- Virginia’s House of Delegates passed a bill that would strike down Lee-Jackson Day, a state holiday celebrating two Confederate Leaders.
- The measure proposed that Election Day be swapped in as a state-recognized holiday instead.
- The Virginia Senate passed an identical bill last month, and Gov. Ralph Northam has shown support for the measure, making it more likely to become a law.
- Supporters believe it will get more people to vote, while opposers argue the Confederacy leaders are an important part of the state’s history and shouldn’t be erased.
Bill Passes the House
Virginia lawmakers voted to strike down a holiday celebrating two Confederate leaders and instead give the spot to a designated Election Day.
In a 55-42 vote, the Virginia House of Delegates moved to eliminate Lee-Jackson Day from the list of state holidays. Lee-Jackson Day has been observed in Virginia for more than a century to honor Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, who both served as generals in the civil war and supported slavery in the U.S. It is celebrated annually in January on the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The House proposed that Election Day take the place of Lee-Jackson Day, to be observed on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November.
“Making election day a holiday serves a much more honorable purpose in this day and age than celebrating the ghosts of Virginia’s Confederate past,” Joe Lindsey, the House bill’s sponsor, told ABC in a statement.
The state’s Senate passed an identical bill last month in a 22-18 vote. Each chamber will now have to pass each other’s bills before they move forward to Gov. Ralph Northam to be enacted as law, according to NBC12.
Support For the Decision
Gov. Northam is in favor of the decision and already included the measure in his 2020 agenda. He believes that making Election Day an official holiday will give more people the opportunity to vote.
“We need to make Election Day a holiday,” Northam said last month in his State of the Commonwealth speech. “We can do it by ending the Lee-Jackson holiday that Virginia holds. … It commemorates a lost cause. It’s time to move on.”
News of the bill’s passing has brought Virginia and its lawmakers praise.
“Virginia – you are my hero,” one Twitter user wrote.
Virginia – you are my hero. Take a look at how busy this state has been getting things done.— Joann marsili (@joannmarsili) February 7, 2020
Progress! Finally! And I say this as a descendant of confederate soldiers and slave owners. Not proud of my ancestors at all! I cannot make any excuses but we need to stop glorifying hatred and abuse. Hate and suppression of people should not be on display or celebrated.— DebResists💙🌊💙🌊💙☮️💟 (@debgfreednurse2) February 7, 2020
Virginia has seen a recent wave to move away from the controversial happenings of its past— some cities like Richmond and Charlottesville have already stopped recognizing Lee-Jackson Day in recent years. But while many are in favor of the bill, others are not as willing to give up the holiday in attempts to hold on to the state’s Confederate history.
“Next they will eliminate all history books in the school. Sad,” one person said on Twitter in response to the bill’s passing.
Next they will eliminate all history books in the school. Sad— Matthew T Corcoran (@MTCorcoran25) February 7, 2020
Such crap we built a nation on the shoulders of its ancestors right or wrong we owe them their place in history— shannon clevenger (@shannoncleveng6) February 7, 2020
A similar bill that would have swapped Election Day for the holiday commemorating the confederate leaders didn’t make it past the Virginia Senate in 2019, before Democrats took control this January.
“I have unease about the movement to erasing history. Maybe next time, it’ll be Martin Luther King. I would be opposed to erasing something in his honor,” Sen. Richard Black said of the proposal at the time, according to NBC12.
Call for Federal Election Day Recognition
On a national level, the process of making Election Day a holiday has been held up. When Democrats proposed a bill in January 2019 that would make this move, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized it, saying it would pay government workers to “hang out at the polls during an election.”
The passage of Virginia’s bill has brought more push for Election Day being named a federal holiday.
“Every state should do this. Election Day should be a federal holiday,” one person said.
Every state should do this. Election Day should be a federal holiday.— 𝕄𝕒𝕥𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕨 𝔾. ⚾ 🏈 ✈️ (@Matthew83128) February 7, 2020
Election Day SHOULD BE A FEDERAL HOLIDAY not just bc it replaces a Confederate holiday (don’t even get me started) but bc it’s the best way to get ppl to vote!!!— Toonsis the Driving Cat (@iamthealphacat) February 7, 2020
Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”
- Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
- The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot.
- So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.
Florida Requires Proof of Residency
Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.
Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it.
According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.
Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers.
Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited
Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north.
“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)
Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”
- Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
- Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
- Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.
Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet
Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”
At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017.
Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony.
“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”
Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.
“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”
What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”
Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing.
“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”
“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”
Nation Impressed by Gorman
“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment.
“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”
Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration.
Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation.
Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day.
See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)
SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section
- The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June.
- The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
- Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary.
- It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.
College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay
College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.
Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”
The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary.
While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S.
Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.
With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.
The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test
In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.
In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.
According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.
For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April.