Governor McAuliffe Touts Budget Progress, Wants to Invest More in Education

SchoolhouseNoting a remarkable turnaround since he spoke to them last year, Governor McAuliffe has told the General Assembly’s money committees that the Commonwealth’s financial situation is great-and how he would like to move forward.  During his remarks to lawmakers Thursday, he emphasized his focus on economic development and acquiring military contracts, but much of his speech was devoted to investing in education.

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VA Lawmakers & Freedom Caucus Buck GOP Leaders

US Cap 01Two Virginia Republican in Congress are members of a new group called the Freedom Caucus. Matt Laslo explains the conservative hardliners are proving to be thorns in the sides of Republican Party leaders in Washington.

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Redistricting Battle Continues in General Assembly

Senate Democratic Lead Dick SaslawThe General Assembly’s impasse over whether or not the Special Session on Redistricting is LEGALLY over shows no signs of abating.  The Senate adjourned last week thanks to a ruling by Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam and the votes of the chamber’s Democrats and one Republican—but the House of Delegates has still not adjourned. The bone of contention is how to interpret Article 4, section 6 of the Virginia Constitution.

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Department of Labor Implements Website for Tracking Down Back Wages

deptlaborThe Department of Labor has recently implemented an online program aimed at distributing money that belongs to workers who may, or may not, know they’ve earned it.

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VaNews: Wind Farm Opponents, Address Change Complications

VPAPnewTazewell County in Virginia’s southwest coalfields would rather not be the site of a major wind power project. And a surprise change of address has complicated the life of a woman in Chesapeake.  Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on www.vpap.org. Fred Echols reports.

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Driving Away with Personal Information

Rear View Mirror Creative Commons

Photo: Susan Sermoneta/Creative Commons

A Virginia lawmaker believes a simple ride in a nontraditional taxi could put your personal information in jeopardy. Now that delegate is pushing for legislation to further limit the information that companies such as Uber and Lyft can collect and store about passengers.  

 

 

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Art Turns Housing into Home

haven-300x136-300x136Shelter is a big problem for many people in Virginia. Up to 40,000 may be homeless for some period of time during any given year, with many cycling through housing and back to the streets. Now, a Central Virginia group is using art and interior design to attack the problem. From Charlottesville, Emily Richardson-Lorente reports.

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Do Not Buy This Book!

NekkidWhen eleven professional writers from Smith Mountain Lake decided they wanted to do something out of the ordinary they considered their options and finally settled on trying to produce the worst novel ever written. With the work now complete they believe they may have attained their goal.  Fred Echols reports.

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Charlottesville’s Garage: Alternative Art Space

The GarageCentral Virginia boasts plenty of great places for concerts, but there’s one venue that offers a unique experience for the audience, and the bands that play there. Emily Richardson-Lorente checked it out.

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Court Says Former VA Governor Can’t Remain Free

Gov McDonnell by Anne MarieWhile his wife is still in the midst of the appeals process for her federal corruption convictions, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is nearing the end of his fight to beat the convictions against him. The 4th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals has denied his request to remain free as he pursues an appeal to the nation’s highest court.  And as Tommie McNeil reports, only one option remains. 

 

The Chief Justice handles emergency applications for the 4th Circuit.  In their filing, McDonnell’s attorneys argue that by the time the Supreme Court hears the case and hands down a ruling that could potentially reverse the convictions, McDonnell could have finished serving his entire sentence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lawmakers Hope for More Federal Recognition for Virginia’s Native American Tribes

Virginia_flag_mapVirginia lawmakers are redoubling their efforts to attain federal recognition for six Virginia Native American tribes. They’re more optimistic now that the Bureau of Indian Affairs granted federal recognition to the Pamunkey Tribe.

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State Budget: Report Finds “All

Budget Cuts“All is not well—Rosy Surplus Numbers Don’t Erase Damage from Budget Cuts.” That’s the title of the latest report by the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis. And the organization’s president says as candidates campaign for election to the entire General Assembly this November, it’s imperative that voters have a conversation with them about the state’s long-term budget problems. More from Tommie McNeil.

 

 

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Reviewing Exemptions to VA’s Open Government Laws

FOIAMembers of the Freedom of Information Advisory Council are conducting a meticulous review of the MANY exemptions to Virginia’s open-government laws.  The exemptions prevent the public from having access to certain government records and meetings—usually on both the state and local levels.  And as Anne Marie Morgan reports, even after an exhaustive study, a special subcommittee is not likely to eliminate very many of them.  

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VA Lawmakers Weigh In On First Amendment Defense Act

Gay Marriage 01The majority of Virginia Republicans in Congress are backing an effort they say will protect religious institutions and businesses from having to abide by the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling. Matt Laslo reports that opponents of the effort say the bill will legalize discrimination.

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School Funding Crusade

SchoolGenericAs kids head back to school, parents, teachers and administrators are gearing up for a fight in Richmond – hoping to win greater state support for public education.  They say it’s time to restore cuts made during the recession  and to raise pay for new teachers as  thousands prepare to retire.  Sandy Hausman has that story. 

 

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Virginia Senate Votes to Adjourn Special Session

va-capitol-2 - CopyGovernor McAuliffe called the General Assembly into special session to redraw the Commonwealth’s congressional district boundaries, but Republican lawmakers first used the opportunity to try to advance their own selection to the state Supreme Court.  As Anne Marie Morgan reports, the day’s sessions turned into a tug-of-war between supporters of McAuliffe’s interim nominee, Justice Jane Marum Roush, and advocates of the GOP’s choice, state Court of Appeals Judge Rossie Alston. 

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VaNews: Craft Beer Culture

VPAPnewVirginia’s growing craft beer culture is running into complications as the state tries to decide how to regulate the brewers…and Petersburg’s sheriff is facing a lawsuit from a surprising source, the City of Petersburg. Those stories have been among the most read over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews on vpap.org. Fred Echols has more.

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New VA Regulations for Crowd-Funding

Simon Cunningham, Creative Commons, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Simon Cunningham, Creative Commons, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Across the nation crowdfunding is enabling entrepreneurs and dreamers to bring their ideas to fruition by allowing start-ups to get help from other individuals and businesses. And as of July 31st, Virginia has been allowing crowdfunding offerings-but in order to protect investors, the State Corporation Commission is implementing new regulations. More from Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil.

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Virginia Company a Leader in Marine Energy

Marine Energy Oregon ResizedFour engineers from Virginia Tech have beat 72 other teams to win a place in the federal government’s Wave Energy competition.  Eric Paterson , George Hagerman, Mike Philen and Heng Xiao  now have the chance to win $2 million to build their design which would turn wave power into electricity. Another Virginia team chose not to enter the contest.  Instead, they’re hoping to leapfrog the competition by installing a successful commercial wave farm in Europe.  Sandy Hausman has that story.

 Sandy Hausman reported from Europe with the support of an Energy and Climate Media Fellowship from the Heinrich Böll (HINE-rick BOWL) Foundation.”

 

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Advocates Say Virginia Needs Better Cancer Prevention Policies

cancer-390322_640Advocates of stronger cancer prevention policies say Virginia is one of nearly half of the states that fall behind when it comes to legislative solutions to prevent and fight cancer.  As a result, in 2015 alone nearly 14,200 state residents will be diagnosed with some form of cancer, and more than 14,800 will actually die from it.

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Jobless Benefit Claims Low

Virginia_flag_mapVirginia businesses are breathing a sigh of relief at the news that the current rate of jobless benefits claims is much lower than the very high number of claims during the recent recession.  As Anne Marie Morgan reports, this means they likely will NOT have to pay the higher amount of business taxes triggered by state law whenever the unemployment trust fund dips too low.

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Marine Mammals and Fish Befriend Offshore Turbines

sea lionsConditions off the coast of Virginia are ideal for construction of offshore wind turbines, but scientists see a limited role for marine energy – power generated from waves, currents and tides.  That’s because prevailing winds on the planet blow from west to east, creating bigger waves on the west coast of continents.  Still there is some potential here, and experts say turbines can likely be placed off our shores with minimal risk to wildlife.  Sandy Hausman has details.

Sandy Hausman reported from Europe with the support of an Energy and Climate Media Fellowship from the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

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Eyeing Lunch

Credit: Virginia Commonwealth University

Credit: Virginia Commonwealth University

Hungry students will find something new at Virginia Commonwealth University.  They can now pay for their meals with their eyes.  Sandy Hausman reports on new technology at one campus cafeteria.

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Marine Energy Drives Economic Development

Orkney 02 resizedThis week, we’re reporting on marine energy – power generated from waves, currents and tides.  As a state with 112 miles of coastline, Virginia should be a prime candidate for development of this resource, but so far there’s no sign of an industry.  To understand why, reporter Sandy Hausman traveled to Scotland – ground zero for efforts to exploit marine energy in Europe.

Sandy Hausman reported from Europe with the support of an Energy and Climate Media Fellowship from the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

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Leaders Applaud Gains in SOL Scores, Still Room for Improvement

SOLsVirginia leaders are applauding this year’s gains in student Standards of Learning tests, especially since the Department of Education made the assessments more rigorous. But, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction would still like to see improvement—particularly for English language-learners.

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Library of Virginia Offered Reconstruction-Era Focused Courses to Teachers

14191757541_7740bf0b22_oA two-day teacher institute at the Library of Virginia has provided educators with the opportunity to advance their knowledge about the post-Civil War era-especially how the Commonwealth was transformed by the emancipation of slaves and Reconstruction. As Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, one major focus was on the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution-and their significant legacy.

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Marine Energy: Wave Power for Virginia? Scotland Shows the Way

Orkney 02 resized

Orkney, Scotland

With so much coastal property, this state could be harvesting the energy of waves, currents and tides to power homes and offices, factories and electric cars.  But Virginia is far from the day when that might happen.  In a week-long series, Sandy Hausman travels across the continent and the Atlantic to find out why.

 

Sandy Hausman reported from Europe with the support of an Energy and Climate Media Fellowship from the Heinrich Böll Foundation.”

 

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State Lawmakers, Registrars, Urge Reconsidering Voter Registration Form

VoteHereAdvocates say proposed changes to Virginia’s voter registration form will help prevent voter disenfranchisement and simplify the process.  But they’re not getting a warm reception from a number of state lawmakers and especially registrars.  As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, with less than a month away before the State Board of Elections meets again, some are asking that the Board scrap the revisions and start anew.

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VaNews: Civil Forfeiture, Essay Submition for Farm

VPAPnewAn essay and a 200-hundred dollar entry fee could get you a central Virginia farm. And being suspected of a crime can cause one to lose their property.  Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on www.vpap.org.

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Carbon vs Coal: Clean Energy Plan

President Obama recently unveiled a new rule to combat climate change by forcing state’s like Virginia to cut their carbon pollution. But this summer the Supreme Court shot down a new EPA rule aimed at limiting mercury pollution, which, as Matt Laslo reports, has conservatives calling for the new rule to be halted.

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Old Fiddler’s Convention Draws Instrumentalists from Beyond the Blue Ridge

12660029984_7856408965_oThe 80th Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax lasts until late Saturday night. Some people may think the convention is all banjos and fiddles and high lonesome harmonies. But out in the campground, a person might encounter uilleann pipes, concertinas or even a didgeridoo. This week, they might hear a Nepalese cousin to the fiddle called a sarangi. Tim Thornton reports.

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A New Way to Experience the Story of Virginia

Courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society.

Courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society.

Each year, for over a decade, about 30,000 Virginia kids were bused to Richmond’s museum district for a visit to the Story of Virginia, an exhibit featuring the usual portraits and artifacts. Last year, the Virginia Historical Society closed the show and began a $20 million renovation, creating a modern new museum and a whole new experience for those interested in Virginia’s past. Sandy Hausman reports.

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Senator Mark Warner Pushes for Congress to Adapt to the Digitized Economy

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner says Congress has failed to adapt to the new digitized economy, and he’s pushing to provide a safety net for millennials. Matt Laslo reports.

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Civil War…Still Fighting

This June 25, 2015, the words “Black Lives Matter” spray painted on a monument to former Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Va. Confederate monuments in a half-dozen places this week have been defaced _ a telling sign of the racial tension that permeates post-Ferguson America. AP Photo/Steve Helber,

This June 25, 2015, the words “Black Lives Matter” spray painted on a monument to former Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Va. AP Photo/Steve Helber,

Those who say Virginia—and Richmond—are still fighting the Civil War need only look at current state policy changes and debates over the Confederate flag and monuments to back up their claims.

And now while the home of the Confederacy and former slave-trading hub will soon be home to one of the most watched sporting events in the world, some say that as the country discusses racial diversity and equality, the event’s organizers will be promoting and embracing the ugliest chapter in American history.  Tommie McNeil has this report.

(July 17, 2015)

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Surrogate Ancestors to Remains of Slaves

Well PhotoIt’s been more than 20 years since construction workers at Virginia Commonwealth University unearthed the remains of about fifty people in an old well near the Medical College of Virginia.  Historians believe they were the bones of former slaves, whose bodies were stolen from local cemeteries for dissection by medical students. VCU promptly sent the remains to the Smithsonian for storage, but they may soon be coming back to Richmond as Sandy Hausman reports.

(July 16, 2015)

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More to the Tour: Slave History at Virginia’s Plantations

Slave History 02In addition to museums, battlegrounds and presidential homes, tourists find history at dozens of plantations that are open to the public. Often they learn about the big, elegant homes at the heart of those properties – about the people who lived there, but how do mannerly tour guides introduce the harsh subject of slavery?  That’s what a team from the University of Mary Washington hopes to learn as Sandy Hausman reports. (May 20, 2015)

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Richmond Wrangling Over Future of Historic Slave Site

Lumkin Jail Historical SiteOn a warm spring night, more than 150 people gathered in Shockoe Bottom, a name taken from the Native American word for a site in Richmond.  This part of town, bounded by I-95 and bisected by railroad lines, was central to a city that prospered from the slave trade. Sandy Hausman reports. (May 6,2014)

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VA Department of Education Redesigns School Performance Report Cards

school_appleVirginia residents have just a little more time to provide feedback to the Department of Education as it redesigns public school performance report cards, which provide accountability ratings.  As Tommie McNeil reports, the final product is not only supposed to allow users to sift through information more fluidly, but will also provide a more customized layout of demographics.

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Governor McAuliffe Hopes Virginia Becomes Leading State for Information Technology

Security concept: blue opened padlock on digital background, 3d render

Business executives from the high-tech sector hosted an event at the State Capitol to share research and information, as well as network with government officials.  Governor McAuliffe called on the members of the Government Business Executive Forum to help Virginia pivot from the nation’s top state for defense spending to the LEADING state for information technology.

Anne Marie Morgan reports.

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Joint Commission on Health Care Addresses Minor Consent to Psychiatric Treatment

MedicaidExpansionMentalHealthThe Joint Commission on Health Care is tackling an issue that the members say is much more complex than it may first appear:  whether minors may voluntarily consent to inpatient psychiatric treatment WITHOUT the permission of their parents or guardians. With an estimated 930 minors impacted by this dilemma each year, the commission says the problem needs to be addressed.

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Drones May be Utilized More in Commonwealth Soon

8725078749_00627cd860_oHate drones?  They may soon become a way of life in the Commonwealth.

The anticipated surge in unmanned aerial vehicles-or UAVs-won’t only be as a result of their popularity with hobbyists, but because of their use by emergency responders, power companies, and other industries.

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Longevity and Tradition at the Old Fiddler’s Convention

7783045944_085ff08f92_oThe eightieth Old Fiddlers Convention is going on in Galax this week. For most of the people in Felts Park, it’s a vacation and a celebration, but for members of the Galax Moose lodge, it’s a lot of work and an important fundraiser – and one lodge member has been among the Moose managing the convention for half a century.

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VaNews: Energy Efficieny, Paying Jurors

VPAPnewVirginia power companies will be doing more to help low income homeowners make their houses more energy efficient. And, the idea of using cash cards to pay jurors is picking up some critics. Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on www.vpap.org.

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Selecting Virginia’s Judiciary

Former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling & Former Rep. Rick Boucher  (center) co-chair the commission.

Former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling & Former Rep. Rick Boucher (center) co-chair the commission.

The panel created by Governor McAuliffe to recommend changes to state ethics laws is tackling an issue that’s not typically associated with conflicts of interest:  the way that Virginia chooses judges.   The Governor’s Commission on Integrity and Public Confidence in State Government says the quality of the state’s judiciary overall is excellent.  But as Anne Marie Morgan reports, it also says the process of selecting judges is politicized and ineffective far too often.

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Two Topics from VA News: Virginia Wineries, Virginia’s Obsolete Courthouses Present Preservation Issues

VPAPnewAs more wineries are opening in Virginia grape production in the state is not keeping pace…and with many Commonwealth counties looking to replace obsolete courthouses issues of historic preservation may create complications. Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on www.vpap.org. Fred Echols has more.

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Straight Street Reaching out to Child Victims

Straight Street LogoIn Virginia, underage sex trafficking is real. That’s why the Commonwealth has created new and stronger laws and methods of saving the children being victimized. With these efforts comes the bitter-sweet challenge of the rescue of child and then the recovery. Tab O’Neal reports.

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Fracking Regulations Reviewed

Fracking 01

File Photo

For years the use of hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—has been exclusive to Southwest Virginia, but some organizations and communities are vehemently opposed to it. Now, as companies are exploring more energy sources throughout the state, such as natural gas and shale, officials are feeling more pressure to amend regulations that govern the practice. Tommie McNeil has more from the State Capitol.

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Virginia & Israel: Open for Business

va-israel-flagsWhile Israeli leaders have voiced their displeasure about the Iran nuclear deal amidst already strained relations with the U.S., some have wondered if that dynamic has had any impact on Virginia’s business relationship with Israel.  As Tommie McNeil reports, the simple answer is:  business couldn’t be better. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports.

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Chincoteague Pony Swim Celebrates 90 Years

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

This month marks the 90th year the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company’s Saltwater Cowboys run their annual pony swim. The wild ponies, whose Spanish lineage dates back centuries, are moved from Assateague and Chincoteague Islands, to the fire company’s carnival grounds where a selection of foals are auctioned off. But unless there’s a fire, rounding up cowboys is sometimes more difficult than ponies. Pamela D’Angelo reports.

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Decades After Parole Ends, Lawmakers Reconsider

prison_creative_commons_0Governor McAuliffe has convened a large panel to examine the abolition of parole in Virginia and related state guidelines. But as Tommie McNeil reports, some believe that the Governor’s Commission on Parole Review will undo the progress that the Commonwealth has made in reducing its rates of violent crimes.

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