How to Closer A College: SCHEV Outlines Policy

Closed SignOver the last several years, Sweet Briar College, Virginia Intermont, and Saint Paul’s College have announced that they were closing-and now state officials are engaging in a broad discussion about what recourse families have when that happens.
Tommie McNeil reports, while students would rather not have to make the adjustment, they do have options when such a development occurs.

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Opening the Gate: Farmers on Fencing

Fencing 01For two years, the state of Virginia has been begging cattle farmers to keep animals out of streams on their property – offering to pay the full cost of fencing to prevent pollution of rivers and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.  Sandy Hausman reports on why some have embraced the program and others have walked away.

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FOIA Bills Examined

FOIA

A number of changes are in the works for Virginia’s open-government laws.  For instance, the General Assembly passed more than a dozen bills earlier this year that would amend the Freedom of Information Act. Other controversial bills were referred to a state advisory council to be studied—and potentially reintroduced in next year’s session. Tommie McNeil reports.

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Four Cancer Charities Allegedly Spent Donations on Personal Expenses

FTC Depicts How Four Sham Charities Operated (1)Attorney General Mark Herring and the Federal Trade Commission have announced one of the largest charity fraud actions ever brought by enforcers. The FTC, Virginia, all other states, and the District of Columbia have charged four cancer charities and their operators with bilking more than $187 million from consumers. The joint enforcement action alleges deceptive solicitations.

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Developing Flood Protection Plans

2593478529_35a12c6c21_oHampton Roads has twice the relative sea-level rise of other Atlantic coastal communities, and Virginia is stepping up its efforts to address the associated recurrent flooding. While the General Assembly recently ordered updates to the state’s flood protection plan, the Army Corps of Engineers has rolled out a new, proactive strategic framework. It calls on local, state, regional, and federal governments to work together—due to the enormity of the tasks ahead.

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VaNews: Brewery Resistance, Biosolid Controversy

VPAPnewResidents in one of the reamaining rural areas of Fairfax County have stopped  a plan to open a micro-brewery in their community…and in Spotsylvania there’s controversy over whether biosolids – which are made partly from human waste – should be allowed as fertilizer on farm fields. Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link onvpap.org.

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Addressing Abuse, Neglect of the Elderly and Disabled

Va_Dept_for_Aging_and_Rehab_SvcsChildren typically have a state-provided safety net if they’re left without a suitable parent—especially when they’ve been abused. But what about the elderly adult or someone who suffers from a disability or mental illness?  Who do they turn to? Who takes care of them, and who pays for it?  These are some of the many questions the Commonwealth is trying to answer.

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Looking to Pets as a Way to Identify, Pursue Domestic Abuse Cases

20150514_121148_0While a domestic violence victim may be too afraid or embarrassed to admit that he or she is being abused, pets that witness or endure it don’t lie.  And now with a backdrop of the trauma endured by pets, animal control, law enforcement, and victims’ advocates are learning how to identify and pursue domestic abuse cases.

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Investigating the Rising Cost of Medicaid

Lawmakers who are members of JLARC discuss their Medicaid  study.Medicaid accounts for more than one-fifth of the state budget, and the General Assembly’s watchdog agency wants to understand the reasons why. The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission has launched a two-year investigation into what’s driving up the program’s costs—and whether those costs can be reigned in.

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Lawmakers Hope Future Medical School Graduates Stay in Commonwealth

14067347414_a75b3a4bd1_zVirginia has some of the best medical schools in the country, but state leaders are realizing that many medical students will live and get their education here–and, upon graduation, will look for better opportunities elsewhere. A state panel has been tasked with not only helping to produce more medical school graduates, but also keeping them in the Commonwealth.

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VaNews: Affordable Lots, Religious Expression Raising Eyebrows

VPAPnewFor a limited time you can buy residential lots in Richmond for the affordable price of one dollar…and religious expression – in this case pantomimed interpretation of gospel music in Portsmouth – has drawn charges of racism. Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on vpap.org.

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Virginia Lawmakers Determined to Eliminate Sex Trafficking

Photo: Creative Commons, Flickr

Photo: Creative Commons, Flickr

Some Virginia lawmakers admit that they take it personally when sex traffickers decide to make the Commonwealth a hub for their business—especially since they target children. It’s why even after making great strides over the last several years in holding those predators accountable, lawmakers remain very aggressive in stopping this at the source.

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Gil Harrington and Others Suggest Search and Rescue Imrpovements

Morgan Harrington and Alexis Murphy

Morgan Harrington and Alexis Murphy

Family members of missing persons throughout Virginia appeared before the State Crime Commission today to discuss ways to enhance the search and rescue process. Alexis Murphy’s aunt Trina and Morgan Harrington’s mother Gil were both present, and they believe the Commonwealth can make specific improvements to help better facilitate search and rescue efforts in abduction cases.

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Modest Harvest Boost for Menhaden

menhaden 02This week, East Coast fisheries managers voted to increase by 10 percent the catch for menhaden. The fish is used as bait, processed for vitamin supplements and food for fish farms. The two-year increase will give back half of the 20 percent harvest reduction taken in 2012. Pamela D’Angelo reports.

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Former Virginia Attorneys General Argue for McDonnell’s Corruption Charges Appeal

Former Solicitor General Bill Hurd

Former Solicitor General Bill Hurd

Next week, a federal court will hear the appeal of former Governor Bob McDonnell’s conviction on federal corruption charges. Among the many amicus briefs submitted to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is one by six former Virginia attorneys general. The four Democrats and two Republicans argue that the lower court’s expansive interpretation of law on which his conviction is based is erroneous.

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Panel Studying ABC Structure Gets to Work

A panel appointed by Governor McAuliffe to review the activities of Alcoholic Beverage Control agents spent hours yesterday scrutinizing the department’s structure, how agents are trained, and recent public safety statistics. Prompted by a public outcry over the forceful arrest of a 20-year-old UVa student who suffered a gash on his head, the panel is tasked with recommending improvements–and whether or not ABC agents should retain their law enforcement authority. Anne Marie Morgan has more details about the panel’s initial findings.

The agency is already planning re-training sessions, which will include responses to active resistance and use of force, cultural diversity, and communication with minors and young adults. The panel will hold additional meetings before making its final recommendations.

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Blessing of the Fleet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEvery spring, fishing communities across the nation open the new season with a blessing of the fleet. The historic town of Reedville, Virginia has celebrated the tradition for 45 years. Pamela D’Angelo reports.

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Virginia’s Rising Prison Rates

PrisonThinkStockPhotosWith 2.3 million Americans now behind bars, many states are looking at alternatives to jail time for those who commit non-violent crimes, but Virginia continues to imprison large numbers of people. Sandy Hausman reports.

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VaNews: Privacy, Free Speech & Civility

VPAPnewElectronic license plate readers are back in the news in Virginia but this time it’s not because they’re on police cars…and Norfolk City Council is trying to find a balance between free speech and civility at its meetings. Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on vpap.org. More from Fred Echols.

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Lawmakers Continue Debating Privacy Issues

license plate readerGovernment surveillance and data collection are some of the privacy issues still being debated well after the 2015 General Assembly session has ended.  It’s because Governor McAuliffe has taken action following the Reconvened Session–by signing one bill limiting the use of drones, but vetoing another that would restrict how much and how long data can be retained by law enforcement. As Tommie McNeil reports,  the Governor explains why to a group of journalists pressing him for answers.

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Business Appreciation Month

McAuliffe Bus AppreciationGovernor McAuliffe has kicked off Business Appreciation Month with a dedication to some of Virginia’s oldest businesses. He says during the month of MAY, he will make a series of economic development announcements that highlight his efforts to bring more jobs to the Commonwealth. But as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, one official explains that companies without the traditional “corporate” profile will also feature interesting events to look forward to throughout the rest of the year.

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Say It Out Loud

Say ItOne in five teens suffers from mental illness, but many don’t want to discuss their struggles, making diagnosis more difficult. That’s the impetus for the National Alliance on Mental Illness Say it Out Loud campaign…to get young people talking. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil visited NAMI’s Richmond headquarters and met some young people who are doing just that.

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Heavy Toll of Distracted Driving

DistractedIt hasn’t made many headlines, but this is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month—and Virginia has announced that more than 24,000 crashes statewide last year were attributed to distracted drivers.  Those distractions caused both fatalities and thousands of injuries.  And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, state officials stress that such accidents can  be prevented.

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VA News: National Motto, Political Opinions

VPAPnewA Floyd County bailiff has lost his job after expressing his political opinion and Madison County Supervisors got into a spat about whether or not to post the national motto in their chambers. Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VA News link on vpap.org. Fred Echols reports.

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NAACP and Other Organizations Launch Social Justice Speaking Series

Former Richmond City Councilman Marty Jewell joined  community leaders to discuss the forums.Some local branches of the NAACP and other community organizations are speaking out about police treatment of African-Americans—especially the recent high-profile incidents in the U.S. where some have died while in custody or under pursuit.  They’re taking their concerns on the road with a listening tour that will enable citizens to share their own personal experiences – and they’re hoping the “Spring Social Justice Series” will help spark wholesale changes in the criminal justice system.

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Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights

Victims' RightsAs advocates mark National Crime Victims Week, in Virginia they’re marking the 20th anniversary of the state’s very own Crime Victims Bill of Rights.  But experts say those provisions, said to have given sufferers more rights with teeth, are also more relevant now as the state deals with proposals to address campus sexual assaults.  Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil has more from the State Capitol.

 

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Efforts to Stave Off Sequestration

US CAPVirginia lawmakers are all hoping to avert another round of those indiscriminate federal budget cuts known as sequestration.  But as Matt Laslo reports, it seems like those budget cuts are barreling back down on the commonwealth next year.

 

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Offshore Wind Turbine Project Faces Challenges

WindTurbineVirginia’s energy-providers would still like to see a large-scale commercial offshore wind turbine project off the state’s coast by the year 2020, but getting there is challenging—at best.  Bids to build two pilot turbines are astronomical right now, and the Authority tasked to keep the project’s momentum going is looking for ways to significantly lower costs.

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Predicting Virginia’s Cancer Rates to 2040

Cancer CellCancer is the leading cause of death across Virginia and the nation.  A new study predicts the number of new cancer cases as the population ages. Beverly Amsler reports.

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Police Force & Body Cameras

(Second from right) Chesapeake Police Chief Kelvin Wright  explains how his agency uses body-worn cameras.

(Second from right) Chesapeake Police Chief Kelvin Wright explains how his agency uses body-worn cameras.

As the public conversation continues about the appropriate use of police force, a number of state lawmakers are proposing the use of body-worn cameras by public safety personnel to document what happens during traffic stops and other interactions. That has prompted a Secure Commonwealth Panel subcommittee to thoroughly examine all of the issues surrounding use of the cameras in the Commonwealth. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, they turn out to be far more complex than just strapping on a camera and recording police business.

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Lawmakers Take on the Fight of the Pamunkey Tribe

Pamunkey Tribe Smithsonian Institution #888

Pamunkey Tribe Smithsonian Institution #888

Virginia’s Pamunkey Tribe was dealt a setback in its effort to gain federal recognition by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Matt Laslo has the details on how civil rights groups and a big casino may be winning the century’s old fight of the Pamunkey.

 

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Transparency Virginia Monitors General Assembly

Richmond First

Richmond First’s Michael Jackson discusses the findings with other Transparency Virginia members.

A coalition of nonprofit and advocacy organizations says the General Assembly’s legislative process needs to be more open and clear to the public. Members of “Transparency Virginia” attended more than three-quarters of the Assembly’s 101 committee and subcommittee meetings during its recent session. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, they found a less-than-stellar record of adequate notice for meetings, recorded votes, and full consideration of bills.

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University of Mary Washington’s Board Votes No to Divesting

UMW ProtestStudents at the University of Mary Washington spent three weeks sitting-in at the administration building – demanding the school consider selling its investments in coal.  As a major producer of greenhouse gas, they argued that fuel was putting the Earth at risk, but the school’s  board didn’t see the point, and its president says two students will be prosecuted.  Sandy Hausman has details.

 

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VaNews: Negative Yelp Reviews, Horse Racing

VPAPnewOne Virginia business raised the question of whether people who post negative online reviews of businesses can be legally required to identify themselves. Their case went to court, but won’t be decided in the Commonwealth. And the General Assembly has made certain that horse racing and off track betting will continue in Virginia in spite of problems at one of the state’s premier tracks. Those are among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on vpap.org. 

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Human-Rights Activists Applaud New Sex Trafficking Law

Photo: Creative Commons, Flickr

Photo: Creative Commons, Flickr

Human-rights advocates are applauding the passage and benefits of Virginia’s first standalone sex trafficking law, which goes into effect this July.  They say the new law is long overdue and puts the Commonwealth in step with other states that have passed similar measures. But they also say this should simply start the effort to pass laws that deter sex trafficking-which is the second fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the U.S.

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Virginia’s Solar Farm

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jim Johnson on his farm.

Virginia is juggling a host of contentious alternative energy proposals. An offshore wind farm, hydrofracking in a national forest and a 550-mile gas pipeline that cuts through the state.

But there’s one project on the Eastern Shore that has moved along quietly despite being the largest of its kind in the state. Pamela D’Angelo reports.

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General Assembly Reconvened: Drone Bill Debated

8725078749_00627cd860_oGovernor McAuliffe will soon have to decide whether to veto a bill that limits police use of drones without search warrants or accept the fact that the Senate decided to reject his amendments. That’s just one of the bills that the General Assembly debated today during its annual Reconvened Session.

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Lawmakers Expedite Plans for Two New Veteran Care Centers

House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (podium) joined other  lawmakers and Gov. McAuliffe to unveil the plan.A bipartisan agreement unveiled by state lawmakers and Governor McAuliffe will expedite the construction of two new veterans care centers in Virginia.  To set the plan into motion, the governor proposed amendments to recently passed legislation that would have released state funding only AFTER a U.S. Veterans Affairs grant was awarded — but state officials say such a delay is unacceptable.

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Virginia Department of Forensic Science Achives 10,000th DNA Data Bank Hit

Governor McAuliffe and Senator Warner tour the Central Lab

Governor McAuliffe and Senator Warner tour the Central Lab

The Virginia Department of Forensic Science has achieved its 10,000th DNA data bank hit.  The record-setting cold hit was announced by Governor McAuliffe, who joined U.S. Senator Mark Warner for a tour of the state forensic lab that analyzes DNA and other crime-scene evidence.

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VaNews: Replacing Shaka Smart, VA Beach Employee Access

VPAPnewVirginia Commonwealth University is suddenly in need of a replacement for the man who’s been the face of the school for the past few years. And city leaders in Virginia Beach were surprised to learn that an employee had been given access to millions of dollars in official bank accounts.

Those are among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on vpap.org. 

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Governor McAuliffe Encourages Buckling Down on Cyber Security

Image: Creative Commons

Image: Creative Commons

In light of the recent data breach at Anthem and what some believe will be an inevitable cyberattack by sophisticated terrorists, Governor McAuliffe is imploring tech-savvy business leaders and IT professionals to get aggressive.  He’s asking them to take additional steps to identify, assess, and defeat threats-as well as to help attract cybersecurity entities to the Commonwealth.

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State ACLU Sympathizes with Advocates on Vetoed Gun Permits Bill

Gun_LawsGun-rights advocates who vowed to keep addressing an issue which they say violates civil liberties may have some ammunition when state lawmakers return to Richmond for next week’s Veto Session.  The state ACLU’s executive director is sympathizing with advocates who say LEGAL concealed-carry permit-holders are being unfairly targeted by law enforcement in neighboring states that do not recognize those permits.

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Study Examines Problems with Virginia’s Voting Machines

Va. Elections Commissioner Edgardo CortésAn interim study by the Virginia Department of Elections indicates that numerous localities have voting machines that are wearing out—and some have potential security problems.  The investigation was prompted by reports of irregularities during last November’s election. The result could be a new and costly requirement to replace some widely used touchscreen voting machines.

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US Secretary of Commerce and Senator Tim Kaine Talk Trade in Richmond

U.S. Sec. of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Sen Tim  Kaine tour the World Art Center after the roundtable discussion.U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker joined U.S. Senator Tim Kaine in his hometown of Richmond Monday to discuss trade opportunities and obstacles with local business leaders. They especially focused on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which supporters say would open up improved trade between the 12 nations that are involved in negotiations.

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VaNews: Pot Problems, Magnet School Admissions

VPAPnewPeople who smoke pot legally in Washington, DC but work in Virginia could be risking their jobs. And, a public magnet school in Fairfax is facing questions about its admissions process because of the high percentage of Asian-Americans among its student body.Those are among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on vpap.org. 

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ABLE Savings Trust: Lighten the Load

McAuliffe SignsLegislation signed by Governor McAuliffe creates what he says is the first state that establishes a trust account for certain people with disabilities. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil explains what the new law does.

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Virginia ACLU Urges Lawmakers to Reign In Surveillance Powers

8725078749_00627cd860_oWhile the Virginia ACLU applauds Governor McAuliffe’s signing of a number of bills this past legislative session, the organization opposes his amendments to several bills that had aimed to reign in the government’s powers of surveillance–and which passed the General Assembly overwhelmingly. The ACLU is asking state lawmakers to reject the amendments when they soon return to Richmond.

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Mental Health Reform Outcomes, Months Later

Assistant Commissioner for Behavioral Health Daniel Herr  (center, front row) listens to a Mental Health Task Force  presentation.The practice of “streeting”—or releasing people with mental illnesses when psychiatric beds are not found for them—came to light in 2013 when that happened to Senator Creigh Deeds’ son, who later took his own life.  But changes in civil commitment laws to reform the state’s crisis response system were subsequently approved and took effect last July.  State officials have unveiled new statistics that reveal the effects of those reforms.

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SOL Regulations Passed

SOL LogoElementary and middle school students who fail Standards of Learning tests by narrow margins will have an opportunity to retake those tests this spring thanks to new regulations passed by the State Board of Education. The rules stem from a law that sailed through the General Assembly—but would not have taken effect until July 1st if the Board had not acted.

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VaNews: Veteran Health Care, Picking up After Dogs

VPAPnewA rule change in Washington is making it easier for veterans in Virginia to get health care. And modern criminal science is being used to bring violators of ‘poop pickup’ laws to justice.Those are among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on vpap.org. 

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