Legislative Updates from the 2023 General Assembly Session
By Stephanie Williams
During the 2023 General Assembly Session, three bills were passed that affect DHR. Two of these bills were agency bills: HB 2244, sponsored by Delegate Cordoza, and SB 1062, sponsored by Senator Spruill. These bills are identical in their amendments to the African American Cemetery and Graves Fund; the legislation corrects a mistake made inadvertently in the 2022 session by once again making eligible the graves of those persons who lived prior to January 1, 1900. The legislation also expands eligibility to the graves of those born after January 1, 1900 but interred prior to January 1, 1948, acknowledging that African American citizens continued to contend with ingrained racism in state and local government as well as social and economic segregation.
HB 1968, sponsored by Delegate Mullin, directs DHR to create a registry of extant Green Book sites and to designate current and future Historical Highway Markers as such. Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) is directed to design the signage, and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is responsible for placing and maintaining them. This new signage will be smaller than the markers themselves and will be attached on the pole just below the marker. The bill also directs VTC to provide on its website additional educational and directional information regarding these sites. The Negro Motorist Green Book by Victor Hugo Green was published in 1936 and provides a list of hotels, guest houses, service stations, drug store, taverns, barber shops, and restaurants known to be safe for traveling Black Americans during the Jim Crow era.
As for the budget, as of this date, the General Assembly has not adopted an amended budget for Fiscal Year 2024. Included in the current proposals, however, are funding for a Deputy Director of Programs position, an additional $5 million for the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Preservation Grant Fund as well as several appropriations to pass through DHR to certain localities.