The AFP Blog – Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009

– Perriello criticizes tobacco tax in SCHIP bill, Wednesday, 1:40 p.m.
– Conservation easements top 100,000 acres in Valley, Wednesday, 12:50 p.m.
– Treasury announces new restrictions on executive compensation, Wednesday, 12:50 p.m.
– House GOP pushing mental-health reforms, Wednesday, 12:50 p.m.
– House bill allowing government-sanctioned sectarian prayers at government meetings unconstitutional, ACLU says, Wednesday, 10:10 a.m.
– LaHood outlines plans to coordinate DOT role in economic recovery, Wednesday, 10:10 a.m.
– Local temple to host Community Awareness Shabbat, Wednesday, 10:10 a.m.
– AlbemarleFamily Fun Fair & Camp Expo set for this weekend, Wednesday, 10:10 a.m.
– Landmark Education Information Session in Harrisonburg Feb. 16, Wednesday, 10:10 a.m.
– EMU honors veteran church leaders, Wednesday, 10:10 a.m.

***

 

News: Perriello criticizes tobacco tax in SCHIP bill, Wednesday, 1:40 p.m.

Congressman Tom Perriello’s remarks on the House Floor on the Reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (H.R. 2), as prepared:

“Madam Speaker, today I rise in support of H.R. 2, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, a bill which will provide much needed health care coverage for 11 million children. This legislation will preserve coverage for the 7 million children currently covered by SCHIP and will extend coverage to 4 million uninsured children who are currently eligible for, but not enrolled in, SCHIP and Medicaid. This will include coverage for 55,000 additional Virginia children of working parents.”

“Every American regardless of age deserves access to quality healthcare. Thus, ensuring health care for the most treasured and vulnerable among us – our children – isn’t just good public health policy; it’s morally right and economically vital. This program targets working families who are climbing their way out of poverty, who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance. These are the families that are doing everything right to better their lives, and they deserve to be able to provide health care to their children.”

“At a time of growing unemployment and when more Americans are losing employer-sponsored health care for their children, this bill is needed urgently for the 150,000 Virginia children currently insured by the program, and the 55,000 more who will be covered.”

“While I am in full support of the underlying legislation, I am disappointed to learn that the Senate bill includes a disproportionate increase in the excise tax rate on tobacco products. The proposed tobacco tax, which amounts to a 156% increase on cigarettes, is likely to have a dramatic impact on jobs and state revenues in every state in the country. Because 99% of smokers make less than $250,000 a year, imposing such an onerous excise tax on tobacco will unfairly punish tobacco consumers – many who are members of the working poor – hard-working men and women living from paycheck to paycheck. We must all make sacrifices for our children; this means that every American must share the cost of the SCHIP program – not just consumers of tobacco products.”

“As the son of a pediatrician, I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to vote in favor of this critical legislation, and in favor of children in the 5th District. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in putting America’s children first and cast a vote in favor of this important legislation.”

  

News: Conservation easements top 100,000 acres in Valley, Wednesday, 12:50 p.m.

In 2008, the Shenandoah Valley region reached a milestone exceeding 100,000 acres of private land permanently conserved through conservation easements. Last year continued to be a banner year with Valley Conservation Council (VCC) helping landowners protect more than 4,500 acres in an eleven county area. VCC worked with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, the primary holder of conservation easements in Virginia, to preserve 14 properties. VCC also independently accepted four additional ones filling a vital role as the private land trust serving the entire valley region. The easements include a 122 acre farm in Mount Crawford, a 131 ace property in Fort Defiance, and a 17 acre stream restoration in Harrisonburg’s Purcell Park.

“We’ve reached a real benchmark with more and more private landowners deciding that conservation is important for their family lands,” said John Eckman, Valley Conservation Council’s Executive Director. “Supportive federal and state tax incentives make this a viable option for landowners that might not otherwise be able to conserve their land.”

Landowners enter into voluntary land protection agreements, known as conservation easements, allowing for agricultural uses but restricting commercial and residential development. These agreements help keep land intact, maintain rural areas, preserve habitat for wildlife, and protect water quality by requiring good stewardship along stream banks. Last year, Congress renewed a program giving farmers and other land owners additional tax benefits for a longer period of time when conserving their properties. These benefits are set to expire at the end of 2009 unless they are approved once again.

Dorothy Lee Rosen’s Mount Crawford farm serves as an exceptional example of a conserved property. It is located where the Valley Pike (Route 11) crosses the Augusta-Rockingham county line and is a working cattle farm. She was able to leverage significant federal and state funding to protect the land since more than 70% is covered with prime farm soil.

Mrs. Rosen says her “love of the land and its history has led me to place my farm in trust for posterity.” Conservation easements not only protect land but also a way of life as she explains, “It has been through a culture of hard work and thrift that this dream was realized.”

    

News: Treasury announces new restrictions on executive compensation, Wednesday, 12:50 p.m.

Today, the Treasury Department is issuing a new set of guidelines on executive pay for financial institutions that are receiving government assistance to address our current financial crisis. These measures are designed to ensure that public funds are directed only toward the public interest in strengthening our economy by stabilizing our financial system and not toward inappropriate private gain. The measures announced today are designed to ensure that the compensation of top executives in the financial community is closely aligned not only with the interests of shareholders and financial institutions, but with the taxpayers providing assistance to those companies.

The Treasury guidelines on executive pay seek to strike the correct balance between the need for strict monitoring and accountability on executive pay and the need for financial institutions to fully function and attract the talent pool that will maximize the chances of financial recovery and taxpayers being paid back on their investments. The proposals below, such as emphasizing restricted stock that vests as the government is repaid with interest, seek to strike exactly that balance.

The guidelines distinguish between banks participating in any new generally available capital access program and banks needing “exceptional assistance.” Generally available programs have the same terms for all recipients, with limits on the amount each institution may receive and specified returns for taxpayers. The goal of these programs is to help ensure the financial system as a whole can provide the credit necessary for recovery, including providing capital to smaller community banks that play a critical role in lending to small businesses, families and others. The previously announced Capital Purchase Program is an example of a generally available capital access program.

If a firm needs more assistance than is allowed under a widely available standard program, then that is exceptional assistance. Banks falling under the “exceptional assistance” standard have bank-specific negotiated agreements with Treasury. Examples include AIG, and the Bank of America and Citi transactions under the Targeted Investment Program.

 

News: House GOP pushing mental-health reforms, Wednesday, 12:50 p.m.

Building on the landmark of Virginia’s mental health system enacted by the General Assembly in the 2008 session, Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and Delegates M. Kirkland “Kirk” Cox (Colonial Heights), Phillip A. Hamilton (R-Newport News), Robert B. “Rob” Bell (R-Albemarle) and Dr. John M. O’Bannon, III (R-Henrico) today announced a package of legislation that:

· Improves the critical safety net for Virginia’s most vulnerable citizens;

· Builds upon previous efforts to reform Virginia’s mental health laws for mandatory outpatient treatment when using this option for children and adolescents; and

· Empowers those with mental illness and their families to obtain the best care possible in a crisis

In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, House Republicans led a bipartisan effort in the 2008 Session of the General Assembly to pass fundamental mental health reforms. Last year, House Republicans also succeeded in having 600 Mental Retardation (MR) Waiver Slots incorporated into the 2008-2010 biennial state budget. Governor Kaine has proposed cutting 200 of those MR Waiver Slots in his proposed budget amendments this year.

“Last year, House Republicans committed to advancing a long-term approach to reforming the delivery and oversight of mental health care in Virginia,” noted Speaker Howell. “The responsible initiatives we are offering today are a logical continuation of that commitment to help those in need. Virginians understand that, even in tough financial times, we cannot afford to neglect our citizens who often do not have a voice. House Republicans remain determined to do everything we can to address the urgent waiting list for our community-based waiver program and ensure Virginia’s children and adults with mental illness receive proper treatment.”

As the House Appropriations Committee continues to examine proposed amendments to the biennial budget, key leaders on the budget-writing committee have expressed a desire to work to reinstate the 200 MR waiver slots Governor Kaine proposed cutting from the budget. In addition, by redefining funding priorities, House leaders hope to be able to increase the number of MR waivers available in FY 2010. The MR waiver program is a home and community-based program that funds services to help individuals with intellectual disabilities remain in the community and avoid institutional care. House Bill 1852, patroned by Delegate Cox, requires the Governor to develop a plan to eliminate the urgent care waiting list for MR waivers and the waiting list for Developmental Disabilities waivers by the 2018-2020 biennium. The Health and Human Resources Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee recommended reporting the substitute version of the bill on February 2.

“Virginia cannot fall further behind in keeping pace with the growing mental health needs of our citizens,” said Delegate Cox, a budget conferee. “Setting out an aggressive goal of eliminating the urgent care waiting list for these valuable mental health services is an important step to improving our services to citizens with intellectual disabilities. Despite our current economic situation, House Republicans know that we cannot afford to fall behind in reducing our urgent care waiting list and will keep working to fix this problem.”

Delegate Hamilton is patroning House Bill 2061 that reforms the process for placing juveniles in outpatient mental health treatment services and monitoring those cases. The bill would allow minors hospitalized, while properly detained by the courts, to enter mandatory outpatient treatment if less restrictive alternatives to involuntary inpatient treatment are deemed appropriate. The process established in this legislation, as well as clarifying changes included in Delegate Hamilton’s House Bill 2060, complements the mental health reforms enacted by the General Assembly in the 2008 session.

“As Virginia continues to grapple with how to better serve those with mental illness, House Republicans understand that policy changes are needed to facilitate better access to critical services in an environment that does not stigmatize those needing assistance,” noted Delegate Hamilton, Chairman of the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee and a budget conferee. “The changes we are proposing today furthers the progress that state lawmakers and the Governor accomplished in a bipartisan manner last year.”

House Bill 2396, patroned by Delegate Bell, would allow a person with mental illness to prepare directives to guide one’s care if the person was later incapable of proving such guidance. Allowing the mentally ill to identify preferred medications, facilities and to name an agent to make future decisions for themselves addresses the “Ulysses Question,” where an individual directs that a certain medication be given to him even if he subsequently protests. The bill provides exceptions where the advance directive would require care decisions that are themselves life-threatening.

“This bill is a way to empower the mentally ill to help their doctors determine how to best provide care,” remarked Delegate Bell, Chairman of the Mental Health Subcommittee of the House Courts of Justice Committee. “If someone is capable of making informed decisions about his care, we certainly want to have that input. This continues the most fundamental mental health reforms in the last 35 years we passed last year as a result of the Virginia Tech tragedy.”

Delegate O’Bannon is patroning a series of bills – House Bill 2459, House Bill 2460, and House Bill 2461 – that would provide practical solutions to many of the issues raised in the wake of the comprehensive mental health reforms enacted last year. The bills would allow for a consumer at a mental health facility to choose someone to be notified of his care and location, provide safe transportation for a person under an emergency custody order, and ensure a family member is notified when a person is involved in a commitment process.

“We need to be ever mindful of the concerns of the people impacted directly by emergency mental health care services,” observed Delegate O’Bannon, the only practicing physician in the House of Delegates. “These bills make important changes in order to address those concerns by strengthening protections and facilitating communications with the patient and their family. As Virginia continues to take a comprehensive approach to improving our mental health system, House Republicans will seek to keep the best interests of our mentally ill citizens at the forefront.”

 

News: House bill allowing government-sanctioned sectarian prayers at government meetings unconstitutional, ACLU says, Wednesday, 10:10 a.m.

The House of Delegates will vote today on a bill that permits sectarian prayers at events sponsored by the State Police, a violation of legal precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The ACLU is asking members of the House to reject HB 2314 and is prepared to mount a legal challenge should it become law and lead to prayers in which representatives of the State Police offer sectarian prayers at government events.

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.

“The courts have made it clear that in those instances where the government is offering a prayer, the prayer must not favor one religion over others,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “Delegate Carrico is correct to vigorously defend his individual right to express his personal religious beliefs, and he would find a strong ally in the ACLU in such situations. But when a prayer is given by an official representing the government, it is the government’s view of religion that must be expressed — which is that all religions must be treated equally under the law.”

Carrico’s bill is 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. After the Fourth Circuit’s ruling, State Police Col. Stephen Flaherty ordered police chaplains to give only nonsectarian prayers at events sponsored by the State Police. The Governor later supported Flaherty’s decision.

A similar Senate bill, SB 1072 (Martin) addresses prayers at any public event sanctioned by government agencies, not just the State Police.

The ACLU’s memo to legislators can be found online at www.acluva.org.

 

News: LaHood outlines plans to coordinate DOT role in economic recovery, Wednesday, 10:10 a.m.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that he has created a team at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to coordinate the Department’s role in President Obama’s economic recovery program. The team will ensure that economic recovery funding is rapidly made available for transportation infrastructure projects and that project spending is monitored and transparent.

The team, known as the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) team, is composed of officials from across the Department’s operating administrations and offices. The team is co-chaired by Lana Hurdle, deputy assistant secretary for budget and programs, and Joel Szabat, deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy.

“We created the TIGER team to make sure that DOT’s portion of recovery funding goes out to states and localities as quickly as possible in order to immediately create jobs and strengthen our economy and transportation systems,” Secretary LaHood said.

The team will identify and prioritize key highway, bridge, transit, rail, aviation and intermodal spending. The team also will develop reporting standards to accurately track the money as it is being spent and ensure that all accountability requirements are being met.

The Department’s chief economist and Performance Management Office will coordinate with the Office of Management and Budget and other White Office offices on the performance measures that will be used to track job creation and other indications of the impact of each infrastructure investment.

 

News: Local temple to host Community Awareness Shabbat, Wednesday, 10:10 a.m.

The members of Temple House of Israel in Staunton invite all interested in observing, experiencing, and learning about a Jewish Sabbath service to attend our Community Awareness Shabbat on February 6 at 7:30 p.m.

During the service spiritual leader Rabbi Joe Blair will offer brief explanations of the structure of the service, as well as insight into the meanings of the service and the religious articles used. We will be reading from the Torah (five books of Moses) and Haftarah (books of the prophets) in Hebrew, as well as reciting prayers in both Hebrew and English. There will be an opportunity for those attending to ask questions, following an Oneg Shabbat (a fellowship time with light refreshments). Judaism does not proselytize or evangelize, nor do we seek converts; this event is simply a friendly offer to our friends and neighbors, some of whom have expressed curiosity about our services, a chance to find out a little more about what we do in our worship services, as well as who we are.

We would be delighted to welcome you to visit with us for this special evening. Dress as you would for your own worship services (or ‘business casual’). We are a friendly and easygoing group, and we want you to feel at ease in our spiritual home. The congregation is located at 15 N. Market Street in Staunton. If you have questions, please call 540-886-4091 and leave a message.

 

News: AlbemarleFamily Fun Fair & Camp Expo set for this weekend, Wednesday, 10:10 a.m.

Camps for Kids & Teens! Now is the time to plan for summer and there is no better place to do that than at the fifth annual AlbemarleFamily Fun Fair & Camp Expo on Sunday, February 8 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel in Charlottesville.

This popular event is easy one-stop shopping for the camp of your kid’s and dreams whether they’re into building robots, painting, horseback riding or extreme sports! With nearly 65 exhibitors from all over the East Coast, more than $1,000 of great giveaways including ipod nanos, magic shows and more – it will be a full and exciting day!

For more details visit www.AlbemarleFamily.com.

 

News: Landmark Education Information Session in Harrisonburg Feb. 16, Wednesday, 10:10 a.m.

Kai Degner is hosting an informational program about the Landmark Education Corp. three-day course called the Landmark Forum on Monday, Feb. 16, at 6:30 p.m. at the Community Mediation Center in downtown Harrisonburg (165 S. Main Street)

The free program will provide participants with some of the tools taught in the Landmark Forum. It will also include an information session about the logistics of the course.

RSVP is requested, preferably by Feb. 13 but can be done as late as the day of the event.

RSVP to Kai Degner (kai.degner@gmail.com or 810-7813) or Milla Sue Wisecarver (wisecams@yahoo.com or 434-1175).

 

News: EMU honors veteran church leaders, Wednesday, 10:10 a.m.

Three veteran church leaders were honored Wednesday, Jan. 21, by Eastern Mennonite Seminary for more than 50 years of ministry.

Glendon L. Blosser, Harrisonburg; Edward M. Godshall, Newton, N.C., and Dorothy M. Harnish, Landisville, Pa., received plaques and letters of commendation during a church leadership banquet held Wednesday evening, Jan. 21, during the annual School for Leadership Training (SLT).

Ervin R. Stutzman, dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary, and Phil N. Helmuth, director of church relations, made the presentations at the recognition ceremony.

Ordained by lot in 1959, Blosser was pastor of Zion Hill Mennonite Church, Singers Glen, Va., 1959-69. He was ordained in 1969 as bishop for the Central District of Virginia Mennonite Conference and served in that role until 2003.

Church planting initiatives included helping to start the Christiansburg (VA) Mennonite Fellowship and Charlieville Mennonite Church in Trinidad.

Blosser served Virginia Mennonite Conference as secretary-treasurer, 1965-74; conference moderator, 1974-81; director of home missions with Virginia Mennonite Board of Missions, 1984-90; and chair of the historical committee, 2004 to the present.

His church-wide involvements have included moderator of Mennonite Church General Assembly, 1981; Mennonite Church General Board chair, 1979-81; and chair of the revision committee for Mennonite Church bylaws, 1983.

Blosser graduated from EMU in 1966 and earned an MA degree from Eastern Mennonite Seminary in 1990. He was an EMU trustee, 1988-96, chair of the seminary committee, 1989-96 and chair of the seminary construction committee, 1993-94.

He is a long-time Sunday school teacher at his home congregation, Weavers Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg.

Godshall was pastor of Mountain View Mennonite Church, Hickory, N.C., 1957-2002.

He was ordained in 1958 and served as bishop of the Tennessee-Carolina-Kentucky District of Virginia Mennonite Conference, 1970-1984. He was overseer of the same district, 1989-2007.

Godshall studied at the seminary, August 1974 – May 1975.

Harnish was the first woman to receive a master of divinity degree from Eastern Mennonite Seminary in 1973. She went on to earn a master of religious education degree from Presbyterian School of Christian Education and later received certification from the Center for Loss and Life Transition at Fort Collins, Colo.

She taught Bible courses at Eastern Mennonite High School, 1973-83, did curriculum development and promotion of the Foundation Series and Jubilee Christian education curricula for the Mennonite Church and General Conference Mennonite Church, 1983-1994 and was director of adult education and Board of Congregational Resources of Lancaster Mennonite Conference, 1984-94. She taught Sunday school from her teen years to the present.

Harnish served as an adjunct faculty member at Messiah College and Eastern Mennonite Seminary and was co-founder and director of Kairos School of Spiritual Formation, 1992-2000. She was a consultant for the Parish Resource Center, Lancaster, 1994-2000. From 2004 to the present, she has been chaplain of AseraCare Hospice, Lancaster.

Blosser’s spouse, the late Dorothy Blosser, and Pauline Godshall were also cited for their “significant supportive roles” over the years.


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