Read John Reid Blackwell’s article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Benefit or B Corporations, which allow for the creation of corporations with a social mission beyond maximizing profits for investors or owners.
In 2011, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation sponsored by Del. McClellan that allowed for the creation of benefit corporations as legal entities in Virginia. While that legislation passed overwhelmingly, McClellan said that state lawmakers have resisted the idea of allowing benefit limited liability corporations.
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Read the article in RVA News on how women are underrepresented in Virginia politics. Today the number of female members of the Virginia House of Delegates stands at 19, the highest it’s ever been. That’s 19 out of 100 House members–a far cry from parity in a state where 50.9 percent of the population is female. Underrepresentation is even worse in the 40-member Virginia Senate, where women hold six seats–just 15 percent.
Now it is common for women to run for office. However, when they do, women typically do so much later in life compared with men, Condit said. The average age for women running for office is 42; for men, around 31.
That’s because women often must juggle other priorities–such as a children, a husband, and a career–along with political service.
Delegate McClellan said running for office and getting elected is no longer an issue for women. The real issue is making tough decisions about family and a career.
“The barriers are not so much you have to overcome people not wanting you there, but now women have so many more options of what they can do. The problem now is balancing all the balls that we can have in the air,” McClellan said.
She said it’s difficult to recruit women to run for office because of the time commitment: Being a state legislator can be an all-consuming part-time job in addition to your regular career. And with the General Assembly convening every January, it means sacrificing two months a year away from family and that career.
McClellan knows that juggling act all too well. She’s a mother, a wife, a lawyer for Verizon, and a state delegate.
Her path to the General Assembly began when, as a University of Richmond student, she volunteered on Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992. Throughout her college days, McClellan helped out on numerous campaigns such as Tim Kaine’s bid for lieutenant governor. So when she ran for the Virginia House in 2005, she was already familiar with the political scene.
Men often call politics a contact sport. Some say women bring a different spirit–of more cooperation and collaboration–into public office.
For example, McClellan hosted a “fuzzy slipper party” where she invited Democratic and Republican delegates to her home one evening – a chance for them to socialize and forget about party affiliation.
That’s not to say female lawmakers are unanimous in their political convictions on issues such as reproductive rights. During the Virginia General Assembly’s 2012 session, women legislators introduced some of the measures targeting abortion. For example, Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Lynchburg) sponsored the bill requiring women to get an ultrasound before having an abortion.
As a woman, McClellan had a personal connection to such legislation, including a bill by Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Manassas) to grant a fetus the rights of a person.
Coincidentally, as legislators were considering Marshall’s bill, McClellan was pregnant–but she was keeping it a secret from the general public.
“I’m the type of person that when I am interested in something, I have to know everything there is about it. So when I got pregnant, I researched every possible thing that could happen. I discovered abortion laws don’t just apply to what people think they apply to; they apply in case of a miscarriage,” McClellan said.
Critics said that under the “personhood bill,” a woman could be held liable if she terminated a pregnancy, and maybe even if she had a miscarriage.
Later, the Family Foundation of Virginia, an anti-abortion group, outed McClellan’s pregnancy on its blog.
When Marshall’s bill was being debated on the House floor, McClellan gave an emotional speech against it. She said she was thinking about how the bill could apply to her if she were to have a miscarriage.
McClellan gave her speech knowing that this bill and other women’s issues affect her in a way that they could not affect Marshall. She said she spoke out because she knew the facts.
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Read Stephanie Atkins’s article in the Henrico Citzen about Del. McClellan’s legislation (HB 1871) that cracks down bullying in schools. Beginning in July 2014, each school board in Virginia must include in its student code of conduct a prohibition against bullying, including cyberbullying. Moreover, school divisions must educate teachers and other employees about bullying and “the need to create a bully-free environment.
The bill seeks to crack down on bullying by children. Among other things, it provides a definition of bullying:
‘Bullying’ means any aggressive and unwanted behavior that is intended to harm, intimidate, or humiliate the victim; involves a real or perceived power imbalance between the aggressor or aggressors and victim; and is repeated over time or causes severe emotional trauma. ‘Bullying’ includes cyber bullying. ‘Bullying’ does not include ordinary teasing, horseplay, argument, or peer conflict.”
The new law says every school board’s student conduct code must include policies and procedures that prohibit bullying.
“Such policies and procedures shall not be interpreted to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of students and are not intended to prohibit expression of religious, philosophical, or political views, provided that such expression does not cause an actual, material disruption of the work of the school,” the law states.
It also requires the Virginia Board of Education to provide local districts examples of bullying, ways to recognize bullying and methods to provide a bully-free environment.
A recent Virginia Department of Education study on bullying reports:
• between 15 and 25 percent of U.S. students are “bullied with some frequency,” studies have found.
• bullying in school leads to lower academic achievement, higher dropout rates and increased school absenteeism – not only among the students being bullied but also among bystanders. Bullying also affects students’ health.
• about one-third of Virginia’s school districts currently have a comprehensive definition of bullying, which covers both physical and emotional harassment.
You can read the Virginia Department of Education’s study on bullying at:
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Watch Delegates Jennifer McClellan and Chris Peace (R-Hanover) discuss the 2013 General Assembly Session on This Week in Richmond.
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Watch WRIC Channel 8 News in Richmond’s coverage of Del. McClellan’s legislation to increase the penalties for stalking. It is awaiting action by Gov. McDonnell.
Stalking is currently a misdemeanor offense, but a Del. McClellan’s bill would make it a more serious offense. After the death of her daughter allegedly at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, a local mother hopes the bill will help save lives.
Sheila Green’s daughter Tiffany was killed last year. Tiffany had filed a protective order against him, but it still didn’t prevent her tragic death. Her ex-boyfriend was arrested, but Green wanted to know what could have been done to try and save her child. After talking to lawmakers, she realized how common the problem is, and that a bill to make stalking a more serious offense had failed repeatedly for seven straight years.
“I guess a lot of parents felt like I felt at the time, like it was just a slap in the face like it was being ignored,” says Green.
The bill was first introduced after the murder of D’nora Hill. Eight years ago, Hill was gunned down by her ex-boyfriend, despite filing a protective order against him. Hill’s death is just one of many involving ex-husbands and boyfriends who have murdered women…even after protective order have been filed.
The bill on its way to becoming law would make stalking a more serious crime for repeat offenders who have committed assault or have protective orders against them.
Del. McClellan says the measure is a good start, but she is hoping to make stalking laws even stronger in the future. ”People realize it is not okay to terrorize someone that you claim to love, and that we have seen that that behavior leads to something much more violent.
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Read Molly Gentzel’s article in The Collegian on Del. McCellan’s legislation submitted in honor of slain University of Richmond student De’Nora Hill who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend. The bill increases the penalty for stalking in Virginia.
In December 2005, senior De’Nora Hill was shot and killed outside of her off-campus apartment by her ex-boyfriend Joe Casuccio, said Holly Blake, director of Women in Living and Learning (WILL).
Hill had issued a preliminary protective hearing against 30-year-old Casuccio because she had become frightened by his recent behavior, which included repeated telephone calls, sudden outbursts of anger and following Hill when she drove, according to information published in Richmond Magazine after the incident.
After a weekend of relative normalcy, Hill was shot eight times in the parking lot of her apartment and later died at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center.
Casuccio, who suffered from mental illness, then took his own life with a gunshot to the head.
Following Hill’s death during the 2006-2007 school year, WILL students who were taking a course titled Gender, Race and Activism were given an article to read about Hill and the events surrounding her death, Blake said. The students were moved and motivated to look further into stalking laws in Va.
The students were shocked by how stalking was regarded in the law, Blake said, which at the time made stalking a Class 1 misdemeanor with a penalty of no more than one year in jail and a fine of no more than $2,500.
Brianna May, a WILL alumna who was one of the students originally involved in creating the legislation, said she had felt “deeply disturbed” that so little action had been taken to protect Hill.
May and her classmates decided to confront this issue as the topic of a class project in which they were to research and take action on an issue they were interested in, Blake said.
WILL students worked with members of the General Assembly and the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance to find a legislator to sponsor the bill. That legislator was Del. Katherine Waddell, Blake said.
In the spring of 2007, nine WILL students testified with Hill’s mother on behalf of legislation that would have made stalking a Class 6 felony upon a second offense within five years or when there was a court order in effect that prohibited contact between the stalker and the victim, as Hill had had against Casuccio.
According to Va. law, a Class 6 felony carries a jail sentence of one to five years.
On Feb. 6, 2007, Blake said, the legislation passed the House, but failed to pass out of the Senate’s finance committee.
That first year was a disheartening experience, May said, for the students who had worked on honoring Hill and had become passionate about the connection between stalking and domestic violence.
“I don’t think the legislators understood,” May said. “They were very far removed from the terror, the violence and the tragedy … walking in and out of the room and answering phones while people were presenting their ideas for a better Virginia.”
The following year, Waddell lost her re-election bid, and Del. McClellan, a class of 1994 graduate, took up the legislation as chief patron, Blake said.
McClellan said she had become interested in working on this legislation after she had sat down and spoken with some of Hill’s friends.
“They wanted to do something to not make her death completely meaningless,” McClellan said.
McClellan submitted legislation in 2008 that would have provided the same penalties for stalking as Waddell’s 2007 legislation. The bill failed again, this time in the House public safety subcommittee.
Despite the legislation having failed twice, Blake said WILL students had retained their fervent commitment to issues of sexual assault and domestic violence.
To continue their work, WILL students put together a week-long series of programs that included four speakers, among them a Harvard law professor, who challenged students to re-think their conceptions about domestic violence, Blake said.
As a result of collaboration between WILL members, the athletics department staff, fraternities, and the Richmond College dean’s office staff, more men attended these events than women for the first time in WILL history, Blake said.
The motivation to increase stalking penalties and to honor Hill spread among the campus community, and the project grew beyond a class assignment, Blake said.
McClellan said she had remained committed to the legislation after the bill was killed in 2008 because of the high and ever-rising domestic violence statistics.
“The numbers of people who are killed by people who claim to love them are staggering,” McClellan said. “Stalking usually leads to more violent behavior.”
In the U.S., one in six women and one in 19 men has been a victim of stalking in his or her lifetime, according to staff at the Center for Disease Control. Two-thirds of female stalking victims are stalked by a current or former intimate partner.
Stalking can take on many different forms, Blake said, including incessant text messages or phone calls, being followed or watched. Blake said all of these things had happened on Richmond’s campus.
Becky Bieschke, Hill’s mother, said the bill’s repeated failure every year since 2008 had been mostly due to fiscal concerns.
This year, McClellan’s stalking bill passed both the House and the Senate. But, the legislation that ultimately succeeded contained looser penalties than the group of WILL students, Bieschke, Waddell and McClellan originally wanted, McClellan said.
According to the 2013 legislation, stalking becomes a Class 6 felony if a person is convicted of a second stalking offense within five years and had also been convicted of assault and battery, domestic assault or violating a protective order against the same victim.
“It is a relief that we’re finally doing something to strengthen the penalty for stalking,” McClellan said. “But I wish we could have gotten what was included in the original bill.”
Bieschke said she viewed this year’s legislation as a step in the right direction, but that there was still more that needed to be done.
In addition to the punishment of the perpetrator, Bieschke said, the root cause of the stalkers’ actions also deserves attention.
“It needs to be looked at as to ‘why?’” Bieschke said. “You might be angry at someone; you might be upset, but you don’t go out and kill them.
“These are lives we’re talking about, people we love. Something needs to change, and I believe in baby steps.”
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Voter Id bills deter a basic right
by Jennifer McClellan
In 1901, my great-grandfather showed up at a local registrar’s office to register to vote in Alabama. He was given a literacy test that asked such questions as “What were the Kentucky Resolutions? Who is the chief justice of Alabama and the United States? What Alabamian served as vice president?”
A student of Alabama and American history, he was not deterred by these questions. So the chairman of the board of registrars sent for one of the other committee members and said, “Hurry with more questions. This n****** has answered all the questions you gave us.” My great-grandfather had been singled out for disenfranchisement. When he answered the additional questions correctly, he was told he would have to have three prominent white men endorse him. All prominent white men in the town had been instructed not to do so. He persisted, and finally found one to sign an affidavit as to his character, and he was able to register.
Nearly every African-American family in the South, including Virginia, has a similar story. Or a story about someone who was terrorized — or worse — for having the audacity to exercise his right to vote. For many of us, efforts to erect barriers to voting are personal. That is why the defeat of measures to facilitate voting was so disappointing. A House subcommittee killed measures to expand early voting, expand voting hours and increase the number of voting machines in precincts.
Even more disappointing are measures that passed the House to reduce the acceptable forms of ID a voter can present at the polls. First, HB 1337 removes several items from the list of acceptable IDs a voter can bring to the polls: a copy of a current utility bill, a bank statement, government check or paycheck that shows the name and address of the voter and a voter’s Social Security card.
Last year, despite no evidence of a systematic problem of people showing up to vote claiming to be someone they are not, the General Assembly required voters who did not present an approved ID to vote by provisional ballot, but the governor added these other forms of ID to address concerns over seniors, minorities and the poor who would not have the other forms of permissible ID. Even with these additions, some people were required to vote by provisional ballot because they did not have an ID. Shortening the list will most certainly deny someone the ability to vote.
Even worse, the House passed SB 1256 requiring photo ID at the polls to vote. The bill requires the State Board of Elections to provide free voter registration cards with a photograph and signature if the voter does not possess any other permissible photo ID. The fiscal impact statement for the bill says the total costs and impact “are indeterminate,” and the bill will not take effect unless funded in the budget passed this session. However, preliminary costs show $166,250 in setup costs in the first year and more than $200,000 in costs to develop the IDs and educate voters.
But to prove identity to the local registrar, which is the touted purpose of the bill, someone will need to provide a birth certificate, driver’s license, passport or other government-issued ID. Each of these costs money, which must either be paid by the local registrars or the voter. If paid by the voter, this amounts to a poll tax. And many older Virginians lack birth certificates thanks to the legacy of the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, under which the Bureau of Vital Statistics refused to grant birth certificates to mixed race Virginians or Native Americans who refused to check a box identifying themselves as “colored.” How will these people prove their identity to obtain a photo ID?
Finally, SB 1077 would subject naturalized citizens to removal from the voting rolls based on the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement database. The SAVE database reflects an immigrant’s status at the time he or she applies for federal entitlements and is not necessarily updated to reflect changes in citizenship status. A similar system was attempted in Colorado, and their Republican secretary of state found it “riddled with errors.”
Each of these three bills could place unnecessary barriers on eligible Virginia voters. Given Virginia’s ugly past disenfranchising voters, denying even one eligible voter the fundamental right to vote is one too many.
To read this column on the Richmond Times-Dispatch website, click here.
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Watch NBC 12′s report on legislation co-sponsored by Del. McClellan that would lower the threshold for candidates to compete in Virginia’s presidential primary.
Last year, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum did not appear on Virginia’s March 6, 2012 ballot for the Republican presidential nomination. All three candidates failed to reach 10,000 voter signatures Virginia requires to compete.
The Commonwealth will now lower the standard to 5,000 signatures statewide and at least 200 signatures from each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts, if Gov. Bob McDonnell signs a bill approved by both the Virginia House and Senate.
Del. McClellan said the move is not about making the race easier, but bringing Virginia’s standards in line with primary rules across the country.
“Most states require just 5,000 signatures.” McClellan said. “The DNC standard is also 5,000. If we wanted to participate in the convention, we needed to have a waiver approved. All because Virginia’s primary rules were different.”
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