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An Unprecedented General Assembly Session Wraps Up

Credit Va Capitol Police Twitter Page; @VaCapitolPolice

As the General Assembly session winds down, Michael Pope talked to Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Jeff Shapiro about what happened and what didn’t happen.

The General Assembly session is scheduled to end on Saturday.

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Budget Bill Includes Raises for State Employees, Teachers and Troopers

On Thursday negotiators from the House and Senate agreed on a budget proposal.

Jahd Khalil tells us how one compromise led to a five percent raise for teachers. 

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Senate Won’t Close Campaign Cash Loophole

Lawmakers are rejecting an effort to create new rules for how lawmakers are able to spend campaign cash.

Michael Pope explains.

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Study: Virginia is Still a Long Way From Herd Immunity

Credit: CDC

More than half a million Virginians have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and many more could have been infected without developing symptoms.  The state also reports vaccinating more than one-million people.

So are we getting close to what’s known as herd immunity? 

Sandy Hausman put that question to one expert at the University of Virginia.

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Va. News: School Names and Schools Online

School districts in southwest Virginia are getting together to plan what they see as the next step for online learning…and a Northern Virginia high school may soon take on the name of a former staff member who was fired for taking a stand against segregation.

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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How Will Opioid Settlement Dollars Be Used?

Virginia won millions of dollars from pharmaceutical consultants for the damage done by the opioid epidemic. It’s probably getting much more from the drug makers themselves.

But will Virginia be able to learn from its past mistakes?

Jahd Khalil reports that public health experts are thinking about the future and another major settlement. 

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Senate Considers Ban on “Ghost Guns”

Members of the General Assembly are considering legislation that would prohibit people from evading gun-control laws by constructing a gun at home.

Michael Pope explains. 

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Senate Committee Kills Cyber Flashing Bill

Virginia lawmakers rejected a bill aimed at cracking down on cyber flashing.

Michael Pope reports.

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General Assembly Considers Allowing Sunday Voting

Voters cast ballots in Richmond. (Credit: Mallory Noe-Payne)

Democrats are taking a number of steps to make voting more accessible.

As Michael Pope reports, that includes a bill to allow voting on Sundays.

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A Surprising Year for College Applications

Virginia Tech was one of several colleges and universities in the commonwealth to report a big increase in applications. (Credit: Virginia Tech)

The pandemic has played havoc with many things this year including college admissions. 

As Sandy Hausman reports, applications at some schools were up dramatically, while other institutions appear to be falling short. 

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Senate Committee Kills Workers Comp Retaliation Bill

Credit: VA Capitol Police Twitter Page; @VaCapitolPolice

Senators rejected a House bill that would prevent employers from retaliating against their employees.

Michael Pope explains why.

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Va. News: Absentee Ballots and Boosting Minority Owned Businesses

Minority owned businesses in the upper Shenandoah Valley will soon have a new source of capital. And Virginia lawmakers are looking to change the way absentee ballots are counted.

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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Adoption Agency “Conscience Clause” is Target of Legislation

Lawmakers are debating a bill aimed at preventing discrimination by adoption agencies.

But, as Michael Pope reports, the House and the Senate are divided over how to do it.

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A Divide Over Electric School Buses?

Last year’s passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act meant electric utilities needed to come up with more than 3,000 megawatts of energy storage capacity. One place was in the batteries of electric school buses.

But as Jahd Khalil reports, some Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups weren’t on the same. 

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School Building Fund Legislation Advances

Credit: VA Capitol Police Twitter Page; @VaCapitolPolice

Lawmakers are debating a number of bills about what happens inside Virginia classrooms.

And as Michael Pope reports, they’re also considering a bill that aimed at improving school buildings across Virginia.

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House Subcommittee Takes Closer Look at Utility Overearnings

In Virginia, utility companies are allowed a certain rate of return. If they make more money than that, they typically have to give it back.

But Virginia also has a law which, unlike in other states, allows companies to take over-earnings and invest them in infrastructure projects.

As Jahd Khalil reports, the House of Delegates is taking a closer look at that.

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Va. News: Old Mining Sites could become Data Centers, Helping Whales & Ships Co-Exist

Remnants of southwestern Virginia’s economic past may be among the keys to its economic future. And researchers are looking for ways to make the Chesapeake Bay safer for humpback whales.

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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Senate Committee Says No to Hate Crime Bill

Last summer’s demonstrations over racial justice and Confederate monuments are causing lawmakers to rethink the definition of a hate crime and who can be prosecuted for one.

Michael Pope reports.

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Legislation Aims to Clear Up Confusion About Conservation Easements

In Virginia, hundreds of thousands of acres of land are protected through conservation easements.

Landowners typically donate an easement to a conservation organization, and those organizations are hoping to strengthen easements’ legal standing through a bill this legislative session.

Jahd Khalil has more. 

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Bill to Abolish Death Penalty Advances in Virginia Senate

Lawmakers may be on the verge of eliminating the death penalty in Virginia.

Michael Pope has more on the arguments.

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Va. News: Investigating Police and a Fight Over Water Rates

Nearly a dozen police departments have agreed to co-operate in investigating officer involved shootings. And one town is unhappy with its water provider which happens to be the U. S. Marine Corps.

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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State Senator Amanda Chase Faces Censure Resolution

Senator Amanda Chase speaks during Thursday’s Senate session. (Credit: Senate of Virginia livestream)

Lawmakers in the General Assembly are considering a censure of a Republican senator who spoke at the rally that led to the attack on the Capitol.

Michael Pope reports.

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Security Plans for General Assembly Session Ongoing

When Twitter permanently banned President Donald, it cited plans for attacks on unnamed state capitols.

Jahd Khalil has more on Virginia’s preparations for the General Assembly session, which begins Wednesday. 

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New Rules and Relief Programs Now in Effect for Virginia Tenants and Landlords

2020 exposed the need for eviction prevention measures in Virginia.

Now, a set of rules and relief programs are in place that could help both landlords and tenants cope with financial challenges in the coming year.

Cat Modlin-Jackson has this look at where things stand. 

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Two Virginia Republicans Defend Their Votes on Electoral College Objections

All four Republicans in Virginia’s Congressional delegation voted for objections to certifying Joe Biden’s election.

Michael Pope spoke to two of them who are defending those votes.

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Length of Session may be an Early Fight in 2021 General Assembly

Virginia’s part-time legislature meets for 60 days in even-numbered years and 30 days in odd-numbered years. So the session that begins on January 13 is supposed to be a short one. 

After a long special session last summer, some lawmakers are determined to adjourn on time, but as Sandy Hausman reports, that may not happen.

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Va. News: A Christmas Miracle and Chaperones at the Shopping Mall

Teens continue to attract scrutiny at shopping malls across Virginia. And the winner of the 1958 Miss Virginia Pageant has experienced something that looks very much like a Christmas miracle.

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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New Report Suggests a Long Recovery from COVID-19 Ahead for Virginia

It could take years for Virginia’s economy to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s the headline from Old Dominion University, which has released its annual look at the Commonwealth’s economy.

Nick Gilmore explains. 

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While Unemployment Lingers in Some Job Sectors, Others Bounce Back

(Credit: Virginia Economic Development Partnership)

Most parts of Virginia’s economy are suffering as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

But, as Michael Pope reports, it’s not all doom and gloom.

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Advocates Press for more Racial, Geographic Diversity in Redistricting Commission Applicants

For the first time ever, citizens will play a role in drawing new lines for the General Assembly and Congress.

And as Michael Pope reports, the deadline for people to apply is fast approaching.

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Eagles Imperiled in Virginia

The Wildlife Center of Virginia sees 30 to 40 injured eagles each year. Two-thirds have some degree of lead poisoning. (Credit: Wildlife Center of Virginia

Forty years ago, bald eagles were endangered in this country due to lost habitat, illegal shooting and contamination of their food.  Today, the national bird has made a comeback with more than 10,000 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states.

But here in Virginia, experts say one threat remains, and they’re hoping the problem can be fixed as Sandy Hausman reports.

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Coping with Holiday Depression

Kim Penberthy is a PhD psychologist and co-author of Living Mindfully Across the Lifespan. (Credit: UVA Photo)

The holidays can be stressful, even in normal times, and mental health experts say the situation is much worse for many people during the pandemic.

Sandy Hausman spoke with one psychologist at the University of Virginia about coping strategies.

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Va. News: Fireworks Feud and Internet from the Space

A southwest Virginia community that has almost no high speed internet service will soon be getting it from space. And a request that Orange County allow regular fireworks displays in a rural area drew a lot of support but very little of it came from Orange County.

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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UVA Survey Shows Dark Times for Democracy

The 2020 election confirmed what Americans have known for some time – that the nation is deeply divided. 

To learn more about why and what we might do about it, the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture surveyed more than 2,200 people, then issued a report. 

Sandy Hausman spoke with its authors and has this report.

They have some ideas about how our leaders might begin to build consensus as Sandy Hausman reports in part two.

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Va. News: Holiday Traditions and Trees Turning the Tide

The pandemic has made traditional holiday parades all but impossible this year, but one Virginia city has shown that where there’s a will there’s a way. And while Virginia Beach waits for major construction projects to reduce flooding the city is partnering with nature to mitigate the problem.

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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Economic Recovery Following the Pandemic is on Track, But Could Take Longer in Rural Virginia

Recovering to pre-pandemic employment levels is expected to take longer in rural Virginia. Michael Pope reports.

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Va. News: Gone from Monument Ave. and Gone Fishin’

Rather than report for a remotely taught freshman year, two young college students from Virginia went fishing, and their parents are fine with it.  And Richmond is trying to decide who will take possession of the Confederate statues that no longer stand in the city.

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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Northam Warns of Rising Hospitalizations

More Virginians are hospitalized today for coronavirus-related health issues than at any other point during the pandemic.

Governor Ralph Northam made that announcement during a COVID-19 briefing Wednesday.

Mallory Noe-Payne has more. 

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Job Loses Linger in Leisure & Hospitality Businesses

The pandemic has created a downturn across the economy.

But as Michael Pope reports, some industries have taken a particularly hard hit in Virginia.

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Officials Prepare for Vaccine Distribution as Soon as Mid-December

Credit: CDC

With recent positive news about COVID-19 vaccines from two major pharmaceutical companies, Virginia is now planning for distribution.

As Mallory Noe-Payne reports, state officials say the first round could happen as early as mid-December. 

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Could Community Ownership Save Mobile Home Parks?

Residents of Ray’s and Engleside communities in Fairfax County recording a video. They want the communities saved. (Credit: Cat Modlin-Jackson)

Mobile home parks have been a source of affordable housing since the 1970s.

Now, these communities are starting to disappear as land values rise, developments crop up and the structures start to wither with age.

But a movement to preserve the neighborhoods is gaining traction across the state.

Cat Modlin-Jackson has the story. 

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Va. News: Time Capsule Preservation and Norfolk Revitalization

A team at UVA is working to salvage damaged items from a recently unearthed time capsule. And what was expected to serve as a focal point in a revitalized area of Norfolk may never come to be.

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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Virginia Unemployment Dips, But Some are Leaving the Workforce

Virginia’s unemployment rate is down a bit, according to the latest data from the federal government.

Michael Pope explains the numbers.

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Northam: No New Restrictions Before Thanksgiving Holiday

Credit: CDC

Governor Ralph Northam is not announcing any new COVID-19 restrictions before the Thanksgiving holiday, despite the fact that the state is now reporting the highest number of daily new cases since the start of the pandemic.

Mallory Noe-Payne has more.

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Studies on School Segregation Highlight Challenges of Housing, Economics

Forced racial segregation of public schools ended decades ago in Virginia.

But as Michael Pope reports, new studies show Virginia schools remain segregated today.

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‘Legalization Will Happen’ Virginia Gov Says on Marijuana

Credit: U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

Virginia could be poised to become the first state in the south to legalize recreational use of marijuana.

Governor Ralph Northam expressed full support Monday.

Mallory Noe-Payne has more. 

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House of Delegates to Continue Virtual Meetings but Republicans Vow to Limit Length of 2021 Session

Lawmakers are preparing for the upcoming session of the General Assembly.

And, as Michael Pope reports, it probably won’t be quite as long as the special session that just wrapped up.

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Should Wolves Return to Virginia?

North Carolina is trying to bring red wolves back from extinction. Could Virginia be next?
(Credit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

With so much attention focused on the presidential race, you may have missed this news from Colorado. 

That’s where, by just over one percent, voters asked their state to come up with a plan for reinstating wolves west of the continental divide.

There is also talk of bringing those animals back to Virginia as Sandy Hausman reports.

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Va. News: Council Cooperation and Sports Uncertainty

A story from Richmond this week has highlighted the effect of the pandemic on high school athletes. And there’s much co-operation among the nine members of Chesapeake City Council. Some people say it may be a little too much.

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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Seagrass Meadows Restored Off Eastern Shore

Scientists have restored vast sea grass meadows off Virginia’s Eastern Shore. (Credit: UVA)

Virginia is celebrating a 20-year experiment off the Eastern Shore – the restoration of vast seagrass meadows where marine animals live. 

As Sandy Hausman reports, it’s the largest project of its kind in the world, offering benefits on many fronts.

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