With disturbing frequency in this country, we receive the heart-stopping news of a mass shooting, of the loss of precious life, and of communities terrorized by gun violence. On Tuesday evening, this news broke right in our front of us in Richmond as the conclusion of a joyous high school graduation ceremony was forever scarred by shootings that left a new graduate and his stepfather dead, five others injured, and families and community members haunted by what they witnessed and the terror that they felt.
I send my deepest condolences to the family of Shawn Jackson and Renzo Smith. The families, teachers, staff and administrators of Richmond Public Schools are all in my thoughts. Richmond is a city in grief right now. Gun violence is a trauma ripples throughout the entire community, and it has generational impacts.
The RPS Class of 2023 lost a significant portion of its high school experiences to the pandemic crisis. Losing the precious memories of their special graduation ceremonies is yet another unfair burden on these young people.
Addressing gun violence is a collective responsibility, and it is a responsibility that falls more heavily upon those of us who are in office, whether at the state or federal level. In addition to gun safety measures, we must develop policy that goes to the roots of violence, evaluating sustained trauma and systemic failures that impact health disparities, underserved communities, and education and economic opportunities.
We simply cannot continue to live with the terror of indiscriminate gun violence. Our children deserve better.
Yesterday’s Vote by the State Air Pollution Control Board
At yesterday’s meeting of the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board, Board members voted 4-3 to pull Virginia out of the regional compact known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Virginia was the final state to join RGGI in 2020.
The State Air Pollution Control Board, as well as the State Water Control Board and the Virginia Waste Management Board, are composed of Virginia citizens appointed by the Governor. Board members are responsible for adopting many of Virginia's environmental regulations under Title 9 of the Virginia Administrative Code.
The problematic concern of yesterday’s decision by the State Air Pollution Control Board is that Virginia’s participation in RGGI is not a regulation, and thus the Board has no legal authority either to vote on or to withdraw Virginia from the compact. Virginia joined RGGI through legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Northam. The law (Virginia’s Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act) not only enabled the Commonwealth to join RGGI, but it also established the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund (CFPF) which is directly funded through RGGI.
Within just a couple of years of Virginia’s participation, RGGI has established a track record of success in reducing carbon emissions in the state. Significantly, for those states participating in the compact before Virginia joined, RGGI cut climate polluting emissions in half during the past decade.
Our communities are relying on the RGGI dollars to address flood resilience concerns and to deploy energy efficiency efforts. Over $230 million in investments have come to Virginia as a result of RGGI, and RGGI is the only dedicated source of state funding for our flood resilience efforts. The emissions reductions that result from RGGI are critical for Virginia so that we can meet our own, science-based goals as defined by the Virginia Clean Economy Act and our 2045 net-zero carbon emissions goals.
Why did the State Air Pollution Control Board take this vote? Pulling Virginia out of RGGI was a campaign priority for Glenn Youngkin. When his legislative and budgetary approaches failed in the 2022 and 2023 Sessions, he decided to take this route through members of the Board that he hand-selected. However, Virginia’s participation in RGGI is state law, and only the General Assembly can legislate changes to state law. The legality of this effort to withdraw Virginia from RGGI will be challenged.
Virginia Humanities Grant and Fellowship Opportunities
To help support the Commonwealth’s history, people, communities, and cultural traditions, Virginia Humanities is currently accepting applications for three grant opportunities and a fellowship opportunity: the 14th Annual Brown Teacher Institute.
Virginia Hispanic Chamber Grant Opportunities
The Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (VAHCC) and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) have partnered to develop opportunities for Hispanic small businesses in Central Virginia. The launch of the Hispanic Small Business Loan Program aims to strengthen and support businesses by providing 0% interest loans and free business coaching to qualifying businesses. VAHCC and LISC will recycle all loan repayment monies back into the Hispanic small business community. Applications are available here.
Early Voting for June Primaries
Primary Day is Tuesday, June 20. However, early voting began a few weeks ago and is still ongoing. Early voting gives everyone a chance to cast their ballot at a day and time that is convenient for their schedule.
Early, In-Person Voting
Early, in-person voting in the current 10th Senatorial District is available only at the Registrar's Office for the June Primary Election. No other polling locations are open for early voting.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot for the June 2023 primary is tomorrow, June 9, by 5:00pm. All ballots must be postmarked by June 20 (Primary Election Day), or dropped off at the corresponding drop off location. Using a delivery service that allows tracking is recommended.
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