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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Governor Announces New Center for Behavioral Health and Justice

McAuliffeVirginia is creating a new Center for Behavioral Health and Justice under an executive directive signed by Governor McAuliffe.  Its mission is to foster better interagency collaboration and help coordinate services in the state’s behavioral health system. The focus will be on individuals with mental illness who become involved with the criminal justice system.

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VaNews: Columbia, VA and Ridesharing v. Taxis

VPAPnewOne of Virginia’s smallest towns has voted itself out of existence….and now that the General Assembly has established regulations that allow commercial online ridesharing in Virginia the taxi industry says it can’t compete. 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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Virginia Lawmakers on Sequestration

US Capitol Dome & SenateThe House and Senate are set to debate the nation’s budget this week and it has huge implications for the region. Virginia lawmakers are fighting to keep those indiscriminate budget cuts known as sequestration at bay.

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Charlottesville Bouncer Says ABC Claimed Fear of Riot

Kevin Badke shows how he extended his arm to return the ID card.

Kevin Badke shows how he extended his arm to return the ID card.

The debate continues this week over the level of force Alcoholic Beverage Control Officers may have used force against a UVA student, turned away from a Charlottesville bar. The public still has no explanation for why Martese Johnson ended up bleeding from a head wound, lying on a sidewalk, restrained by three officers.

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Student Leader’s Bloody Arrest Sparks Outrage at UVA

Photo: Black Dot

Photo: Black Dot

A Virginia State Police investigation is underway regarding the March 18th arrest of an honored UVA student in Charlottesville by state ABC officers.  During the incident, the student was injured and a picture of him on the ground and bleeding from the head spread quickly on social media.

Governor Terry McAullife has ordered an administrative review, and at the request of the City of Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney, a criminal investigation is also underway. Hawes Spencer reports.

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“Kill the Bees, Kill the Economy”

HoneybeeAnnually for about 13 years, Virginia—like many other states—has been losing about 30% of its honey bee population to a host of problems.

Some might think that there’s no need to worry.  But as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports,  aside from the delicious honey they produce, bees are a major contributor to the production of Virginia agriculture, the state’s top commodity.

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Concerns Over Campus Sexual Assault Legislation

College LectureLegislation that addresses campus sexual assaults is already on Governor McAuliffe’s desk—but before he signs off, amends, or vetoes anything, he has the input from members of his Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence to consider. The legislation requires campus employees to report sexual violence allegations to the Title IX [9] coordinator, who must report the allegation to a review team that meets within 72 hours.  And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, one subcommittee believes that while the legislation is a good first step, there’s more work ahead.

The legislation also states that if the review team determines that disclosure of the information is necessary to protect the health and safety of the victim or others, the Title IX coordinator would be required to disclose the information to the relevant law-enforcement agency.

 

 

 

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Shining Light on Virginia’s Death Row

Sunshine WeekThis week civic groups and nonprofits are taking a closer look at the importance of open government and freedom of information for Sunshine week.   To that end, WAMU reporter Michael Pope is looking deeper into Virginia’s Death Row.

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Virginia’s Teams Take on March Madness

Courtesy of VCU Athletics

               Courtesy of VCU Athletics

From the White House to your house, the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament brackets are out, and this year the Commonwealth has a real contender.

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Cracking Down on Cyber Bullying

Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown presents plaque to Tammy Garcia.

Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown presents plaque to Tammy Garcia.

In the future, Virginia will pass laws to help prevent and punish cyberbullying—if the Bedford County Sheriff gets his way.Sheriff Mike Brown was shocked by cases of tragic suicides that have followed bullying on the Internet and social media, so he is raising public awareness in the meantime. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, Brown plans to distribute DVDs that educate people about cyberbullying to every school in the Commonwealth.

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Alumnae Rally for Returning Sweet Briar Students

Students sing the "Holla Holla" song atop Monument Hill on Sunday. Photo by Hawes Spencer.

Students sing the “Holla Holla” song atop Monument Hill on Sunday. Photo by Hawes Spencer.

Alumnae of Sweet Briar, whose board voted to shut down the 114-year-old women’s college at the end of the summer, are brewing a fight. On Sunday, however, they turned their attention to embracing the students. Hawes Spencer reports.

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The Bake Sale Debate

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

A Virginia lawmaker and groups of parents and students are hoping the Governor and First Lady keep their hands and noses out of their cookie jars. Delegate Richard Bell wants schools to be able to raise money through bake sales-or sales of other products that some call “junk food”-on school property.  But that would remain prohibited if Governor McAuliffe vetoes a measure that may or may not compete with the First Lady’s prominent focus on nutrition.

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VaNews for 03.15.16

VPAPnewEven though Virginia imposes a financial penalty on localities when they create bike lanes on public streets Richmond has been given one year to do so without losing any money….and a Henrico County woman had to take drastic action to defend herself against a rabid raccoon. Those are among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews on vpap.org.  Fred Echols reports.

 

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Was Sweet Briar’s Board Rash or Reasonable?

SweetBriarUpdate

Photo: Sweet Briar College

Sweet Briar College was founded in 1901 when Indiana Fletcher Williams left her entire estate, including the Sweet Briar Plantation, to found an institution in the name of her deceased daughter, Daisy. 114 years later, the school unexpectedly announced its closure – sending shockwaves through alumnae, academia, and Amherst County.  Did the board act prudently, or did it move hastily?  Hawes Spencer reports.

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Inside the Governor’s Access Plan

terry+mcauliffe2During its recent session, Virginia’s General Assembly took action on the Governor’s Access Plan, which is a limited mental health and medical benefits package for a group of low-income adults in the Commonwealth. But what does it do, who is eligible, and what are its limitations?

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Governor Reviews Public Safety Measures

Photo: Creative Commons, Flickr

Photo: Creative Commons, Flickr

Bills that REALLY crack down on those who first exhibit signs of domestic abuse and strengthen penalties for sex traffickers are some of the public safety measures that the General Assembly recently sent to Governor McAuliffe.  The governor is also reviewing a potential new law that’s designed to take the temptation out of smuggling cigarettes.

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More Access to Dental Care

Gov. McAuliffe announces dental benefits at the VCU School  of Dentistry.The state’s Medicaid and FAMIS programs have traditionally authorized dental services for enrollees up to the age of 21. But as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, one group of adults will now have access to dental care under a new program announced by Governor McAuliffe.
 

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Property Owners’ Rights Need Clarifying

State Senator John Edwards

State Senator John Edwards

State Senator John Edwards drew applause at Monday’s Cabell Brand Center forum on gas pipelines with his assertion about property owners’ rights, but as Tim Thornton reports, the case may not be as clear as some people in the audience seemed to believe.

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Forum on Pipeline Projects

pipeline mapMore than 130 people gathered in Virginia Western Community College’s Whitman Auditorium today to learn more about natural gas pipelines.

Sponsored by The Cabell Brand Center, the forum sought to present arguments from both supporters and opponents of those pipelines… with explanation about the roles local, state and federal governments play in evaluating proposals for three pipelines planned to cross Virginia. Tim Thornton reports.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Charlottesville Aims Hidden Cameras on Own Workers

LONGO hawes

Chief Longo urging City Council to approve public surveillance cameras. Photo: Hawes Spencer

Charlottesville Police have planted as many as a dozen hidden cameras over the past few years – not to watch for criminals but to keep an eye on city employees. Not surprisingly, that’s causing controversy as Hawes Spencer reports.

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Anti-Hunger Initiative in High-Poverty Schools

U.S. Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Gov.  McAuliffe, and Rep. Bobby Scott watch as First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe  speaks at the announcement.

U.S. Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Gov. McAuliffe, and Rep. Bobby Scott watch as First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe speaks at the announcement.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack joined Virginia’s governor and first lady to announce an $8.8 million federal grant for an anti-hunger initiative in some of the state’s high-poverty schools. As Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the demonstration project will provide students in selected schools with breakfast, lunch, and after-school supper—as well as non-perishable food to take home on weekends and breaks.

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VA Lawmakers Weigh In on US/Cuba Relations

7049332619_fd035b9131_oWith more than $40 million in sales, Virginia is the third largest exporter of agricultural goods to Cuba of – after Georgia and Louisiana. Some lawmakers hope to normalize trade relations – but some feel it’s best to maintain our distance.

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Mental Health Reform Success in the General Assembly: A Mixed Bag

creigh_deedsOne of the state’s greatest proponents in the General Assembly for mental health reforms says when it comes to progress made during this legislative session, it’s a mixed bag. Senator Creigh Deeds says the MOST important legislation he sponsored actually died in the House of Delegates.

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VaNews: Execution Bill, Civilian Peace Officer Training

VPAPnewThe failure of a bill in the Virginia House of Delegates could stop executions in the Commonwealth, at least temporarily. And the General Assembly has increased training requirements for civilian peace officers. Those are among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VA News link onvpap.org. 

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Surf’s Up: The Art of Ryan McGinness

Year_2014_1Artist Ryan McGinness spent his teen years surfing, riding skateboards and making art in Virginia Beach.  Today, his brightly colored works – which incorporate strong graphics, signs and logos from popular culture, hang in museums around the world.  He’s based in Manhattan, but next month he comes back to share his ideas and techniques with kids from his hometown as Sandy Hausman reports.

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Push for Virginia Students May Have Backfired at Sweet Briar

SweetBriar

Photo Credit: Sweet Briar College

The news that Sweet Briar College would close after 114 years of educating women caught many by surprise. But to one veteran educator, it’s the culmination of a financial disaster wrought by rising costs, changing tastes, and more affordable alternatives. Hawes Spencer prepared this report.

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Measuring School Performance

classroomShould they be signed into law by Governor McAuliffe, bills recently passed by the General Assembly would modify some of the scrutiny of school systems that meet state standards.  And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, the state would also create a different method to inform parents of how well those schools are doing.

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