Packed public hearing in Suffolk; residents voice concerns on governor’s proposed budget

Virginia Politics

SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Virginia teachers, school staff and community supporters rallied Thursday in Suffolk.

They gathered outside a public hearing on Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed biennial state budget, which was held at ODU’s VMAS Center.

It was one of four public hearings held Thursday across Virginia, and the only one in Hampton Roads.

Attendance is high in Suffolk.

About 100 were each given three minutes to make their point. Those who signed up to speak discussed a wide range of issues, including education.

Those in attendance included state Sen. Louise Lucas (D-18th District), Del. Barry Knight (R-81st District)  and Del. Cliff Hayes (D-77th District).

Among the speakers was James Fedderman, the vice president of the Virginia Education Association (VEA).

“We are asking for increased funding in the governor’s biennial budget. In the first year he is proposing 0% and in the second year 3% and that doesn’t even cover the cost of inflation,” said Fedderman.

He said the VEA is expecting the Democrats to do a lot for education in this year’s General Assembly.

“It is an expectation, not an option,” said Fedderman.

The General Assembly sessions begin next Wednesday.

Melanie Cornelisse with Moms Demand Action said Thursday she wants more funding for gun safety programs, another big issue this year.

“We are hoping that our elected officials will support gun safety laws and support these kind of intervention and gun violence prevention programs,” said Cornelisse.

Cornelisse was the 65th speaker. She supports giving millions to enact new gun legislation.

“We need to support programs that prevent gun violence, especially in cities. We need prevention programs in cities, intervention programs and prevention programs.”

Pro-gun advocate Brianne Ihlenburg took a little longer to speak, and had to be cut-off at the end of her three minutes.

“Your decision affects … Your decision affects this entire state. The entire state. Do you understand that if you allow this funding, you are going to be letting down everybody?” she said.

Many times, the local leaders were told by gun rights advocates that if legislators vote against their beliefs, they will respond by voting against those elected officials.

Suffolk resident Malcom Massey quizzed legislators.

“Are you willing and prepared to use Virginia tax and budget dollars to force citizens to comply with any new regulations regarding firearms?” Massey asked.

The Virginia Education Association wants the state budget to meet the standards of quality, the SOQ.

“We are violating the Virginia Constitution. The SOQ requires 2 billion new dollars, but the governor is only proposing $392 million,” Fedderman said,

Jane Hobbs, who has a daughter with intellectual disabilities, wants more medicaid waivers and jobs after schooling is complete.

“We educate our children for 21 years, and for them to graduate from our school systems to have nothing. We have nothing waiting for them but a waiting list,” Hobbs said.

Dorothy Clark wants her home care providers to get better pay to take care of her.

“Many staff leave for better paying  jobs like grocery store clerks, working in restaurants, city jobs etc,” Clark said.

Tune in to WAVY News 10 for more coverage and stay up-to-date through the WAVY News App and on WAVY.com.

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