Archive for January, 2014
In this edition of the program, a word or two about the new words of our lexicon. Host May-Lily Lee talks with Virginia lexicographer Anne Soukhanov.
A number of Virginia school systems are supporting a “year-round” school year despite some resistance to the concept by some groups. As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, proponents admit that while it may not work for all school systems, they believe it’s essential to boosting academic achievement, especially in districts with socio-economic challenges.
The vision President Obama laid out in his state of the union address this week is being met with suspicion by Virginia Republicans. But Matt Laslo reports Democrats in the commonwealth say his agenda would spur job creation.
Plenty of people spend at least part of their time at college sleeping through class, but at Washington and Lee University, students have the chance to enroll in a course where they’ll learn why. Sandy Hausman reports on Clocks and Rhythms – a study of human biology and time.
A coalition of faith-based groups says its members have been betrayed by Attorney General Mark Herring, who they say has gone against the will of the people by fighting to overturn Virginia’s gay marriage ban approved by voters just eight years ago. As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, the groups want Herring to be impeached, step down, or assign a special attorney to represent the state in the related court case.
In his State of the Union address President Obama said he’s prepared to bypass Congress when necessary, which made Virginia Republicans bristle. Matt Laslo has the story.
There was a lot in President Obama’s State of the Union address that would impact the commonwealth, but he’s already meeting resistance from Virginia Republicans. Matt Laslo has the story.
The certification of the election of former Delegate Lynwood Lewis to the Virginia Senate ultimately gives Democrats control over that chamber. Although its partisan split is now 20-20, Democratic Lt. Governor Ralph Northam presides over the Senate, giving his caucus the tie-breaking vote to pass whatever rules it chooses. As Tommie McNeil reports, the order of business today was all about Democrats subtly making a statement about control.
The most recent figures indicate population growth in the state has slowed– but the Commonwealth still outpaces the nation. Connie Stevens reports on the annual population estimate from the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia.
House of Delegates GOP leaders have announced that they will not vote to expand Medicaid—if at all—until after a comprehensive, outside audit of the state’s program is conducted. They say they want to find out why Medicaid has become the most expensive item in the General Fund budget … and why 30 percent of the Commonwealth’s healthcare spending goes to waste, fraud, and inefficiencies. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, they believe it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to find out what’s wrong with Medicaid and fix what’s broken.
New enrollment data on the number of Virginians signing up on the federal health exchange is raising concerns the Affordable Care Act is unworkable – and the concerns aren’t just coming from Republicans. Capitol Hill reporter Matt Laslo has the story.
The Virginia General Assembly weighs in on what a body of water on the other side of the world will be called…and a legislative setback for people who want to sell prepared foods from home. Those stories have been among the most clicked over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on vpap.org . Fred Echols talks with David Poole.
The request follows last week’s decision by Attorney General Mark Herring, not to defend the constitutional amendment, that makes same sex marriages illegal in the state.
32 delegates, including one Democrat, drafted and signed the letter delivered to McAuliffe’s office last Friday, although according to the Washington Post, the governor was not in his office and has yet to read the letter.
McAuliffe had been a supporter of same-sex unions during his campaign, but has yet to formally respond to Herring’s decision. A McAuliffe spokesman says the governor will continue “to uphold his responsibility to execute the laws on the books.”
In a separate attempt to fight Herring’s decision, Republicans in the House Courts of Justice Committee, approved a bill giving the General Assembly the right to intervene and hire counsel when the governor or attorney general declines to defend Virginia law.
According to the Post, it is unclear whether the proposal could become law quickly enough for lawmakers to hire counsel for the federal case.
That hearing is scheduled in a Norfolk Federal Court on January 30th.
Former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen were released on their own recognizance in court today—and now await a July trial on federal corruption charges.
At today’s bond hearing, a federal magistrate ordered them not to leave the country, and not to try the case in the media.
They were indicted earlier this week on 14 counts, following an investigation of their relationship with wealthy businessman, Jonnie Williams. Prosecutors allege the McDonnells accepted gifts and loans from Williams, and in return, helped him promote his company.
McDonnell has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
Tommie McNeil reports.
It’s been a big week at the State Capitol, from the federal indictments against Governor McDonnell and his wife…. to Attorney General Mark Herring’s announcement that he will not defend Virginia’s ban on gay marriage. In this episode, host May-Lily Lee talks with James Madison University Professor Robert Roberts and Jeff Shapiro with the Richmond Times Dispatch. They also discuss the top issues facing the Virginia General Assembly.
He hasn’t been on the job for two full weeks, and Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring is already shaking things up. While he doesn’t surprise anyone by sticking to his campaign pledge of fighting for marriage equality, he does strike a chord on all sides by saying that Virginia’s legal position has shifted. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, Herring says he will use his office’s resources to join a lawsuit challenging the state Constitution’s provision that upholds traditional marriage.
If you’re tuned in to this station right now, we can probably assume you’re a fan of radio. Listening to radio, that is.
But for the 800 or so members of the Mid-Atlantic Antique Radio Club, or MAARC …when it comes to radios, it’s all about fixing them, cleaning them, restoring them, and collecting them. Rebecca Sheir has the story.
Rebecca Sheir is the host of “Metro Connection” on WAMU 88-5 in Washington, D-C.
The Virginia State Senate has approved legislation that expands the rights of a person petitioning for a protective order and puts an alleged abuser on the hook for costs associated with some of the victim’s needs and costs. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil has more details from the State Capitol.
The 14-count, 43-page federal indictment details how the couple accepted more than $135,000 in gifts, loans and trips from the former CEO of Star Scientific, Jonnie Williams, also a political donor.
In exchange, the indictment claims the Governor and his office were helping promote the company’s struggling dietary supplement business and attempted to conceal the scheme.
The indictment also asserts the McDonnells lied on loan applications about their debts.
In a statement, McDonnell maintains he did nothing illegal, and returned gifts and loans to Williams. McDonnell says he will use every available resource to fight false allegations.
If the charges do result in convictions and maximum sentences, it could mean fines in excess of a million dollars, and decades behind bars.
McDonnell is the first governor in Virginia to face criminal charges.
It’s fairly easy for people in Virginia to change their name, but when it comes to sex offenders, one state lawmaker thinks it should be more difficult. Sandy Hausman reports on a bill he’s introduced in Richmond.
Provisional drivers who talk on their cell phones while they’re behind the wheel can be pulled over and charged with a traffic offense under legislation that has passed the Virginia Senate. As Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, supporters were concerned about the safety of inexperienced drivers under the age of 18 who flaunt the current law.
The bill now heads to the House of Delegates.
Hundreds of people, some of them armed, were in Richmond Tuesday – hoping to sway lawmakers toward voting for or against further regulation of guns. Sandy Hausman reports on two very different rallies outside the state capitol.
The annual license tax imposed on hybrid vehicles as part of last year’s transportation-funding law may be on its way out. The Virginia Senate has voted overwhelmingly to repeal the tax, which was never popular in the first place. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, lawmakers who did not want to jeopardize the transportation compromise last year now feel free to get rid of that provision.
Voting could be easier if one Virginia lawmaker has his way. Sandy Hausman reports on one proposal to allow absentee ballots from anyone who’d like to vote early – and another that could lead to voting by mail.
On today’s Virginia Conversations, imagine taking a college course in geography and your instructor’s half-way around the world.
One Virginia Tech teacher did it, and he’s back home to share his adventure. John Boyer, better known as “The Plaid Avenger”, explains how he juggled teaching on a “Semester at Sea” voyage without missing a beat back home on campus. Host May-Lily Lee also talks with Kathy Thornton, UVA mechanical aerospace engineering professor, about the Semester at Sea program.
View John Boyer’s Semester at Sea YouTube videos here.
More information is available at www.semesteratsea.org
Some job applications have a box that asks if you’ve been convicted of a crime. Critics say that’s one reason people coming out of prison can’t get work and end up back behind bars. Now, there’s a move in the legislature to ban the box as Sandy Hausman reports.
At least one of the mental health bills sponsored by State Senator Creigh Deeds is moving forward to the next stage without ANY opposition. After being released from emergency custody after psychiatric beds were not found, Deeds’ son stabbed him and subsequently killed himself. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, the bills proposed by the Senator reflect deficiencies in the system that he saw as a result of the tragedy.
A 14-acre stand of trees on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg recently escaped destruction when the University agreed not to build an athletic practice facility on that spot. Now a Virginia Senator wants to make protection of the parcel, known as Stadium Woods, permanent. Robbie Harris reports.
One of the biggest issues for this legislative session is whether to expand Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act assumed states would do that and offered to pay the full cost for the first three years – then scaling back to 90% over the next seven years. About half the states – including Virginia – refused, and that means about 190,000 people in the Commonwealth will still be without medical coverage. Governor McAuliffe is pushing for expansion of Medicaid, but Republicans are pushing back with some surprising proposals as Sandy Hausman reports.
A tiny, invasive bug is bringing down hemlock trees from Appalachia to southern Canada. And scientists fear another treasured native tree may be going the way of the American chestnut, forever changing forest ecosystems. Researchers at Virginia Tech are hoping to beat the invaders at their own game. They’re using a new invasive species to keep an old one in check, and save the American Hemlock tree. Robbie Harris has more.
Northern Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran says he’s retiring because he thinks he can direct more change working from outside of this Congress. Capitol Hill reporter Matt Laslo has the story…
Governor McAuliffe called on state lawmakers Monday night to modernize Virginia’s Standards of Learning testing program in the public schools. Now House Republicans have rolled out their initial plans… and say enacting education reforms will be a long-term project. Their comprehensive plan would not only impact the SOLs, but also the array of courses that students can take and teacher compensation.
More than 6,300 people with mental illness are locked up in Virginia jails, and a new report from the inspector general says they’re not getting the care required by law. Sandy Hausman reports that sheriffs are now demanding more money to provide mental health services.
It’s a sign of the times that Virginia lawmakers may soon consider a bill to ban what’s popularly known as “revenge porn” – the posting of naked pictures by an x-lover online. Sandy Hausman reports on the proposal and why some people object.
A group of Democratic members of the General Assembly have announced that they will push for repeal of several abortion-related laws that have passed in recent years, which they say are restrictive and set up barriers to women’s reproductive health. As Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Mare Morgan reports, the Senators and Delegates say that to achieve this goal, they will play both offensive and defensive roles during the legislative session.
A recent Gallup poll shows 58% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana. Colorado and Washington have done so, and Californians are expected to vote on the question this year. So might the Commonwealth follow their lead? Sandy Hausman put that question to several lawmakers and filed this report.
While it is legal for Virginia pharmacies to fill prescriptions for marijuana to treat glaucoma and the side effects of cancer, Virginia pharmacists say they have no way to get the drug. Ophthalmologists say there are better ways to treat glaucoma, and their academy finds no compelling evidence that marijuana is effective in controlling the disease.
At his inauguration in Richmond on Saturday, Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe offered an olive branch to his Republican counterparts. Matt Laslo was there and has this look at the new governor’s agenda…
The Virginia General Assembly will consider intervening this year in a pair of ongoing struggles….urban chickens versus urban dogs and fast drivers against slow ones. Both stories have been among the most clicked this past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on vpap.org. Fred Echols reports.
When Governor McDonnell gave his final State of the Commonwealth address, he once again asked for a change in the state Constitution to allow automatic restoration of rights to felons. But as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, those who are closely monitoring the current General Assembly session with hopes of this or other big constitutional changes… may be in for a bit of a disappointment.
It’s five times more expensive to care for people with mental illness in a hospital than in the community, so it makes financial sense that the governor’s proposed budget contains more money for a model mental health program designed to keep people out of hospitals. Sandy Hausman tells how that program works for residents of five Central Virginia counties.
After the attack on State Senator Creigh Deeds, administrators and lawmakers are taking a close look at how to improve the response to mental health cases. Host May-Lily Lee talks with Mira Signer with the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Delegate Joseph Yost, who has introduced legislation to improve the mental health system in Virginia.
One passionate goal of outgoing Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is ensuring that there are advocates for domestic violence and human trafficking victims after he leaves office. As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, that’s why one of Cuccinelli’s final acts as A-G is allocating millions of dollars for human trafficking victims.
There’s no law on the books, but under Virginia’s common law, suicide is considered a crime. In the current legislative session, one delegate thinks it’s time for the Commonwealth to change that, as Sandy Hausman reports.
Democratic and Republican leaders in the House of Delegates have announced a bipartisan package of reforms to Virginia’s ethics and disclosure laws. Loopholes in current state policies came to light last year following news reports of gifts given to Governor McDonnell and his family by Star Scientific’s former CEO, Jonnie Williams. As Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the proposal aims to correct those deficiencies without an absolute ban on giving OR receiving.
Senate Republican Leader Tommy Norment also attended the news conference to support the ethics reform package. Senate Democratic Caucus Leader Donald McEachin did not endorse it, but said it provides a good template for future deliberations.
You’ve probably heard that the nation trains too few scientists, mathematicians, engineers or computer techs to compete with China or India. Our schools are buzzing about that, and government is pouring money into teacher training, but experts are beginning to question the claim and to worry about a surplus as Sandy Hausman reports.