Archive for September, 2012

Biodiesel Initiatives

Green jobs proponents say Virginia is missing out on an opportunity to capitalize on an alternative fuel source that would help reduce toxic emissions and fuel costs, while providing a boost to the farming industry. Bio-diesel producers say the technology is here to manufacture a much better grade of fuel that can be used on both commercial and consumer vehicles, and none of it has to be imported to the Commonwealth. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil has more from the State Capitol.

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Virginia Conversations: Uranium Mining

On this edition of Virginia Conversations, you’ll hear about the fight over one of the largest deposits of uranium in the world which happens to sit under the ground in Southside Virginia’s Pittyslvania County. Getting to it would be a huge financial windfall for the area but would it jeopardize the environment? Host May-Lily Lee talks with Patrick Wales, Chief Spokesman for Virginia Uranium and Andrew Lester, Executive Director of the Roanoke River Basin Association – a group against the proposed project. 

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School Accreditation

93% of Virginia’s public schools are fully accredited based on the state’s Standards of Learning.   That’s according to data released Wednesday by the Department of Education.  The number of schools earning full accreditation is down slightly from the previous school year, but some individual categories showed improvements.  All but 122 of public schools are now fully accredited.  Among high schools, 90% earned the highest rating—compared to 86% last year.  And 96% of elementary and 88% of middle schools earned full accreditation.  In 2011, 30 schools earned a “provisional” status, but this year only 6 fall into that category and must undergo an academic review.  But compared to 30 schools last year, 100 schools in 2012 are accredited with warning, which means pass rates are below the standards and they must adopt school improvement plans.  Nine are conditionally accredited new schools, and the status of five schools has yet to be determined.  Peabody Middle School in Petersburg and Lafayette-Wynona Middle School in Norfolk are the only two schools denied accreditation.  State education officials say the 3% decline in the total number of fully accredited schools is due, in part, to implementation of more rigorous college and career-ready mathematics tests. The same can be expected next year when new English and Science standards are implemented.

– Tommie McNeil

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Educational Revisions

The State Board of Education has not yet approved the revised mathematics annual measurable objectives under a “No Child left Behind” waiver, but is scheduled to do so next month.  However, as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, the state’s Legislative Black Caucus and some other groups say the Board’s proposal will set minorities back to the days of Jim Crow—and they’re asking the Board to revise its plan.

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Allen’s New Campaign Ad

The U. S. Senate race in Virginia is heating up.

This week Republican candidate George Allen has a new ad up attacking Tim Kaine over tax policy.

In last week’s Virginia Senate debate Kaine made it appear he favors placing an income tax on the 47%  of Americans who currently don’t pay one. The Allen Campaign hasn’t had many openings in this race, so it pounced on the remark with this new ad.

“Tax hikes for anyone earning as little as $17,000 a year and now: ‘I would be open to a proposal that would have some minimum tax level for everyone.’ Tim Kaine: raising taxes on everyone.”

Kaine was quick to distance himself from the comment… explaining he was merely saying he’s open to debating different tax proposals. Fact checking website Politifact was quick to label Allen’s new ad ‘false,’ which Kaine says is telling.

“Yet the Allen Campaign, for their own reasons, has decided, ‘we’ll run a knowingly false ad anyway.’ I know Virginia voters pretty well and I just don’t think that’s what they want to see.”

With negative ads flying in Virginia and voters trying to weed through the competing claims, analysts expect the race to go down to the wire.

–Matt Laslo

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Living Laboratory

Galapagos Sunset Photo by Rob Donoho
Galapagos Conservancy

Six hundred miles from the coast of Ecuador, you’ll find them — 13 islands known as the Galapagos.  It was there, in 1835, that the British scientist Charles Darwin began thinking about how animals change over time.  Since then, scientists have called the Galapagos a living laboratory – a place to study evolution and natural selection, but with 180,000 tourists visiting each year, scientists from Virginia say the Galapagos are in danger.   Sandy Hausman tells why.

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Absentee Voting

Four years ago, 13.5 % of the Commonwealth’s voters cast absentee ballots in the presidential election.  Last Friday, in-person absentee voting opened in all 134 Virginia localities, and some registrars have already reported a heavy turnout.  As Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, state officials say voters who want to exercise this option need to check the rules and submit their applications—to guarantee they can cast their ballots without going to the polls on election day.

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On the Ballot…

Independent and third-party candidates in Virginia have completed the verification process that determines their eligibility to run for various offices, and the list of candidates on November’s general election ballot has now been finalized.  And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the ballots will provide voters with a choice of candidates who have very diverse views across the political spectrum.
Complete lists of candidates for each locality can be found on the State Board of Elections website at: .

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Lawmakers Leave

Barring an emergency, the U-S House is now in recess until after Election Day. Matt Laslo reports from the Capitol that a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the region aren’t happy with the decision.

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Education Roundtable

The Latino community is the largest minority group on college campuses.  But many challenges prevent the current Latino population from gaining more ground or enrolling additional students into colleges and universities.  And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, a roundtable discussion held in the Richmond area sought ideas and proposals to help change that.

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Virginia Conversations: Mary Sue Terry

Making law, and making history…

On this edition of  Virginia Conversations with host May-Lily Lee, a visit with Mary Sue Terry, who in 1985 became the first woman elected to statewide office in Virginia.

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Virginia’s Credit Rating

The U-S credit rating is once again in danger of being knocked a notch lower, which could threaten the credit rating of Virginia.

Last year it was Standard and Poor’s who angered federal officials by taking away the top credit rating for the U-S for the first time in history. This time Moody’s is putting the government on notice for its bloated debt. Virginia Republican Morgan Griffith says he’s not surprised.

“We need to get our financial house in order and that’s what they’re trying to tell us…and it doesn’t seem at this point that the Democrats are serious about getting the spending under control,” says Griffith.

If the U-S credit rating is lowered Virginia could also see its credit rating go down, which could make borrowing more expensive. Northern Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly says Republicans in the state ought to start contemplating tax increases instead of focusing merely on slashing programs.

“But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say you want smaller government, you want to slash federal spending and, frankly, represent the Commonwealth of Virginia with a serious face. A third of the entire economy of our state is directly tied to federal investments, federal employment, federal spending,” says Connolly.

Instead of trying to address the looming problem, after this week lawmakers plan to hit the campaign trail through Election Day.

–Matt Laslo


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