Archive for January, 2011

Synthetic Marijuana

A designer drug known as “Spice” that has been gaining popularity among teens and young adults would be outlawed under legislation that is working its way through the General Assembly.  The House and Senate bills are strongly supported by state lawmakers of both parties … who say they are responding to urgent appeals from constituents.   Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan has more from the State Capitol. 

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Services to Families

As state lawmakers ponder which services must be cut because of sluggish revenues, lobbyists will take turns trying to convince the General Assembly that their cause needs more funding than others.  But a consortium of family-care and business leaders says cutting funds for services that provide help to needy families jeopardizes the well-being and future of the Commonwealth.  Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil has more from the State Capitol.

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Secret Ballots

The House of Delegates has advanced legislation that would require a secret ballot for organizing labor unions at Virginia businesses.  The bill was prompted by so-called “card check” Congressional legislation that would allow potential union members to sign labor-related paperwork publicly.  Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil has more from the Capitol.

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Jobs Plan from Democrats

Senate Democrats have unveiled a plan to create and enhance job opportunities in Virginia.  They say the 9-point “Our Jobs Now” package is even more aggressive and comprehensive than Governor McDonnell’s proposal.  Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil has more from the State Capitol.

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Assembly Conversations: Transportation

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton discusses the Commonwealth’s transportation issues. Join host Tom Graham as we explore the many transportation issues now before state lawmakers.

Download Assembly Conversations for January 25, 2011 here.

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Laid Off Senior Workers

The AARP of Virginia is calling for changes in state law that would allow seniors who collect Social Security—but have been laid off from their jobs—to receive full unemployment benefits.  That’s not been the case since last year… when Virginia’s Unemployment Trust Fund’s solvency level dipped below 50%.  Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan has more from the State Capitol.

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Tolls & the Transportation Plan

Roads are crumbling, congestion is increasing, while the state budget is shrinking.  Governor Bob McDonnell has requested permission from the federal government to toll I95 at the Virginia border to help pay for road repairs. At a recent National Transportation Planning Board meeting, tolls on Interstates 95, 295, 395 and Route 66 were suggested as part of a long-range plan.  Across the Commonwealth, tollbooths are being considered as the way to fix and improve our roads.  Virginia Public Radio’s Sondra Woodward reports on the demise of the free ride.

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Payday Lending Interest Caps

Consumer advocates and 99 local governments in Virginia are calling on the General Assembly to cap the interest rates on payday lending.  Several lawmakers have also introduced legislation that would limit interest on similar, open-ended consumer loans.  Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports from the State Capitol.

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Energy Production

A coalition of renewable energy stakeholders is calling on the General Assembly to vigorously support cleaner, sustainable energy resources like solar, wind, and biomass. The leaders of these industries say they are here in Virginia …and ready to expand, create jobs, and help the state become a national leader in energy production.  Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil has more from the Capitol.

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HPV Vaccination Debate

A bill to repeal a controversial Virginia law that requires young girls in the public schools to receive Human Papillomavirus vaccinations is moving forward in the House of Delegates.  But, as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, the debate even pits caucus members and medical professionals against one another.

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Celebrating Django Reinhardt

It was 101 years ago this week that pioneering jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt was born to a family of Romani gypsies. He would go on to invent a jazz guitar technique that is now a living musical tradition. In fact, in Virginia, devoted fans of Reinhardt are actually calling this month ‘Djangoary.’  Virginia Public Radio’s Connie Stevens has more.

Note: There are Djangoary events scheduled for January 22 at Ashland Coffee & Tea outside of Richmond, and January 29 at Kirk Avenue Music Hall in downtown Roanoke.

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Menhaden Fish

It’s too cold to fish at this time of year, but the subject is sparking hot debate in Richmond. Virginia Public Radio’s Sandy Hausman reports on why some lawmakers are making a big deal over one little fish.

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Education Funding

Virginia education groups and localities say the state is reneging on its constitutional obligation to assure that all kids in Virginia get a decent education …..and they are calling on the legislature and Governor McDonnell to reinvest in K-12 public schools. More specifically, the groups want funding restored to Kaine Administration levels, a solidified 3% salary increase for teachers, and the removal of a requirement that educators pay an additional 5% toward their retirement.  Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil has more.

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Assembly Conversations: Join the Journalists

One week into its 2011 session, the Virginia General Assembly is settling down for business. Long-time Virginia political reporters Bob Lewis of the Associated Press, Chelyen Davis of the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star, and Christina Nuckols discuss the session with host Bob Gibson.

Download Assembly Conversations for January 18, 2011 here

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Right to Work

The House of  Delegates has given preliminary approval to legislation that would enshrine Virginia’s right-to-work law in the state Constitution … but the resolution sparked the most lengthy floor debate so far this session.  Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan has more from the State Capitol.

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Virginia’s Hunting Heritage

The Department of Fish and Wildlife reports a 20% decrease in hunting license sales in Virginia over the last decade. Those license fees support many of the state’s conservation lands.  And that means less money is available to maintain them.  Grayson Chesser is a duck decoy carver and hunting guide on Virginia’s Eastern Shore who is concerned about Virginia’s hunting heritage.  Jesse Dukes has more.

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Legislation Proposed to Change Mortgage Practices

Constituent complaints about rushed foreclosures and confusing interactions with banks have prompted bipartisan legislation to change mortgage-related practices in Virginia.  And, as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, state lawmakers have discovered homeowners and localities often don’t know who owns the mortgages.

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Transportation Plan

Governor McDonnell still intends to push for privatizing state liquor sales to raise transportation revenue. However, his plan’s new components include issuing more than a billion dollars in direct GARVEE bonds and accelerating nearly two-billion dollars in previously authorized transportation funds. But, as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, a portion of his plan isn’t being well received by Senate Democrats.

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Taxing Smokers

Some lobbyists and lawmakers are commending Governor McDonnell for addressing the rising costs of health care and putting more money into Medicaid for low-income Virginians.  But the same people are also criticizing him for allocating what they say is too little … AND his refusal to raise taxes on products that contribute to tobacco-related illnesses.  Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil has more from the State Capitol. 

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Assembly Conversations: The Session Begins

In the first in our new series of “Assembly Conversations,” host Fred Echols previews the 2011 Virginia General Assembly.  He’s joined by former lawmakers Charles Hawkins and Chip Woodrum, as well as public opinion researcher Harry Wilson.

Download Assembly Conversations for January 11, 2011 here

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Uranium Mining in Virginia

Uranium mining is potentially big business in Virginia. There’s so much uranium underneath the state’s Piedmont region that 30 years ago mining leases were granted in four counties –Orange, Madison, Culpeper and Fauquier  –  and exploration was underway all along the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge. That got enough people upset that the General Assembly was persuaded to put a moratorium on uranium mining in 1982, a ban that’s never been lifted. A company called Virginia Uranium wants to change that so it can recover billions of dollars worth of the mineral in Pittsylvania County. As Virginia Public Radio’s Fred Echols reports, that’s something environmentalists say would open the door to mining operations across the commonwealth.

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Start of the Session

The 2011 Virginia General Assembly convenes Wednesday for a short, 46-day session. And although lawmakers will consider a few thousand bills, many believe money and the state budget will again dominate the session. Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports from the State Capitol.

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Tea Party in Virginia

Members of Virginia’s Tea Party say they had an impact on November’s elections…so now they’re taking their cause to the General Assembly.  And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, they’ve rolled out a state legislative agenda that mirrors their federal priorities.

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Virginia’s Wine Industry

Artist Christopher Mize: "Make Mine Virginia Wine" #1

Agriculture and forestry remain Virginia’s dominant industries … generating  $79 billion in revenue and a half-million jobs each year.  The McDonnell Administration says that’s why it has proposed an aggressive plan for the upcoming General Assembly session to promote land preservation and international trade.  But, as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, expanding Virginia’s wine industry is a top priority of that agenda.

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Tribute to the Tribes

For generations, Virginia’s Capitol grounds only housed statues of the founding fathers and historical figures of European descent.  Although that has changed in recent years, there’s still no recognition of Virginia’s indigenous tribes.  But, as Tommie McNeil reports, a panel charged with correcting that omission says it’s a challenging task to tell the tribes’ stories.

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Healthcare Debate

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has updated lawmakers on the status of the state’s lawsuit against the federal mandate requiring most Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.  He told the Joint Commission on Health Care that he still anticipates rounds of appeals following Virginia’s victory in U-S District Court… but says the Commonwealth’s case will not rest solely on what happens with those. Tommie McNeil has more from the State Capitol.

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Commission on Energy & Environment

A legislative panel that advises the General Assembly on energy issues has recommended a wholesale revision of Virginia’s incentive program to promote the manufacture of clean energy.  But as Anne Marie Morgan reports, there was one issue that the Commission on Energy and Environment did not completely resolve.

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Gang Crime in Virginia

Late last year, Governor Bob McDonnell announced the formation of a new committee to help state and local law enforcement get a grip on street gangs.  McDonnell warned that gangs now threaten the safety of Virginians everywhere, but no one knows how many gang members are at large in the Commonwealth or how dangerous they really are, and Sandy Hausman reports that tough anti-gang laws may be doing more harm than good.

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Heavy Load on the Road

As Virginia lawmakers grapple with how to fund transportation maintenance, some say that part of the solution might be recovering the costs of repairing bridges and pavements damaged by overweight vehicles. So members of the Joint Commission on Transportation Accountability have been weighing whether those costs should be borne by industries instead of the taxpayers. Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan has more from the State Capitol.

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Gang Crime in Virginia

Late last year, Governor Bob McDonnell announced the formation of a new committee to help state and local law enforcement get a grip on street gangs.  McDonnell warned that gangs now threaten the safety of Virginians everywhere, but no one knows how many gang members are at large in the Commonwealth or how dangerous they really are, and Sandy Hausman reports that tough anti-gang laws may be doing more harm than good.

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