Connie Stevens

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Rethinking Redistricting in Virginia

vedistrictsDuring the last election in Virginia, fewer than eight percent of eligible voters showed up to cast a ballot, perhaps because only 18 districts had contested primaries.  In most places, lawmakers ran unopposed.  Critics say that’s because the legislature drew boundaries to ensure that incumbents could keep their seats, so citizens figure there’s no point in voting.  Now, however, there are signs that situation could change as Sandy Hausman reports.

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VA’s Governor Praises SCOTUS Ruling

supreme_courtReactions from Virginia leaders came swiftly following the Supreme Court’s ruling that upheld Affordable Care Act subsidies for consumers who bought health insurance plans through the federal marketplace. But how swiftly will the Commonwealth—with no healthcare exchange of its own—act in its wake?  Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports on reactions from the Attorney General who argued for the provision … and a lawmaker who is also a doctor who opposed Medicaid expansion.

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Renaming the Redskins

flickr user Keith Allison Photo: Creative Commons

flickr user Keith Allison
Photo: Creative Commons

The Washington Redskins were back in court this week, hoping to overturn a U.S. Patent Office decision that canceled the team’s trademark, because some find it offensive.  That controversy prompted business students at Virginia Commonwealth University to research and choose new names for DC’s professional football team.

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Dismal Outlook on VA’s Projected Cancer Rates

cancer-390322_640Prior to 2012, cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of death in Virginia, but now cancer is the Commonwealth’s leading killer. To help lawmakers craft state policies for the future, the Joint Commission on Health Care wanted to find out what the projected cancer rates will be over the next few decades.   And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, the outlook seems rather dismal. 

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Mountains of Music Homecoming

mntsofmusic_feature-copy-270x270The Crooked Road’s Mountains of Music Homecoming is a nine-day festival staged in nineteen counties and four cities across Southwest Virginia. Events range from Barter Theatre performances to canoe and snorkeling trips to tours of an alpaca farm. But at its heart, the Homecoming is about music.  Tim Thornton reports.

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Initiatives to Combat Veterans’ Homelessness

Homeless VeteranSeveral years and one administration ago, Virginia Public Radio highlighted some of the challenges pertaining to veterans’ homelessness, and since then new leaders have vowed to do all they can to eliminate it within the Commonwealth. As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, a lot of progress has been made in just a short period of time.

 

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Lays Hardware Center for the Arts

Lays HardwareThe Crooked Road’s Mountains of Music Homecoming, running throughout the week, spotlights the music, environment and culture of Southwest Virginia, including some venues that do that work all the time. Tim Thornton reports.

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Leaders Consider Integrity in State Government

integritycommission (1)While the General Assembly passed legislation earlier this year to toughen Virginia’s ethics laws, a gubernatorial panel insists that those reforms are only the beginning.  At its June meeting, the Governor’s Commission on Integrity and Public Confidence in State Government held a wide-ranging discussion about what to target next for reform.  And as Anne Marie reports, a few of the topics that were bandied about may not be politically popular.

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Boosting Cyber-Security

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

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

With potentially millions of Virginians victimized by the recent cyber-attack against federal employees, state lawmakers want to expedite the formation of public-private collaborations that would stimulate research and development in cyber-security. Now a Joint Commission on Technology and Science panel agrees—and wants to help bring the best minds in the field together.  And as Anne Marie Morgan reports, both higher education institutions and companies are willing and eager to make that happen.

 

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Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Mountain Music Center

FullSizeRenderThe Crooked Road’s Mountains of Music Homecoming is a nine-day festival staged in nineteen counties and four cities across Southwest Virginia. But for some people, including Ralph Stanley Museum director Tammy Hill, the work of preserving mountain music and mountain culture goes on all the time.  Tim Thornton reports.

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VA News: Wildlife Habitats in the News

VPAPnewA government agency has moved to protect thousands of square miles of ocean bottom habitat – including areas off the Virginia coast – from damage by commercial fishing operations…..and a thriving elk population in southwest Virginia has created complications for state wildlife managers. 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 has more.

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Democrats Sue Over Voter ID Law

wooden gavel and books on wooden table,on brown background

wooden gavel and books on wooden table,on brown background

Reactions vary to a Democratic lawsuit challenging Virginia’s voter photo ID law—based primarily on which side of the political spectrum the stakeholders fall.  Democrats argue that this is another attempt to disenfranchise minority and other voters, while the GOP and the law’s chief sponsor say it’s designed to protect the integrity of the voting system. But as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, political observers are wondering how this lawsuit will progress—and what’s the best course of action for the state’s Democratic Attorney General.

 

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Virginia Cavaliers Open College World Series With Weekend Victory

The University of Virginia baseball team was so close to winning the national championship last year.  The Cavaliers are back in Omaha this year to try it again and they’re off to a good start. Greg Echlin reports.

 

 

 

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Reforming VA’s Preschool Initiative

A number of studies suggest that young children who enter pre-kindergarten programs develop their learning skills more effectively than those who don’t. That’s one reason why state lawmakers recently decided to examine and reform the Virginia Preschool Initiative.  And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, one of the underlying issues is making sure that low-income children have access to—and take advantage of— those programs.

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Rural Hospitals at Risk: The Walk to Washington

Rural HospitalVirginia’s Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Resources lends an ear to a grassroots organization protesting the possible closure of 283 rural hospitals across the country, including the Commonwealth. As Tommie McNeil reports, Dr. Jennifer Lee said it’s yet another reason why she believes Medicaid expansion could be the answer.

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June Primary Results

Election ResultsThere were some electoral upsets yesterday as Virginia voters in 48 localities cast their ballots in state and local primaries. Among the most contested were 18 elections to nominate candidates for the General Assembly—including challenges to nine incumbent Senators and Delegates. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, several incumbent lawmakers will not be returning to the General Assembly.

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National Defense Authorization Act: What’s At Stake for VA

jetsSenate Democratic leaders are hoping to filibuster a bill this week that’s vital to Virginia’s servicemen and women and the state’s defense industry. Capitol Hill reporter Matt Laslo has the story on how Virginia’s two senators are planning to buck their party leaders.

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VaNews: Self-Driving Cars, Passenger Rail Service

VPAPnewVirginia is making a move to embrace the future of train travel as plans for faster passenger rail service between Richmond and DC are considered… and Google’s self-driving cars will soon be seen among the hordes of vehicles packing the roads in Northern Virginia. Those are among the most read stories over the past week on the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link at vpap.org.  Fred Echols has more.

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Executions & Secrecy: FOIA Case

Execution DrugsVirginia Supreme Court justices will soon be deciding on a case that could have a significant impact on what state officials can withhold—even when a Freedom of Information Act request is submitted.  Although this case began with one lawmaker asking about how executions are carried out, he also discovered that agencies may have found a way around disclosing pertinent information. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports.

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VA Supreme Court Hears Appeal on Sweet Briar College Closing

Sweet Briar HouseThe women of the troubled Sweet Briar College say the institution IS capable of sustaining itself—and all it needs is a second chance. As Tommie McNeil reports, they’re hoping that chance comes in the form of a ruling from the state’s highest court to grant an injunction and allow the college to stay open while school administrators sort out legal and financial matters.

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Governor Declares VA’s Menhaden Harvest Level

McAuliffe OmegaLast month fisheries managers from Florida to Maine voted for a ten percent increase in commercial harvests of menhaden. The oily fish is loved by bald eagles, osprey and other fish and is used along the Atlantic as bait to catch tastier fare like lobster and crab. At a rainy ceremony today, Governor Terry McAuliffe threw his support behind Omega Protein, the last fish rendering plant on the East Coast. Pamela D’Angelo reports.

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VA Boasts Record Setting Tourism Revenue

VA is for loversTourists visiting Virginia last year generated a record-setting 22-billion dollars in revenue. That’s according to the latest state numbers, which also indicate that the tourism industry has become the fifth-largest private employer in the state. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, state officials say the Commonwealth’s global exposure will soon grow even more.

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VA Supreme Court Rules on Suppressed Evidence

Scales of JusticeVirginia’s Supreme Court has handed down a ruling that could help people wrongfully convicted of crimes. Sandy Hausman has that story.

 

 

 

 

 

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Accelerated Efforts to Reduce Energy Consumption

(l-r) Policy analyst Borna Kazarooni and Chief Energy  Efficiency Officer Hayes Framme discuss energy metrics.

(l-r) Policy analyst Borna Kazarooni and Chief Energy Efficiency Officer Hayes Framme discuss energy metrics.

Governor McAuliffe has accelerated the timetable set in a 2007 state law that requires a voluntary 10 percent reduction in state energy consumption—by moving its target date to 2020. Now an expert panel established to help achieve that goal has concluded that it needs additional data just to clarify how that should be measured. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, it also says the responsibility does not just rest with electric utilities to boost their own conservation efforts.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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