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The AFP Blog – Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009

– Unemployment in Waynesboro at 7.9 percent, 8:05 p.m.
– Moran releases Green Virginia plan, 12:50 p.m.
– ACLU says bills would violate religious freedoms, 12:50 p.m.
– President Obama on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act bill signing, 10:37 a.m.
– More feel good about direction of country, 9:08 a.m.
– State issues new directive on reporting on pressure sores, 9:08 a.m.

News: Unemployment in Waynesboro at 7.9 percent, 8:05 p.m.

Unemployment rose to 7.9 percent in Waynesboro in December, and could go higher with the impact of layoffs announced since the figures released today by the Virginia Employment Commission were compiled.

Another layoff is looming at Invista affecting in the range of 200 to 300 employees. Jobs have also been cut in recent weeks at Genicom and Mohawk.

The unemployment rate in Waynesboro is well above the state average of 5.2 percent of the labor force in December.

Augusta County is at the state average at 5.2 percent. Staunton’s unemployment rate was at 6.1 percent in December.


News: Moran releases Green Virginia plan, 12:50 p.m.

Today, Brian Moran released a bold environment and energy plan: Green Virginia: Building the 21st Energy Economy. The Green Virginia plan will make Virginia a national leader in renewable energy and create tens of thousands of new jobs. It is the boldest commitment any candidate for Governor has made to preserve the environment and build lasting economic growth.

Bob Burnley, Director of the Department of Environmental Quality in Governor Warner’s administration, announced his endorsement of Brian Moran for Governor today.

The highlights of Moran’s plan

A commitment to offshore wind and solar power to meet future energy needs with clean renewable technology

Investments in “smart grid” technology to increase efficiency and bring our infrastructure into the digital age

Creation of a Center for Innovative Green Technology to coordinate statewide investments and planning

Requiring that 25 percent of Virginia’s energy come from renewable sources, doubling Virginia’s current voluntary goal and making it mandatory

“Virginia can and must become a leader in renewable energy and get our economy moving. The time for leadership on this issue has come, and I’m committed to bold action. This plan will create tens of thousands of jobs in growing industries,” Moran said. “These investments will produce returns for years in the form of new technologies and new jobs.”

Previous to this release, Moran announced his opposition to offshore drilling, his opposition to the coal mega-plant in Surry County, and his commitment to get 25 percent of Virginia’s energy from renewable sources by 2025.

The complete Green Virginia plan includes:

Protecting our Environment: Restoring the Chesapeake Bay, increasing land conservation, opposing the Surry coal mega-plant, and opposing offshore drilling

Investing in Renewable Energy: Requiring that 25 percent of Virginia’s energy come from renewable sources by 2025, investing in wind and solar energy, exploring biomass and waste-to-energy

Developing Green Energy Technology: Jumpstarting university research, creating a Center for Innovative Green Technology, and founding Energy Technology Parks

Increasing Energy Efficiency: Creating incentives for efficiency through utility “decoupling,” investing in green buildings, building smart grid technology, winterizing homes, and creating incentives for high-mileage vehicles

Creating Green Jobs: Promoting energy technology small businesses, coordinating workforce training, and creating tax and financial incentives for investment in energy technology.

“As someone who has spent a career working to protect Virginia’s environmental treasures and worked with Mark Warner to help clean up the Bay and enforce Virginia’s environmental laws and regulations, I know what it means to demonstrate strong environmental leadership,” said Bob Burnley, Director of the Department of Environmental Quality for Governor Warner. “This is a progressive plan that will invest in our energy future and protect our environment. This is exactly the type of leadership Virginia needs to address all of the serious energy and environmental issues we are struggling with every day.”
Moran will hold a series of events in different parts of Virginia to announce the Green Virginia plan, including stops in Arlington, Fredericksburg and Charlottesville.


News: ACLU says bills would violate religious freedoms, 12:50 p.m.

Virginia legislators are considering two bills that permit sectarian prayers at government events, in violation of U.S. Supreme Court and Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals legal precedents. The ACLU is asking legislators to reject HB 2314 and SB 1072 and is prepared to mount a legal challenge should either become law and lead to government prayers that endorse a particular religion.

“The legislators who introduced theses bills seem to think they are supporting religious freedom, when they are actually doing the opposite,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director. “These bills have nothing to do with protecting the right of individuals to practice their religion, but instead allow the government to engage in religious favoritism by offering sectarian prayers at its events. That goes against everything our principles of religious equality and liberty stand for.”

HB 2314, introduced by Delegate Charles W. Carrico, Sr., prevents the Superintendent of State Police from regulating the religious content of prayers offered by its chaplains at police-sponsored events. Carrico’s bill would reverse a State Police policy, adopted last year, requiring police chaplains to offer only nonsectarian prayers at police-sponsored events.

SB 1072, introduced by Senator Stephen H. Martin, addresses prayers at any public event sanctioned by government agencies. It prohibits any agency from regulating the religious content of prayers unless the prayer advances or disparages a particular religion. (Note: The ACLU objects to SB 1072 both because it implies that government prayers are allowed at all government events, which is not supported by case law, and because it does not explicitly prohibit sectarian prayers.)

HB 2314 cleared the House Militia, Police, and Public Safety Subcommittee #2 this morning. SB 1072 will be heard by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.

Both bills are apparently a reaction to a Virginia lawsuit recently addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court. In that case, Turner v. Fredericksburg, the Supreme Court allowed to stand a 2008 Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision holding that Fredericksburg City Council had the authority to prevent one of its members from opening council meetings with sectarian prayers. The Fourth Circuit had based its decision on an earlier Supreme Court case upholding the right to open legislative meetings with prayer, but only if the prayers are nonsectarian.

The ACLU’s memos to legislators may be found online at Click here for the memo regarding HB 2314. Click here for the memo regarding SB 1072.


News: President Obama on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act bill signing, 10:37 a.m.

It is fitting that with the very first bill I sign – the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act – we are upholding one of this nation’s first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness.

It is also fitting that we are joined today by the woman after whom this bill is named – someone Michelle and I have had the privilege of getting to know for ourselves. Lilly Ledbetter didn’t set out to be a trailblazer or a household name. She was just a good hard worker who did her job – and did it well – for nearly two decades before discovering that for years, she was paid less than her male colleagues for the very same work. Over the course of her career, she lost more than $200,000 in salary, and even more in pension and Social Security benefits – losses she still feels today.

Now, Lilly could have accepted her lot and moved on. She could have decided that it wasn’t worth the hassle and harassment that would inevitably come with speaking up for what she deserved. But instead, she decided that there was a principle at stake, something worth fighting for. So she set out on a journey that would take more than ten years, take her all the way to the Supreme Court, and lead to this bill which will help others get the justice she was denied.

Because while this bill bears her name, Lilly knows this story isn’t just about her. It’s the story of women across this country still earning just 78 cents for every dollar men earn – women of color even less – which means that today, in the year 2009, countless women are still losing thousands of dollars in salary, income and retirement savings over the course of a lifetime.

But equal pay is by no means just a women’s issue – it’s a family issue. It’s about parents who find themselves with less money for tuition or child care; couples who wind up with less to retire on; households where, when one breadwinner is paid less than she deserves, that’s the difference between affording the mortgage – or not; between keeping the heat on, or paying the doctor’s bills – or not. And in this economy, when so many folks are already working harder for less and struggling to get by, the last thing they can afford is losing part of each month’s paycheck to simple discrimination.

So in signing this bill today, I intend to send a clear message: That making our economy work means making sure it works for everyone. That there are no second class citizens in our workplaces, and that it’s not just unfair and illegal – but bad for business – to pay someone less because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion or disability. And that justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory, or footnote in a casebook – it’s about how our laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives: their ability to make a living and care for their families and achieve their goals.

Ultimately, though, equal pay isn’t just an economic issue for millions of Americans and their families, it’s a question of who we are – and whether we’re truly living up to our fundamental ideals. Whether we’ll do our part, as generations before us, to ensure those words put to paper more than 200 years ago really mean something – to breathe new life into them with the more enlightened understandings of our time.

That is what Lilly Ledbetter challenged us to do. And today, I sign this bill not just in her honor, but in honor of those who came before her. Women like my grandmother who worked in a bank all her life, and even after she hit that glass ceiling, kept getting up and giving her best every day, without complaint, because she wanted something better for me and my sister.

And I sign this bill for my daughters, and all those who will come after us, because I want them to grow up in a nation that values their contributions, where there are no limits to their dreams and they have opportunities their mothers and grandmothers never could have imagined.

In the end, that’s why Lilly stayed the course. She knew it was too late for her – that this bill wouldn’t undo the years of injustice she faced or restore the earnings she was denied. But this grandmother from Alabama kept on fighting, because she was thinking about the next generation. It’s what we’ve always done in America – set our sights high for ourselves, but even higher for our children and grandchildren.

Now it’s up to us to continue this work. This bill is an important step – a simple fix to ensure fundamental fairness to American workers – and I want to thank this remarkable and bi-partisan group of legislators who worked so hard to get it passed. And this is only the beginning. I know that if we stay focused, as Lilly did – and keep standing for what’s right, as Lilly did – we will close that pay gap and ensure that our daughters have the same rights, the same chances, and the same freedom to pursue their dreams as our sons.


News: More feel good about direction of country, 9:08 a.m.

Just 36% of likely voters have positive feelings about the direction the U.S. is headed in the first days of President Barack Obama’s new administration, but there has been a dramatic increase from the 14% who felt the country was headed in the right direction earlier this month, a new Zogby Interactive poll shows. Fewer than half (45%) now believe the country is on the wrong track, compared to 70% who said so in early January.

This post-inauguration survey finds nearly two-thirds of Democrats (62%) believe the country is headed in the right direction, compared to 31% of political independents and just 9% of Republicans who say the same. While the vast majority of Republicans (76%) now take a negative view of the country’s direction, fewer than half of independents (45%) and one in five Democrats (19%) agree. The Zogby Interactive survey of 3,684 likely voters nationwide was conducted Jan. 22-26, 2009, and carries a margin of error of +/- 1.7 percentage points.

Please click the link below to view the full news release:


News: State issues new directive on reporting on pressure sores, 9:08 a.m.

Late Tuesday, the Virginia Department of Social Services agreed to new statewide reporting requirements for pressure sores. This change was prompted by the introduction of House Bill 2395, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell, R-Albemarle.

Pressure sores are injuries to skin and tissue that result from constant pressure that cuts off blood flow. They are a particular risk to seniors with limited mobility or who are confined to bed.

“Pressure sores can be prevented, and when they do occur, they can be treated if they are caught early enough,” Bell said. “I wanted to make sure that we do everything we can to protect seniors.”

Albemarle County resident, Jennifer Elvgren, brought the issue to Bell after a family member died from complications resulting from pressure sores.

“I didn’t want any other family to go through what we went through,” Elvgren said.

After the introduction of House Bill 2395, the Department of Social Services determined that changes could be made more quickly through regulatory action than by a new law. After discussions with the representatives of the facilities and Alzheimer’s disease advocates, the new regulation will define pressure sores as “a major incident that has negatively affected or that threatens the life, health, safety or welfare of a resident that has to be reported.” The new regulations will be in effect by February 15, 2009.

“A new law wouldn’t have taken effect until July 1, and it could have been another year before new regulations were in place,” Bell said. “This was a good way to get a quicker impact.”

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