Archive for March, 2013
We’ve got just the remedy for you – with two gardening experts taking listener questions.
Host May-Lily Lee talks with Peter Hatch, who spear-headed the restoration of Thomas Jefferson’s garden at Monticello, and Les Parks from the Norfolk Botanical Garden, which is celebrating its 75th year.
A day after presumptive Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe made a statement about his desire to implement Medicaid expansion, Governor McDonnell and McAuliffe’s GOP opponent have responded. McDonnell says he’s not caving in to the pressure to implement the expansion without reforms… and has submitted budget amendments to require those changes. As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says the Governor is doing the right thing.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has pledged to pay the full cost for additional Medicaid recipients and will scale back to paying no less than 90% after that.
There are still eight long months before Virginians head to the polls to choose a new governor, but Quinnipiac University’s Peter Brown expects the race to about as tight then as it is now. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, that may have a lot to do with candidate identity—or the lack thereof—when it comes to Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
If you’ve been saving photos, notes and videos to your favorite social media sites and are counting on them to be there indefinitely, think again. As Sondra Woodward explains, the Web may not the best place for storing the record of your life.
Governor McDonnell has signed two bills into law that require more rigorous oversight of Virginia’s voter registration rolls. He also signed a third law to require voters to present photo IDs at the polls, which would take effect in 2014.
This month, a former Maryland congressional candidate, Wendy Rosen, pleaded guilty to voting illegally in Maryland in two elections. She had also voted in Florida. A new Virginia law will make it harder to vote in two states, says the bill’s sponsor, Delegate Rob Bell.
“The only way to find out if someone has left Virginia and moved to Mississippi is for Mississippi and Virginia to work together. There’s about 25 states that are willing to cooperate. We will now add ourselves to that list so we can work with them.”
A second new law mandates routine checks to identify felons on the rolls. The third law requires voters to use photo IDs at the polls and requires the state to provide free IDs to those who don’t have them. It also removes some forms of ID used last year, such as utility bills.
The photo ID law will now undergo Justice Department review.
In a written statement, “Progress Virginia” said the law makes it harder for many Virginians to vote by requiring a special ID. It also said the requirement that voters travel to a registrar’s office to obtain a new ID is an unnecessary and costly burden on low-income voters.
While Democratic candidates for statewide office have been circulating petitions to get on the primary ballot, their Republican counterparts have been criss-crossing Virginia, attending scores of mass meetings. Their intense process of winning local voters doesn’t slow down until the end of April—but as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, it won’t really be over until the GOP state convention.
Many of the old farmhouses being targeted are used only during the summer by visitors or migrant workers who harvest and pack produce.
State Police spokeswoman Sgt. Michelle Anaya said the arsons happen at night and neighbors live a mile or more away from each other making it difficult to see anyone suspicious.
Much of the evidence is either burned or washed away by fire hoses. But investigators do have the beginnings of a profile.
Sgt. Anaya says this person or persons are very familiar with the territory; they are very familiar with the abandoned buildings.
Mysterious fires in eastern Virginia and police cameras that read license plates by the thousands have been in the news lately. Newspaper stories about both were among the past week’s most clicked on Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link. Fred Echols reports.
VaNews is a free public service of the Virginia Public Access Project and can be found at vpap.org.
Forty-three localities nationwide, including Newport News, have “banned the box.” That means they have eliminated job applications that ask if a person has been convicted of a felony.
Some who sit on Richmond City Council want to join those localities.
As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, they’re hoping that the measure could eventually be introduced as statewide legislation across the street at the State Capitol.
Host May-Lily Lee talks with Mayor Paul Fraim of Norfolk – home of the world’s largest navy base… and ground zero for the impact of the Washington impasse. Also, we have an update from the White House correspondent for the McClatchy Newspapers and from a Virginia school superintendent.
Virginia lawmakers concede that it may be impossible to create and amend laws that crack down on the ever-changing illegal drug trade, but they’re determined to be as proactive as possible to deter it and prosecute those behind it. The latest effort is the signing of legislation by Governor McDonnell that expands the list of chemicals that are being used to make synthetic marijuana—and that criminalizes making and selling those compounds. As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, the bill is a reaction to the drug manufacturers who’ve been trying to skirt the law.
The youngest and the oldest people in our communities sometimes find themselves marginalized. Often they are seen in terms of what they take from society, because of what they cannot yet do, or what they can no longer do. Robbie Harris has this report on what these book end generations are doing together.
Safaris in Africa remain a popular choice for travelers in search of adventure, but they’re expensive and often require vaccinations and medications to guard against life-threatening disease. Now, a British company is offering something it believes will sell just as well – setting up headquarters in Virginia and selling trans-Atlantic travelers on an American Safari. Sandy Hausman has more.
The annual County Health Rankings & Roadmaps lists Fairfax County as number 1, followed by Loudoun, Arlington, Albemarle, and York Counties. Meanwhile, Henry, Dickenson, Buchanan, and Tazewell Counties were at the bottom followed by the city of Petersburg, which had the least healthy residents.
All 133 Virginia localities listed in the report were measured on the length and quality of life as well as health factors. Bob Hicks from the Virginia Department of Health, says the rankings haven’t changed much over the four years the study has been conducted.
“Between the social and economic factors and the access, I think we keep seeing the same sort of problems in Southwest and Southside Virginia that we need to get more facilities out there that people have access to.”
But money for more clinics can be a challenge, no matter where in the Commonwealth they would be located.
“Some of our poor areas want to attract more economic development. And they find the corporations, the companies that want to come to these areas are looking for a healthy workforce. So there’s a willingness to maybe sometimes invest in some of these changes that can be made to try to change and improve the health of the workforce.”
Hicks says the report is a tool to spur dialog in the communities and to create or continue programs for promoting good health.
The ACLU and the Libertarian Party have teamed up against Virginia to block a state law that requires candidate-petition circulators to be residents of the Commonwealth. A federal judge has already ruled in favor of the ACLU-Libertarian position. But as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, ACLU attorneys believe if the state wins this appeal, it could prevent third-parties from gaining ground in the Commonwealth.
One of the bills that Governor McDonnell has signed into law revises the rules that allow an offender who was wrongly convicted to prove that he’s innocent of the crime. The measure chips away at the state’s longstanding 21-day rule, which gives an offender only three weeks after a final order of conviction to bring new evidence to the court which could prove he’s not guilty. As Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the new law simply changes the standard that a defendant must satisfy to be exonerated.
Producing a book in the 21st century is no easy job, unless you decide to publish yourself, but a Waynesboro woman has found her niche and is now writing the fourth of seven books commissioned by a prominent publishing house. What’s more, she’s up for a national award as Sandy Hausman reports.audio https://virginiapublicradio.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/prerollaggie.mp3%5D
You can hear more from Molly Bryan during the Virginia Festival of the Book. She’s on panels meeting this week in Charlottesville.
Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is investigating the mysterious deaths of four bald eagles found on the Eastern Shore.
Like a detective eliminating suspects Dr. Megan Kirchgessner, the vet investigating the deaths said one autopsy shows no smoking gun, literally.
“The one eagle that I necropsied I did not see any evidence of gunshot or trauma. I sent two intact eagles to one laboratory and we still have a fourth one in the freezer in case we need any extra samples,” she said.
A fifth immature eagle was recovered alive. The Wildlife Center of Virginia found the bird had ingested metal fragments and treated it for lead poisoning.
“He’s doing quite well. He arrived at the Wildlife Center a little bit depressed, dehydrated a little bit thin. But eating really well, and has been moved to an outside cage,” said Kirchgessner.
Kirchgessner said the bird offers no clues as to what happened. But the answer may be in lab results.
Scott Rigell was one of the first Republican lawmakers to sign onto gun control legislation. The bill he supports increases penalties on people caught trafficking guns. That did not sit well with the National Association for Gun Rights which put up ads in Rigell’s district saying the Republican wants to “pass Obama’s gun control.” Rigell says that’s an utter distortion.
“There’s no infringement whatsoever. The bill is very narrow in scope. It’s good legislation, so I’m glad I sponsored it.”
But the attack ads show how much pressure is on Republicans, and even Democrats, to keep the nation’s gun laws unchanged. But Rigell says he has no regrets.
“Well I certainly knew that there was some risk in standing next to my Democratic colleagues as a Republican on this issue, but there’s risk in doing what one thinks is right.”
Rigell also notes that he opposes universal background checks and banning assault weapons.
-by Matt Laslo
Jay Leutze got his law degree from the University of North Carolina, but he decided not to practice. Instead, he moved to his family’s cabin on Yellow Mountain in the Roan Highlands – an area famous in geological circles for its grassy balds.
“They’re open pastures. We believe that they were kept open by wooly mammoths, then bison and elk, and then when European settlers came in, they were kept open by grazing cattle.”
He planned to hike, fish and write novels, but a real life story caught his ear when crews began cutting down trees across the valley to make way for a massive surface gravel mine – a facility that would blast and crush stone 24 hours a day. A permit had been issued without a single public hearing, but Leutze wasn’t sure anything could be done, until he got a call from a neighbor.
“She informed me that she had evidence that the mine owner was violating the Mining Act of 1971, and she asked me to meet her the next day, and that’s when I learned that she was a 14-year-old child. She was being raised by her Aunt Ollie and her Uncle Curly, and her Uncle Curley had given her a dial-up Internet connection for her birthday, and what she uncovered led to one of the great cases in regulatory history.”
Leutze also got help from Southern Environmental Law Center, based in Charlottesville, and because the mine could be seen and heard from the Appalachian Trail, its superintendant stepped in.
“When the Department of the Interior sent Pam Underhill into Avery County at one of these public meetings, it’s like time stood still in our little county. That the federal government was in the house to urge the state of North Carolina to revoke the permit — it was incredibly powerful!”
Opponents of the mine also used the Internet to reach hikers around the world.
“The most public comments that had ever been received in writing by this department on a mining permit was twelve. We submitted 3,650 public comments, and we basically shut down the state of North Carolina division for about three months.”
During a four-year battle to save their mountain, Leutze got to know and respect his neighbors – in particular Ashley’s aunt. He was so taken with her intelligence and humor, that he began his book with a description of Ollie Cox.
“The story of the Southern Mountains is told in her face. The crepe soft skin is laid over stone hard bone. She is as white as February snow, but her blue eyes smoulder.
I ask her, ‘Where did they come from-your father’s people?” I want to hear about her ancestors – the Cherokee side and the Scotch-Irish kin, the old timers who came here to hide or scratch dirt or seek a wage felling timber. I want to hear about her wire thin Appalachian grandmothers who walked these steep ridges, these wildflower slopes, but she can’t call it up. Either she can’t remember or she won’t.”
“She only shakes her head softly. ‘Son, you ain’t mountain. I’m mountain. That’s all the hell I am, and you wouldn’t never understand.’ She is right, but I will try.”
He succeeded so well that a publishers’ bidding war broke out over his book – Stand Up That Mountain, a memoir that ends with a victory in court. In 2004, the Putnam mine was closed, and when its owners asked to mine gravel at a site six miles away – beside the Blue Ridge Parkway – the state told them to take a hike.
About 1.7 million Virginians rely on wells, springs and cisterns for their drinking water. While municipal water supplies are tested daily under the Safe Drinking Water Act, people who rely on wells and springs are completely responsible for the care and maintenance of their water supplies.
The Montgomery County Water Clinic is Tuesday March 19) at the Blacksburg Recreation center.
Here is a list of the counties where water clinics are happening over the next 6 months: New Kent, Pittsylvania, Goochland, Hanover, Floyd, Montgomery, Shenandoah, Halifax, Mecklenburg, Roanoke, Pulaski, Powhatan, Albemarle, Charlotte, Frederick, Lunenburg, Nottoway, Warren, Charles City, Franklin, Rappahannock, Botetourt, and Clarke.
Just a few days after marking Virginia’s “Freedom of Information Day,” the state Council that advises the General Assembly on open-government laws met to review its previous legislation and also plan for the upcoming year. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, a number of bills related to the Freedom of Information Act passed during the recent legislative session—but not all were Council recommendations.
A new report from the University of Virginia shows some dramatic changes in the way Americans live, with nearly half of first births occurring out of wedlock and a tendency by couples to marry in their late rather than early 20’s. Sandy Hausman has details.
While there’s another threat of a government shutdown on March 27 unless the U.S. Senate and Congress reach some type of compromise, members of Virginia’s Congressional delegation say some progress is being made. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, there’s even a possibility of reducing the impacts of sequestration on Virginia.
On this edition of Virginia Conversations, it’s income tax time… and there are changes you need to know about. For example, if you’re expecting a refund from the state you won’t be getting a paper check anymore. Our panel of tax experts explains what’s new on the federal and state forms. Join host May-Lily Lee for Virginia Conversations.
Conservatives from across the U-S are at the convention center at National Harbor for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Matt Laslo is there and reports that Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli kicked off the event.
Some of the state’s most influential people delivered a special message at the Virginia Mentoring Partnership luncheon: “Do something greater than yourselves.” As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, the participants and the keynote speaker, Governor McDonnell, stressed that mentoring is one of the most efficient means of securing a better future for the state and its residents.
Virginia is in the process of closing its state centers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In 2012, the commonwealth reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice on the Americans with Disabilities act. It helped spur a movement that began decades ago to people out of institutions and into private homes, where they could receive the most compassionate, least restrictive care. Robbie Harris has more on the story.
One of the last things a locality wants to hear about is yet another unfunded mandate. It may cause the locality to scramble for resources, cut essential personnel, and do more with less. Members of the Governor’s Task Force for Local Mandate Review say one of the best ways to provide some moral and financial relief to localities is to put a moratorium on mandates. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, although passage of such a bill failed during this past General Assembly session, they’re optimistic that similar legislation will pass in the near future.
Bolling said an Independent’s greatest challenge is fundraising—and that even with a winning message, a win is not possible without the resources to effectively communicate that message. Bolling estimated that he would have had to raise at least $10 – $15 million —made more difficult without party resources and donors.
He said he was confident that he could raise enough money to run a competitive campaign, but not confident he could raise enough to run a winning campaign. Bolling added that his decision was influenced by a growing dissatisfaction with Virginia’s current political environment, where the process, he said, has become much more ideologically driven, hyper-partisan, and mean-spirited—with agendas placed ahead of sound public policy.
Bolling wished presumptive gubernatorial nominees, Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democratic Terry McAuliffe, well in their campaigns, and said he would return to the private sector.
— Anne Marie Morgan
A bereaved father is calling on Governor McDonnell to sign legislation that would allow parents to have access to their deceased minor child’s on-line and social media accounts, such as Facebook. Service providers had rebuffed the Nottoway dairy farmer when he asked them for help after his son died in 2011. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, he also hopes the new state law will inspire federal legislation.
On the two-year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, anti-nuclear demonstrators rallied outside the Richmond headquarters of Dominion Virginia Power. The protestors say the Fukushima experience shows that the risk of disaster at nuclear facilities is far too great to keep operating them. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, they’re calling on Dominion to close its North Anna and Surry nuclear power stations—and instead use wind, solar, and other renewable resources.
A recent lawsuit that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli won against the EPA over its stormwater regulations has drawn attention to the challenges inherent in curtailing stormwater runoff. During the General Assembly session, state lawmakers took steps to address the problem. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, they included legislation to strengthen oversight of nutrient-management and more funding to localities for water quality improvement.
Many localities are required to adopt strategies to limit the total maximum daily load of nutrients that flow into water. It’s an additional burden to already cash-strapped localities with limited personnel. So, Senator Emmett Hangar sponsored a bill to consolidate oversight of water quality planning and laws for stormwater management, erosion, and sediment control programs. The Department of Environmental Quality will be the lead agency.
All of this comes at a hefty cost to the state and localities, and Governor McDonnell says lawmakers saw the urgency in finding the money:
For now, other agencies will share some responsibilities with the DEQ.
The two top contenders to be governor of Virginia talked about the weather last week while a Republican delegate decided he’d seen enough of politics. Both those stories were among the most clicked on Virginia Public Access Project’s Va News link. Fred Echols reports.
VaNews is a free public service of the Virginia Public Access Project and can be found at vpap.org.
You can watch the progress of other animals and follow the bald eagle NX at wildlifecenter.org.
Governor McDonnell says the state’s strongest economic driver is doing better than ever. While the Governor is still concerned about the jobs that may take a hit due to sequestration, he says the increase in agricultural jobs does provide a silver lining.
The Governor announced that Virginia has reached a new all-time high of $2.61 billion dollars in agricultural exports in 2012. That shatters the old record by 12%. And agricultural exports, which include forestry products, have also grown in value by roughly 17% since 2010.
He says the export growth is the result of several trade missions over the last few years, including one to Asia.
And soybeans are now the top export, followed by wheat, corn, barley and other grains. Pork and poultry come in at third, followed by leaf tobacco.
The Governor says Canada is now the state’s second largest trading partner, with Morocco, Switzerland, and Turkey trailing. He adds that his administration has also been strengthening relations with Saudi Arabia and Cuba.
On this edition of “Virginia Conversations” we track down two young people who found themselves in the national spotlight several years ago: Starchild Abraham Cherrix – the Virginia teen who went to court over his fight for alternative cancer treatment…And Callie Conley – one of the two babies accidentally switched at birth back in the 1990’s. Where are they now, and how are they doing.
Over the last few weeks, Governor McDonnell has been scrutinizing 812 bills sent to him by the General Assembly. Among them is a package of legislation to penalize “possession with the intent to distribute” a legal product. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, its goal is to stop the traffickers of contraband cigarettes, who’ve made millions of dollars while the Commonwealth loses revenue.
The federal government’s role in the use of drones inside the U.S. may be expanding, but state lawmakers have put the brakes on deploying them within Virginia’s borders. Legislation that’s now under review by Governor McDonnell would place a moratorium on state and local use of drones. The unmanned aircraft could not be deployed for two years—while parameters and safeguards are studied.
Concerns that drones could violate rights and invade privacy prompted an alliance between the state ACLU and lawmakers to put drone deployments on hold—at least temporarily.
“I want to live in a world much more akin to that that was envisioned by our Founding Fathers than one that was envisioned by a gentleman named George Orwell. And I think we’re rapidly approaching a time in our history where this type of technology is so pervasive that we could very well lose what we think of as our privacy rights,” said Delegate Todd Gilbert, who sponsored one of the bills.
He said the initial plan was not for a moratorium.
“We were trying to develop a framework by which we could allow law enforcement and regulatory agencies to use this technology in a way that was not an invasion of privacy. And I think a lot of the law enforcement elements did not want anything but the unfettered use of this technology, and that gave us great pause. So we decided to go with a moratorium.”
Exceptions are made for searches and rescues, Virginia Guard training and emergencies, Amber or Senior Alerts—or Blue Alerts when police officers are in danger. But the drones cannot be weaponized.
–Anne Marie Morgan
Owners of hybrid vehicles in Virginia are letting Governor McDonnell know what they think of one provision of the new transportation bill and a lawmaker from Hampton Roads is retiring after 30 years in the General Assembly. Those are two of the most read newspaper stories at Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on vpap.org.. Fred Echols reports.
VaNews is a free public service of the Virginia Public Access Project and can be found at vpap.org.
Each year, half a million people in this country have knee replacement surgery, and by 2030 that number is expected to reach three million. After surgery, you might expect those patients to be more active and to lose weight, but a study by Virginia Commonwealth University suggests the opposite is true – and that could spell trouble for the nation’s long-term health as Sandy Hausman reports.
Prosecutors and public defenders in Virginia are paid by the state, but on average, lawyers who work for the Commonwealth’s Attorney make 25% more than lawyers who defend the poor. Now, Sandy Hausman reports that one public defender is asking for a raise, and others may follow suit.
When the average tourist thinks about historic Virginia cities to visit, one of the most popular destinations is Colonial Williamsburg. It’s not the only destination where one can take in a history lesson, but some of the others have endured an economic slump and are not always popular tourist destinations. But, under a bill heading to the Governor, some of these areas could get an economic boost without imposing extra taxes on the localities or getting more funding from the state.
Richmond and Petersburg are just a few Virginia cities with significant historic value, but some sections seem to have been abandoned and left to deteriorate. They’re not even appealing to the residents who live in those sections and are often etched out of the travel itineraries of would-be travelers. Delegate Rosalyn Dance of Petersburg says her vacant- building bill will, in several ways, help restore her city and those like it.
“To let us raise registration fees considerably as well as put penalties on those folks like absent landlords that are not taking care of their properties. So that we can be compensated for what it costs us to track them down and make it happen, to make them feel a little bit better and hopefully to be able to remove for us and Petersburg like over 233 red-tagged buildings,” said Dance.
Those penalties would increase the annual registration fee on the owner of a derelict building from $25 to $100. The civil penalty for failing to register that building increases from $50 to $200 and from $250 to $400 if that building is in a designated conservation or rehabilitation district. Dance says ultimately, the goal is to boost tourism. She adds that 15 such Virginia cities could benefit from this bill.
On this edition of “Virginia Conversations,” the topic is school security. It’s being discussed from PTA meetings, to the General Assembly, and around kitchen tables everywhere.
Host May-Lily Lee talks with guests from two organizations representing school principals and superintendents, a Police Chief, and a member of the Governor’s Task Force on School Safety.
Officials in Virginia are bracing for the impact of the federal budget cuts that start trickling down. Matt Laslo reports that lawmakers in the commonwealth disagree about what should be done with the sequestration.