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The New Center for Behavioral Health and Justice

Virginia_flag_mapOver the past several years, Virginia has seen its share of mass shootings, targeted killings, high-profile suicides, and a growing number of crimes all associated with both mental health and criminal justice.

To address what some have labeled an epidemic, the state has created a new Center for Behavioral Health and Justice.  And as Tommie McNeil reports, it’s a means to streamline and coordinate resources and services.

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Candidates and Commonwealth At Odds Over Ballot Affiliation Statute

VoteHereA group of local candidates and the Commonwealth are battling it out in federal court over whether a Virginia election law violates the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.  At issue is a statute that requires the political party affiliations of federal and state candidates to be listed next to their names on election ballots—while omitting the same for candidates who run for local offices. The candidates are asking the court to temporarily block November’s ballots from being printed until the law’s constitutionality is decided.

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Herring to Seek Re-Election As Virginia’s Attorney General

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring speaks to reporters outside the Arlington County Courthouse in Arlington, Va., Monday, Oct. 6, 2014, following a Supreme Court decision rejecting gay marriage appeals from 5 states. The Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for an immediate expansion of same-sex marriage by unexpectedly and tersely turning away appeals from five states seeking to prohibit gay and lesbian unions. The court's order effectively makes gay marriage legal in 30 states.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Taking a page from the McDonnell-Bolling book of party unification, Attorney General Mark Herring now says–midway into his term–that he is backing Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam for Governor, while Herring will run for a second term.

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Have a Problem With the Federal Government? Call Your Representative!

Capitol Dome, Washington DCEver have a problem with the federal government? Like the IRS is hounding you for money that you don’t owe, or say a missing Social Security check? You should go directly to Virginia’s representatives Washington for assistance.

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Commonwealth Sees Significant Increase in Voters Since 1996

(Center) Chesterfield County General Registrar Larry  HaakeA state task force of local general registrars has crunched the numbers and discovered what they already suspected: Their workload has grown significantly over the past two decades.  The trend has occurred, in part, due to a substantially greater number of voters, elections, and even new laws in the Commonwealth.

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Expert Panel Urges Confronting Climate Change in the Commonwealth

Commission member Sen. Barbara Favola (r) (1)Virginia needs to take stronger, proactive steps to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, bolster the Commonwealth’s resilience, and reduce the state’s carbon footprint. That’s the conclusion of an expert panel established by Governor McAuliffe to formulate recommendations that could be quickly enacted.  The strategies begin with concerted efforts to educate both citizens and public officials — and raise the capital that’s needed to fund improvements.

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Governor McAuliffe Touts Budget Progress, Wants to Invest More in Education

SchoolhouseNoting a remarkable turnaround since he spoke to them last year, Governor McAuliffe has told the General Assembly’s money committees that the Commonwealth’s financial situation is great-and how he would like to move forward.  During his remarks to lawmakers Thursday, he emphasized his focus on economic development and acquiring military contracts, but much of his speech was devoted to investing in education.

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Redistricting Battle Continues in General Assembly

Senate Democratic Lead Dick SaslawThe General Assembly’s impasse over whether or not the Special Session on Redistricting is LEGALLY over shows no signs of abating.  The Senate adjourned last week thanks to a ruling by Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam and the votes of the chamber’s Democrats and one Republican—but the House of Delegates has still not adjourned. The bone of contention is how to interpret Article 4, section 6 of the Virginia Constitution.

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Department of Labor Implements Website for Tracking Down Back Wages

deptlaborThe Department of Labor has recently implemented an online program aimed at distributing money that belongs to workers who may, or may not, know they’ve earned it.

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VaNews: Wind Farm Opponents, Address Change Complications

VPAPnewTazewell County in Virginia’s southwest coalfields would rather not be the site of a major wind power project. And a surprise change of address has complicated the life of a woman in Chesapeake.  Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on www.vpap.org. Fred Echols reports.

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Lawmakers Hope for More Federal Recognition for Virginia’s Native American Tribes

Virginia_flag_mapVirginia lawmakers are redoubling their efforts to attain federal recognition for six Virginia Native American tribes. They’re more optimistic now that the Bureau of Indian Affairs granted federal recognition to the Pamunkey Tribe.

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Advocates Say Virginia Needs Better Cancer Prevention Policies

cancer-390322_640Advocates of stronger cancer prevention policies say Virginia is one of nearly half of the states that fall behind when it comes to legislative solutions to prevent and fight cancer.  As a result, in 2015 alone nearly 14,200 state residents will be diagnosed with some form of cancer, and more than 14,800 will actually die from it.

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Jobless Benefit Claims Low

Virginia_flag_mapVirginia businesses are breathing a sigh of relief at the news that the current rate of jobless benefits claims is much lower than the very high number of claims during the recent recession.  As Anne Marie Morgan reports, this means they likely will NOT have to pay the higher amount of business taxes triggered by state law whenever the unemployment trust fund dips too low.

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Leaders Applaud Gains in SOL Scores, Still Room for Improvement

SOLsVirginia leaders are applauding this year’s gains in student Standards of Learning tests, especially since the Department of Education made the assessments more rigorous. But, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction would still like to see improvement—particularly for English language-learners.

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Library of Virginia Offered Reconstruction-Era Focused Courses to Teachers

14191757541_7740bf0b22_oA two-day teacher institute at the Library of Virginia has provided educators with the opportunity to advance their knowledge about the post-Civil War era-especially how the Commonwealth was transformed by the emancipation of slaves and Reconstruction. As Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, one major focus was on the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution-and their significant legacy.

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State Lawmakers, Registrars, Urge Reconsidering Voter Registration Form

VoteHereAdvocates say proposed changes to Virginia’s voter registration form will help prevent voter disenfranchisement and simplify the process.  But they’re not getting a warm reception from a number of state lawmakers and especially registrars.  As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, with less than a month away before the State Board of Elections meets again, some are asking that the Board scrap the revisions and start anew.

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VaNews: Civil Forfeiture, Essay Submition for Farm

VPAPnewAn essay and a 200-hundred dollar entry fee could get you a central Virginia farm. And being suspected of a crime can cause one to lose their property.  Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on www.vpap.org.

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Old Fiddler’s Convention Draws Instrumentalists from Beyond the Blue Ridge

12660029984_7856408965_oThe 80th Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax lasts until late Saturday night. Some people may think the convention is all banjos and fiddles and high lonesome harmonies. But out in the campground, a person might encounter uilleann pipes, concertinas or even a didgeridoo. This week, they might hear a Nepalese cousin to the fiddle called a sarangi. Tim Thornton reports.

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A New Way to Experience the Story of Virginia

Courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society.

Courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society.

Each year, for over a decade, about 30,000 Virginia kids were bused to Richmond’s museum district for a visit to the Story of Virginia, an exhibit featuring the usual portraits and artifacts. Last year, the Virginia Historical Society closed the show and began a $20 million renovation, creating a modern new museum and a whole new experience for those interested in Virginia’s past. Sandy Hausman reports.

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Senator Mark Warner Pushes for Congress to Adapt to the Digitized Economy

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner says Congress has failed to adapt to the new digitized economy, and he’s pushing to provide a safety net for millennials. Matt Laslo reports.

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VA Department of Education Redesigns School Performance Report Cards

school_appleVirginia residents have just a little more time to provide feedback to the Department of Education as it redesigns public school performance report cards, which provide accountability ratings.  As Tommie McNeil reports, the final product is not only supposed to allow users to sift through information more fluidly, but will also provide a more customized layout of demographics.

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Governor McAuliffe Hopes Virginia Becomes Leading State for Information Technology

Security concept: blue opened padlock on digital background, 3d render

Business executives from the high-tech sector hosted an event at the State Capitol to share research and information, as well as network with government officials.  Governor McAuliffe called on the members of the Government Business Executive Forum to help Virginia pivot from the nation’s top state for defense spending to the LEADING state for information technology.

Anne Marie Morgan reports.

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Joint Commission on Health Care Addresses Minor Consent to Psychiatric Treatment

MedicaidExpansionMentalHealthThe Joint Commission on Health Care is tackling an issue that the members say is much more complex than it may first appear:  whether minors may voluntarily consent to inpatient psychiatric treatment WITHOUT the permission of their parents or guardians. With an estimated 930 minors impacted by this dilemma each year, the commission says the problem needs to be addressed.

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Drones May be Utilized More in Commonwealth Soon

8725078749_00627cd860_oHate drones?  They may soon become a way of life in the Commonwealth.

The anticipated surge in unmanned aerial vehicles-or UAVs-won’t only be as a result of their popularity with hobbyists, but because of their use by emergency responders, power companies, and other industries.

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Longevity and Tradition at the Old Fiddler’s Convention

7783045944_085ff08f92_oThe eightieth Old Fiddlers Convention is going on in Galax this week. For most of the people in Felts Park, it’s a vacation and a celebration, but for members of the Galax Moose lodge, it’s a lot of work and an important fundraiser – and one lodge member has been among the Moose managing the convention for half a century.

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VaNews: Energy Efficieny, Paying Jurors

VPAPnewVirginia power companies will be doing more to help low income homeowners make their houses more energy efficient. And, the idea of using cash cards to pay jurors is picking up some critics. Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on www.vpap.org.

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Decades After Parole Ends, Lawmakers Reconsider

prison_creative_commons_0Governor McAuliffe has convened a large panel to examine the abolition of parole in Virginia and related state guidelines. But as Tommie McNeil reports, some believe that the Governor’s Commission on Parole Review will undo the progress that the Commonwealth has made in reducing its rates of violent crimes.

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Lawmakers Debate Managing Pain Medication Intake and Costs

Background from colored pills, tablets and capsules

As state lawmakers decide whether to mandate abuse-deterrent formulations for opioid medications in health insurance plans, an expert makes one thing clear: Americans have a huge problem with pain and don’t manage it well. As a result, billions are being spent on pain-relief drugs that often lead to addiction. Some are urging lawmakers to do something to mitigate those costs.

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Moving Forward on Open Burning

Radford_ArsenalThe permit that allows the Radford Army Ammunitions Plant to burn hazardous waste from firearms outdoors is up for renewal. Community activists see an opportunity to address environmental and health concerns about the open burning – and state regulators see a chance to explore new technology to solve an old problem.

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Virginia International Trade Alliance Seeks to Help Companies Succeed

terry_mcauliffe2Governor McAuliffe has been actively working to recruit new businesses to Virginia, but companies that are already located in the Commonwealth say they could use state help to export their goods and services. And a new Virginia International Trade Alliance just announced by the governor aims to help those companies expand and succeed in the international marketplace.

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SOAR Virginia Scholarship Program Could Expand

college-scholarship-tipsA little-known state program that assists lower-income students with college scholarships is ending its five-year pilot and is poised for permanent expansion. SOAR Virginia is an early commitment scholarship program created by the Virginia 529 College Savings Plan. Its goal is to inspire high school students and help them pursue higher education.

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The Sheer Joy of Orthophonic Music: Revisiting the Bristol Sessions

2015-05-25-1432530197-2817080-Orthophonic_Joy_cover-thumbBristol – a city straddling the Virginia/Tennessee border – is known as the birthplace of Country Music..in fact, it was designated as such by Congress in 1998. It’s a title that comes with one of the most important events in music history. Known as the “Big Bang of Country Music,” several modern popular artists are paying tribute to the Bristol Sessions through a new collaborative project.

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Examining New Food-Related Laws in the Commonwealth

VAcapWikiWhile state lawmakers spent a great deal of time this year on serious ethics, education, and public safety challenges, some other issues also merited the General Assembly’s attention. One topic that did not grab many headlines, though: food.

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New Public Safety Laws Pertain to DNA Collection, Sexual Violence

Virginia_State_Capitol

Among the new state public safety laws that have taken effect are those that get tougher on sexual violence and other sex crimes – as well as laws that pertain to DNA collection, alcohol and drug abuse, and licensed day care centers.

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New Workforce Laws Take Effect Today

Virginia_State_CapitolA whole batch of new laws that are taking effect this week could lead to more job opportunities for Virginians—particularly those who don’t have or are not pursuing a four-year degree. As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, many reflect Governor McAuliffe’s ambitious goal of training the Commonwealth’s workforce and awarding more than half a million credentials within the next 15 years.

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New Traffic Laws Permit Passing Cyclists

5989313126_0498c8fb17_oA number of new driving and traffic safety laws take effect in Virginia on Wednesday that could provide some relief to plenty of motorists.  But if drivers aren’t careful, they also could be relieved of some hard-earned cash for new infractions.

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New Insurance Benefit Will Cover More Children with Autism

Del. Tag Greason sponsored the new insurance benefit law.A wide array of new state laws take effect July 1st, and among them are a statute that will ultimately extend health insurance coverage to many more children with autism spectrum disorder. The mandatory benefit covers diagnosis and treatment—and applies to ALL insurers except plans offered by self-insured companies and smaller businesses.

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Virginia Baseball Wins First National Title

uva1The University of Virginia baseball program made history with its first national title, the first baseball championship for the Atlantic Coast Conference since 1955.  In the deciding game of the best-of-three finals, the Cavaliers defeated Vanderbilt, 4-2.

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Truckers Against Trafficking

Road trip from Conception Abbey.  pa231765

The FBI and Virginia’s law enforcement agencies have a new ally in their efforts to combat sex trafficking. As result, this partnership will lend potentially thousands of eyes and ears in places that police may not frequent, but truckers do, and pimps target.

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Virginia Reaps Benefits of Budget Surplus

Finance Secretary Ric Brown addresses the Senate Finance  CommitteeAfter facing a $439-million shortfall at the end of the last state fiscal year, the Commonwealth is poised to reap the benefits of an improving economy with a multi-million-dollar budget surplus.   As Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, state employees, college faculty, teachers, and State Police troopers also stand to gain.

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UVA Takes Vanderbilt in Game Two

Polaroid CUBE

Ian Echlin

With its back against the wall for the second time in a week, the University of Virginia baseball team came through again.  The Cavaliers defeated Vanderbilt, 3-0, in Game Two of the best-of-three finals at the College World Series.

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Cavaliers Fall in Game One of College World Series Title Series

CWS 02The Virginia Cavaliers dropped the first game of their best-of-three title series against defending champion Vanderbilt, 5-1, Monday night in Omaha.  It’s a case of déjà. Virginia Public Radio correspondent Greg Echlin has the story.

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Motivating Girls to Choose STEM

8435500077_679eb62d02_o550 educators and advocates from ten nations gathered in Richmond to exchange ideas about a movement that they call “From STEM to STEAM.”  One major goal is to share best practices to attract more girls to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.  They say more creativity can help overcome the hurdles that have prevented girls from choosing STEM careers.

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VA Lawmakers Weigh in on War

CongressVirginia lawmakers are trying to force Congress to debate the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria, but congressional leaders don’t seem to want the debate. Matt Laslo has the story on how in Virginia there seems to be bipartisan consensus that the debate needs to happen.

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Cavaliers Reach College World Series Finals Again

virginiasports.com

virginiasports.com

If the Virginia Cavaliers win their first baseball championship at the College World Series, they face the task of beating the defending national champion. The title series starts tonight (MON) at 8 (ET) in Omaha and will be televised on ESPN. Reporter Greg Echlin has the story.

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Va News for 06.22.15: High School Diplomas Online

VPAPnewArlington County has made it a little more costly for people who violate the anti-profanity law…and Virginia will begin offering students a chance to get their public high school diplomas without ever seeing the inside of a classroom. Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on vpap.org. More on that from Fred Echols.

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VA Poultry Take Precautions, Prepare for Avian Flu

egg cartonYou may have noticed that your eggs cost a little more than they did a few weeks back. Those higher prices are associated with the Avian Flu outbreak that’s moving from the Midwest. But as Tommie McNeil explains, the disease is traveling this way-and if it arrives in Virginia, it potentially could impact a lot more than the cost of eggs.

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Virginia Lawmakers On Trade Debate: How Will Agreements Impact Commonwealth?

US CAPVirginia lawmakers are divided over the free trade agreements winding their way through Congress this summer – the debate over whether the deals will be good or bad for the commonwealth.

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Virginia to Digitize Vital Records Dating to Early 20th Century

New LawsIt’s been two years in the making, but now a public-private partnership between the Virginia Department of Health and Ancestry has allowed the state to digitize the Commonwealth’s vital records-including some that were believed to be lost forever.

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Addressing Voting Methods Before June Primaries

{110397B7-F29E-4D25-92DF-2F8521B2183D}After the State Board of Elections in April decertified the touchscreen voting machines used in 20% of Virginia’s precincts, the localities with June primaries were left scrambling to find replacements for their WinVote equipment in time. But a state elections official says one way or another, the voters there will be accommodated. While localities are implementing a variety of short-term fixes, the state is working on a more long-term, uniform solution.

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