VaNews

Saturday February 13, 2016

Compiled by Ray Reed


Today's Sponsor:

Virginia Society of Eye Physicians & Surgeons

We salute the members of the General Assembly who support greater access to the quality medical and surgical care provided by Virginia’s ophthalmologists.

General Assembly

HOUSE VOTES TO GIVE STATE THE POWER ON PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

Virginia moved a step closer to a voter referendum on charter schools Friday as the House of Delegates narrowly passed a proposed constitutional amendment to give the state the authority to create public charter schools without the approval of local school boards. The House voted 52-47 on an amendment to give the Virginia Board of Education the power to create charter schools, a proposal Republicans have said would increase the number of charter schools in the state by overruling opposition at the local level.


FINAL VOTES COMING ON VIRGINIA CHARTER SCHOOL BILLS

By TRAVIS FAIN, Daily Press (Paywall for certain articles)

The long process of changing Virginia's approval process for charter schools took another step Friday with the House of Delegates passing key legislation on the issue. The Senate is expected to vote on a similar legislation early next week, just ahead of a Tuesday night deadline for bills to clear at least one chamber this session. If both bodies approve, voters will be asked in November to change the state constitution via referendum and allow the State Board of Education to approve charter schools.


OBENSHAIN PROPOSAL MOVES FORWARD AS CITY, COUNTY OPPOSE MEASURE

By ERIN FLYNN, Daily News Record (Subscription Required)

Harrisonburg and Rockingham County school officials are now formally opposing efforts led by a Valley lawmaker to increase the number of charter schools in the commonwealth. On Friday, the Harrisonburg School Board approved a resolution by a 5-0 vote denouncing the proposal introduced by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham.


RELIGIOUS FREEDOM OR LICENSE TO DISCRIMINATE?

By JENNA PORTNOY , Washington Post

A House panel on Thursday advanced a bill that — because of a last-minute addition — would allow any person or organization to discriminate against someone for having extramarital sex. The bill would also prohibit state agencies from punishing discrimination against people who are transgender or who are in same-sex marriages. The provision about sex outside of marriage was added minutes before lawmakers voted.


LAWMAKERS KILL BILL THAT WOULD HAVE REQUIRED RECORDING OF CLOSED MEETINGS

By PATRICK WILSON , Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Local and state agencies hold many meetings in sessions closed to the public. So many, in fact, that it would cost $3 million for equipment and staff to record and store audio of them, according to a state analysis. A House of Delegates Appropriations subcommittee chaired by Del. Tag Greason, R-Loudoun County, took no action Thursday on HB800 by Del. Rick Morris, R-Isle of Wight County, which would have required recording closed meetings. That means the bill died without a vote.


SWEEPING HOSPITAL REFORM BILL SURVIVES VOICE VOTE

By ALEX ROHR, News & Advance

The count was unclear on the initial voice vote commonly used to pass bills on to a final tally, so delegates were asked to raise their hands and then record their vote electronically. The bill for sweeping reform to the system requiring healthcare providers to seek state approval before building or adding psychiatric beds, imaging and many other medical services, snuck by 50 to 47 with one abstention.


COPN BILLS ADVANCE WITH SLIM LEADS

By TAMMIE SMITH, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

Hospitals are “gaming the system,” said Del. Kathy J. Byron, R-Bedford, as she argued Friday for fellow House members to scrap a state system that requires big-ticket health care services and projects to go through a lengthy state application and approval process. The House voted Friday to advance two bills to revamp or dismantle the beleaguered certificate of public need program, and defeated one COPN bill.


VIRGINIA NAACP DIRECTOR SAYS LUCAS'S CONCERNS WITH DEMOCRATIC PARTY ARE VALID

By PATRICK WILSON , Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Jack Gravely, interim executive director of the Virginia NAACP, says state Sen. Louise Lucas’ concerns about the Democratic Party are valid. “Your position, as reported in several newspapers this week, that African American elected leadership in the Virginia General Assembly is ‘not listened to’ by many in the political towers of the Democratic Party is true,” he wrote in a letter to her. “Governor Terry McAuliffe and Party Chair Susan Swecker are making efforts to change this fact and belief, but they are pushing against an old, ‘good ol’ boy’ entrenched style of leadership.”


J.C. PENNEY BECOMES LAUGH LINE IN VIRGINIA SENATE

By LAURA VOZZELLA, Washington Post

The oldest continuous lawmaking body in the New World adjourned Friday in honor of J.C. Penney. The discount-oriented department store earned that honor from the Virginia Senate the hard way — through personal and political dysfunction.


FRANK WAGNER BILL TO CHANGE HAMPTON ROADS GAS TAX PASSES SENATE

By PATRICK WILSON , Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

A bill from Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, to change the way the Hampton Roads regional gas tax is calculated passed the state Senate 23-11 on Friday. It will now go to the House of Delegates. Wagner’s plan would establish a higher tax when gas prices are low and a lower tax when prices are high. Legislation from 2013 created a 2.1 percent gas tax in Hampton Roads to help pay for transportation projects.


SENATE BACKS HRVA GAS TAX INCREASE; HOUSE WORKS ON TOLLING PLAN INSTEAD

By TRAVIS FAIN, Daily Press (Paywall for certain articles)

A House-Senate split has emerged over how to fund new transportation projects in Hampton Roads. A key House leader, along with Gov. Terry McAuliffe's administration, has been working for weeks on legislation that would lay down rules for the future tolling that could help fund new water crossings and other highway work in Hampton Roads.


SEN. GARRETT'S FIREWORKS BILL FIZZLES

By ALEX ROHR, News & Advance

The Senate Finance Committee soaked Virginia’s chances of legalizing fireworks for the year. The bill that would allow Roman candles and bottle rockets was staunchly opposed by Virginia’s fire departments, which said the explosive devices are dangerous to life, limb and property,


VIRGINIA SENATE PASSES BVU BILL

Bristol Herald Courier

The Virginia Senate passed a bill changing the structure of the BVU Authority board of directors this morning. Senate Bill 329, introduced by Sen. Bill Carrico, R- Galax, was passed by a vote of 37-0. Carrico's bill includes a new seven-member board.


VIRGINIA HOUSE ADVANCES BILL TO PENALIZE SMOKERS WITH KIDS IN CARS

By GRANT SMITH, VCU Capital News Service

Smoking in a car with children younger than 8 soon could be a crime in Virginia under a bill passed by the House of Delegates on Friday. The offense would involve a fine of $100 under House Bill 1348. Defined as a secondary offense, this civil penalty would apply only to individuals who have already pulled over by police for a traffic violation. The House passed HB 1348 on a vote of 59–38. The bill will move to the Senate next week.


ABORTION-BANNING BILL CARRIED OVER TO 2017

By STAFF REPORT, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

A bill to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy failed to advance from a House of Delegates committee Friday. House Bill 963, titled the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, would have imposed new restrictions on abortion based on theories about when fetuses become capable of feeling pain.


EFFORT TO CREATE STATE IMMIGRANT-ASSISTANCE OFFICE AGAIN DIES

By STAFF REPORT, Sun Gazette

Legislation by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th) to create an Office of Immigrant Assistance fell short. The measure would have established the office within the Virginia Department of Social Services, and would have assisted legal immigrants with help in employment, housing, social services and citizenship.


BVU LEGISLATION ADDRESSES BOARD MAKEUP, CONTRACTS AND LOCAL CONTROL

By DAVID MCGEE, Bristol Herald Courier

A portion of Senate Bill 329 and the House versions would modify some aspects of BVU management, formally eliminate long-term contracts and takes away some local control. City leaders and some BVU board members have opposed all or portions of the legislation, but chief patron Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Galax, said his concerns stem from the federal corruption investigation that has seen former executives, including former CEO Wes Rosenbalm, and former contractors plead guilty to an array of charges.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY REBUFFS RICHMOND CITY COUNCIL'S PUSH FOR A RAISE

By NED OLIVER, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

A proposal that would have let Richmond City Council members increase their salaries by $10,000 died quietly this week in a General Assembly subcommittee. The measure was never part of the city’s formal legislative agenda, but Del. Delores L. McQuinn, D-Richmond, filed it last month after a council-appointed committee recommended raising the council’s $25,000 salary.


MARSHALL SPEAKS OUT AGAINST ‘ROBO-CALLS’

By TREVOR METCALFE, Danville Register & Bee

Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, spoke out against a string of automated phone calls from a political action committee attempting to change his vote on a public health bill. Marshall said in a news release the unidentified callers had been ringing residents on behalf of the Virginia Hospital Association PAC. In one instance, Marshall said the caller asked residents to remain on the line while they connected to Marshall’s General Assembly office in Richmond.


LOCAL LEGISLATORS SPLIT ON GUN-COMPROMISE MEASURES

By STAFF REPORT, Sun Gazette

He didn’t need their votes, but several members of the local legislative delegation deserted Gov. McAuliffe (D) on the governor’s compromise with legislative leaders on recognition of out-of-state concealed-weapons permits. State Sens. Janet Howell (D-32nd) and Barbara Favola (D-31st) were among 13 Democrats who voted against the Senate version of the compromise measure.

Federal Elections

AN EX-CONGRESSMAN'S PITCH TO A GOVERNOR TURNS INTO A 2ND DISTRICT FLAP

By DAVE RESS, Daily Press (Paywall for certain articles)

A former Republican Congressman’s pitch to a Democratic governor about where to draw the line between the 2nd and 4th congressional districts has turned into the latest clash in what’s clearly going to be a fierce fight for the GOP nomination in the 2nd Congressional District. Tom Davis, a lobbyist who represented a Northern Virginia district for 14 years, said he went on his own initiative to ask if Gov. Terry McAuliffe would be open to a tweak to a court-ordered redistricting to move Rep. Randy Forbes' hometown, Chesapeake, into the 2nd district.


JIM GILMORE ENDS PRESIDENTIAL BID

By RACHEL WEINER, Washington Post

Former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore is suspending his campaign for president, having failed to garner significant support in polls or primaries. “My campaign was intended to offer the gubernatorial experience, with the track record of a true conservative, experienced in national security, to unite the party,” Gilmore said in a statement. “I will continue to do everything I can to ensure that our next President is a free enterprise Republican who will restore our nation to greatness and keep our citizens safe.”


FORMER VIRGINIA GOV. GILMORE ENDS BID FOR THE WHITE HOUSE

By KATRINA LAMANSKY, Associated Press

Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore says he is dropping out of the race for the White House. The Republican says in a statement he plans to support his party’s nominee and will continue to speak out about what he called the dangers of electing Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, the two candidates for the Democratic nomination.


GILMORE ENDS LONG-SHOT PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN

By ANDREW CAIN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore said Friday that he is suspending his long-shot campaign for the Republican presidential nomination after dismal showings in Iowa and New Hampshire. Gilmore, governor from 1998 to 2002, ran a seemingly quixotic campaign, rarely qualifying for even the undercard contests in televised debates. He received 12 votes in the Iowa caucuses and 133 votes Tuesday in the New Hampshire primary.


SCOTT TAYLOR: MCAULIFFE WAS LOBBIED TO DRAW RANDY FORBES INTO RIGELL'S DISTRICT

By PATRICK WILSON , Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

State Del. Scott Taylor, headed for a primary battle with U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes in an open congressional district, said Friday that a surrogate for Forbes tried to get Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office to draw Forbes into the district. Former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis made the call. Davis on Friday said he was simply inquiring on his own and not at the direction of Forbes.

Congress

LOBBYISTS SCRAMBLE IN RICHMOND AS BEYER WINS PREDATORY TOWING LAW

By NICHOLAS F. BENTON, Falls Church News-Press

In his first public town hall meeting since taking office just over a year ago, held at Falls Church’s historic James Lee Community Center this Monday night, U.S. Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. highlighted among his major achievements so far legislation that passed and was signed by the President last month to allow state and local jurisdictions to regulate the kind of “predatory towing” that has been a well-documented bane in Falls Church and the region.

Economy/Business

ALPHA SALE BID INCLUDES LOCAL ASSETS

By JEFF LESTER, Coalfield Progress (Subscription Required)

An entity created by Alpha Natural Resources’ “first lien prepetition lenders” has offered $500 million for the company’s core assets. As it seeks to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, Alpha filed documents Monday with the U.S. bankruptcy court in Richmond seeking approval of a sale process for assets in Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.


MSHA/WELLMONT MERGER PLANS INCLUDE PROPOSED CAP ON RATES

By TAMMY CHILDRESS, Bristol Herald Courier

Those working toward a merger of the region’s two health systems plan to propose a cap on rates, a Mountain States Health Alliance official said Friday. “We are proposing the new health system put a rate cap on prices,” said Marvin Eichorn, chief operating officer of MSHA. “


WITHOUT SEWAGE SOLUTION, SMOKEHOUSE SAYS IT CAN'T REBUILD

By DIANA MCFARLAND AND MATT LEONARD, Smithfield Times (Paywall)

If Surry County doesn’t fix its wastewater treatment system, then Edwards Virginia Smokehouse will either have to move or go out of business, owner Sam Edwards said Tuesday. Surry County invited Hampton Roads Sanitation District representative Ted Henifin to talk to the Board of Supervisors last week about consolidating its disjointed system of wastewater treatment facilities that are spread out over three towns and the county.

Higher Education

WASHINGTON AND LEE NAMES WILL DUDLEY NEW PRESIDENT

By LAURENCE HAMMACK , Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

Washington and Lee University has named a new president, the provost of Williams College in Massachusetts. Will Dudley was appointed Friday to be 27th president of W&L, which was founded in 1749 and is the ninth oldest institution of higher education in the country. He will begin his term in January 2017.

Virginia Other

ATLANTIC COAST PIPELINE PLANS TO CHANGE ROUTE, AVOID SENSITIVE NATIONAL FOREST AREAS

By RACHAEL SMITH, Daily Progress

The company behind the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline said it plans to adopt an alternative route that avoids sensitive areas in the Monongahela and George Washington national forests. Dominion Resources spokesman Aaron Ruby said in a news release Friday that Atlantic Coast Pipeline officials have been working with the U.S. Forest Service for the past several months to find an alternative route.


ATLANTIC COAST PIPELINE TO FOLLOW NEW ROUTE TO AVOID SENSITIVE AREAS OF NATIONAL FORESTS

By MICHAEL MARTZ , Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline may take a new path to avoid endangered and threatened species in two national forests. Dominion, the Richmond-based energy giant that leads the $5 billion initiative, said Friday it will propose a new route next week for the 550-mile interstate natural gas pipeline that avoids sensitive areas of national forests that the U.S. Forest Service has put off limits.


DOMINION OUTLINES NEW NATIONAL FOREST ROUTE FOR PIPELINE

By STEVE SZKOTAK, Associated Press

Energy companies behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline have carved a new proposed route through parts of West Virginia and Virginia in response to federal concerns about the national gas pipeline’s initial path through sensitive national forest areas. The alternate released Friday by Dominion Resources Inc. would reduce by one-third the pipeline’s footprint through the George Washington and Monongahela national forests, but add 30 miles to the 550-mile project. The alternate route would also affect 249 new landowners in both states, Dominion said.


PIPELINE ROUTE MOVES SOUTH, NOW INCLUDES BATH

By JOHN BRUCE, The Recorder (Paywall)

Approximately 21 Highland landowners and 69 in Bath are on a newly-adjusted path of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Dominion issued a news release and map Friday announcing the rerouting through southwest Highland, near Little Egypt, crossing into Bath at U.S. 220 in the Bolar area, through northern Bath, through Fort Lewis, and north in Augusta to join the previously proposed preferred route in Deerfield.


DOMINION SPILL TO BLAME FOR OILY SHEEN, WILDLIFE DEATHS ON POTOMAC

By JILL PALERMO, Sun Gazette

Dominion Virginia Power has taken responsibility for a mineral oil spill that streaked more than 10 miles of the Potomac River with a greasy, rainbow-colored sheen for more than a week, killing fish and at least 21 wild birds. Dominion spokesman David Botkins released a statement at about 6:45 p.m. Friday saying the utility made the determination after reviewing oil-sample testing conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard.


POTOMAC OIL SPILL CAME FROM DOMINION, UTILITY ADMITS

By PATRICIA SULLIVAN, Washington Post

Dominion Virginia Power said late Friday that the oil that fouled a Northern Virginia waterfowl sanctuary and the Potomac River early this month came from its Crystal City substation. Five hours after Coast Guard Cmdr. Michael Keane said that all the oil his interagency task force sampled came from a common source, Dominion said in a statement that a previously reported 13,500-gallon spill of mineral oil at its Crystal City substation was the likely cause.

Local

IN VIDEOS, SOME CITIES TAKE THE "PUBLIC" OUT OF PUBLIC MEETINGS

By ERIC HARTLEY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

It’s a time-honored democratic tradition: Citizens can stand up at public meetings and give elected officials a piece of their mind for a few minutes, whatever the topic. But you wouldn’t know it if you watched Norfolk or Virginia Beach city council meetings on TV or online.


HOMEMADE FOOD NO LONGER ALLOWED IN SCHOOLS

By STACEY HAIRSTON, Franklin News-Post

In an effort to create a safer environment for students with food allergies and other medical conditions, the Franklin County School Board voted Monday night to remove homemade goodies from classroom parties. Only store bought, pre-packaged goods are allowed at parties or any other event in which parents are asked to supply food. The food item’s nutritional information label must also be submitted with the food item.


CHASE CITY COUNCIL GETS EARFUL ABOUT WATER QUALITY

Mecklenburg Sun

...The short business meeting of Council was followed by a lengthy discussion as three town residents voiced their complaints over a lack of water quality with the switch from town wells to the Roanoke River Service Authority municipal water system. The residents questioned the safety of the discolored water, which they said often flows brown, and wondered if or how often the water quality was being tested.


Today's Sponsor:

Virginia Society of Eye Physicians & Surgeons

We salute the members of the General Assembly who support greater access to the quality medical and surgical care provided by Virginia’s ophthalmologists.

Editorials

A SPITEFUL POWER PLAY OVER JUDGES

Daily Progress Editorial

If you were sitting in the state Senate one day this week, you might have suffered whiplash from trying to follow the bouncing ball of the Justice Jane Marum Roush controversy. Gov. Terry McAuliffe named the highly regarded jurist to the Virginia Supreme Court last summer as an interim appointment. The Republican-dominated General Assembly was miffed that its involvement was bypassed, and has been just waiting a chance to oust her.

Op-Ed

HERRERA: SHOCKING DEAL FROM NRA, MCAULIFFE

By JENNIFER HERRERA, Published in the Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Late last month, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced with much fanfare that he cut a legislative deal with lobbyists from the National Rifle Association. Now that was a shocker. Especially to gun violence-prevention advocates like myself who have long been among the governor’s strongest supporters.

Jennifer Herrera is the Virginia chapter leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.