May 2010

You are browsing the archives for May 2010.
19 May 2010

Schools to Use NRA Program for Gun Education

Starting next school year, a new law allows local school boards to offer gun safety education in elementary schools, based on a program from the National Rifle Association. The law requires that the program use guidelines based on “the rules of the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program.”

17 May 2010

Raising Awareness About ‘Shaken Baby’ Injuries

Babies are more fragile than a lot of people think – and shaking them, in anger or playfully, can cause brain damage. Thanks to a new state law, Virginia soon will launch a campaign to inform parents and caretakers about shaken baby syndrome, which can result in blindness and death.

16 May 2010

Protecting Kids From Online Sexual Predators

The state’s fight against online sexual predators will get a boost when a new law takes effect July 1. The law will assess an additional $10 fee on each felony and misdemeanor conviction. The money will go into Virginia’s Internet Crimes Against Children Fund and will support the work of ICAC investigators.

15 May 2010

America’s Longest-Serving State Legislator

Delegate Lacey Putney is in no rush. It’s not that he isn’t busy; it’s not that he doesn’t have people waiting for him. Putney is in no rush because as the longest consecutively serving state legislator in America, he can choose to wait.

14 May 2010

A User-Friendly Guide to FOIA

So, you want to learn how to use FOIA? This package of stories is a guide to Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act. It’s designed to help citizens understand the law and file requests for public information.

14 May 2010

FOIA: It’s Not Just for Journalists Anymore

It’s no longer a rare occurrence for individual citizens to make a splash as Phil and Ellen Winter did. The couple used the Freedom of Information Act, a law that makes it possible for the public to obtain certain types of documents and access to meetings, to investigate their local government.

14 May 2010

FOIA Quick Facts

Various levels of government have Freedom of Information Acts. There’s a federal FOIA (to get information from federal agencies) as well as a Virginia FOIA (to obtain information from state agencies). Here’s a rundown on the federal FOIA.

14 May 2010

Transparency Prevails in 2010 Legislative Session

This year’s General Assembly session was a good one for transparency-related bills in Virginia. Most of the bills that were considered detrimental to those who work for open government were defeated or amended, while most bills to expand FOIA made it through both the House and Senate.

14 May 2010

FOIA Help Links

A comprehensive, easy-to-follow information page on the federal FOIA, including an FAQ, sample letters and a list of exemptions.

14 May 2010

FOIA Lesson Plan for High School Teachers

This lesson plan could be part of the weeklong journalism instruction in 10th- and 11th-grade English classes. This plan is designed for schools that do not have a specific journalism program.

13 May 2010

Many Say Schools Underreport Sexual Assaults

Many officials say sexual assaults are grossly underreported on college campuses. There’s a big discrepancy between surveys on the prevalence of rape on campus and the statistics reported by colleges and universities.

12 May 2010

Movement to Reform Marijuana Laws Grows

To many young people, smoking pot isn’t a big deal – hardly a crime to merit hard time in prison. But law enforcement authorities take marijuana possession seriously: Over the past 20 years, the number of marijuana arrests nationwide has nearly tripled – to more than 870,000 in 2007.

11 May 2010

Nobody Loses in School Funding Battle

It’s not often in politics that everybody comes out a winner. But once in a while, it happens. Such was the case in the fight over a freeze on Virginia’s Local Composite Index, which determines how much local taxpayers should contribute toward public education and how much should come from the state.

11 May 2010

Doing the Math on Richmond’s School Funding

Since early March, the Richmond School Board, along with Mayor Dwight Jones, has been negotiating a budget for the 2010-2011 school year. That budget proposal must now be presented to the City Council. At the council level, the fiscal plan will be modified to reflect recent actions that the General Assembly has taken on school finance.

10 May 2010

Lgsl8trs twEt 2 kEp n tuch (Legislators Tweet to Keep In Touch)

In an era of ever-changing technology, politicians are reaching out to their constituents through social networking sites like Facebook, and more recently, Twitter. Of the 140 members of Virginia’s General Assembly, 30 have Twitter accounts – five senators and 25 delegates.

10 May 2010

Tweets Run Gamut from Weighty to Wacky

Virginia legislators “tweet” about a variety of subjects, from funny to serious. Here is a small selection.

09 May 2010

Gun Permits Are (Not So) Public Information

Concealed weapons permits are theoretically open records. But the reality is that it is difficult and frustrating for journalists or members of the public to view these documents. If you’re trying to look up whether a specific person – a threatening neighbor, an abusive ex-spouse or a high-level public official – has a license to carry, all I can tell you is: Good luck.

09 May 2010

Should Concealed Gun Permits Be Public?

The General Assembly recently killed a bill that would have kept the names of concealed weapons permit holders from the public. The House voted 87-10 in favor of the proposal, House Bill 79, sponsored by Delegate Lee Ware, R-Powhatan. However, the bill died in the Senate Courts of Justice. Here are dueling viewpoints on whether concealed gun permits should remain open to the public.

09 May 2010

How To Apply For a Concealed Weapons Permit

To carry a concealed weapon, you must fill out a form called SP-248 – Application for Concealed Handgun Permit. It’s available at circuit courts, sheriff’s offices and police departments throughout Virginia.

08 May 2010

With State’s Nod, Indians’ Spirits Can Walk Free

The General Assembly has granted state recognition to three more Native American tribes in Virginia. This will allow the tribes to petition for return of their ancestral remains from the Smithsonian Institution. Moreover, it will help the Indians preserve their heritage and inform the public of the tribes’ importance in Virginia’s history.

07 May 2010

Small Fish Attracts Big Environmental Debate

Big trouble could be on the horizon for a tiny fish, the Atlantic menhaden. Some worry that menhaden, which play an important role in the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay, are being overfished – mostly by a company in Virginia. That’s triggered a debate in environmental circles, the fishing community and the General Assembly over how to manage the menhaden population.

07 May 2010

Menhaden Aren’t Overfished, Report Says

Atlantic menhaden along the East Coast are not being overfished, according to a report released this week by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. There were enough spawning menhaden in 2008 to produce an adequate amount of eggs for the population to replenish, the report said. But it said there has been a decline in the number of young fish in recent years.

06 May 2010

For Ex-Cons, Re-entering Society is Daunting

After they’ve served their time behind bars and are released back into society, prisoners often need education, employment, housing and other assistance – or else they’re likely to return to committing crime. But such help can be hard to find.

06 May 2010

What Changed My Mind About Criminals

I used to think all criminals were guilty of being too lazy to try to live better lives. I thought criminals were criminals simply because they wanted to be – leeches who ruined life for the rest of us. I didn’t care about their “reasons” or “excuses” for what they did. I don’t harbor those misconceptions any more – thanks to a prison literature course at Virginia Commonwealth University.

06 May 2010

Professor Helps Prisoners Find Themselves Through Writing

David Coogan has been an English professor at Virginia Commonwealth University since 2004. In 2005, he started his Prison Writing Project as a form of outreach to inmates at the Richmond City Jail. Two years later, he began teaching a prison literature class to educate students about the issues revealed in his workshop.

05 May 2010

Alumni Connection: Legislators’ Old-School Ties

Twenty-five state legislators – about one of every six – attended the University of Virginia. U.Va. has a bigger delegation at the Capitol than any other college or university, according to a Capital News Service analysis of legislators’ alma maters. The Cavaliers easily outdistanced the two runners-up – Virginia Tech (with 17 legislators) and the University of Richmond (16).

04 May 2010

David and Tony: A Love Story

David and Tony are among many gay couples across the nation who have traveled to another state to be married while their home state refuses to recognize their union. For couples in such situations, there are several medical and legal concerns.

04 May 2010

A Short History of Same-Sex Marriage

While gay marriage continues to be a controversial topic, particularly in the United States, unions between individuals of the same sexual orientation are not new.

03 May 2010

New Law Targets Student-Athletes’ Concussions

With spring sports under way and summer on its way, the Virginia Department of Health wants to make sure student-athletes know there is no such thing as a “mild” concussion. Even a “ding” – “getting your bell rung” – or what may seem to be a slight bump or blow to the head can be serious.