State legislators discuss plans for 2019

Published 10:11 pm Friday, January 4, 2019

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During Isle of Wight County’s annual Richard J. Holland Pre-Legislative Breakfast, held in the Smithfield Center, Virginia Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-18) informed constituents that during the upcoming General Assembly session, she will push for raises for public school teachers and the legalization of casinos in Virginia.

Del. Emily Brewer (R-64) said one of her priorities is harsher punishment of bail bondsmen who take advantage of those who are incarcerated.

“We have allowed money from Virginia voters to go out to other states to help put money in their coffers,” Lucas said of her plans to bring casinos to Virginia. “All around us are states that have casinos.”

“A locality that chooses to host a casino, 25 percent of the funds will be distributed to the localities, and that’s crazy money, not small money,” she claimed. “Casinos take in about $1 million per day.”

She added that the myth that casinos would cause people to become poorer was, in her opinion, exactly that, a myth.

As for the harsher punishments, Brewer said, “I’m introducing a bill to make it a class 6 felony to take advantage of anyone who is incarcerated. Our bail bondsmen should be held to the same standards as our law enforcement officers.”

According to Virginia’s Legislative Information System website, it is only a class 1 misdemeanor for the owner or employee of a bail bond company that posted bond for a person to carnally know such person if the owner or employee has the authority to revoke the person’s bond. This is what Brewer proposes to change to a class 6 felony.

On the matter of raises for public school teachers, both legislators agreed.

“We all have to admit that teachers have a huge challenge in public schools today; they definitely deserve a salary commensurate with what they have to deal with,” Lucas said.

One issue in 2018 where the two did not agree, Brewer said, was the expansion of Medicaid, which ultimately did pass last year.

“The reason I didn’t support it is every time the federal government expands something, they reduce their share,” Brewer said. “The government is only covering 90 percent.”

She then questioned how Virginia would fund its share if the federal government were to reduce its share to 80 percent at some point in the future.

When asked during the question-and-answer session what each would do to reduce the number of people incarcerated in Virginia, Lucas said that many legislators, last year, introduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana. Brewer said she supported programs geared toward those incarcerated for only a short period of time to teach those inmates a skill set, and hopefully, reduce recidivism.

“I went to jail for my first time, just as a visitor, a few weeks ago,” she said. “I went to see their agricultural program. It’s a great opportunity for them [inmates] to learn a skill set.”

On marijuana, Lucas said, “You have people who committed much more heinous crimes serving much shorter sentences.”

Student delegations from Windsor and Smithfield high schools, and Isle of Wight Academy, attended the breakfast. When asked what high school students could do to become more involved in government, both legislators suggested volunteering with a community or nonprofit organization.

“I think you need to have a sense of what your community looks like; you don’t need to see how politicians live, you need to see the least in your community,” Brewer said.

“When young people come to me and say, ‘I want to serve in political office,’ I ask, ‘Why?’” Lucas said. “And they look at me like a deer in the headlights. Then I tell them about the kinds of things I did before getting elected, and it wasn’t working on campaigns … It’s working in your community and finding out how you can be helpful, not how you can get elected.”

As always, Dick Holland, president of Farmers Bank and the son of the late Virginia Sen. Richard J. Holland, for whom the breakfast is named, gave remarks. This year, he criticized both President Donald Trump and Congress, comparing the national situation to “children playing in a sandbox” and suggested that Virginia look to Washington, D.C. as “what not to do.”

“When we vote for good people, not good politicians, there’s a lot of difference,” Holland said. “A good person will have a servant’s heart; a good politician will have a big, fat ego… Please question your elected officials’ hearts more than their voting records, and we will have good representatives. Politicians will tell you their personal lives are off limits. No, they’re not.”