Archive for category Daily Capitol News Updates

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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Dismal Outlook on VA’s Projected Cancer Rates

cancer-390322_640Prior to 2012, cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of death in Virginia, but now cancer is the Commonwealth’s leading killer. To help lawmakers craft state policies for the future, the Joint Commission on Health Care wanted to find out what the projected cancer rates will be over the next few decades.   And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, the outlook seems rather dismal. 

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Initiatives to Combat Veterans’ Homelessness

Homeless VeteranSeveral years and one administration ago, Virginia Public Radio highlighted some of the challenges pertaining to veterans’ homelessness, and since then new leaders have vowed to do all they can to eliminate it within the Commonwealth. As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, a lot of progress has been made in just a short period of time.

 

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Leaders Consider Integrity in State Government

integritycommission (1)While the General Assembly passed legislation earlier this year to toughen Virginia’s ethics laws, a gubernatorial panel insists that those reforms are only the beginning.  At its June meeting, the Governor’s Commission on Integrity and Public Confidence in State Government held a wide-ranging discussion about what to target next for reform.  And as Anne Marie reports, a few of the topics that were bandied about may not be politically popular.

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Boosting Cyber-Security

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

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

With potentially millions of Virginians victimized by the recent cyber-attack against federal employees, state lawmakers want to expedite the formation of public-private collaborations that would stimulate research and development in cyber-security. Now a Joint Commission on Technology and Science panel agrees—and wants to help bring the best minds in the field together.  And as Anne Marie Morgan reports, both higher education institutions and companies are willing and eager to make that happen.

 

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Democrats Sue Over Voter ID Law

wooden gavel and books on wooden table,on brown background

wooden gavel and books on wooden table,on brown background

Reactions vary to a Democratic lawsuit challenging Virginia’s voter photo ID law—based primarily on which side of the political spectrum the stakeholders fall.  Democrats argue that this is another attempt to disenfranchise minority and other voters, while the GOP and the law’s chief sponsor say it’s designed to protect the integrity of the voting system. But as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, political observers are wondering how this lawsuit will progress—and what’s the best course of action for the state’s Democratic Attorney General.

 

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Reforming VA’s Preschool Initiative

A number of studies suggest that young children who enter pre-kindergarten programs develop their learning skills more effectively than those who don’t. That’s one reason why state lawmakers recently decided to examine and reform the Virginia Preschool Initiative.  And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, one of the underlying issues is making sure that low-income children have access to—and take advantage of— those programs.

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Rural Hospitals at Risk: The Walk to Washington

Rural HospitalVirginia’s Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Resources lends an ear to a grassroots organization protesting the possible closure of 283 rural hospitals across the country, including the Commonwealth. As Tommie McNeil reports, Dr. Jennifer Lee said it’s yet another reason why she believes Medicaid expansion could be the answer.

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June Primary Results

Election ResultsThere were some electoral upsets yesterday as Virginia voters in 48 localities cast their ballots in state and local primaries. Among the most contested were 18 elections to nominate candidates for the General Assembly—including challenges to nine incumbent Senators and Delegates. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, several incumbent lawmakers will not be returning to the General Assembly.

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Executions & Secrecy: FOIA Case

Execution DrugsVirginia Supreme Court justices will soon be deciding on a case that could have a significant impact on what state officials can withhold—even when a Freedom of Information Act request is submitted.  Although this case began with one lawmaker asking about how executions are carried out, he also discovered that agencies may have found a way around disclosing pertinent information. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports.

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VA Supreme Court Hears Appeal on Sweet Briar College Closing

Sweet Briar HouseThe women of the troubled Sweet Briar College say the institution IS capable of sustaining itself—and all it needs is a second chance. As Tommie McNeil reports, they’re hoping that chance comes in the form of a ruling from the state’s highest court to grant an injunction and allow the college to stay open while school administrators sort out legal and financial matters.

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VA Boasts Record Setting Tourism Revenue

VA is for loversTourists visiting Virginia last year generated a record-setting 22-billion dollars in revenue. That’s according to the latest state numbers, which also indicate that the tourism industry has become the fifth-largest private employer in the state. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, state officials say the Commonwealth’s global exposure will soon grow even more.

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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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Accelerated Efforts to Reduce Energy Consumption

(l-r) Policy analyst Borna Kazarooni and Chief Energy  Efficiency Officer Hayes Framme discuss energy metrics.

(l-r) Policy analyst Borna Kazarooni and Chief Energy Efficiency Officer Hayes Framme discuss energy metrics.

Governor McAuliffe has accelerated the timetable set in a 2007 state law that requires a voluntary 10 percent reduction in state energy consumption—by moving its target date to 2020. Now an expert panel established to help achieve that goal has concluded that it needs additional data just to clarify how that should be measured. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, it also says the responsibility does not just rest with electric utilities to boost their own conservation efforts.

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Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence Submits Final Report

StateCapitolIts work done, the Governor’s Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence has submitted its final report to the McAuliffe administration. It includes 21 recommendations and is touted by its members to be the most comprehensive step in curbing violence, making it easier to report assaults, and changing the mindset of communities toward victims.

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One Motorcyclist Hopes Drivers Increase Awareness

2615332682_8e25ebf8db_o“Measure twice, cut once.” The old adage holds especially true for the many motorists who will hit the road this summer. One veteran motorcyclist is asking millions of drivers to measure their surroundings to AVOID cutting off, hitting, or injuring “two-wheelers.”

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How to Closer A College: SCHEV Outlines Policy

Closed SignOver the last several years, Sweet Briar College, Virginia Intermont, and Saint Paul’s College have announced that they were closing-and now state officials are engaging in a broad discussion about what recourse families have when that happens.
Tommie McNeil reports, while students would rather not have to make the adjustment, they do have options when such a development occurs.

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Virginia Lawmakers Determined to Eliminate Sex Trafficking

Photo: Creative Commons, Flickr

Photo: Creative Commons, Flickr

Some Virginia lawmakers admit that they take it personally when sex traffickers decide to make the Commonwealth a hub for their business—especially since they target children. It’s why even after making great strides over the last several years in holding those predators accountable, lawmakers remain very aggressive in stopping this at the source.

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Former Virginia Attorneys General Argue for McDonnell’s Corruption Charges Appeal

Former Solicitor General Bill Hurd

Former Solicitor General Bill Hurd

Next week, a federal court will hear the appeal of former Governor Bob McDonnell’s conviction on federal corruption charges. Among the many amicus briefs submitted to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is one by six former Virginia attorneys general. The four Democrats and two Republicans argue that the lower court’s expansive interpretation of law on which his conviction is based is erroneous.

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Panel Studying ABC Structure Gets to Work

A panel appointed by Governor McAuliffe to review the activities of Alcoholic Beverage Control agents spent hours yesterday scrutinizing the department’s structure, how agents are trained, and recent public safety statistics. Prompted by a public outcry over the forceful arrest of a 20-year-old UVa student who suffered a gash on his head, the panel is tasked with recommending improvements–and whether or not ABC agents should retain their law enforcement authority. Anne Marie Morgan has more details about the panel’s initial findings.

The agency is already planning re-training sessions, which will include responses to active resistance and use of force, cultural diversity, and communication with minors and young adults. The panel will hold additional meetings before making its final recommendations.

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Lawmakers Continue Debating Privacy Issues

license plate readerGovernment surveillance and data collection are some of the privacy issues still being debated well after the 2015 General Assembly session has ended.  It’s because Governor McAuliffe has taken action following the Reconvened Session–by signing one bill limiting the use of drones, but vetoing another that would restrict how much and how long data can be retained by law enforcement. As Tommie McNeil reports,  the Governor explains why to a group of journalists pressing him for answers.

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Business Appreciation Month

McAuliffe Bus AppreciationGovernor McAuliffe has kicked off Business Appreciation Month with a dedication to some of Virginia’s oldest businesses. He says during the month of MAY, he will make a series of economic development announcements that highlight his efforts to bring more jobs to the Commonwealth. But as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, one official explains that companies without the traditional “corporate” profile will also feature interesting events to look forward to throughout the rest of the year.

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Heavy Toll of Distracted Driving

DistractedIt hasn’t made many headlines, but this is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month—and Virginia has announced that more than 24,000 crashes statewide last year were attributed to distracted drivers.  Those distractions caused both fatalities and thousands of injuries.  And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, state officials stress that such accidents can  be prevented.

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NAACP and Other Organizations Launch Social Justice Speaking Series

Former Richmond City Councilman Marty Jewell joined community leaders to discuss the forums.Some local branches of the NAACP and other community organizations are speaking out about police treatment of African-Americans—especially the recent high-profile incidents in the U.S. where some have died while in custody or under pursuit.  They’re taking their concerns on the road with a listening tour that will enable citizens to share their own personal experiences – and they’re hoping the “Spring Social Justice Series” will help spark wholesale changes in the criminal justice system.

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Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights

Victims' RightsAs advocates mark National Crime Victims Week, in Virginia they’re marking the 20th anniversary of the state’s very own Crime Victims Bill of Rights.  But experts say those provisions, said to have given sufferers more rights with teeth, are also more relevant now as the state deals with proposals to address campus sexual assaults.  Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil has more from the State Capitol.

 

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Police Force & Body Cameras

(Second from right) Chesapeake Police Chief Kelvin Wright  explains how his agency uses body-worn cameras.

(Second from right) Chesapeake Police Chief Kelvin Wright explains how his agency uses body-worn cameras.

As the public conversation continues about the appropriate use of police force, a number of state lawmakers are proposing the use of body-worn cameras by public safety personnel to document what happens during traffic stops and other interactions. That has prompted a Secure Commonwealth Panel subcommittee to thoroughly examine all of the issues surrounding use of the cameras in the Commonwealth. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, they turn out to be far more complex than just strapping on a camera and recording police business.

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Transparency Virginia Monitors General Assembly

Richmond First

Richmond First’s Michael Jackson discusses the findings with other Transparency Virginia members.

A coalition of nonprofit and advocacy organizations says the General Assembly’s legislative process needs to be more open and clear to the public. Members of “Transparency Virginia” attended more than three-quarters of the Assembly’s 101 committee and subcommittee meetings during its recent session. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, they found a less-than-stellar record of adequate notice for meetings, recorded votes, and full consideration of bills.

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General Assembly Reconvened: Drone Bill Debated

8725078749_00627cd860_oGovernor McAuliffe will soon have to decide whether to veto a bill that limits police use of drones without search warrants or accept the fact that the Senate decided to reject his amendments. That’s just one of the bills that the General Assembly debated today during its annual Reconvened Session.

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ABLE Savings Trust: Lighten the Load

McAuliffe SignsLegislation signed by Governor McAuliffe creates what he says is the first state that establishes a trust account for certain people with disabilities. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil explains what the new law does.

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Virginia Lawmakers on Sequestration

US Capitol Dome & SenateThe House and Senate are set to debate the nation’s budget this week and it has huge implications for the region. Virginia lawmakers are fighting to keep those indiscriminate budget cuts known as sequestration at bay.

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“Kill the Bees, Kill the Economy”

HoneybeeAnnually for about 13 years, Virginia—like many other states—has been losing about 30% of its honey bee population to a host of problems.

Some might think that there’s no need to worry.  But as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports,  aside from the delicious honey they produce, bees are a major contributor to the production of Virginia agriculture, the state’s top commodity.

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Concerns Over Campus Sexual Assault Legislation

College LectureLegislation that addresses campus sexual assaults is already on Governor McAuliffe’s desk—but before he signs off, amends, or vetoes anything, he has the input from members of his Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence to consider. The legislation requires campus employees to report sexual violence allegations to the Title IX [9] coordinator, who must report the allegation to a review team that meets within 72 hours.  And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, one subcommittee believes that while the legislation is a good first step, there’s more work ahead.

The legislation also states that if the review team determines that disclosure of the information is necessary to protect the health and safety of the victim or others, the Title IX coordinator would be required to disclose the information to the relevant law-enforcement agency.

 

 

 

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Cracking Down on Cyber Bullying

Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown presents plaque to Tammy Garcia.

Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown presents plaque to Tammy Garcia.

In the future, Virginia will pass laws to help prevent and punish cyberbullying—if the Bedford County Sheriff gets his way.Sheriff Mike Brown was shocked by cases of tragic suicides that have followed bullying on the Internet and social media, so he is raising public awareness in the meantime. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, Brown plans to distribute DVDs that educate people about cyberbullying to every school in the Commonwealth.

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Inside the Governor’s Access Plan

terry+mcauliffe2During its recent session, Virginia’s General Assembly took action on the Governor’s Access Plan, which is a limited mental health and medical benefits package for a group of low-income adults in the Commonwealth. But what does it do, who is eligible, and what are its limitations?

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More Access to Dental Care

Gov. McAuliffe announces dental benefits at the VCU School  of Dentistry.The state’s Medicaid and FAMIS programs have traditionally authorized dental services for enrollees up to the age of 21. But as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, one group of adults will now have access to dental care under a new program announced by Governor McAuliffe.
 

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Anti-Hunger Initiative in High-Poverty Schools

U.S. Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Gov.  McAuliffe, and Rep. Bobby Scott watch as First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe  speaks at the announcement.

U.S. Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Gov. McAuliffe, and Rep. Bobby Scott watch as First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe speaks at the announcement.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack joined Virginia’s governor and first lady to announce an $8.8 million federal grant for an anti-hunger initiative in some of the state’s high-poverty schools. As Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the demonstration project will provide students in selected schools with breakfast, lunch, and after-school supper—as well as non-perishable food to take home on weekends and breaks.

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Measuring School Performance

classroomShould they be signed into law by Governor McAuliffe, bills recently passed by the General Assembly would modify some of the scrutiny of school systems that meet state standards.  And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, the state would also create a different method to inform parents of how well those schools are doing.

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Lawmakers Build on Education Reform Bills

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

A large number of public education reform bills made it through this year’s General Assembly session. As Tommie McNeil reports, the sponsor of many of the House bills says lawmakers wanted to build on last year’s successes with the SOL reforms.

 

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Lawmakers Pass State Budget

Virginia_State_CapitolNo post session per diems, last-minute deals, and burning of the midnight oil this year. While the votes were not unanimous, Senate and House lawmakers have passed a state budget that includes pay raises for state employees, college faculty, state police, and teachers. But as Tommie McNeil reports, although the bill passed by an overwhelming margin, some assert there’s still something missing.

 

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Lawmakers Consider Tighter Guidlines on Home Daycare Providers

Day-Care-CenterRecent tragedies where children have died under the care of unlicensed daycare providers have prompted the General Assembly to pass measures to strengthen Virginia’s licensing guidelines. But as WVTF RADIO IQ’s Tommie McNeil reports, while lawmakers agree on the overall goals, they’re still trying to reach a consensus on how far the guidelines should go.

One version of the legislation is now in a conference committee, which will try to reconcile differences between the House and Senate.

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Lawmakers Consider “Right to Try” for Terminally Ill Patients

Aimee Hardy advocates for the legislation

Aimee Hardy advocates for the legislation.

Patients with a terminal illness would have expanded access to investigational drugs under Senate legislation that has been given preliminary approval by the House of Delegates. The bill would allow manufacturers to supply the medicine when all other treatment options have been exhausted. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, the legislation—which has been dubbed the “Right to Try” bill—was inspired by a young boy in the Commonwealth who fought for access to an investigational drug last year.

 

 

 

 

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Rallying the Legislators: Richmond’s Bell Tower

Belltower1 (1)During the General Assembly session in Richmond, lawmakers are rallied to the Capitol each day by two different bell towers that ring in coordination with each other. Reporter Michael Pope wanted to know why.

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Governor Declares State of Emergency for Virginia

Gov State PrepsWith a major snowstorm blowing across the Commonwealth, Governor Terry McAuliffe says the declaration allows the Virginia Department of Transportation to mobilize its 12,000 pieces of equipment, and 2,500 workers and contractors to respond.

The governor is also calling on Virginians to stay off the roads, if possible, in order to allow emergency vehicles passage and to cut down on the potential for accidents.

“Every part of the Commonwealth is going to be impacted by this storm,” Gov. McAuliffe said. “Every single part of the Commonwealth.”

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Reigning in Restraints of School Kids

SchoolhouseWhen a special needs child is a bit fussy or has a history of violent outbursts in a classroom setting, who has the right to restrain them or put them into seclusion—and who decides when that goes too far?  In Virginia, that’s not clear.  But as Tommie McNeil reports, a bill that’s sailed through both chambers of the General Assembly will soon change that.

 

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Budget Day in Richmond Runs Smoother

First day of the legislative sessionBoth the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate today overwhelmingly approved their respective versions of the state’s spending plan.  Budget day at the Virginia State Capitol typically reveals how lawmakers really feel about the state of the Commonwealth and how dire things are.  But as Tommie McNeil reports, while lawmakers have philosophical differences, the tone, at least for now, doesn’t seem as contentious as it has been in recent years.

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Lawmakers Promise Rate Freeze, But Electric Bills May Still Rise

Image: Creative Commons

Image: Creative Commons

Virginia’s two big electric companies will escape state regulation of their base rates for up to eight years under a bill which caught opponents by surprise – a measure just approved by the Virginia House.  Its sponsor promised a rate freeze for consumers, but as Sandy Hausman reports, your bill could still be going up.

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Mandatory Sexual Assault Reporting

Delegate Rob Bell

Delegate Rob Bell

Sexual assault is an issue getting some attention in this session of Virginia’s General Assembly. Several bills have been proposed to require colleges to report any violent incident, including a sexual assault, to local law enforcement. The proposals are not without controversy.

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Money Committees Report Revenue Bump

Senate Finance.There’s good news from the Governor and the heads of the General Assembly’s money committees. Despite dealing earlier with a significant revenue shortfall, the state is now seeing a $338-million revenue bump from withholdings through corporate income tax and insurance premiums. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil explains.

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Hope Floats for End to Gerrymander

GerryMander-TheOriginal2Bills to stop gerrymandering are enjoying an unusual bout of success in the General Assembly this year. While most pundits still think they’ll get shot down, the head of a political training center thinks there’s momentum for reform.  Hawes Spencer reports.

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Senate Passes ‘Ban the Box’ Bill

14066879786_a2f7ec2a0f_kVirginia State Senate has passed legislation that would impact state hiring of applicants with criminal convictions. The “Ban the Box” bill would allow to people who were charged or convicted of crimes to advance further in the employment vetting process before a prospective employer could inquire about any criminal history.

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