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This was the fifth week of session and it seemed to have moved at warp speed. It was also the last full week before crossover. Crossover is the time during the session when all House bills must “crossover” to the Senate and Senate bills “crossover” to the House. Because of the rush, it can be a hectic and contentious time. This is a good time to let you know the status of my last few bills.

HB 317, HB 320 and HB 334 were all recommendations from the Task Force on Diversifying the Educator Pipeline. Twenty-five percent of those teaching with a provisional license, never meet all of the requirements for state certification during the required period. With the state-wide teacher shortage growing every year, that 25% could be significant in addressing our the shortage.

HB334 would allow a one year grace period for individuals to meet the requirements. HB317 and HB320 and HB334 were all included in Chairman of House Education Committee, Delegate Steve Landes comprehensive HB1125. Because his bill included my identical 3 bills, I am listed as the Chief Co-patron. The bill passed unanimously.
Advocates for the Equal Rights Amendment rallied outside of the Capitol. The proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) states that the rights guaranteed by the Constitution apply equally to all persons regardless of their sex. Currently, Virginia is one of fourteen states that have not ratified the ERA. HJ2 and HJ4, in which I have co-patroned, were filed to ensure all persons are treated equally.
Monday began with Equality Virginia’s Day of Action. Fawn Faulks, President of Hampton Roads Pride, and other constituents of the 92nd House District stopped by to discuss the importance of saying “Yes” to non-discrimination in public employment SB202, housing SB423, and health insurance HB1466. Virginia Pride seeks to unite the segmented LGBT communities throughout the Commonwealth as they welcome diversity and protect its LGBT families and youth through education and advocacy.
A special group from the 92nd House District visited the capitol this week. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Hampton University is a membership-driven organization for offering non-credit courses to mature adults who want to improve their skills, explore new ideas, and interact with interesting peers in their community. The motto for OLLI is Living. Learning. Loving it! Since the program’s inception in August 2005, the program has grown from 25 members to 879 to date. They enjoyed viewing the floor session and a tour of our state’s capitol.
Individuals and staff from VersAbility Resources stopped by for a visit. VersAbility Resources is a nonprofit headquartered in Hampton, Virginia that serves people with disabilities across the Commonwealth and nation. This year, they are celebrating 65 years of distinguished service to individuals with disabilities and their families.
 
For six and a half decades, VersAbility has remained steadfastly dedicated to its mission of supporting people with disabilities as they lead productive and fulfilling lives. They currently serve 1,600 people with disabilities annually in early childhood, day support, community living, and four employment programs. 
 
VersAbility is a dynamic, innovative industry leader, committed to developing programs that meet the changing needs of people with disabilities.  It is my honor to submit  HR56 commending VersAbility Resources, an asset to the disability community, on their 65th anniversary. 
This week we were honored to have been visited by Dr. John T. Dever, President of Thomas Nelson Community College. Congratulating TNCC on its 50th Anniversary, was passed in the House. As an alumna of Thomas Nelson, it was my privilege to patron resolution HJR212

Founded in 1967, Thomas Nelson is the Peninsula’s Community College, serving the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, and Williamsburg and the counties of James City and York. The fourth largest of Virginia’s Community Colleges, Thomas Nelson serves nearly 14,000 students with associate degree and certificate programs designed for both university transfer and direct entry into careers.
 
The College also serves over 7,000 students with non-credit, workforce training programs and services. Classes are offered at the Hampton and Historic Triangle campuses, the Southeast Higher Education Center in Newport News, three Workforce Development centers, at various instructional sites in the community and through distance education.
Change the World RVA is the region's only nonprofit that specifically addresses the needs of high school and college students who face homelessness and housing instability. By helping to provide after school programs, tutoring, college visits, housing assistance, adventures, and much more, Change the World is helping to create a network of support for students to succeed in high school, college, and beyond.
 
YWCA Richmond's Empower RVA Teens is a teen peer facilitation program for high schoolers in the Greater Richmond region. It aims to prevent teen dating violence, and sexual assault by educating and empowering teens to teach their peers about healthy relationships. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and our teens are working hard this month to raise awareness in their families, schools, and communities so we can all work together to prevent these issues.
 
These two organizations battle teen housing instability, homelessness, teen dating violence, and sexual assault in the greater Richmond Area.
Members of The Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC) attended the caucus and spoke on the importance of supporting budget amendments that address critical workforce needs. Funding will expand existing Virginia sponsored programs to provide businesses, industry, academia, and citizens greater access to available and often free workforce development tools. Some of these programs include expansion of paid aviation and aerospace internships, funding the BLAST (Building Leaders Advancing Science and Technology) program for two additional summer sessions, and scholarships for flight training for high school students.
 
In addition, Dustin Rhinehart from The Port of Virginia spoke in support of a budget amendment to accelerate the preliminary engineering and design of the deepening and widening of the harbor to allow Virginia to remain the deepest port on the East Coast. In 2016, the General Assembly appropriated funds to begin the necessary studies and planning requirements to dredge the harbor channels to 55 feet. The Federal Government now allows states to a celebrate their projects and receive a credit back from the Federal Government. The Port of Virginia is in favor of taking advantage of accelerating this project, just as both Georgia and South Carolina have taken advantage of this system to gain competitive timing advantage on their projects.
 
In celebrating 100 years, Dave Bowles from NASA Langley Research Center was excited to provide an update on the research center and its plan to evolve in the years to come. NASA is now home to an applied science’s capacity building called DEVELOP, which is a national program. DEVELOP addresses environmental and public policy issues through interdisciplinary research projects that apply the lens of NASA Earth observations to community concerns around the globe. This program builds capacity in both participants and partner organizations to better prepare them to address the challenges that face our society and future generations.  To view their recent projects, click  here.

As a special guest to the caucus, astronaut Dr. Kjell N. Lindgren shared his experience during Expedition 44/45. With this expedition, Dr. Lindgren spent 144 days at the international space station. Partnering with crew members from Russia, Japan, and Germany, these astronauts participated in more than a hundred different scientific experiments including research in human physiology, fluid, and combustion physics. The crew conducted many repairs and enhancements to the station’s systems as well. To find out more on Dr. Lindgren, click here

All the best, 
Delegate Jeion (ja-WAN) Ward 
Copyright © 2018 Jeion Ward for Delegate, All rights reserved.


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