Archive for March, 2021

Will Marijuana Amendment Make it Through State Senate?

(Credit: Va. Capitol Police twitter)

When lawmakers meet next Wednesday for a one day session, they’ll consider legislation to legalize marijuana this summer.

Michael Pope has this preview of what to expect.

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Officials to Provide Recommendations on Improving 911 Infrastructure

Credit: Wellness GM / Flickr, Creative Commons: flickr.com/photos/130100316@N04/15728773073/

If you or someone you cared about faced an emergency, and you needed to call for help, how would you call 911? Chances are you’d reach for your cell phone. But, as Jahd Khalil reports, aging 911 infrastructure sometimes doesn’t match up with cell technology.

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Northam Amends Marijuana Legislation

(Credit: DEA.gov)

Governor Ralph Northam is amending a bill on marijuana legalization.

As Michael Pope reports, the governor’s amendment will make marijuana fully legal sooner than anticipated.

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Rural Drug Courts Struggle, Suceed During COVID-19

Drug court staff celebratw with Michael Hall. (Credit: Pamela D’Angelo)

Rural communities have struggled through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their health care districts are underfunded and understaffed. Limited broadband and cell phone communication caused missed vaccine notifications.

And, it’s been especially hard on those enrolled in substance abuse treatment.

Pamela D’Angelo attended a recent Drug Treatment Court.

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Full Speed Ahead on Major Initiative to Cut Down on I-95 Congestion, Expand Amtrak Access

Governor Ralph Northam before Tuesday’s announcement (Credit: Michael Pope)

Railroads once dominated transportation in Virginia until the invention of the automobile. Now, rail is making a comeback. Michael Pope has the story.

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May Elections in Virginia Will Soon Be a Thing of the Past

This spring will see the last ever May elections for local government, as Michael Pope reports.

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Primary Races Fill Feeds With Digital Ads

The spring election season is here, and candidates are trying to think of new and creative ways of getting their message out during a pandemic.

Michael Pope reports.

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Va. News: Plastic Trash and Unexpected Treasure

A sketch in a simple frame at a Virginia thrift store turned out to be more significant – and more valuable – than it appeared to be. And Governor Ralph Northam has issued an order he hopes will reduce plastic pollution.

Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s Va. News link.

More now from Fred Echols.

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Marijuana Advocates Believe Northam has Heard Their Message to Speed Up Legalization

(Credit: DEA.gov)

Governor Ralph Northam is expected to announce his amendments to the marijuana bill on Monday.

And as Michael Pope reports he’s expected to move for legalization this year as opposed to waiting until 2024.

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Washington & Lee University Considers Dropping Lee From Name

Hundreds of students in favor of removing Robert E. Lee’s name participated in the walkout. (Credit: Randi B. Hagi)

Hundreds of students at Washington and Lee University in Lexington walked out of classes earlier this week. 

They wanted to show their support for dropping Lee from the college’s name.

Randi Hagi reports.

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Keeping Creditors From Your Stimulus Check

(Credit: David Seidel)

Stimulus money from the government is helping a lot of people stay afloat in a troubled economy.

But, Michael Pope reports, in Virginia, it doesn’t have to help creditors.

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Why are the Statewide Candidate Fields so Crowded?

Chances are you’re not running for statewide office. But the odds are probably more likely this spring than in the past.

Jahd Khalil spoke with a political analyst about why so many politicians think this is their year. 

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With COVID-19, Some Classes Move Outdoors and May Stay There

First grade teachers Marguerite Brunner reads to students at the Free Union Country School. (Credit: Sandy Hausman)

For many children, COVID has meant educational setbacks as they struggled to absorb lessons online. 

But for others the pandemic has underscored the value of learning outside.  

Sandy Hausman reports on a school near Charlottesville where students spent 90-pecent of their time in fields, forests and tents.

The COVID crisis led many universities to move classes online, but at one state school in Virginia the choice was to move outside. 

Sandy Hausman reports on why one journalism professor is now pledging to keep his students away from the classroom even after the pandemic has passed.

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Bald Eagle Population Quadruples in a Decade

(Credit: Wildlife Center of Virginia)

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced Wednesday bald eagle populations have quadrupled in the lower 48 states since 2009.

Pamela D’Angelo reports.

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Virginia Outlaws Death Penalty

Governor Ralph Northam signs legislation abolishing Virginia’s death penalty. (Credit: Governor’s Office Livestream)

Governor Ralph Northam has signed legislation ending the death penalty in Virginia.

As Michael Pope reports, that makes the commonwealth the first southern state to end capital punishment.

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Virginia’s “Wild West” Campaign Finances

(Credit Va Capitol Police Twitter Page; @VaCapitolPolice)

This was the year when state lawmakers approved some major changes including legalization of marijuana and ending the death penalty.  In other areas, however, reformers were disappointed.

The General Assembly rejected several bills designed to reform utility regulation, refused to remove special legal protections for police and retained the state’s right-to-work law. 

They also failed to approve campaign finance reform as Sandy Hausman reports.

During the last campaign cycle, corporations, political action committees, non-profits and individuals donated more than 124-million dollars to candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate.

Critics contend that warped the way lawmakers voted in 2021, but efforts to reform campaign finance in Richmond have repeatedly failed. 

In part two of her series, Sandy Hausman looks at why politicians are reluctant to limit donations and whether that might change next year.

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Some COVID-related Restrictions to be Eased April 1

Come April 1, there will be more space for you at entertainment venues.

Governor Ralph Northam announced he will ease restrictions at sporting events and entertainment venues.

Jahd Khalil has more on what that means. 

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Mild Flu Season Amid Pandemic

This winter’s flu season isn’t technically over, but usually by this time in the season the worst of influenza activity is behind Virginia.
(Credit: Virginia Department of Health)

With all the talk of respiratory disease for the last year, one bright spot was the flu.

There hasn’t been a single outbreak in Virginia during this flu season.

Jahd Khalil tells us why. 

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Study: Virginia Pandemic Job Losses Deeper than Previous Recessions

When the economy crashed last year, Virginia lost a significant number of jobs.

And as Michael Pope reports, the job market still hasn’t recovered.

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Va. News: Delivery Robots and Pandemic Participation

COVID-19 has changed the way people interact with local government. The result is more participation… And students at James Madison University are having their food orders delivered in whole new way.

Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s Va. News link.

More now from Fred Echols.

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“Mixed Drinks To Go” Extended for Another Year

The pandemic has brought about many new trends, some of which may end up becoming permanent parts of the landscape.

Michael Pope reports on the future of the takeout cocktails.

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Advisory Board Makes Recommendations to Fight Racial Inequity in Schools

In September, the department of education asked a group of educators how they would fix racial inequities in Virginia’s education system. This week they delivered their recommendations.

Jahd Khalil has this report on the African American Superintendent’s Advisory Council.

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Work Group May Set Stage for More Conservation of Trees

Lawmakers considered a bill that would have given local governments more authority to require that developers preserve or replace tree canopy.

As Michael Pope reports, they rejected the idea for now. But they also set the stage for potential action next year.

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Universities, the Enslaved, and Repairing Damage

The only enslaved person known to have been directly purchased by the University of Virginia, Lewis Commodore, worked ringing the bell in the Rotunda.
(Credit University of Virginia)

Five public universities in Virginia can trace their roots to before the civil war– a period when slavery permeated American life and built wealth for white Americans.

And it also helped build those schools.

Jahd Khalil reports on efforts to repair a small amount of that damage.

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A Quirk of 2021: The Same Candidates in Two Primaries

This election cycle will include a strange quirk that most voters have never seen: A ballot that includes the same name for two different races.

Michael Pope explains why.

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How Ballot Order Can Impact Election Outcome

(Credit: Mallory Noe-Payne)

When voters head to the polls in June for the statewide Democratic primary, will the order of the candidates have any influence?

Michael Pope reports.

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State to Study Impact of Corporate Tax Avoidance

Is Virginia getting all the tax dollars coming to it?

Michael Pope reports on an effort to crack down on tax avoiding corporations. 

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20% of Virginia Students are at Fully “In-Person” School Divisions

Governor Northam reads to students on a visit to schools.
(Credit Office of Governor Ralph Northam)

In February, Governor Ralph Northam said all 132 school divisions should be offering in-person learning by March 15. So where are students learning?

Jahd Khalil breaks down the numbers.  

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House to Take Up Griffith Legislation to Close Opioid Loophole

Rep. Morgan Griffith (Credit: House of Representatives Photo)

This week, the House of Representatives will take up legislation introduced by a Virginia congressman aimed at tackling the opioid crisis.

Michael Pope reports.

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Va. News: Paving History and Paying for Meals

Visitors to Colonial Williamsburg this spring will see something they may not be expecting. And students at VCU have paid for thousands of meals this year that went uneaten.

Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s Va. News link.

More now from Fred Echols.

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Many More Deaths From COVID-19 Have Likely Gone Unreported

Credit: CDC

On Sunday, Virginia marks one year since a man in his 70s died from COVID-19. He was the first of 9,961 people who have died from the virus, officially. But as Jahd Khalil reports, the pandemic has claimed many more.

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As Primary Season Approaches, Democratic Lt. Gov. Candidates Try to Chart Larger Role

The spring campaign season is ramping up, and Democrats have a bumper crop of candidates hoping to be lieutenant governor.

Michael Pope reports.

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Virginia Teachers Will Soon Undergo Cultural Competency Training Under New Law

Virginia Education Secretary Atif Qarni

Virginia history is complicated, and now teachers in Virginia will have help explaining some of the racial elements to students. Michael Pope reports.

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Legislation Would Expand Some Impact Statements to Include Equity

The governor is now considering hundreds of bills lawmakers put on his desk.

Michael Pope has this report on one that would shed light on racial disparities.

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Student Nurses Join the Push to Vaccinate

Student nurse Nicole Chun practices the skills needed to vaccinate, as Asst. Professor Vickie Southall supervises. (Credit: UVA)

With more vaccine in the pipeline, experts predict more of us will be inoculated against COVID in the next few months. 

At some Virginia schools, nursing students are stepping up to help.

They’re already on the job at VCU and Radford.  Now Sandy Hausman reports dozens are in training at UVA.

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Scott’s Labor Union Bill Passes House, Faces Hurdles in Senate

Rep. Bobby Scott (Congressional Photo)

The House of Representatives isn’t dealing with just COVID-relief.

As Michael Pope reports, members also voted on a labor law introduced by a senior member of the Virginia delegation.

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Northam Administration Hits Back in Parole Board Controversy

Governor Ralph Northam looks on as his Chief of Staff, Clark Mercer, address the parole board controversy in a March 9, 2021 press conference. (Credit: Governor’s Office Livestream)

A simmering controversy over the Virginia Parole Board got a response from the Northam Administration Tuesday.

The Governor’s Chief of Staff defended the administration and said the case was becoming politicized.

Jahd Khalil has more.  

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U.S. House to Consider Scott Legislation Updating Labor Laws This Week

Congressman Bobby Scott

The House of Representatives will consider a major piece of union legislation this week – a bill introduced by a senior member of the Virginia delegation. Michael Pope reports.

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Va. News: Wrongful Convictions and Gypsy Moths

A Northern Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney is the first local prosecutor in the state to set up a dedicated unit to review possible wrongful convictions. And the U.S. Forest Service is seeking public comment on its aerial battle against the Gypsy Moth.

These have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s Va. News link.

More now from Fred Echols.

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EVs and Charging Stations: Virginia Going Zero Emissions Under New Vehicle Legislation

Virginia is about to become the first Southern state to enact zero-emissions vehicle legislation. Michael Pope reports.

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Northam Endorses Herring Rival in Attorney General Race

Credit: Attorney General Mark Herring’s Twitter (@MarkHerringVA)

The Democratic primary for attorney general is heating up. And, a surprising endorsement might change the dynamics of the race. Michael Pope reports.

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Effort to Eliminate Mandatory Minimums Met a Disappointing End, But Will Likely be Back

One of the big disappointments for many criminal justice advocates in this year’s General Assembly session was a failure to ditch mandatory minimums.

Michael Pope explains why.

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Dept. of Elections Completes Risk Limiting Audit

What do you think the chances are that something was wrong with how ballots were counted?

A Risk Limiting Audit found that the chances the Virginia Department of Elections missed a faulty ballot tabulation was less than one in 100,000.

The department announced the results Tuesday. Jahd Khalil explains how they did it. 

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As In-person School Increases, So Can Student Anxiety

Credit: CDC

Governor Northam has said he wants kids back in school by mid-March.

But as more schools gear up to re-open or increase their in-classroom days, mental health experts warn that the return to in-person education may be stressful for students.

Christine Kueter has that story.

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Examining Next Steps for Legislation Passed During 2021 Session

The General Assembly session may be over for 2021. But, the process isn’t. Michael Pope reports.

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