Archive for January, 2015
In Richmond, members of the General Assembly are moving forward with the plan to change high school graduation requirements. The bill is part of a larger effort to reduce the influence of standardized tests.
Virginia lawmakers have been mulling over a series of gun bills-and one is the only measure supported by gun-control advocates that has survived a Senate Committee. While the bill has lost some of its teeth, its sponsor says it nevertheless makes progress in the fight against domestic violence.
In Virginia, lawmakers are taking action to REPEAL a system of assigning every school in the commonwealth with a letter grade. As Michael Pope of tells us, lawmakers are giving the idea and F.
The Virginia Senate has postponed a final vote on legislation that would prohibit the state from adopting the national Common Core standards for public education without prior approval of the General Assembly. The standards have been widely adopted by states but have come under fire—in part, for their mandatory, one-size-fits-all approach.
VEA President Meg Gruber pointed out that before the recent recession, Virginia ranked number one in the nation on the “chance of success” index for children, but that the state has now fallen to 9th place. And in spite of rhetoric at the Capitol about “holding the line” on education cuts, state funding has actually dropped 16% since 2009,when inflation is taken into account. Gruber said the new campaign aims to help the public recognize the troubling signs:
Gruber said elected leaders claim to be “friends of education”… so parents, teachers, and the public must compel them to take action to reverse these trends. The organizations will hold a rally in support of public education at the State Capitol on April 18th. More information can be found here.
Here’s the full audio of the news conference in Richmond:
A bipartisan group of Virginia lawmakers say the Interior Department move to open up Virginia’s coast to drilling is raising more questions than answers.
Virginia voters’ partisan preferences will remain unknown — if they so choose — after a bill that would have required registration by political party narrowly dies after Senate debate. The bill was sponsored by a Republican – and effectively killed by another Republican.
The agenda President Obama is laying out at the start of this new Congress is being rejected by Virginia Republicans who now have more power at the Capitol than Democrats.
Virginia governors would be allowed to run for a second, consecutive term of office under a constitutional amendment that has passed the state Senate. The revision would change a tradition that has left Virginia as the sole state in the nation to forbid its governor from running for re-election. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the 24 to 15 vote for passage did not break down along party lines.
In advance of the General Assembly meeting tomorrow, the march called for several legislative reforms including an independent review board to handle issues of police misconduct and the implementation of police body cameras.
While many in opposition to body cameras site both cost and privacy concerns, the majority of protestors believed the transparency of cameras would help rebuild trust between communities and law enforcement. Intern Reporter James Perla was there.
Virginia lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it illegal for a website to post mugshots online and then charge a fee to take them down. And the College of William and Mary wants a mountain in Colorado to bear its name — but the idea is encountering some resistance. Those stories have been among the most read over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link.
An enormous surge in heroin and prescription-drug overdose deaths in Virginia has prompted the Centers for Disease Control to call it an epidemic. It’s also why state lawmakers of both parties have joined together to advance a multi-faceted package of bills to tackle the challenge. They believe it’s both a law enforcement AND a public health problem.
Since 9/11, police have been given greater freedom to spy on citizens and to limit civil liberties, presumably to assure public safety, but the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia thinks they’ve gone too far and is fighting back with several bills in Richmond.
On the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision that legalized abortion, hundreds of women lobbied Virginia lawmakers in person or by e-mail, asking them to increase access to contraception and repeal the state’s mandatory ultrasound law for women seeking an abortion.
About two dozen college students gathered in Richmond this week to demand lower rates for higher education. The group is hoping for passage of House Bill 1877, which would end tax credits for coal companies and use new revenue for scholarships at Virginia’s public universities.
It’s a marijuana decriminalization bill – NOT a marijuana legalization bill – that a Northern Virginia lawmaker is fighting for during this General Assembly session. Senator Adam Ebbin contends that there’s a significant difference, and the legislation is necessary in order to stop making criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens.
Virginia lawmakers say while they ARE crafting more laws to nab sex traffickers, the perpetrators they label as “evil” are getting more aggressive and elusive—which is why it’s time to create one standalone statute to be able to prosecute the traffickers.
Undocumented immigrant students who’ve been granted the federal status that defers them from deportation would still be able to qualify for in-state college tuition — thanks to the Virginia Senate’s defeat of legislation that would have barred them from receiving the less expensive rates. The bill was killed by a single vote following a lengthy floor debate.
Lines were long at the state capitol Monday as supporters of gun rights passed through security on their way to lobby lawmakers against additional restrictions. They wore stickers that read: Guns Save Lives. Later, supporters of gun control would arrive to press for new laws restricting purchase and possession of weapons.
House of Delegates Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate held dueling news conferences at the General Assembly Monday to highlight their policy agendas. The Democrats focused on bills that they say will help reign in gun violence, while the Republicans emphasized what they called “kitchen table” issues.
Virginia’s House delegation in Washington has a long wish list in the new Congress. Capitol Hill reporter Matt Laslo has the story on their priority list for the commonwealth in the newly seated 114th Congress.
There’s a new coalition in town, and it aims to police the General Assembly and its policies so that citizens are always in the know. “Transparency Virginia” introduced itself to the public this week, and says it has a non-confrontational yet aggressive agenda to promote best practices in public accountability.
Virginia could soon have a new state song nearly 20 years after the first one was banished…and a fence to be built underneath a new bridge in Richmond is raising some questions. Those stories have been among the most read over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link.
Virginia’s school superintendents are applauding the General Assembly’s recent efforts to reduce the number of standardized SOL tests administered to students from 34 to 27. But they also say that more reforms are needed moving forward—and they’ve outlined them in a new Blueprint for the Future of Education.
Atlantic Menhaden, the tiny fish that, two years ago, created big trouble between Chesapeake Bay environmentalists and commercial fishermen, is surfacing once more. Scientists have found new data that may prove there’s more of the fish than once thought. Pamela D’Angelo reports.
The 2015 General Assembly convened on Wednesday with an undercurrent of drama. Ostracized by his former party leaders and denounced by others, newly re-elected Democrat-turned-Independent Delegate Joe Morrissey left his jail cell and returned to his legislative office. Morrissey acknowledges that many colleagues don’t want him there after his misdemeanor conviction. But the embattled delegate says his constituents DO want him there -and he’s preparing to fight for that.
After some public uproar and contact from a civil liberties group, the four-year-old who was cuffed and shackled by a Greene County school resource officer will be invited back to school with his record wiped clean. The fight, however, goes on.
2014 was a harrowing year for the University of Virginia, with the alleged kidnapping and murder of one student and charges of rape against many more. Such tragedies are not unique to UVA, but state lawmakers will likely use Charlottesville’s troubles to try and reform Virginia’s criminal code.
Campus police would be required to notify their local commonwealth’s attorney within 48 hours of starting a sexual assault investigation under a bill that’s been introduced at the General Assembly. Several measures have been proposed since November, when Rolling Stone magazine published allegations of rape at the University of Virginia. This bill was first introduced several years ago to make public college campuses safer and help victims obtain essential support.
Virginia’s legislature is about to begin its whirlwind session – 46 days in which lawmakers will consider some 25-hundred bills. As WVTF RADIO IQ’s Sandy Hausman reports, there’s one problem that could make this an especially contentious experience.
Governor McAuliffe has unveiled a series of legislative proposals that he says would make Virginia more welcoming to businesses. The governor says his agenda would make the Commonwealth more inviting by guaranteeing equal treatment to ALL individuals under the law.
Virginia is following the lead of several other states and looking to get some use out of roadkill…and smoking has been declared illegal inside a Blacksburg hookah lounge. Those stories have been among the most read over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link.
Bills that are being introduced in both the Virginia House and Senate could make a trip to the doctor’s office less burdensome. While bills sometimes do not have the input of various stakeholders, THIS legislation is strongly supported by doctors and other medical professionals.
Ahead of next week’s start of the Virginia General Assembly Session, GOP lawmakers are rolling out new initiatives in public education. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, one reform is a revamped version of an unpopular law—which they say should be more useful to parents and stakeholders.
Last fall’s controversial handcuffing and shackling of a Greene County pre-schooler might have been prevented by a new bill that could soon make its way through the General Assembly. Hawes Spencer reports.
Fervent opposition to a governor’s budget cuts is not at all unusual. But one group in particular says it has been cut to the bone-and now it’s a public safety problem. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil explains why the state chapter of the National Coalition of Public Safety Officers tells the General Assembly’s budget committees that it’s time to restore, NOT cut funding.
Former Governor Bob McDonnell has been sentenced to two years in prison followed by two years of probation on federal corruption charges. U.S. District Judge James Spencer announced his decision after receiving 450 letters and listening to a parade of witnesses who testified to McDonnell’s character and decades of public service. Spencer also said he would exercise his discretion as he departed from a pre-sentencing report’s recommendation for a lengthy prison term.
Congress is back in session and some Virginia lawmakers are already causing a stir at the Capitol. Capitol Hill reporter Matt Laslo has the story.
The judge’s punishment was far below the 10 years prosecutors wanted, but still more than the community service that the former governor and hundreds of supporters asked for.
Speaking to reporters after the sentencing, McDonnell said he was a fallen human being.
But McDonnell reiterates that he never betrayed his oath of office. He says he disagrees with the jury’s verdict, and his attorneys have already begin the appeal process with the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
McDonnell’s wife Maureen faces sentencing February 20th, after being convicted on eight counts of corruption.
You can hear his complete comments to the media following the sentencing.
When he’s sentenced tomorrow will a former Virginia Governor get a slap on the wrist with community service or a short time in prison for 11 corruption convictions—or will U.S. District Judge James Spencer sentence him to a lengthy stint behind bars?
Tommie McNeil reports, one analyst says it’s probably the latter, and it will be interesting to see whether Bob McDonnell will remain free as he appeals his convictions.
Although a private company runs it, Wallops Island Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore will get a fresh start in the New Year and a financial boost from the federal government after a failed launch months ago caused significant damage. October’s explosion of a rocket caused an estimated $20-million in damage–and the repairs will be paid for by Congress.
A woman in Virginia Beach found out pearls really do turn up in clams now and then….and a mysterious humming noise in Greene County remains unexplained. Those stories have been among the most read over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link.