.

Click here to learn moreabout the UVA Living Wage Campaign.

Leader of the Month:

      Debra Grant

Debra Grant has led the charge on many issues in South Hampton Roads including opposing voter suppression laws, fighting predatory lending and fair redistricting.

Most recently Debra helped with the successful effort to get the Chesapeake City Council to pass a requirement for predatory loan stores to get conditional use permits before locating or re-locating in the city of Chesapeake. Thanks to the efforts of Debra and other supporters the public will be able to comment on whether these lenders should get the permits.

Debra is one of many Virginians who has fallen into the predatory lending trap. “I’ve been caught in the predatory lending cycle of debt and so have my children. My son even lost his car to the car title lenders. Now, that I am out of the cycle of debt, I spend my time helping others realize that there is a better way. These payday lenders are hurting low-income communities,” said Debra.

Debra has helped with BankOn, an initiative of the Interfaith Alliance to provide small loans to low-income residents who would otherwise get caught in the predatory lending trap. So far the program has helped over 100 South Hampton Roads families avoid the predatory lending trap and get financial planning education.

703 Concord Avenue
Charlottesville, VA 22903
(434) 984-4655 Fax: (434) 984-2803

Local Chapters (click on chapter name for more information)

Northern Virginia
South Hampton Roads
Augusta Staunton Waynesboro
Washington County & Lee County

On Campus: UMW,  VSU, CNU, UVA, E&H

Virginia Organizing February 2012 Newsletter: Leap Year Edition Reviewed by on .  Broken Hearts at the General AssemblyOn Valentine’s Day, over 100 Virginia Organizing supporters from Abingdon to Arlington made their way to the Ca  Broken Hearts at the General AssemblyOn Valentine’s Day, over 100 Virginia Organizing supporters from Abingdon to Arlington made their way to the Ca Rating:
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