Archive for December, 2012
Governor McDonnell has been in the national spotlight for much of 2012, as a surrogate for former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, as Chair of the Republican Governor’s Association, and as a supporter of some of the more controversial bills that came out of the General Assembly session. In part 3 of our year-in-review series, Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports that the Governor hopes to build on recent achievements for his final year in office.
There’s still a lot of uncertainty about what lies ahead for Lt. Governor Bill Bolling now that he has decided not to run for Governor as a Republican next year, but he says as the state’s Chief Jobs Creation Officer, his responsibility in the final year of his term will continue to be boosting the state’s economy. But in part two of our year-end review Bolling not only reflects on the past three years in the McDonnell administration, but how he will address issues differently during the 2013 General Assembly session.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says while he’s looking forward to next year’s Governor’s race , there are several projects he started in 2012 that he must wrap up in 2013 before he can truly focus on what lies beyond the A-G’s office. In this first part of our year-end series, we look at those projects that will carry over into the new year and have an impact on the Commonwealth.
The families of the 20 children killed in Newtown, Connecticut might be re-victimized. Scammers could be looking to steal their child’s identity. That’s according to a Virginia police officer who has written a book on the subject. Beverly Amsler reports.
On this edition of “Virginia Conversations,” a special encore presentation of some of our favorite interviews since we first went on the air in August.
Join host May-Lily Lee as we hear once more from former Virginia Attorney General Mary Sue Terry, retired Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North and former Senator John Warner.
Fiscal cliff aside, the holidays do make it possible for politicians to forget about their differences and roll up their sleeves to help benefit their most needy constituents. A Republican Governor, a Democratic Congressman, and the GOP House Majority Leader recently did just that to help feed those who are most in need during the holiday season. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports.
Christmas is a huge secular and religious holiday in this country, but it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, the Puritans who landed at Plymouth Rock actually banned the celebration – imposing a fine on those who dared to celebrate. Sandy Hausman has details.
Less than three weeks before the start of the 2012 General Assembly Session, House Democrats have revealed what they believe will be one of the most pressing issues: the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act. As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, one goal is for the Commonwealth to transition from an exchange run by the federal government to a state exchange that allows many residents to shop for their own insurance policies.
Virginia lawmakers are playing a key role in the gun-control debate that’s been rekindled after the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Matt Laslo has the story.
Legislation to allow government advisory panels to expand the use of electronic meetings for official business is on its way to the General Assembly.
The Freedom of Information Advisory Council has recommended a revision to Virginia’s open-government laws that could potentially allow greater participation statewide and enhance efficiency. The distant meetings could only be held in plain view of the public, who would also be invited to attend.
While remote members of government bodies often take part by phone, the panel can’t act without a physical quorum in one place. The proposal allows STATE subcommittee or advisory panel members who are distant to help make a quorum and vote. Supporters say the panels would be more efficient, benefit from talented people who can’t travel, and provide local public events. But Craig Merritt said the Virginia Press Association prefers only a pilot program.
“Is the quality of interaction between the public and a public body the same—if there is no quorum or core group that is physically assembled for the public to see how people interact with each other, what their body language is, what their response is?”
Council Chair and Senator Richard Stuart countered that the change would not apply to full committees.
“A lot of these meetings will give you the ability to get up and speak and interact with the entire committee. We’re just talking about subcommittees that, in essence, would make a recommendation for us to then have a full debate on the issue.”
To allay VPA concerns, the bill would require audio-visual communication and expire in a year unless renewed.
-by Anne Marie Morgan
The U-S economy is mere weeks away from going off the so-called fiscal cliff. If it happens Virginia’s defense industry could be disproportionately affected, as Matt Laslo reports.
It’s been 150 years since Victor Huge completed his novel Les Miserables and 25 years since the Broadway show debuted. On Christmas Day, Hollywood will release a film based on the musical, and a professor at the University of Virginia is celebrating as Sandy Hausman reports.
Governor McDonnell has announced his proposed adjustments to the two-year state budget … and has revised his revenue forecast downward for a more cautious spending approach as the federal fiscal cliff impasse continues. The Governor made some modest cuts and spending increases, and said he especially wants to focus on education and transportation during the upcoming General Assembly session. But as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, not everyone agrees with those plans.
State regulators concerned with overfishing have cut harvests of Atlantic menhaden by 20%. The small fish was originally used by Native Americans as fertilizer. Now it’s used as bait and in numerous commercial products from cattle and fish feed to dietary supplements for humans. Pamela D’Angelo reports.
While Governor McDonnell was making an announcement about the first phase of an education reform package, a Task Force for Local Government Mandate Review was finalizing recommendations that could be part of the Governor’s next phase of reforms. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil has more from the State Capitol.
A Republican lawmaker has a plan to help GOP presidential candidates do better in Virginia and an anonymous blog is stirring things up at a small private college in the Commonwealth. Those newspaper stories were among the most popular this past week on Virginia Public Access Project’s Va News site at www.vpap.org. Fred Echols reports.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us, but you still have plenty of shopping days left. On this edition of Virginia Conversations with host May-Lily Lee, we take a look at how consumer spending is going so far for Virginia retailers, and get an idea on how they’re still hoping to entice you to hit the stores. Plus,advice on how to get the best deals and not get in over your head.
As part of a series of efforts to empower educators and reform schools in Virginia, Governor McDonnell is proposing that teachers and support staff receive a two percent pay increase—for the first time in five years. The Governor also would like to revise state policies to help recruit, retain, and reward excellent teachers.
The pay raises would become effective July 1 of next year—contingent on General Assembly approval of changes in the teacher contract and evaluation process. McDonnell also proposed strategic compensation grants for teachers, incentives for teachers in STEM-H subjects, and a potential revision in medical benefits.
“I’ve directed the Department of Human Resource Management to also evaluate the efficacy and the actuarial soundness of putting teachers into the state health plan,” said Governor McDonnell.
The Governor also introduced what he calls the “Educator Fairness Act,” which extends teacher probation from three to five years. It would define “incompetence” to include one or more unsatisfactory performance evaluations, and define the relationship between the evaluation and the contract. It also streamlines educator grievance procedures. In addition, the initiative includes creation of a Virginia Teacher Cabinet comprised of teachers who would provide input to the Governor, Secretary of Education, and State Board of Education.
Creative writing isn’t part of the curriculum at nursing school, but 37 students at the University of Virginia have compiled a book of essays on their experience – essays that helped them process powerful emotions and show outsiders what it means to be a nurse. Sandy Hausman spoke with some of the authors.
Environmentalists have long criticized coal for its impact on air quality, and a new report suggests there are economic reasons to eliminate government tax breaks for mining. Sandy Hausman reports that Virginia is giving coal companies more in tax breaks than it’s getting in taxes.
Virginia has been installing dry fire hydrants throughout the Commonwealth since 1988, but these devices which are vital to fire fighting efforts outside of urban areas, are still rather scarce, primarily because of limited state funds. As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports because state agencies and those who represent them are limited in how they appeal to the public for money, it may be up to residents of private developments in rural communities to secure additional funding for them.
The General Assembly’s watchdog agency has been analyzing the costs and benefits of providing state incentives that could help local governments collaborate. The regional partners could share staff, tackle construction projects, or jointly deliver services-and perhaps even alleviate some fiscal stress. Regional cooperation in several existing programs points the way to how it could work in others.
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission found that regional jails exemplify successful collaboration. The state reimburses half of a locality’s costs to operate a regional jail. That’s twice the reimbursement for a local jail-and costs localities about $23 less per inmate each day. Project Leader Tracey Smith said of 13 potential collaborative opportunities, six can benefit localities and produce state savings or advance state policy goals. She said one example is special ed-in cases where schools have needed private providers.
“Services in privately-run programs for students on the autism spectrum cost about $13,000 per year more than regional programs. We also looked at data on service costs for students with disorders falling under the emotional disturbance disability category. These services are about $6500 per year more expensive when provided by a private program versus a regional program, said Smith.
Other opportunities are career education, foster care, public safety communications, and pretrial services. The report recommended prioritizing state incentives for those programs.
–Anne Marie Morgan
All good cookbooks are storybooks too. A new one, featuring recipes from the Presidential residence at Virginia Tech, offers a look through the kitchen window of the Blacksburg mansion. Robbie Harris has more.
Online visitors to Virginia Public Access Project’s V-A News link during the past week were very interested in a couple of tax-related stories, one about taxes paid and another about delinquent accounts. Fred Echols reports.
You can find those stories and more at the VaNews link on vpap.org.
For many years, Northern Virginia school divisions have received extra funds from the state to supplement the salaries of their teachers and other school personnel. This “Cost of Competing Adjustment” was a source of contention during the last budget negotiations—in light of the state’s cautious fiscal policies since the nation’s economic downturn. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission is now examining whether that adjustment formula may be outdated.
A rite of passage for young adults is securing and maintaining their first job. It helps develop drive, independence, social skills, and a work ethic. But what happens when a young person continually has the door slammed in his face, even years after submitting his first application? As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, it’s happening more often right now in the Commonwealth and nationwide.
He used to be Governor of Virginia… he’ll soon be a U.S. Senator for Virginia… he’s also our guest on this edition of Virginia Conversations, with host Bob Gibson. One month after winning a seat in the Senate, Kaine discusses the challenges facing the 113th Congress. Also – his take on how the race for Governor is shaping up in Virginia.
The annual “AP Day at the Capitol” allows many of the stakeholders at the center of the most hotly debated state government topics to discuss very candidly where and why they stand on some issues—and do so before a large group of reporters. The subject of uranium mining kicked off events. As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, the panel included an environmentalist, a delegate who represents the proposed mining area, a uranium mining spokesman, and the National Academy of Sciences Chair.
Virginia Democrat Jim Moran is pushing a new proposal to modernize U-S elections, but the effort faces steep hurdles. Here’s more from Matt Laslo.
When state lawmakers convene for the upcoming General Assembly session, the issue of cracking down on texting while driving will be on the table. This after the Virginia Crime Commission recommended new language in state law that toughens the penalty for doing so. As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, the practical matter of how to define and classify “texting while driving” will also be deliberated.
Members of Virginia’s Unemployment Compensation Commission are weighing whether to endorse creation of a “shared work” program that could potentially benefit both businesses and employees during an economic slowdown. As Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the program would allow companies to reduce the work hours of their employees in lieu of layoffs, while allowing the affected employees to receive partial compensation for lost wages.
The “buy local” movement has taken hold nationwide, but it’s not always easy to find meat that’s raised and processed locally. Jonna McKone reports on two businesses hoping to tackle that problem.
Federal mandates to emphasize student growth when teachers are evaluated will not be met through Virginia’s current Standards of Learning testing program. That’s the verdict of a Salem City Schools superintendent who has implemented a new professional evaluation system known as “strategic compensation.” And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the Commission on Youth found that the system’s goals are to improve both instruction and student learning.
Sports fans in the Commonwealth are celebrating what they see as a big victory – persuading the Washington Redskins to stay in Virginia and build a training camp in Richmond. Sandy Hausman reports on who will pay for the $10 million facility and who’s complaining about it.