Connie Stevens

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Virginia’s Solar Farm

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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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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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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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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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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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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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Tangier Island Missing Oyster Floats

Oyster CageIt’s been a rough winter out on the Chesapeake Bay for Virginia’s Tangier Island. Last month, Virginia Army National Guard flew in supplies after residents were trapped by thick ice from days of freezing temperatures and snow. Now, island watermen and a group of Richmond investors including former State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli have been dealt another blow by mother nature. Pamela D’Angelo reports.

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Lawmakers Build on Education Reform Bills

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

A large number of public education reform bills made it through this year’s General Assembly session. As Tommie McNeil reports, the sponsor of many of the House bills says lawmakers wanted to build on last year’s successes with the SOL reforms.

 

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Parents of Slain Students See Jesse Matthew for the First Time

Jesse Matthew

Jesse Matthew

The parents of slain college students Morgan Harrington and Hannah Graham got their first look at the man they believe killed their daughters. Hawes Spencer reports.

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VA News for 3.2.15: Deer Hunting, Southern Virginia University Policies

VPAPnewA plan to bring deer hunters into an Albemarle County’s subdivision has neighbors at odds with one another…and a Virginia university that primarily educates Mormon students has been cleared of an anti-gay harassment accusation but told to institute some new policies. Those are 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. S

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March is Mediation Month

handshakeGovernor McAuliffe has named March “Mediation Month” in the Commonwealth, to honor the work done in courts and other resolution centers.  As Beverly Amsler reports, The Virginia Association for Community Conflict Resolution and the Virginia Mediation Network are promoting several free seminars during the month.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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House Republicans Outline Education Agenda

Credit: Creative Commons

Credit: Creative Commons

Ahead of next week’s start of the Virginia General Assembly Session, GOP lawmakers are rolling out new initiatives in public education.  And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, one reform is a revamped version of an unpopular law—which they say should be more useful to parents and stakeholders.  

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Bill Might Halt Handcuffs On School Kids

Dickie Bell

Delegate Bell spent the last ten years of his teaching career in Special Ed.

Last fall’s controversial handcuffing and shackling of a Greene County pre-schooler might have been prevented by a new bill that could soon make its way through the General Assembly. Hawes Spencer reports.

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Former Governor Sentenced: Two Years in Prison

Gov McDonnell by Anne MarieFormer Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has been sentenced to two years in prison for corruption. He’s due to report to prison by February 9th.

The judge’s punishment was far below the 10 years prosecutors wanted, but still more than the community service that  the former governor and hundreds of supporters asked for.

Speaking to reporters after the sentencing, McDonnell said he was a fallen human being.

But McDonnell reiterates that he never betrayed his oath of office.  He says he disagrees with the jury’s verdict, and his attorneys have already begin the appeal process with the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

McDonnell’s wife Maureen faces sentencing February 20th, after being convicted on eight counts of corruption.

You can hear his complete comments to the media following the sentencing.

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Former Governor Awaits Sentencing

September 2014, Richmond, VA

September 2014, Richmond, VA

When he’s sentenced tomorrow will a former Virginia Governor get a slap on the wrist with community service or a short time in prison for 11 corruption convictions—or will U.S. District Judge James Spencer sentence him to a lengthy stint behind bars?

Tommie McNeil reports, one analyst says it’s probably the latter, and it will be interesting to see whether Bob McDonnell will remain free as he appeals his convictions.

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A Look Back at Governor McAuliffe’s Political Year

McAuliffeIt’s been almost a year since former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe took office as Virginia Governor, and many agree is that he’s hit the ground running. But while McAuliffe is proud of the work he’s accomplished thus far, some say he’s tripping over some obstacles-either of his own making or from a GOP-led legislature. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil has more from the State Capitol.

 

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VA Lawmakers Hoping for a More Productive 2015

Image: Creative Commons

Image: Creative Commons

Virginia lawmakers are bemoaning the meager work accomplished in Washington in 2014. Capitol Hill reporter Matt Laslo has the story on how some lawmakers fear 2015 may once again bring stiff budget cuts that would hurt the state’s economy.

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Buena Vista: A City in Trouble

Tee (800x600)The City of Buena Vista has a loan payment due on January 15, a payment it does not intend to make. What will happen after that is unknown at present but one possible result is that local government officials and the police department will receive eviction notices. Fred Echols reports on a financial crisis in this Blue Ridge city of  7,000 residents that’s been in the making for more than a decade.

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Gov. McAuliffe Vows to Stick to Gun Control Measures

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Despite criticism from gun-rights advocates and GOP legislative leaders, Governor McAuliffe is not retreating on a package of gun control measures that he has proposed for the upcoming General Assembly session.  And as Tommie McNeil reports, the Governor ays this was one of his campaign promises, so no one should be surprised.

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