So what does the Virginia General Assembly do in October?
I can assure you that Boards and Commissions are meeting with great frequency, studying issues that are expected to come before us in regular Session in January.
The Housing Commission and its work groups have been active. One issue that was brought to our attention involves Fair Housing laws.
Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) had employed testers in the Hampton Roads area to see how persons of different races were treated when trying to rent apartments. Teams of one black and one white tester, who were in every other respect identical, were sent out separately and then reported on what occurred.
It was shocking to me that in this day and age persons of different races were treated so differently. To quote a few examples:
“Testers visited the property on the same afternoon. The black tester was told the rents were between $1049 and $1104; the white tester was told to ignore the prices in the brochure as the agent could offer specials reducing the rents to $969-$999.”
“Both testers talked to the same agent within an hour of each other about a one bedroom apartment. The black tester was told one unit would be available with a $132 application fee and one month’s rent ($929) security deposit; the white tester was told a few one bedrooms were available that month and the following month with a $32 application fee and security deposit of $250.”
“The testers saw the same agent on the same day. The black tester was told nothing was available and told the apartment she was shown was already rented. The white tester was shown the same unit and told it was available along with several other units.”
The Housing Commission learned that realtors have a better record of non-discrimination, probably because they are licensed and receive training on the Fair Housing law. Apartment agents do not have required training so this is an area we can look at as we study ways to improve the situation.
The Energy and Environment Commission that I chair is meeting this week in Danville to attend a bioenergy forum, with many interesting and expert speakers. We are learning about BioSAT (Biomass Site Assessment Tool) from the University of Tennessee,
Ethanol Mini Bio Refineries from a Florida research center, Mobile Gasification Units from Auburn University, and the production of Biooil using Fast Pyrolysis from Mississippi State University. We’re also learning about some Virginia projects for energy like the anaerobic digester in Chatham and Red Birch Energy (biodiesel from canola) in Martinsville.
We are also beginning our discussion of potential legislation for the 2010 Session.
Oh, and by the way, we have statewide elections in Virginia in November! Absentee voting is now available, so if you will be unable to vote on Election Day itself, now is the time to apply for an absentee ballot or plan to vote in-person absentee.