March 2012

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31 Mar 2012

Teachers Urge Governor to Veto VRS Overhaul

Virginia teachers and firefighters are urging Gov. Bob McDonnell to veto legislation overhauling the retirement plan for the state’s public employees. They said the General Assembly acted hastily on the last day of its regular session when it approved bills to reduce the benefits that employees would receive under the Virginia Retirement System.

30 Mar 2012

‘This Road Brought to You by …’

As the state budget inches closer to passage by the General Assembly, the Virginia Department of Transportation is hoping to raise money by selling the naming rights for roads, bridges and highway stretches.

28 Mar 2012

Virginia OKs Offshore Wind Energy Turbine

Gov. Bob McDonnell’s goal to install America’s first offshore wind energy turbine got a jolt of momentum this week from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. The commission voted unanimously Tuesday to approve construction of a 479-foot-tall, five-megawatt wind turbine generator in the lower Chesapeake Bay, three miles off the Eastern Shore town of Cape Charles.

28 Mar 2012

Committee Will Craft State Budget Compromise

A legislative conference committee soon will begin deliberations to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the state budget, which would take effect July 1. “We are cautiously optimistic that a solid, fiscally prudent budget will emerge from conference and be voted into law within the next few weeks,” House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, said Tuesday.

24 Mar 2012

Lawmaker Wants to Outlaw Designer Drug 25i

A state legislator is asking Gov. Bob McDonnell to add the designer drug 25i to the list of chemical compounds that would be outlawed under a bill recently passed by the General Assembly.

24 Mar 2012

Panel Debates Religious Groups’ Birth Control Coverage

A Catholic lobbyist, a state legislator and other experts this week debated whether the federal law requiring employers to provide health insurance coverage for birth control violates the religious freedoms of faith-based institutions.

22 Mar 2012

A Good Session for Open Government Advocates

It was a pretty good session for advocates of open government, according to a meeting this week of the Virginia Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

19 Mar 2012

Democratic Lawyer Challenges U.S. Rep. Cantor

For Wayne Powell, Virginia’s 7th Congressional District “isn’t personal, it’s Cantor.” Powell, 62, is challenging Republican incumbent Eric Cantor of Henrico County for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Powell is one of the three candidates running for the spot on the Democratic ballot this fall.

19 Mar 2012

Catholic Conference Assesses Legislative Session

The Virginia Catholic Conference experienced both triumphs and failures during the General Assembly’s recently concluded regular session. As victories, VCC Executive Director Jeff Caruso cited the passage of a bill to require an ultrasound before a woman has an abortion – and the defeat of a bill to expand the death penalty in Virginia.

16 Mar 2012

Laws Ghostwritten by Conservative Group, Activists Say

On issues ranging from tax credits for private school tuition to a homeowner’s right to kill an intruder, several bills before the 2012 General Assembly resembled model laws proposed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a politically conservative think tank funded by major corporations.

13 Mar 2012

Law Lets Towns Post ‘Children at Play’ Signs

While campaigning for the House of Delegates, Randy Minchew heard about problems getting “Children at Play” signs installed near a school in Loudoun County. Two months after Minchew took office, Virginia has a new law authorizing towns and counties to erect such signs as long as VDOT agrees and local governments pay for them.

13 Mar 2012

VDOT Awards Funds for Safe Routes to School

The Virginia Department of Transportation has awarded 18 communities a total of $5.9 million this year through the Safe Routes to School program. Funds awarded in the 2012 grant cycle are slated for projects designed to make bicycling and walking to school safer and more appealing for students at 28 elementary and middle schools.

12 Mar 2012

Schools Still Can’t Open Before Labor Day

At the start of the 2012 legislative session, momentum was building for the General Assembly to repeal Virginia’s so-called “Kings Dominion law,” which prohibits public schools from opening before Labor Day without special permission. Legislators had filed 13 bills to rescind the law and let local school boards decide when classes would start. Even Gov. Bob McDonnell weighed in, saying the current restrictions should be lifted.

11 Mar 2012

Parties Have Different Views on Legislative Session

House Speaker William Howell on Sunday hailed the General Assembly’s just-concluded regular session as a success, citing the passage of legislation to create jobs, improve public education and reform public employees’ pension plan.

10 Mar 2012

Law Expedites Help for Families of Slain Officers

Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed legislation to expedite funeral-related payments to the families of law enforcement officers and other first responders killed in the line of duty. “This common-sense measure will provide financial security and relief to those families faced with the loss of one of Virginia’s public safety heroes who has made the ultimate sacrifice,” McDonnell said.

09 Mar 2012

200 Attend Candlelight Vigil Near Governor’s Mansion

More than 200 men and women lined the sidewalk behind the Governor’s Mansion on Thursday night to protest Gov. Bob McDonnell’s signing of a bill requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before an abortion. The candlelight vigil was the fourth event in response to legislation that some demonstrators say is an attack on women’s reproductive rights.

08 Mar 2012

No Raise in Minimum Sentence for DUI Manslaughter

Two weeks ago, a vehicle VCU sophomore Carolina Perez was in was struck at the intersection of Second and Canal streets. Perez, who sat at the point of impact in the accident, died later that morning. Varinder “Vick” Chahal, the driver of the other car, had no injuries; neither did his four passengers. Chahal is facing charges of felony manslaughter, driving under the influence and refusal to submit to a blood or breath test.

08 Mar 2012

‘Tebow Bill’ Dies in Senate Education Panel

Home-schooled students in Virginia will have to wait until next year to see if they can participate in sports and other extracurricular activities at their local high school. That’s because the Senate Education and Health Committee killed the so-called “Tebow Bill.”

08 Mar 2012

Bill Defines Campus Police as Law Enforcement Officers

Campus police officers across Virginia frequently put their lives at risk, just like members of any city, county or state police force. But in the eyes of the law, campus police are not considered law enforcement officers. A bill passed by the General Assembly would change this.

08 Mar 2012

Governor Signs Law Requiring Ignition Interlocks

Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed legislation that will require first-time DUI offenders in Virginia to install a Breathalyzer in their vehicle to prevent them from driving while intoxicated. The governor signed House Bill 279 on Wednesday. As a result, beginning July 1, all Virginians convicted of DUI will have to have an ignition interlock installed in their vehicle. Currently, that requirement applies only to repeat offenders.

08 Mar 2012

Students Visit Capitol as ‘Delegate for a Day’

Instead of sitting in a classroom studying government, students from more than 15 schools in Delegate Rick Morris’ House district got a front-row seat to see how laws were made this legislative session. They participated in Morris’ “Delegate for a Day” program, which wrapped up last week.

06 Mar 2012

Protesters Show Up, but Governor Doesn’t

Undeterred by a surprise early vote from Gov. Bob McDonnell, about 30 reproductive rights activists gathered in front of Precinct 607 this morning to protest the governor’s support of anti-abortion legislation. The protest was scheduled to coincide with McDonnell’s vote in Virginia’s Republican presidential primary.

06 Mar 2012

Democratic Lawyer to Help Capitol Protesters

More than half of the protesters arrested during Saturday’s women’s rights rally at the Capitol will receive free legal representation from Wayne Powell; an attorney and Democrat who plans to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor. The first group of about 30 arrested activists were arraigned Monday and charged with trespassing and unlawful assembly.

05 Mar 2012

Amazon to Charge Virginians Sales Tax in 2013

Bid farewell to tax-free buys from the world’s most popular online store. Amazon.com, the Seattle-based e-tailer of books and other products, next year will begin collecting and paying Virginia state sales tax under an agreement announced by Gov. Bob McDonnell.

05 Mar 2012

Bars Aren’t Happy over Social Media Ad Ban

Why are bar and restaurant owners frowning when it comes to advertising “happy hour” specials? Because in the age of Twitter and Facebook, Virginia law prohibits advertising drink specials using social media. Drinking establishments can legally sell alcohol at lower prices until 9 p.m. The problem is, they aren’t allowed to advertise that fact in the media – not even on the Internet or with social media.

05 Mar 2012

From Afar, Sen. Warner Talks to VCU Students

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner discussed national and state issues at a town hall meeting with students and faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University last week – without even leaving his Washington office. After an introduction by Dr. Niraj Verma, director of VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, Warner appeared on a projector screen in the Student Commons Theater.

03 Mar 2012

33 Women’s Rights Protesters Arrested at Capitol

Thirty-three demonstrators were arrested Saturday afternoon at the state Capitol during a protest against legislation they said would violate women’s reproductive rights. At 2:17 p.m., Capitol Police officers declared that the demonstration was unlawful because many of the protesters were on the Capitol steps without a permit.

03 Mar 2012

Humane Societies Have Mixed Success at Assembly

Virginia’s animal welfare groups have had both successes and setbacks this legislative session, and the past week reflected that mixed record for the fighters for the furry, the feathery and the leathery.

03 Mar 2012

Dads Disappointed by Changes in Child Custody Bill

Fathers’ rights advocates say they are down but not out after passage of a substitute bill originally aimed at giving both parents joint custody rights in divorce cases. Originally, it stated that in a divorce “in which custody or visitation is at issue, there shall be a rebuttable assumption that it is in the best interests of the child that the parents be awarded joint physical custody and that no parent’s share of physical custody shall be for a period of less than two-fifths of the child’s time.”

02 Mar 2012

Law Would ‘Level Playing Field’ for Chemotherapy Pills

Two bills progressing through the General Assembly may give cancer patients greater access to lifesaving cancer treatments. House Bill 1273, sponsored by Delegate Christopher Peace, R-Mechanicsville, and Senate Bill 450, sponsored by Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Winchester, seek to reduce the high cost of oral chemotherapy medications.

02 Mar 2012

Juveniles May Be Tried as Adults for Drug Crimes

A measure authorizing prosecutors to charge repeat juvenile offenders as adults for drug-related crimes passed the Senate on a 26-14 vote Thursday. House Bill 718, sponsored by Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, would enable commonwealth’s attorneys to transfer jurisdiction of juveniles 14 or older to the circuit courts if the youth is charged with a third felony offense of distributing, selling or manufacturing an illegal substance.

02 Mar 2012

Shipyard Workers Oppose Shift in Workers’ Comp

Union members are urging Gov. Bob McDonnell to veto legislation that would exclude shipyard and dock workers from Virginia’s workers’ compensation system. “We will continue to fight this bill, whether he signs it or not,” said Arnold Outlaw, president of the Steelworkers Union Local 8888, which represents hourly workers at Newport News Shipbuilding.

01 Mar 2012

McDonnell Praises Passage of ‘School Choice’ Bills

Gov. Bob McDonnell has praised the House of Delegates for passing two bills aimed at promoting private-school scholarships for low-income and disabled students. The House this week passed Senate Bill 131 and House Bill 321. The bills would establish a tax credit for individuals or organizations that donate money to provide such scholarships.