Archive for February, 2012

Budget Impasse

No one seems to know how to strike a compromise, but for now, localities cannot base their budgets on state funds because of a stalemate in the Virginia Senate.  The chamber’s Republicans say this is uncharted territory in the history of the Commonwealth.  As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, that’s because Senate Democrats who are insisting on power-sharing have defeated both House and Senate versions of the budget.

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Assembly Conversations:Your Tax Dollars

The Virginia General Assembly is in the process of writing a new two-year state budget and striving to complete its business by March 10th. On this episode of  Assembly Conversations,  a discussion on how your state dollars are being spent. Host Bob Gibson is  joined by Senators Tommy Norment, a Williamsburg Republican, and Donald McEachin, a Richmond-area Democrat.

Part One:

Part Two:

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Ultrasound Abortion Mandate Passes Virginia Senate

The state Senate has approved a House bill to require an ultrasound before a woman undergoes an abortion.  As Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the legislation that passed the Senate was revised to exclude some patients.  

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Living Wage Hunger Strike

The University of Virginia’s president met with several students Monday, Feb. 27th, on the 10th day of a hunger strike – demanding higher wages for the lowest paid employees at UVA.  The protestors say it takes $13 an hour to support a family of four in Charlottesville, but some contract workers are getting less than $8 an hour.  Sandy Hausman has more on that story.

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National Governors Association Meeting

Virginia Republican Governor Bob McDonnell is in Washington trying to protect the state from federal budget cuts while also calling for deep spending cuts.

Proposals are floating around Congress to cut funding for the Metro system in northern Virginia and other transportation projects throughout the state.

Governor McDonnell says the federal government needs to cut spending…just not in those areas.  “In strapped budget times when infrastructure needs far exceed the resources that the states have, we certainly don’t want to see those cuts.”

McDonnell says while defense and infrastructure must be maintained, the president ought to lay out a vision for the nation that includes spending cuts in other areas and entitlement reforms.   “I realize that we’re broke. I don’t know how else to say it. We’re $15 trillion in debt; in another month we’re going to be $16 trillion in debt.”

Virginia Democrats have been asking McDonnell to oppose the House Republican’s highway bill because they say it would mean the state would lose more than $360 million in transportation funding.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is the head of the Democratic Governor’s Association. He says McDonnell and other Republicans ought to push back against the far right wing of their party.

“The extreme of the Republican Party has kind of taken over – it’s now steering. The moderates in the Republican Party are silent and don’t speak up, including some of the more moderate Republican governors here who don’t speak up and push back against it,” said O’Malley.

The governors have been in D-C through the weekend for the National Governors Association winter meeting.

–Matt Laslo



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Voter Identification

Both houses of the General Assembly have advanced bills to require Virginia voters to cast provisional ballots instead of official ballots if they cannot produce identification at the polls.  Each chamber has previously passed its own version of the bill.

The House amended the Senate bill to enable local boards to compare provisional ballot signatures with those on file.  The Senate revised the House bill to require provisional voters to supply an ID by fax, e-mail, mail, or in person to count those votes.  Senator Chap Peterson did not like any version but said the House bill was better.

“If somebody came in and signed a document that they could match that up with the signature on file, much as when you negotiate a check—so at least there was a self-correcting mechanism that didn’t require a whole new visit to the polls or to the registrar’s office by that voter in order for their vote to count,” said Peterson.

Senator Mark Obenshain said comparing signatures might not prevent fraud… and the bill allows many types of IDs to confirm identities, including all government-issued cards.

“Any valid student card, any valid employee identification card, a copy of a utility bill, a copy of a bank statement, a government check, or a paycheck,” said Obenshain.

The Senate passed the bill, but it now must go back to the House and won’t head to the Governor unless the difference is resolved.

–Anne Marie Morgan

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PolitiFact: Gas Prices

Oil industry experts are predicting a rise in gasoline prices in the coming months, something Republicans are hoping voters will hold against President Obama and other Democrats in the fall. George Allen has brought gas prices into his campaign for the senate in Virginia. and one his claims has sent the fact checkers at Politifact Virginia into action. Fred Echols reports.

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Alicia’s Law

Every year, Alicia Kozakeiwicz  travels to Virginia from her home state of Pennsylvania for the same purpose: to ask lawmakers to fund “Alicia’s Law.” Each time she recounts her emotional story of abduction and captivity at the hands of a sexual predator whom she met online. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, once again, she asks why?

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Virginia’s ‘Personhood’ Bill Halted

The Virginia State Senate has voted to send the controversial “Personhood” bill back to committee—essentially killing it for this legislative session.  The lawmaker who advocated sending the bill back to committee is one who supported the measure initially.

The legislation had narrowly passed the Senate Education and Health Committee earlier in the morning following a contentious hearing.  Later, as the bill was considered by the full Senate, Republican Senator Tommy Norment broke ranks with his caucus and asked his colleagues to reconsider the bill:

“I listened to presentations from Constitutional lawyers, to OB/GYNs, to doctors from the Jones Institute, and so I rise in support of the motion because under rule ’20-J’, it can be recommitted to the committee with the direction at the discretion of that committee to take additional evidence in consideration during the year. And I think due to the importance of this bill that that probably is the most appropriate way to handle it,” said Norment.

Other members of Norment’s caucus also sided with the motion to send it back to committee with a 24-14 non-partisan vote.  

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Assembly Conversations: Open Government

On this edition of Assembly Conversations from Virginia Public Radio, a discussion about open government in Virginia. Without knowledge of what public officials are doing and how they’re doing it, it’s impossible for Virginians to know how well their government is performing. There are laws in place that ensure public access to much of the governing process but not all. And in some cases existing laws have been less than effective. You’ll hear what the General Assembly is doing – and not doing – about making government more transparent on Assembly Conversations.

Here’s host Melinda Wittstock with guests Megan Ryhne with the Virginia Coalition on Open Government, and Ginger Stanley from the Virginia Press Association.

Part One:

Part Two:

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Private Adoptions

Legislation to add a conscience clause to the state law on adoptions placed by private organizations has passed the Virginia Senate and is now on its way to the Governor’s desk.  The bill would also prohibit the state or localities from denying the private agencies any contracts because they object to some adoptions on religious grounds.

Under federal law, state-funded adoption agencies are prohibited from denying child-placements based on race, color, or national origin.  Virginia allows adoption by single adults of any sexual orientation and married couples, but not same-sex-couples.  Senator Frank Wagner said the bill protects the religious expression of faith-based organizations.

“It deals with those private child-placing agencies under contract to the Department of Social Services for child-placing—and conscience clauses within thereabout—not forcing them to go against their consciences,” said Wagner.

Under the bill, a private agency would not be required to counsel or assist in placing a child for adoption or foster care if it violates the agency’s written religious or moral convictions.  Bill opponent Senator Mark Herring said agencies that contract with the state should make decisions based on the best interest of the child.

“We had 5,327 children in our foster care system. And each and every one of those children ought to expect that we are doing everything we reasonably can to find the best home for them based on their own individual needs, not the needs of the placing agency,” said Herring.

If signed by the Governor, the bill would take effect July 1st.

–Anne Marie Morgan

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Virginia Lawmakers Weigh in on Federal Budget

President Obama’s newly released budget includes many sweeteners for Virginia lawmakers but also some pain pills for the state. Matt Laslo has this overview of the budget from Washington.

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Budget Controversy

This is the week when the full Virginia Senate and House of Delegates begin voting on their competing versions of the state budget.  Committees in both chambers passed their amendments to the two-year spending plan introduced by Governor McDonnell—and some provisions are quite different.

The House panel unanimously approved its spending plan, but no Democrats voted for the plan passed by the Senate committee. Since the Senate bill needs 21 votes to pass, and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling cannot vote on it, a “no” vote by all 20 Democrats would kill it.  Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw implied that his caucus will insist on concessions:

“There’s some things that need to be worked out, you know—budgetary-wise, politically-wise, everything-wise. But absent zero-changing, there won’t—probably won’t—be a Senate budget,” said Saslaw.

He would not confirm if they’re asking for a power-sharing deal.  GOP Senators say they’ve made concessions, such as rejecting the Governor’s plan to use some of the sales tax for transportation.  But the Senate could also kill the House bill—which would leave the state with no budget.  And unlike a decade ago when a deadlocked Assembly left the Governor to adjust the budget, House Majority Leader Kirk Cox said no budget would exist to adjust.

“Whether it’d be higher ed, K-12, and health, etc., I hope those folks that are affected by those budgets understand what happens if a budget doesn’t go through.  That directly, obviously affects them,” said Cox.

–Anne Marie Morgan



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PolitiFact Takes on Lightbulbs

Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall rarely takes kindly to mandates from Washington, and he’s definitely not happy about the Obama adminstration’s decision to ban the use of incandescent light bulbs in favor of CFL’s, compact fluorescent lighting. One of Marshall’s claims about CFLs has gotten the attention of Politifact Virginia dot com, as we hear from Fred Echols. 

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Private School Scholarship Funds

Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling cast another party-line vote—this time to break a tie on one of the bills in Governor McDonnell’s education agenda.  The legislation provides tax credits for businesses that contribute to a private-school scholarship fund.   The Senators debated whether or not it would provide an unfair advantage to one segment of the population.

Under the bill, businesses could receive tax credits for donating to nonprofit groups that provide education-improvement scholarships. Those would enable students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches to attend nonpublic schools. Senator Walter Stosch argued that private institutions can meet student educational needs where public schools fall short.

“I’m absolutely convinced it is the step up for a lot of young kids who are either disabled or poor, who would have no other choice without something like this,” said Stosch.

But some argued that it violates the state constitution by drawing funding from public schools. Senator Janet Howell said rather than abandoning public schools, the state needs to reinvest and bring them up to the same standards that helped her family overcome great challenges and succeed.

“If this were a sincere effort to help children, there would be tax credits as well for corporations who are giving to public foundations to public schools,” said Howell.

The tax credit is 65% of the amount donated with a $25-million state cap.  The law would expire in three years.

–Tommie McNeil


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Education & the State Budget

House Republican budget-writers are responding to claims that they’ve done nothing this session but focus on social-issues bills.

House Appropriations Chair Lacey Putney said his panel has made funding education and restoring money to the retirement system top priorities.

It provides $578-million for education, including $46-million for reducing class sizes and additional funds for early reading intervention. But Virginia Education Association President Kitty Boitnott says the state has chipped away at both education and teacher retirement for too long, and the damage is already done.

She says with many of the state’s best teachers eligible for retirement soon, the state has to do more than just get by… and at least bring teacher pay up to the national average, while providing better incentives and classroom tools.

–Tommie McNeil

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Mercury Paper: Part 3 of 3

Virginia’s Governor and Lieutenant Governor are crusading for a surprising cause – writing letters to retail chains, asking them to keep buying toilet paper and paper towels from a Virginia company accused of turning rainforest trees into cheap paper products.  Sandy Hausman reports on why this controversy may concern Republican politicians.

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Mercury Paper: Part 2 of 3

One of the fastest growing paper companies in the nation is here in Virginia, in Strasburg, along I-81, but two environmental groups are urging customers not to buy from Mercury Paper, because its raw materials come from a Chinese firm that’s cutting down rainforest.  Sandy Hausman reports on who’s buying that claim, and how Mercury Paper is fighting back.

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General Assembly Crossover

Half of the Virginia General Assembly session is over.  And now that each chamber has forwarded its surviving bills to its counterpart, legislative groups are drawing lines in the sand over who lost focus this session, and what bills should be sent to Governor McDonnell.

Virginia has recently been in the national spotlight for the “personhood” bill.  But Republicans say social issues are only about 2% of what’s passed. Speaker Bill Howell says, unlike the Democrats who proposed $2-billion in tax increases, Republicans stayed the course and sponsored laws for the greater good of the whole state:

“Over the last several weeks, we’ve been working very hard on our agenda–our caucus priorities of jobs and education, and government reform, and public safety,” said Howell.

But Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus—all Democrats— says Republicans have infringed on the rights of women, the working poor, and minorities.  Senator Yvonne Miller says the state can not function well without raising taxes, and the GOP has imposed unfair tolls on the working class in Hampton Roads.

“So we’re running a hoax and a game on people in Virginia by saying we are using a ‘user fee’ but it IS a TAX, and it is an unjust tax on the poor,” said Miller.

Caucus members say they’re outnumbered but will remind colleagues of their duty to do what’s best for ALL, not one constituent group.

–Tommie McNeil



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Assembly Conversations: Public Safety

On this edition of Assembly Conversations–  a program on public safety in Virginia. From changing the rules that govern concealed weapons to having officers check the immigration status of people stopped for traffic violations, the General Assembly is considering a long list of bills that would affect law enforcement and the public’s safety.  Here’s host Bob Gibson and his guests.

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Mercury Paper: Part 1 of 3

The World Wildlife Fund issued a surprising plea last week, asking consumers to take care when buying toilet paper.  The organization says a Virginia firm and its sister company are destroying rainforest to make a cheap paper products, as Sandy Hausman reports.

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Eminent Domain & Compensation

Proposed amendments to the state Constitution to clarify when governments can take private property in Virginia have passed each house of the General Assembly.  But companion legislation to redefine the “just compensation” that’s given to property-owners in cases of eminent domain has also advanced.  State lawmakers are concerned about how to make the law tough enough to be fair to property-owners.

The constitutional amendment makes clear that land taken for public use cannot be for private gain—and payments to owners must be for its true value, lost profits, and lost access to nearby property.  Two House and Senate bills define those terms.  Some lawmakers were concerned that these conditions could result in a multi-million dollar fiscal impact.  But bill sponsor and Senator Mark Obenshain said that’s only fair when you consider schools, roads, and other projects.

“Why on earth should that property-owner alone bear the burden of the losses occasioned for the benefit of the community in general?” asked Obenshain.

But bill supporter Senator Chap Peterson was concerned it might not be fair to small-business owners who don’t report profits on their tax forms.

“This thing needs some work because right now it is screwed down so tight that the small businesses I represent in Fairfax County—they’re never going to recover,” said Peterson.

All of the measures still must cross over to the opposite chambers for votes there.  If the constitutional amendment passes, voters will have the final say in November.

–Anne Marie Morgan


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Cuts to the Safety Net

Virginia is one of the 10 richest states in the country, but it ranks 23rd in the number of people who don’t have health insurance.  When it comes to state payments for poor children and families on Medicaid, Virginia ranks 48th.  As a result, many doctors refuse to treat them.  Often poor patients turn to one of 59 clinics in the state known, collectively, as the safety net, but some of those clinics could be forced to close as Sandy Hausman reports.SafetyNetCuts.

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The Loving Story

For Valentine’s Day, HBO will show a new film about a Virginia couple who broke the law by getting married.  Sandy Hausman reports on their case and why it made history.

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Teacher Contract Legislation

Public school teachers would gradually transition from continuing status to more limited term contracts under legislation that has passed the House of Delegates.  Bill supporters say that it is needed to improve education accountability.

The bill had required annual contracts for all teachers but was revised so that teachers with continuing contracts can retain them.  But new teachers would be on probation for five years, then be eligible for three-year contracts.  Principals and teachers would be evaluated each year.  Delegate and teacher Kirk Cox said this is essential to improve education.  He added that everyone has known bad teachers who weren’t fired, including this example.

“I taught next to one teacher who, seriously, would let the kids do whatever they wanted to do.  He told them that if an administrator walked in, you turn to page 400 in your book and you pretend like you’re working,” said Cox.

But Delegate Kaye Kory said the bill removes decisions from locally elected officials. She criticized the timing of evaluations, then firing teachers in June—after they could have transferred in April.

“This is not the way to retain or attract good teachers.  This is the way to drive them out of Virginia,” said Kory.

The bill, which is part of Governor McDonnell’s education agenda, now heads to the Senate.

–Anne Marie Morgan

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DNA Proves Wrongful Conviction

In 2005, when DNA analysis had become a routine part of criminal investigation, the state’s crime lab announced it had evidence in hundreds of cases that had never been tested.  Governor Mark Warner ordered a spot check of 15 cases.  In two of them, someone who had been convicted was found to be innocent, so Warner said all of the samples gathered between 1973 and 1988 should be reviewed.  Today, lawyers with the Innocence Project say it’s not clear how many tests have been done, how many people have been cleared and whether they’ve been notified.  Sandy Hausman has more on that story.

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Juvenies on Virginia’s Sex Offender Registry

The Virginia Senate has approved several bills that send a message that the state is getting tougher on crime.  Those include legislation to give repeat drug dealers much more time in prison and to increase penalties for exploiting elderly or incapacitated adults.  Most of the criminal justice bills that moved forward Friday did so with little debate.  But  a bill to get tougher on juvenile sex offenders did cause a stir before senators adjourned for the weekend.

Under Senator Bill Stanley’s legislation, any juvenile over the age of 13 who’s convicted of a sex crime must be placed on the sex offender registry.

The measure passed by a wide margin and now heads to the House of Delegates.

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The Marshall Expedition (originally aired April 12, 2012)

This year marks the 200th  anniversary of the Marshall Expedition, an important event in the history of Virginia commerce.

Andrew Shaw and his six-man crew from Lynchburg are setting out to re-trace the expedition in a flat bottomed boat, called a batteau.  They worked together to build the 43-foot wooden boat that will carry them up nearly 360 miles of waterway. They’ll travel up the James River from Richmond, through the Allegheny Mountains, and downriver to the Great Falls of the Kanawha in West Virginia.

They’re backed by a National Geographic Young Explorer’s Grant, which Shaw says allows them to retrace Chief Justice John Marshall’s 1812 expedition– a little-known river survey that proved essential to Virginia’s economic growth.

Roger Nelson, President of the Virginia Canals and Navigations Society, says the survey was done in support of George Washington’s plan for westward expansion. “That was his vision, to build this canal system that linked the Eastern Seaboard with the Mississippi River Valley. He could envision the riches that lay out there,” says Nelson.

John Marshall and his crew of about a dozen commissioners journeyed up the James River and through the mountains to see if this canal system could actually be completed.  They made their month-long voyage with a boat designed just for the task– a batteau.  Poling the boat up and down the river, the crew essentially transformed the Piedmont from a rough frontier to a thriving agricultural region.

Today’s crew will primarily use the tools of Marshall’s time, spending much of their journey upstream, through rocks, swift water and rapids. To follow the progress of the Mary Marshall and her crew, you can check out their blog at

–by Kelley Libby

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Fact Checking & Public Schools

Over the past few years the Virginia General Assembly has made some adjustments in the state’s financial support for Standards of Quality in public schools. Those changes have drawn some sharp criticism from some quarters, especially from the Virginia Education Association, and that’s why Politifact Virginia has been checking on them this week. Fred Echols reports.

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Private Adoption Legislation

Two Senate Democrats prevented a split party-line vote and helped pass a bill that opponents say infringes on the right of gays and lesbians to adopt children in Virginia. The conscience clause, which now moves to the House, would prevent a private agency from being forced to place a child in foster care or adoptive home if the agency believes the placement would conflict with its written religious or moral convictions.

The Senate spent two days debating the legislation and proposing amendments. Senator Adam Ebbin, who is openly gay, argued prior to the vote that passing this bill is a step to the far right–and ultimately, the wrong direction.

Ebbin and several other senators asked their colleagues to vote against the measure. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Jeff McWaters, countered that the conscience clause protects the religious rights of private organizations.  He also said the bill is consistent with current Virginia and federal law and does not change current state policy, but simply codifies it.  Senators Charles Colgan and Phillip Puckett were the only two Democrats who voted for the bill.

–Tommie McNeil


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Ignition Interlock Systems

A bill that cracks down on drunk driving has more momentum now that both Governor McDonnell has weighed in and there’s bipartisan support in both houses of the General Assembly.  The legislation to place ignition interlock systems on vehicles for a first DUI offense has failed in previous years.

The House has previously supported the measure but the Senate had rejected it.  This year, identical bills are carried by Republican Delegate Salvatore Iaquinto and Democratic Senator Donald McEachin.  The legislation requires someone convicted of a DUI with a blood alcohol level of .08 up to a .15 to keep an ignition interlock device on their vehicle for the sixth months that they have a restricted driver’s license for the first offense.

One change allows a driver who believes he’ll be convicted of drunk-driving to pre-qualify for the interlock device rather than wait for a trial and potential backlog from the device manufacturer. Bill opponents say it’s just too tough on first-time offenders.

–Tommie McNeil

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Assembly Conversations: Transportation

On this edition of Assembly Conversations a discussion of the all-important transportation issues confronting this year’s General Assembly. Lawmakers have been wrestling with the dilemma of how to fund pressing infrastructure repair and maintenance as well as new roads for congested areas, without taking money away from other needs and local programs. Here’s Libby Fitzgerald and her guests.

Part One:

Part Two:

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‘Tebow Bill’ Advances to Final Vote

Homeschooled students may have an opportunity to join public high school sports or other interscholastic teams under legislation given preliminary approval by the House of Delegates.  The bill would still allow school divisions to set strict eligibility requirements …but many of the state’s 32,000  homeschooling families say they would like the chance to try.

Schools would be prohibited from joining organizations such as the Virginia High School League which do not allow homeschoolers to participate in athletic or other competitions.

The bill stipulates minimum eligibility rules and allows schools to charge fees.  House Education Committee Chairman Bob Tata warned that homeschoolers could take some slots now filled by public school students.

“The superintendents, the principals, and the school boards of Virginia are all opposed to this particular bill.  I think that we really need to think through this.  We’re not ready for this type of incursion into our school system,” said Tata.

But Delegate Bob Marshall said homeschooled students are counted in the census to set taxpayer-funded allocations for school districts.

“So what the Virginia High School League is saying is: ‘We want your money when it comes to bringing it in.  We just don’t want to honor you and recognize you as a beneficiary of the money that we’re exacting from your parents’ pockets,’” said Marshall.

The bill is informally named after pro football quarterback Tim Tebow, who was homeschooled.

–Anne Marie Morgan



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Repealing One Gun Per Month

A similar bill has already passed the House of Delegates, but now the state Senate has approved legislation to repeal Virginia’s law that limits the purchase of handguns to one per month.   As Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the bill’s passage in the previously skeptical Senate means the two-decades-old policy will almost certainly be eliminated.

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George Huguely: CharlottesvilleTrial Logistics

Jury selection began Monday, February 6th  in the trial of George Huguely, the University of Virginia lacrosse player who’s accused of killing his girlfriend, Yeardley Love.

Charlottesville’s communications director, Ric Barrick, knew there would be big interest in this case when a preliminary hearing brought nine satellite trucks to town.  He says 17  are now expected along with 150-175 reporters:

“Part of that crowd will include NBC, CBS and ABC, the Morning Show, 20/20, Dateline, several court TV shows as well as ESPN,” said Barrick, and aknoweldges there isn’t enough room for all those reporters, family and friends of the defendant and his alleged victim:

“It’s a relatively small courtroom, and the defense and the prosecution have asked for at least three rows, which leaves us with about 20-30 media and about 50 public seats.”

The city has set-up a satellite feed to a nearby building, where reporters and members of the public can watch the case on TV.  Aside from that feed, no cameras will be allowed in the courtroom, and reporters will not be allowed to take cell phones or audio recorders inside.  Planners will also try to shield the defendant from view as he enters the courtroom on day one.

Outside, Barrick says, traffic is likely to be a problem with reporters, lawyers, police, sheriff’s deputies, and the public converging on courthouse square.

All of this is contained in a 15-page media plan issued by the city after consulting with Chesapeake, where the DC sniper Lee Malvo was tried in 2003.  When this trial ends, Barrick says, Charlottesville will be happy to share its media plan with other cities facing high profile trials.

–Sandy Hausman

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Debate Over Abortion Bill

Virginia’s House of Delegates moves another abortion bill forward after contentious debate.  The legislation repeals state funding for poor women who opt to terminate a pregnancy after learning that the child would be mentally or physically incapacitated.

Delegate Jennifer McClellan said this is not a bill that sends a message to promiscuous women who have an abortion because they don’t want a child but, instead, it cuts funding for those who DO want children but are advised of undesirable circumstances after birth”Let’s be real. That child will then become the financial burden of everybody,” said McClellan.

Delegate Joe Morrisey told the House GOP that it’s the type of overreaching Governor McDonnell warned against last month.

“When I say I’m pro-life and I’m Democrat, I’m proud of both, but Mr. Speaker, with this bill, the majority party has gone too far,” said Morrisey.

But Delegate Mark Cole said the bill merely conforms state law to longstanding federal policy.  He said it’s not about the lawmakers, but their constituents.

“You start a charity instead of reaching into the tax payers’ pockets and forcing people who think this is morally wrong to pay for something that is against their conscience.”  Cole added that it does not ban abortions, but shifts the financial burden to private entities such as Planned Parenthood who could choose to foot the bill.

–Tommi McNeil

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PolitiFact Virginia: Gun Legislation

 Virginia Congressman Jim Moran can often be found at the center of the debate over federal gun legislation. Politifact Virginia-dot-com has checked out one of the Democrat’s recent claims about gun violence. Fred Echols reports.



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The Castle Doctrine

Homeowners in Virginia will soon have further protections against being sued in the event they use deadly force during a home invasion. The expanded “Castle Doctrine” will now head to the House after overcoming its greatest hurdle in the State Senate by a comfortable margin.

The bill’s sponsor, Senator Richard Stuart, admits this measure does not absolutely prevent a person who kills an intruder with a firearm or other deadly force from being sued, but it does deter most trial lawyers looking for a big payday.

“If this statute is codified and it’s very clearly a defense to that suit, there are very few lawyers who are going to take these cases on a contingent fee knowing they’re not going to get paid,” said Stuart.

But Senator Creigh Deeds argued that this is simply a jury instruction during a lawsuit, it aggregates current common law, and deceives homeowners into believing they cannot be sued should they use deadly force.

“He is leaving a world of discretion up to an individual court to decide what’s left, if anything, of the common law with respect to defense within curtilage and the common law with respect to self defense itself,” said Deeds.

Another bill related to the use of firearms streamlines the process to obtain concealed-carry permits by eliminating the need for fingerprinting.  The bill passed the Senate by a comfortable margin and without discussion.

–Tommie McNeil

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Handgun Purchases

Both the House and Senate have advanced legislation to repeal a law that limits how many handgun purchases a Virginian can make each month. If the measure succeeds in its final vote in the Senate, former Governor Doug Wilder’s signature “One-Handgun-A-Month” law, which has been on the books for  nearly two-decades, will meet a near-certain end when sent to Governor McDonnell.

The bill has passed the House.  During debate, Delegate Joe Morrisey argued that repealing the law opens Virginia up to black market firearms-trading that will help drug addicts to feed their addiction.

“He will go into a place and he will buy nine or 10 glocks, or 357’s, or whatever.  Not making it up but it is what happened 20-years ago. And we will return to the days where we are the gun capitol of the South,” said Morrisey.

Delegate Scott Lingamfelter countered with three points. He first said the law has been obviated by the passage of many exceptions—including thousands of concealed carry permit-holders.

“Data point number two—the technology exists today, and it’s good folks, and I can show you how good it is–where the State Police and the ATF have actually intercepted many people who have tried to buy firearms in violation of the law,” said Lingamfelter.

He also said it’s about the right of law-abiding citizens to buy as many guns as they choose. Although Governor McDonnell supported the limit as a Delegate, he has said he’ll side with those who want it repealed.

–Tommie McNeil

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Assembly Conversations: Bolling as Tie Breaker

The Virginia General Assembly continues to work through hundreds of bills and coming up with a new two-year budget. And for this session, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling is casting some tie-breaking votes in an evenly divided Virginia Senate. Bolling joins host Bob Gibson  as our guest on Assembly Conversations  to answer your questions about the General Assembly, politics and public policy.

Part One:

Part Two:

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