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Annual General Assembly Update – 2024

Sunday, May 19th, 2024

Delegate Amy Laufer, Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegate Katrina Callsen

Another standing-room-only crowd listened intently and asked great questions as our two VA Delegates and VA Senator shared a General Assembly Update…an annual benefit for SSV members.

Delegate Katrina Callsen (54th House District, all of City and small part of Albemarle County in urban ring) serves on Courts, Finance, and Local Government Committees; introduced 14 bills. She is very proud of the Kinship For Foster Care legislation she authored. Katrina was named the “Freshman Delegate of the Year,” by the 34 first-time delegates. She continues to work on probation reform, residual marijuana possession reform (from felony to misdemeanor) and removing guns from college campuses.

Delegate Amy Laufer (55th House District, remainder of Albemarle County) serves on Finance, Education and Agriculture/Chesapeake/Natural Resources Committees. She is most proud of her work on women’s health issues and agriculture. She continues to work on safe gun controls and agriculture issues, as well as disability issues.

Senator Creigh Deeds (11th Senate District, serves all of Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville). He is the second longest-serving member of the VA Senate and serves on the Budget Conference Committee, as well as Commerce and Labor (chair), Courts of Justice, Finance/Appropriations, and Privileges/Elections/Rules Committees. He counts the appointment of two new State Corporation Commission members (with 3 members total) as a major accomplishment. He continues to work on the Budget, safe gun controls, and mental health issues.

All three shared their support for increased higher education funding and increased health care workers funding in the budget; both included higher salaries. All three noted that working with the Governor’s office has been challenging, as this Governor has vetoed 153 bills of 1,046, amended 116 bills of 1,046, and signed 777 bills of 1,046. He then added 242 more amendments to the first budget bill which was passed with significant bi-partisan support. Rather than address the 242 amendments, the VA House and Senate decided to create a second budget bill, which will be addressed at a Special General Assembly session on May 13th.

They agreed that it is imperative that the budget not be vetoed, as that would cause VA to lose its AAA bond rating. Thus, the General Assembly decided to create an entirely new budget for General Assembly passage and forwarding to the Governor for signature.

All three closed by expressing appreciation for those who attended and the importance of communicating citizen views and concerns with them. All three have newsletters available to constituents. They look forward to hearing from YOU.

Delegate Callsen also provided this selection of bills passed that have direct impact on senior citizens:
• A bill to create the Virginia Memory Center to collect information and provide assistance with Alzheimer’s disease and their families. (HB1455 Carr) – Passed
• A new law to fight financial exploitation of seniors by allowing banks to train staff on how and report suspected cases of financial abuse. The law also allows financial institutions to list trusted persons who may be contacted in cases of suspected elder abuse. (HB692 Mald) – Passed
• Legislation to improve the continuity of health care for patients by prohibiting insurance retroactively denying a previously approved authorization when a patient is switching insurance policies. (HB1134 Willett) – Passed
• Legislation to require more training for firefighters and first responders in helping those w/Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. (HB933 LeVere Bolling) – Passed
Two bills that did not pass and may be of interest:
• A bill to create a Drug Price Affordability Board which would have the authority to set up limits on certain prescription medications. (HB570 Delaney) – Vetoed
• A bill to allow IDs issued by senior living facilities be used for voting. Many people living in senior communities or group homes no longer have a need for a Driver’s License so this would allow residents to use their community ID for voting. (HB26 Reid) – Vetoed

Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Benefits and Problems

Thursday, April 18th, 2024

 

With a standing-room-only crowd, Dr. Philip E Bourne, founding dean of the School of Data Science at UVA, shared an overview of “Artificial Intelligence – Good or Bad?” Dr. Bourne brings trailblazing experience from business (launched four companies), biomedical/data science  research (published 300+ papers and 5 books), academia (University of California-San Diego), and government (first Director of Data Science for the National Institutes of Health) to Senior Statesmen of Virginia and UVA! He also founded the group ‘Deans on Bikes.’

Dr. Bourne shared a primary question to start the discussion: How Disruptive will AI be? He traced the history of Artificial Intelligence, noting it first appeared in the 1970’s. He shared how the data that affects society has changed and grown. Dr. Bourne shared a graph with which we can view and track the AI innovation; on the vertical axis, we have Volume, Velocity and Variety. On the horizontal axis, we have the six stages of innovation: Digitization (did we know that data doubles every TWO years now?), Disruption, Demonetization, Dematerialization and Democratization (what happens when AI models, like quantum computing, reach human capacity? Will this happen?)

Dr. Bourne noted that UVA students accept AI for what it is and look at future growth and uses. For higher education, he suggested that learning modalities will change…. Robotics? Will a job market shift then happen? Will decisionmaking bias develop? Will privacy be eroded? How can we mitigate/eliminate misuse? Virtual reality — will it allow students from farflung geographic locations to ‘be in the same room.’

Many questions were asked and generated discussion and more questions. AI will continue to be a hot topic!

Aging and Ageism: They Don’t Go Together

Wednesday, February 21st, 2024

Bethanie Constant, CFRE, VP for Mission at Westminster Canterbury of the Blue Ridge (WCBR), presented a thought-provoking and informative presentation on “Aging, Ageism and Ableism—Beliefs, Myths, Research and Action”. SSV is focused on learning about current issues and how we can have a voice! This presentation fit the bill!

In addition to her WCBR position and expertise, Bethanie is in the middle of her Master of Science degree in Gerontology at Virginia Commonwealth University. The presentation reviewed the following topics:
Consciousness Raising; Finding Commonality; Looking at the Landscape; Understanding Key Terms; Dispelling Myths, Highlighting Research; Transforming Our Perspective; and Sharing Resources

To see Bethanie’s PowerPoint, click here.

–We began by participating in a discussion around four questions.
–We learned that the United States is an aging nation…77 million 65+ in 2034, 94 million in 2060!
–We reviewed implicit bias…..attitudes and stereotypes we associate with other people that exist without our conscious knowledge!!
–We learned the definition of Ageism….which impacts how we think (stereotypes), how we feel (prejudice) and how we act (discrimination) towards others or oneself based on age.   From the World Health Organization!
–We gained knowledge of terms to avoid and suggested alternatives…..from “the elderly” to “older adults”
–We learned the six myths of old age: 1) that it is a disaster; 2) that we are mindless; 3) that we are sexless; 4) that we are useless; 5) that we are powerless; and 6) that we are all alike; and so much more.

The program was moderated by SSV Board Member Sue Liberman.

Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA Update and Meet the New Executive Director

Sunday, January 14th, 2024

Libby Jones – Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA  Executive Director

SSV members and guests were welcomed to the January 2024 program meeting by Outgoing President Sue Friedman.  Newly elected officers and Board members were introduced and can be found on our ‘About Us‘ page.

Libby Jones has an impressive career spanning over a decade in animal welfare, veterinary medicine, and zoology, including pivotal leadership roles at influential organizations such as the Humane Society of Charlotte, Guilford County, and her most recent position as Chief Operations Officer at Seattle Humane, Jones brings a wealth of invaluable experience to her new role.

Libby shared an overview of CASPCA noting that the staff members are fully engaged and excited by their work.  She shared that she entered this field for the animals, and now works to support the staff who care for the animals.

Audience questions included:

With efforts to clear out the kennels, how much care is taken to be sure the pet is going to a safe and happy home so the pet is a higher priority than clearing the kennels? Response: CASPCA uses a nationally recognized program called “Adopters Welcome,” that encourages conversation between the potential adopters and the CASPCA Staff.  They want the adoption to be the right fit for both the animal and the adopter…the animal can happily fit into the adopter’s life.  

What is the process to become a CASPCA volunteer? Response: The process and application are on the CASPCA website.  There are many ways to volunteer and support CASPCA, plus not all of them involve coming to the Shelter.  For example, food and treat drives in the community are a great way to support CASPCA, and provide volunteer support.

When taking pets from other areas/shelters, does CASPCA take into consideration how few vet offices there are to take care of the pets once they are adopted in our community? Response: There is a veterinary shortage here and most everywhere in the country.  Veterinary medicine is expensive to pursue and has challenges as pet owners and the public are often critical of veterinary care.  Libby indicated that enrollment in veterinary medicine programs has decreased, as the veterinarian is often not receiving the respect they deserve from their pet owners nor community. The CASPCA is building partnerships and relationships with veterinarians, and looking to expand veterinarian care available through CASPCA, to address the growing shortage as the CASPCA does want to provide adoption opportunities to rescue groups and other shelters.  If these often young and very adoptable animals are not provided opportunities through CASPCA, they are likely to be euthanized simply for space.

Are all adopted animals microchipped? Response: “Absolutely.”

Can you provide basic facts, a snapshot, for CASPCA. Response: Libby noted that the budget is about $5 million a year.  More than 3000 animals were rehomed (returned to owner) or adopted last year.  CASPCA has 60 employees, with budget for 65.  

Libby encouraged anyone to contact her (ljones@caspca.org) and visit the website for much more information on CASPCA.

Avoiding Scams

Wednesday, November 15th, 2023

SSV Board Member Sue Liberman introduced our November speaker, Doris Gelbman, and she shared a most informative presentation on “Avoiding Scams.” Attorney Gelbman practices elder law exclusively, and is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.  

 Frauds and scams are crimes, she emphasized, and should be addressed as such.  All of these crimes should be reported! 

Contact Adult Protective Services or APS: 888-832-3858. Also report to Elder Fraud Hotline: 833-372-8311 and report to the FBI: 800-677-1116. The local FBI office can be reached at 293-4283. Reporting these crimes helps authorities connect criminal activities as most of the fraud/scam crimes are part of a larger network.

 Three tips: 1) Never answer a phone caller with “yes” if asked “Hello, is this **your first name** ” Your “yes” can be recorded and used to sign you up for purchases, etc. 2) If a caller says “your grandson is in trouble,” do not say your grandson’s name.  For example, don’t say ” Oh, no, what’s happened to Michael?”  Then, the caller knows your grandson’s name. 3) Do not believe everything you read on Facebook or Google or the Internet.  It is VERY easy to paste a photo over someone else’s Facebook page .. and pretend to be that person. It is VERY easy to create a dummy link to “mayo clinic” or “nih-national institutes of health” …and then capture your computer’s address.  And gain access to your computer contents and passwords.

 Your bank…The IRS…The Courts…Medicare…Social SecurityNONE of these call people.  So a phone call pretending to be from them is trouble.

 Attorney Gelbman encouraged everyone to be skeptical and question: BEFORE you click on an attachment or link on the computer; BEFORE you ever give any information over the phone; BEFORE you share any financial information with anyone. And you can call Doris Gelbman if you have a problem!

Candidate Forum: Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

Monday, October 16th, 2023

Mike Pruitt, Scottsville candidate, running unopposed; Bea LaPisto-Kirtley, Rivanna incumbent; Ann Mallek, White Hall incumbent; and T J Fadley, Rivanna challenger, accepted the invitation to attend the SSV Albemarle County Board of Supervisors candidate forum on Wednesday October 11th at The Center at Belvedere, tri-hosted by SSV, The Center and the League of Women Voters.

SSV Board member Bob Beard moderated, inviting candidates to share an opening statement.  Candidates then responded to questions and discussed the increasing property tax burden, expanding the growth areas, development in the County, lack of media coverage on real news issues like elections, increases in police and fire staffing, and the schools.

Everyone was reminded that early voting continues, with election day on November 7th.

Candidate Biographies

Candidate Forum:  Albemarle County School Board

Tuesday, September 19th, 2023

At the September meeting of the SSV, we welcomed Albemarle County School Board candidates for the White Hall and At Large district races. Joining us were White Hall incumbent Rebecca Berlin and At Large candidate Allison Spillman.  Their opponents declined our invitation.

Rebecca Berlin & Allison Spillman

Quit a few topics were discussed after opening remarks: high school specialty programs such as STEM or medical, career and technical education options for ACPS students, mental/emotional support, reading intervention, and universal pre-K. Executive functions and science-based reading were offered as ways to address leaning loss during COVID.

Collective bargaining for teachers and bus drivers was endorsed. Teacher pay was discussed, as Albemarle ranks 25 of 51 in the country, while DC ranks 4th and Maryland ranked 8th. Cell phones in schools was a hot topic, as was school safety.

The websites of these candidates can be accessed to learn more about them and their positions.

Rebecca Berlin: rebeccaberlinforschoolboard.org/

Allison Spillman: electallisonspillman.com/

Public Safety – How Safe is Our Community?

Tuesday, August 15th, 2023

At our August meeting, Local Police Chiefs Tim Longo from UVA, Sean Reeves of Albemarle County, and Michael Kochis of Charlottesville discussed how the improved collaboration among the three jurisdictions is beneficial to public safety. The increase in violent crime is not only a national issue but one that has to be dealt with locally. In addressing the need for people to feel safe, the number of new police officers retained and hired has been increasing with financial support from governments. The three chiefs agree that strong community engagement is essential to building trust. In addressing the recent homicides, it was pointed out that these have not been random attacks but are with individuals who have been known to each other often through gangs or domestic relationships. Samples of audience questions included: What laws could reduce crime? Prohibiting the sale of ghost guns online was recommended. How effective are gun buyback programs? They have not been very successful but can be used as part of an overall strategy. Would you recommend carrying a gun or mace? That is a personal choice, but with an emphasis on being responsible gun ownership practices, knowing how to use your weapon and how to protect yourself if the weapon is taken from you.

A podcast of the entire program can be heard at Charlottesville Community EngagementIn addition, NBC 29 news and CBS 19 news articles on this event can be accessed at these links.

Bios

Senate District 11 Candidate Forum

Monday, June 19th, 2023

Your SSV partnered with The Center at Belevedere and the League of Women Voters Charlottesville Area to host the June 14 Candidate Forum for the VA Senate District 11 democratic primary election. The Auditorium at The Center was packed… as was the parking lot.  Both ran out of space!

 

Dan Schutte, News Director and Anchor for CBS19, Newsplex, smoothly moderated the Forum.  Candidates Senator Deeds and Delegate Hudson provided opening and closing remarks, with audience questions in between.  Topics ranged from gun control to tenure in the Senate to mental health to economists to a woman’s right to choose.

Strong differences were heard on the topic of continuing part-time legislators versus professional legislators, as well as the value of Senate tenure.

The primary election is June 20th.  The audience was applauded for attending….and urged to vote!!

If you are subscribed to The Daily Progress, their article on this event can be accessed here.

 

 

General Assembly Update 2023

Tuesday, May 16th, 2023

The May SSV program was was our annual General Assembly update and there was standing room only.  SSV Board member Bob Beard moderated the program, noting that all four VA delegates and both VA senators representing Charlottesville and Albemarle County were invited.  Delegate Hudson and Senator Deeds participated.

Delegate Sally Hudson serves Charlottesville and Albemarle in the Virginia House. As a member of the Health and Finance committees, she is an active advocate for quality health care and essential school funding in Virginia. When she is not serving in Richmond, Sally is an Assistant Professor at UVA, where she teaches economics and statistics in the School of Public Policy.

 

Senator Creigh Deeds currently represents Albemarle (part), Alleghany, Bath, Highland, Nelson, Rockbridge, Buena Vista, Charlottesville, Covington and Lexington. He presides as the Co-Chair of the Judiciary Committee and serves on the Finance and Appropriations, Commerce and Labor, Rules, and Privileges and Elections Committees. Senator Deeds also serves as Chair of the Capital Outlay Subcommittee, Chair of the Behavioral Health Commission, and Chair of the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules. Creigh lives in Charlottesville with his wife Siobhan and three rescue pups Mila, Dilly, and SallyMae. He is the proud father of four children and four beautiful grandchildren.

Program Summary

Senator Deeds and Delegate Hudson both shared frustration with the budget process as the Republican-majority House and Democrat-majority Senate are not in agreement over how to address the Governor’s request for $1 billion in tax cuts and expenditure reductions.  $1 billion is also earmarked for higher education, community behavioral health, and k-12 education including raising teacher salaries above the national average for the first time!

Senator Deeds highlighted the staffing shortages in mental health hospitals and community mental health services.  Delegate Hudson voiced concerns about the progress of the clean economy programs, noting that Dominion Energy holds much influence over many legislators with 40 lobbyists and millions of dollars in campaign donations received by VA General Assembly members and candidates.

Many other topics were covered, and several questions were shared.  Both emphasized how important this November election is for Virginia due to redistricting, ALL 140 seats (100 Delegates and 40 Senators) are up for election.