Lawmakers Pass State Budget

Virginia_State_CapitolNo post session per diems, last-minute deals, and burning of the midnight oil this year. While the votes were not unanimous, Senate and House lawmakers have passed a state budget that includes pay raises for state employees, college faculty, state police, and teachers. But as Tommie McNeil reports, although the bill passed by an overwhelming margin, some assert there’s still something missing.

 

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Lawmakers Consider Tighter Guidlines on Home Daycare Providers

Day-Care-CenterRecent tragedies where children have died under the care of unlicensed daycare providers have prompted the General Assembly to pass measures to strengthen Virginia’s licensing guidelines. But as WVTF RADIO IQ’s Tommie McNeil reports, while lawmakers agree on the overall goals, they’re still trying to reach a consensus on how far the guidelines should go.

One version of the legislation is now in a conference committee, which will try to reconcile differences between the House and Senate.

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UVA Students Vote On Softening 1842 Honor Code

HonorCodeFor 172 years, the University of Virginia has had a rule that students caught cheating, lying or stealing get kicked out. In the 21st century, that seems harsh to some, and students are now voting on whether to change the rule. Hawes Spencer reports.

 

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Traveling Through Virtual Art History

DivinationWhen it comes to ethnicity, the largest group of people in Virginia-about 20% — trace their ancestry back to Africa, but kids in our schools learn relatively little about African history, arts and culture.  Now, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will offer a lively supplement to the curriculum — taking children on a virtual trip to Mali, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Sandy Hausman has details.

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Humane Pet Sales Bill Clears Both Houses in General Assembly

1557627176_67e8d0bb56_oSales of dogs and cats in Virginia would be governed by tougher restrictions under legislation that has passed both houses of the General Assembly.  The bill limits pet shops to selling dogs that were obtained from humane societies, public or private animal shelters, and qualified breeders. One goal is to close the loopholes in state law that have allowed puppy mills some latitude to sell in the Commonwealth.

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Lawmakers Consider “Right to Try” for Terminally Ill Patients

Aimee Hardy advocates for the legislation

Aimee Hardy advocates for the legislation.

Patients with a terminal illness would have expanded access to investigational drugs under Senate legislation that has been given preliminary approval by the House of Delegates. The bill would allow manufacturers to supply the medicine when all other treatment options have been exhausted. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the legislation—which has been dubbed the “Right to Try” bill—was inspired by a young boy in the Commonwealth who fought for access to an investigational drug last year.

 

 

 

 

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UVA Looks to History, Italy in Fixing Rotunda

Rotunda Sullivan

UVA President Teresa Sullivan shows off a Carrara marble capital. Photo: Hawes Spencer

Just as Thomas Jefferson did nearly 200 years ago, restoration experts for the University of Virginia’s Rotunda have turned to history to bring this iconic building into the 21st Century. Hawes Spencer has more.

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VaNews: General Assembly Stories

VPAPnewConcerns about government surveillance have created an unlikely political alliance in Richmond. And the Virginia General Assembly has second thoughts about brass knuckles. Those have been among the most read stories over the past week the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on vpap.org.

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Rallying the Legislators: Richmond’s Bell Tower

Belltower1 (1)During the General Assembly session in Richmond, lawmakers are rallied to the Capitol each day by two different bell towers that ring in coordination with each other. Reporter Michael Pope wanted to know why.

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Obamacare on the Ropes

ACALawsuitOne of the biggest Supreme Court cases of this term could wipe away the insurance subsidies that tens of thousands of Virginians now rely on under the Affordable Care Act. Capitol Hill reporter Matt Laslo has the story on how Virginia lawmakers in both parties are already scrambling to find a Plan B.  

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Lawmakers Crack Down on Cigarette Smuggling

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA Republican state senator is trying desperately to crack down on cigarette trafficking from Virginia to the Northeast, which evidence suggests is so profitable that it’s funding terrorist organizations and fuels organized crime. But several members of his own caucus in the House are standing in the way of one bill that’s passed the Senate.

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Home School Sports Bill Advances in General Assembly

189770708_560f025b63_oSome Virginia students who are home-schooled may be able to participate in public school interscholastic programs under legislation that has passed both houses of the General Assembly.  Lawmakers also sought to alleviate some concerns raised by school divisions.

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Exotic Weapons Ban Debated in General Assembly

Ballistic knives

Ballistic knives

In Richmond, lawmakers are taking action to overturn a longstanding ban on selling blackjacks, brass knuckles, throwing stars and ballistic knives. Virginia reporter Michael Pope has more from the state Capitol.

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Senate Debates Junk Food in School Fundraisers

208692428_8a433b5267_oVirginia schools could hold numerous fundraisers per year selling food that doesn’t meet nutritional guidelines under legislation that has passed both houses of the General Assembly.  The bill requires the Board of Education to craft regulations that would be more permissive than current state policy, and permit the sale of what some call “junk food” during school hours.  The Senate made its decision only after lengthy debate about what’s really best for the students.

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Governor Declares State of Emergency for Virginia

Gov State PrepsWith a major snowstorm blowing across the Commonwealth, Governor Terry McAuliffe says the declaration allows the Virginia Department of Transportation to mobilize its 12,000 pieces of equipment, and 2,500 workers and contractors to respond.

The governor is also calling on Virginians to stay off the roads, if possible, in order to allow emergency vehicles passage and to cut down on the potential for accidents.

“Every part of the Commonwealth is going to be impacted by this storm,” Gov. McAuliffe said. “Every single part of the Commonwealth.”

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VaNews from VPAP: Most Read Stories

VPAPnewVirginia’s James City County paid $25-million to buy water it never bought and may have to pay $33-million more…

VCU is preparing for major schedule disruptions when a world cycling event comes to downtown Richmond this fall. Those have been among the most read stories over the past week the Virginia Public Access Project’s V-A News link on V-PAP-dot-org. Fred Echols reports.

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Reigning in Restraints of School Kids

SchoolhouseWhen a special needs child is a bit fussy or has a history of violent outbursts in a classroom setting, who has the right to restrain them or put them into seclusion—and who decides when that goes too far?  In Virginia, that’s not clear.  But as Tommie McNeil reports, a bill that’s sailed through both chambers of the General Assembly will soon change that.

 

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Budget Day in Richmond Runs Smoother

First day of the legislative sessionBoth the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate today overwhelmingly approved their respective versions of the state’s spending plan.  Budget day at the Virginia State Capitol typically reveals how lawmakers really feel about the state of the Commonwealth and how dire things are.  But as Tommie McNeil reports, while lawmakers have philosophical differences, the tone, at least for now, doesn’t seem as contentious as it has been in recent years.

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Lawmakers Promise Rate Freeze, But Electric Bills May Still Rise

Image: Creative Commons

Image: Creative Commons

Virginia’s two big electric companies will escape state regulation of their base rates for up to eight years under a bill which caught opponents by surprise – a measure just approved by the Virginia House.  Its sponsor promised a rate freeze for consumers, but as Sandy Hausman reports, your bill could still be going up.

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Mandatory Sexual Assault Reporting

Delegate Rob Bell

Delegate Rob Bell

Sexual assault is an issue getting some attention in this session of Virginia’s General Assembly. Several bills have been proposed to require colleges to report any violent incident, including a sexual assault, to local law enforcement. The proposals are not without controversy.

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Legislation Authorizes Lyft and Uber; Sets Industry Standards

4348302981_f0b78a0aa7_oBoth chambers of the Virginia General Assembly have now approved bills that authorize ride-sharing companies such as Lyft and Uber to operate in Virginia-but under greater scrutiny.  The legislation would apply standards to the companies that are similar to those governing the taxi industry.

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Federal Budget’s Climate Component: Impact on Virginia

15649425101_1897dc073d_kPresident Obama’s budget revived a debate at the Capitol over energy policy and climate change.

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Governor and General Assembly at Odds Over Ethics Bill

Bill sponsor Del. Todd Gilbert argues for the  legislation.State and local government officials would be subject to more restrictive ethics rules under separate bills that have passed both houses of the General Assembly.  The measures lower the cap on gifts that officials may accept from $250 to $100, and remove the distinction between tangible and intangible gifts, such as travel or meals. However, the legislation may not completely have Governor McAuliffe’s seal of approval.

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Jesse Matthew Jr. Indicted in Murder of Hannah Graham

Matthew GrahamNearly five months after University of Virginia student Hannah Graham went missing, the man last seen with her has now been indicted for murder.  Hawes Spencer reports.

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Medical Marijuana in Treating Epilepsy Moves Forward in General Assembly

Medical_MarijuanaVirginia’s medical marijuana law may soon be expanded.  The House of Delegates has given preliminary approval to legislation that would allow the prescribed use of certain oils derived from marijuana if they are used for the treatment of epilepsy.  The legislation appears to be sailing through both chambers of the General Assembly.

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DNA Could Offer Another Avenue for Serial’s Syed

Deidre EnrightThe popular NPR podcast Serial is back in the headlines with news that a young Maryland man convicted of killing his high-school girlfriend will get the opportunity to appeal. Here in Virginia, a separate effort is underway to determine whether the guy featured in Serial is the real killer. Hawes Spencer has that story.

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VaNews: Confederate General Holiday, Petition Effectiveness

VPAPnewVirginia law may soon require that homebuyers be reminded to check on whether they’re moving into a flood zone before they sign a contract. And the City of Norfolk is paying off more than a half-million dollars in federal taxes it somehow overlooked. Those stories have been among the most read over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link.

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Money Committees Report Revenue Bump

Senate Finance.There’s good news from the Governor and the heads of the General Assembly’s money committees. Despite dealing earlier with a significant revenue shortfall, the state is now seeing a $338-million revenue bump from withholdings through corporate income tax and insurance premiums. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil explains.

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Hope Floats for End to Gerrymander

GerryMander-TheOriginal2Bills to stop gerrymandering are enjoying an unusual bout of success in the General Assembly this year. While most pundits still think they’ll get shot down, the head of a political training center thinks there’s momentum for reform.  Hawes Spencer reports.

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Senate Passes ‘Ban the Box’ Bill

14066879786_a2f7ec2a0f_kVirginia State Senate has passed legislation that would impact state hiring of applicants with criminal convictions. The “Ban the Box” bill would allow to people who were charged or convicted of crimes to advance further in the employment vetting process before a prospective employer could inquire about any criminal history.

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Charter School Bill Clears State Senate

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

After a very spirited debate in the state Senate, charter school proponents win a major victory. Senators passed a resolution to amend the state constitution to give the Board of Education authority to establish charter schools in Virginia.

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Tie-Breaking Vote Sends Employment Discrimination Bill Forward

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam cast the tie-breaking vote.Public employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity would be prohibited under legislation that has passed the Virginia Senate.  The bill inserts a policy into state law that has been adopted through executive order by Governor McAuliffe and several other gubernatorial administrations. The commonwealth’s Lieutenant Governor played a key role in the legislation’s passage.

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Drilling Off of Virginia’s Coast: Roadblocks

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

A bipartisan group of Virginia lawmakers support drilling off the commonwealth’s coast for oil and gas. But Capitol Hill reporter Matt Laslo is finding not many in the state’s congressional delegation are happy with the White House announcement it’s opening up the state’s coast to offshore drilling…

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Bill Allowing Guns on School Grounds Shot Down

Senator Chap Peterson argues against the bill.

Senator Chap Peterson argues against the bill.

The Virginia Senate has shot down legislation to allow people with concealed-carry permits to possess a handgun on school property after normal school hours.  The bill applied only to those times when no school-sponsored functions or extracurricular activities were taking place. Questions about how residents would determine which events are school-sponsored were an insurmountable hurdle to some lawmakers.

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Proposed Bill would Reign In Lawmaker Spending on Private Law Firms

VAcapWikiIt’s not unusual for Attorneys General or Governors to hire counsel from private law firms when they believe they need special expertise or legal services. Now a bill to rein in spending and hold both officeholders accountable for outside counsel they seek on the taxpayer’s dime has passed the State Senate. They also would have to explain why the special counsel IS in the public interest before entering into a contract.

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Senator Tim Kaine Glad Sequester Path Could Soon End

President Obama is sending a $4 trillion budget to Congress this morning, and Democrats in the region are glad it calls for lifting budget caps on most federal agencies.

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VaNews: Flood Zone Contract, Norfolk Taxes

VPAPnewVirginia law may soon require that homebuyers be reminded to check on whether they’re moving into a flood zone before they sign a contract. And the City of Norfolk is paying off more than a half-million dollars in federal taxes it somehow overlooked. Those stories have been among the most read over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link.

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Cab Drivers Rally for More Ride Sharing Regulations

6290725551_1fb9532a45_oIn Richmond, hundreds of taxicab drivers from across the commonwealth are at the Capitol to rally for new regulations for app- based, ride hailing companies.

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Bob McDonnell’s Priest Says Former Governor is Hopeful

mcdonnellIn Virginia, Bob McDonnell’s priest says the former governor is hopeful that an appeals court will overturn his conviction for public corruption.

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School Divisions Could Have Flexibility in Graduation Requirements

graduationIn Richmond, members of the General Assembly are moving forward with the plan to change high school graduation requirements. The bill is part of a larger effort to reduce the influence of standardized tests.

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One Gun Control Bill Survives General Assembly Scrutiny

Gun_ControlVirginia lawmakers have been mulling over a series of gun bills-and one is the only measure supported by gun-control advocates that has survived a Senate Committee.  While the bill has lost some of its teeth, its sponsor says it nevertheless makes progress in the fight against domestic violence.

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Bill Could Limit Law Enforcement Access to Data

Wolfram AlphaIn Richmond, the Tea Party and the American Civil Liberties Union are joining forces to crack down on what they say are unreasonable search and seizures in the digital age.

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Grading Virginia’s Schools – A Failing Idea?

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

In Virginia, lawmakers are taking action to REPEAL a system of assigning every school in the commonwealth with a letter grade. As Michael Pope of tells us, lawmakers are giving the idea and F.

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General Assembly Debates Common Core

Senator Tom Garrett argues for the bill.

Senator Tom Garrett argues for the bill.

The Virginia Senate has postponed a final vote on legislation that would prohibit the state from adopting the national Common Core standards for public education without prior approval of the General Assembly.  The standards have been widely adopted by states but have come under fire—in part, for their mandatory, one-size-fits-all approach.

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VEA & PTA “Put Kids First” Campaign

VEA PTAThe Virginia PTA and the Virginia Education Association have joined together to launch a new public awareness campaign called “Put Kids First.”

VEA President Meg Gruber pointed out that before the recent recession, Virginia ranked number one in the nation on the “chance of success” index for children, but that the state has now fallen to 9th place.  And in spite of rhetoric at the Capitol about “holding the line” on education cuts, state funding has actually dropped  16% since 2009,when inflation is taken into account. Gruber said the new campaign aims to help the public recognize the troubling signs:

Gruber said elected leaders claim to be “friends of education”… so parents, teachers, and the public must compel them to take action to reverse these trends. The organizations will hold a rally in support of public education at the State Capitol on April 18th.  More information can be found here.
Here’s the full audio of the news conference in Richmond:

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Virginia Lawmakers Question Offshore Drilling

Flickr user Pete Markham

Flickr user Pete Markham

A bipartisan group of Virginia lawmakers say the Interior Department move to open up Virginia’s coast to drilling is raising more questions than answers.

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Party Affiliation Bill Dies in the General Assembly

Masrk ObenshainVirginia voters’ partisan preferences will remain unknown — if they so choose — after a bill that would have required registration by political party narrowly dies after Senate debate.  The bill was sponsored by a Republican – and effectively killed by another Republican.

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Virginia Republicans Critical of President Barack Obama’s Agenda

Credite whitehouse.gov

Credit whitehouse.gov

The agenda President Obama is laying out at the start of this new Congress is being rejected by Virginia Republicans who now have more power at the Capitol than Democrats.

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VA Could See Two-Term Governors

Sen. Dick Saslaw argues for the resolution.

Sen. Dick Saslaw argues for the resolution.

Virginia governors would be allowed to run for a second, consecutive term of office under a constitutional amendment that has passed the state Senate. The revision would change a tradition that has left Virginia as the sole state in the nation to forbid its governor from running for re-election. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the 24 to 15 vote for passage did not break down along party lines.

 

 

 

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All Lives Matter

All Lives MatterA coalition of Virginia civil rights and community organizations marched in downtown Richmond over the weekend.

In advance of the General Assembly meeting tomorrow, the march called for several legislative reforms including an independent review board to handle issues of police misconduct and the implementation of police body cameras.

While many in opposition to body cameras site both cost and privacy concerns, the majority of protestors believed the transparency of cameras would help rebuild trust between communities and law enforcement.  Intern Reporter James Perla was there.

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