Archive for January, 2013
Legislation in the House of Delegate known as the “Tebow Bill” lives another day, but it barely edged by a floor vote Wednesday. This means that it still has an uphill battle when it goes before the chamber for a final consideration, and again if it makes it to the Senate. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil explains.
Today we may sometimes take for granted our rights of self-determination, equality and public consent to the laws of our land. But those legal tenets are relatively new and still somewhat rare throughout the world. A kind of movement has begun here in Virginia to remind people about the origins and scope of those rights and freedoms we now see as self evident, and inalienable. Robbie Harris prepared this report.
We’re now a state of 8.2 million, up 2.3 percent from the last census, and you’ll never guess the fastest growing city in the Commonwealth.
“Covington tops the list as the fastest growing locality.”
Chen Cai is with the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia. She says it might be due to a record-keeping error, or the city of
Covington may be going through a baby boom, with 120 births recorded last year, compared with 60 in a typical year. More people moved to cities than suburbs, and as usual, they go where the jobs are.
“More than 50% of the growth occurred in Northern Virginia, and almost all the growth occurred in the metropolitan areas.”
The arrival of people from other states and countries helped to offset a net loss in 64 communities where there were more deaths than births. That’s a reflection of an aging population and couples having smaller families. On average, the state is adding 100,000 people a year.
“Virginia’s still attracting people from other parts of the country, other parts of the world, and on average every year we add about 50,000 more due to natural increase – so about 100,000 births every year, and 50,000 deaths.”
Richmond is growing, along with Hampton Roads, Winchester, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg and Staunton.
— Sandy Hausman
Virginia families caring for loved ones with disabilities may now be eligible for some reimbursement, when they have to hire respite care. As we hear from Connie Stevens, the funds through the one-time voucher program are quite limited—but may make a big difference in reducing strain on full-time caregivers.
Experts say there are a million Virginians who lack health insurance, and under the Affordable Care Act, 400,000 of them could get coverage – but only if the state agrees to expand its Medicaid program. The federal government promised to pay the full cost of expansion, but the McDonnell administration refused. Now, Sandy Hausman reports that the situation could change if Washington is willing to play Let’s Make a Deal.
The Transportation Security Administration says it will remove most full-body scanners from U.S. airports by June – good news for a Charlottesville man who has been fighting them for the last two years. Aaron Tobey took the federal government to court, alleging the machines violated his constitutional rights. Sandy Hausman has more on his story.
Charlottesville is still talking about a bizarre event that took place over the weekend. A man walked into a grocery store with a loaded, semi-automatic rifle. Police were called but made no arrest, since Virginia law does not prohibit carrying guns in plain sight. Sandy Hausman has more on that story.
Virginia’s governors would be able to run for re-election under a state constitutional amendment that has passed the state Senate. If voters also approve, the change would begin with governors elected in 2017. But as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, not all lawmakers agree that it’s a good idea.
Inside politics at the General Assembly is the theme of two of the most read stories this past week at Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link at www.vpap.org. Fred Echols reports.
The most prestigious cooking competition in the world takes place in France this week. It’s the Bocuse d’Or, the Olympics of the culinary world, named for legendary French chef Paul Bocuse. And for the first time this year, America has a very real chance of taking top honors—all because of a chef right here in our neck of the woods. Connie Stevens introduces us to Chef Richard Rosendale of West Virginia’s Greenbrier Resort—head of Team USA at the Bocuse d’Or.
You can watch Team USA compete live, January 30 at 3:20 a.m. at: www.bocusedorusa.org.
Vice President Joe Biden says that one of the best ways to figure out how to curb gun violence and prevent more massacres like the Connecticut school shooting is to pick the brains of the leaders who guided Virginia through the nation’s worst mass shooting. As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, that’s why his first stop on a national tour was Richmond, where he met with U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, Congressman Bobby Scott, and some members of the Virginia Tech Commission that investigated the campus tragedy.
On this edition of “Virginia Conversations” we gather three Virginia authors to share their writing experiences.
Join host May-Lily Lee with guests Sheri Reynolds, Cathryn Hankla, and Kristen-Paige Madonia.
Hear what inspires their creativity, and the rewards and challenges of being an author.
The state Senate has advanced legislation that strengthens current domestic abuse laws, while also cracking down on gun violence. The measure sponsored by a Northern Virginia senator passed overwhelmingly. But as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, it was still met with some resistance on the Senate floor.
The House passed bill to extend the debt ceiling still leaves in place steep budget cuts that could hurt the economy in Virginia. Matt Laslo reports on the next budget battle looming before Congress.
Uncertainty prevailed over one of the few gun-control measures that actually made it to the floor of the Virginia state Senate. Initially the bill would have imposed a $250 civil fine if any weapon that was lost or stolen was not reported. But as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, a watered-down version was still met with opposition—in part, because of language that centered on the “assault weapons” debate.
Surviving victims of Virginia’s 20th-century program of forced sterilization could receive some compensation under legislation that’s been introduced at the General Assembly. The eugenics program was part of a scheme authorized by state officials from 1924 through 1979. As Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the bill’s sponsors say they hope to locate survivors—although they could never be adequately compensated.
Richmond is in an uproar today, after Senate Republicans staged a surprise move that could cost some Democrats their seats. Virginia’s constitution calls for redrawing state and congressional districts one year after the U.S. census is released, but Sandy Hausman reports on a move to redistrict the state again in ways that clearly favor the GOP.
Plans are in the works to harness electricity from wind off the coast of Virginia.
Large scale wind power has become common place in recent years. Now a team at Virginia Tech is looking to exploit another niche for windpower. Robbie Harris has this report on a team designing small-scale wind turbines for rooftops around the world.
Robbie Harris has more.
Parents who home school their kids are again Asking Richmond to let their students take part in after-school activities, including sports. Sandy Hausman reports on why some say that should not be allowed.
Democrats in the region are praising the ambitious agenda laid out by President Obama in his second inaugural address. Matt Laslo reports that the president will now be judged by the agenda he laid out.
The Virginia Department of Education spends thousands of dollars each year to develop resources for teachers, but a recent survey showed many of them didn’t know what was available. This week, Sandy Hausman reports that the state is launching a new service to keep teachers are in the loop.
Students at the University of Virginia have jumped into the debate over whether Rector Helen Dragas should be confirmed for another term on the board of visitors. Sandy Hausman reports on why they’re weighing in and what they had to say.
Ida Edwards of Petersburg, Virginia was picked as one of just eight citizen co-chairs for the inaugural events.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee chose eight Americans whose personal stories represent a policy President Obama is championing. Besides being an advocate for the president’s health care law, Edwards is also a bridge to a sad chapter in the nation’s history.
“I lived through the civil rights movement and that was a lot of experiences that I don’t want anyone else to have to go through.”
Edwards says the president’s story is inspiring for generations to come.
“And so you know he gives hope. I have grandchildren and great grandchildren, and I want everybody’s children to have the fair chance to realize their dreams.”
Edwards was here for the 2009 inauguration, but as a citizen co-chair she’s getting a closer seat this time…riding in the parade and even getting some face time with the president last week.
“I’m just so honored to meet him, and because of my parents never realizing or believing a black president – that we could have one – and then I get to be a part of it and be in the Oval Office with him. It’s overpowering.”
Two of the most read newspaper stories at Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link over the past week were about one elected official who chose to go his own way and another who finally joined the crowd – sort of. Fred Echols reports. You can find the VaNews link at www.vpap.org
All Virginia voters who are age 65 and older would be able to cast absentee ballots without providing a reason to justify doing so under legislation that has cleared the state Senate.
Some lawmakers and general registrars have been reluctant to support the so-called “no excuse” absentee balloting. The last presidential election was an impetus to chip away at that view.
Under current law, Virginians must provide a reason from an approved list in order to cast an absentee ballot—for example, that the voter will be away on business on election day. But the bill’s sponsor, Newport News Democrat John Miller, told the Senate that voting should be more accessible—especially for seniors.
“I’ve talked to a number of registrars who say a senior citizen will come in and request an absentee ballot, but cannot find an excuse that fits their circumstances, and we’re forcing those folks to lie.”
Virginia Beach’s Republican Senator, Jeff McWaters, agreed, adding that voting is especially difficult for those with disabilities—which was clear in the last election with its lengthy lines.
“And one of the particular issues with poll workers who had to go out to cars and buses to allow people who were not able to get out of their car or bus to go in and vote. It slowed the lines down. And in many cases, there were not enough workers at the polls to even do it, and voters had to go home.”
The bill passed the Senate on a lopsided 28 to 9 vote and now goes to the House.
-by Anne Marie Morgan
It may feel like the campaign’s just wrapped up, but the focus is already shifting to Virginia’s gubernatorial election, scheduled for later this year. Matt Laslo reports on what if anything the race says about the national mood.
Virginia lawmakers have finally addressed a topic that’s been a national focus for the last month. It took until the second week of the General Assembly session for legislators to openly discuss gun proposals. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, perhaps the biggest headliner is Delegate Joe Morrissey, who shook things up when he brought several assault-style weapons to the Capitol.
When Virginia artist Judith Godwin first arrived in New York more than 50 years ago, it was nearly impossible for a woman to earn her living as a painter, but Godwin was determined, and today her works are part of collections nationwide. She’s got a show at Virginia’s Museum of Fine Arts and an inspiring story to tell, as Sandy Hausman reports.
In this edition of “Virginia Conversations,” host May-Lily Lee talks with two cultural icons, both with ties to Virginia. Enjoy her interviews with world-renowned artist P. Buckley Moss and best-selling author Adriana Trigiani.
VDOT doesn’t need the General Assembly’s permission to place tolls in Sussex County along I-95, and that doesn’t sit well for some lawmakers and interest groups. So, they’re outlining a number of proposals to halt the transportation agency’s plan. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, the tolls may be supported by Governor McDonnell, but they have upset quite a few constituents.
For the first time, Virginia has cracked the top ten in one of those national lists – Richmond ranked number ten in a national pest control company’s list of cities infested with bed bugs, and Washington, DC was number eight. It’s expensive and difficult to get rid of bed bugs, but Sandy Hausman reports on a new approach tested by a doctor at Eastern Virginia Medical School.
It’s a new session of Congress but the same old battles persist. In the last session House Republicans passed bills to expand offshore oil and gas drilling but they sat untouched in the Senate. With Congress still divided Virginia Republicans are working to convince their Senate colleagues to take up a comprehensive energy bill, including wind. Congressman Rob Wittman says environmentalist’s fears are misguided about coastal drilling.
“I think that we can safely develop that off the Virginia shore, learning from what’s happened elsewhere to make sure we do that in an environmentally responsible way, but also do that in a way that helps the economy of Virginia and the long term energy security of this nation.”
The biggest roadblock for Virginia Republicans may be the president. His moratorium on drilling off Virginia’s coast is still in place.
— Matt Laslo
Within minutes of President Obama unveiling his new gun-control proposal, many Republicans rejected the plan in its entirety. Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran says the president needs to borrow a page from his own reelection campaign.
“You go back to the grassroots. You work from the bottom up, the people within individual congressional districts.”
Virginia Democrat Bobby Scott supports the president’s new measure but says the debate needs to be broadened to address tragedies that often don’t make headlines.
“Specifically we also have to make recommendations to address violence generally and that must be done with a comprehensive approach.”
Both sides of the gun debate are deploying lobbyists on Capitol Hill, and most aren’t expecting this Congress to make any drastic changes to the nation’s gun laws.
— Matt Laslo
A coalition of healthcare advocates insists that Virginia is missing a great opportunity to expand Medicaid to the uninsured while adding very little, if any, additional costs to the state. The members of “Healthcare for All Virginians” say they have a well-rounded plan that would extend benefits to 400,000 additional residents. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, they say it could also bring in billions of federal dollars and support 30,000 jobs.
University of Virginia Rector Helen Dragas is one step closer to keeping her seat on the board of visitors after a legislative committee voted Tuesday to send her nomination on to the full Senate, but the subject sparked some angry words in Richmond, as Sandy Hausman reports.
Much has been said about America’s political divide – about red, blue and purple states. Now, social scientists at the University of Virginia have identified four different kinds of families. Sandy Hausman reports they see the world very differently but have some important things in common.
The Virginia Senate’s Democratic Leader says he will introduce legislation this week to raise new revenue for transportation that will include increasing the state’s 17.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax. The bill would compete with Governor McDonnell’s proposal to repeal the gas tax and replace the revenue with a .8 percent sales tax increase. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, Democrats say the Governor’s bill won’t pass the Senate—and their plan is a viable alternative.
Even in northern Virginia, different counties have different election rules, so while some Prince William County voters saw four hour long lines on Election Day, voters in other precincts were in and out in minutes. Congressman Connolly’s legislation would expand early voting and let states apply for federal grants to purchase voting machines.
“Our bill is designed to try to have more uniformity in terms of the standards across the country, at least in federal elections. Not by mandating it, but by incentivizing it,” said Connolly.
But incentives from the federal government come with price tags and this Congress is looking for programs to trim, not expand. Connolly says the few billion dollars he wants to invest in elections are worth every penny.
“Whatever it costs, and it’s not going to cost that much, it’s well worth the investment. Otherwise we don’t believe in ourselves.”
Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner is pushing a similar bill in the upper chamber, but no Republicans have signed onto either.
The panel of three dozen experts on public safety, education, and mental health that was formed in the wake of the Connecticut school shootings held its first meeting in Richmond. The Governor’s School and Campus Safety Task Force plans to announce its first set of recommendations by January 31st. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the members went right to work examining current laws and security measures at the state’s public schools.
In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting there’s been more calls for increasing gun control on Capitol Hill. But Congress remains divided. That’s increasing speculation that Vice President Biden will recommend that the president use an Executive Order to address the issue. Virginia Republican Rob Wittman warns against it.
“Executive Orders need to be used in limited ways. I’m not certain on gun control issues that that’s the way to go about it. It needs to be a transparent and open process, the discussion on that. I am concerned anytime the Executive Branch circumvents the legislative process.”
So what can a divided Congress agree on? Virginia Democrat Jim Moran says there ought to be support for legislation like his “NRA Members’ Gun Safety Act.” It requires background checks for every gun purchase and prohibits anyone on the terrorist watch list from purchasing a gun, among other things.
“All of which are supported by two thirds of the NRA’s membership but adamantly opposed by the NRA’s leadership and its gun manufacturers who fund the leadership. That’s the problem.”
The Vice President unveils his recommendations Tuesday.
The most clicked stories this past week on V-A News at the Virginia Public Access Project’s website included a new twist in a story from a month ago and a sign of the times that you should pay attention to if you write online reviews. Fred Echols reports.
You can find the V-A News link at www.vpap.org
Virginia’s Governor has said it might be wise to put armed guards into public schools to try and prevent future shootings, but the head of the Virginia Education Association – which represents teachers in the Commonwealth – is skeptical about that idea.
“We’re certainly not in favor of arming our teachers. You know there’s a reason that prison guards don’t carry weapons, and that’s a very stark kind of contrast, but there is that danger if you have adults in a school building that are carrying weapons as to how well are they going to be able to control those weapons and keep them out of students or any other adults’ hands.”
Meg Gruber thinks many legislative proposals are desperate measure in response to New Town, and she believes armed guards would create a climate that’s not ideal for learning.
It’s a tough job market out there for a lot of people. But for military veterans. it’s even worse. Many are finding it difficult to translate the work they did in the service, into civilian jobs back home Robbie Harris prepared has more.
Virginia lawyers report a disturbing trend – a growing number of employers who fail to pay their employees. One company in Harrisonburg, Transprint USA, had withheld pay for more than three weeks. To make matters worse, Sandy Hausman reports that Virginia’s labor department says it is no longer able to help those workers get the money they’re owed.
House Democratic lawmakers say the state is going backwards when it comes to making it easier for citizens to vote. They say that although the Governor wants to automatically restore the rights of nonviolent felons, his caucus has introduced bills that Democrats believe are more restrictive this year. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, they say the legislation would repeal the advances that have been made to voting rights.
Each year, the Virginia General Assembly wrestles with a number of issues that make headlines. But lawmakers often complain that the news media disregard some of the topics that should have gotten more attention. So this year, Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil asked several state leaders and a political analyst what they think will drive the 46-day session now underway.
Virginia’s legislature is in session, and lawmakers are again debating restrictions on abortion and contraception. Demonstrators gathered at the statehouse for song, prayer and speeches as Sandy Hausman reports.
Virginia’s small farmers are applauding proposed legislation that would guarantee their right to market byproducts related to the crops and other food they’re cultivating. The Right to Farm Act was introduced in response to enforcement actions by Fauquier County against a local farmer, who was fined for allegedly violating zoning ordinances. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the bill’s advocates say many family farms will not survive if the state law is not clarified.