VaNews

Wednesday January 28, 2015

Compiled by Bernadette Kinlaw


Today's Sponsor:

Northern Virginia Association of Realtors®

The Northern Virginia Association of Realtors® and its 10,000 members thank the Virginia General Assembly for their service and VPAP for promoting open government. www.nvar.com

Executive Branch

GOVERNOR'S PROPOSED $150 MILLION WOULD BUY DOWN VRS LIABILITY

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

The $150 million that Gov. Terry McAuliffe wants to deposit in the teacher retirement fund would save state and local governments almost $26 million in pension contributions in the fiscal year that begins July 1. The proposed payment to the teacher fund would reduce government contribution rates for teacher pensions by 0.35 percentage point beginning in fiscal 2016, according to the Virginia Retirement System in a presentation to the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.


MCAULIFFE REPORTS $5,623 IN GIFTS IN FIRST 10 MONTHS

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

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has accepted gifts with far less monetary value than his recent predecessors in his first 10 months in office, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. McAuliffe began his term in January 2014 in the shadow of the McDonnell corruption case. He immediately signed an executive order that barred himself and members of the executive branch from accepting gifts valued at more than $100.


VIRGINIA GOV. MCAULIFFE DONATES GIFTS OVER $100

By LAURA VOZZELLA , Washington Post

Heightened attention to ethics in Richmond has made Gov. Terry McAuliffe into Virginia's regifter-in-chief. Taking office last year as predecessor Robert F. McDonnell was on the verge of federal indictment stemming from $177,000 in gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman, McAuliffe, D, imposed a $100 gift limit on himself, his family and executive staff.

General Assembly

GOP COMMITTEES TO REVIEW MCAULIFFE'S APPOINTMENTS

By JIM NOLAN , Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

In a move that could be viewed as either good government or election-year political gamesmanship, leaders of the Republican-controlled Senate and House Privileges and Elections committees have informed Gov. Terry McAuliffe that they will review gubernatorial appointments pending before their panels. “We have had numerous inquiries regarding these individuals, as well as inquiries regarding the process for consideration of these candidates,” states the letter written to McAuliffe on Tuesday on the Virginia Senate stationery of Sen. Jill H. Vogel, R-Fauquier.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO REVIEW MCAULIFFE'S APPOINTMENTS

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

Two Republican leaders in the General Assembly wrote to Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday saying the House and Senate would do an additional review of his nominees for boards and commissions because of questions over the qualifications of some of them. “We have had numerous inquiries regarding these individuals, as well as inquiries regarding the process for consideration of these candidates,” said the letter from Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Fauquier County, and Del. Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg.


VIRGINIA REPUBLICANS SCRUTINIZE MCAULIFFE’S APPOINTMENTS

By RACHEL WEINER, Washington Post

Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly are putting new scrutiny to gubernatorial appointments made by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D). Saying they have had “numerous inquiries” regarding pending appointees, Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Fauquier) and Del. Mark L. Cole (R-Spotsylvania) wrote the governor Tuesday to announce a “comprehensive review.”


SECLUSION AND RESTRAINT LIMITS PASS OUT OF VIRGINIA SENATE

By RACHEL WEINER, Washington Post

In response to what one lawmaker deemed “horror stories,” the Virginia state Senate voted Tuesday to regulate the use of seclusion and restraint in public school children. “By God, I was warehoused,” said Sen. Thomas A. Garrett Jr. (R-Lynchburg) in support of the bill, recalling his own mistreatment in 1st grade. “And it’s still happening today.”


VA. SENATE VOTES TO REIN IN SECLUSION, RESTRAINT IN SCHOOLS

By BILL SIZEMORE, Associated Press

The Virginia Senate wants to rein in seclusion and restraint used as disciplinary measures in public schools. The chamber's 35-4 vote Tuesday follows accounts of children as young as kindergarten being restrained by several adults in separate incidents in recent months, locked away in segregation, and emerging with bruises and broken bones, all in response to minor misbehavior.


VA. SENATE PANEL LEAVES GAY MARRIAGE BAN IN LAW

Associated Press

A state Senate committee isn't ready to take Virginia's overturned gay-marriage ban out of the state constitution. On an 8-7 party-line vote Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Privileges and Elections Committee rejected a proposal to begin the process of repealing the amendment approved by Virginia voters in 2006 defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.


VIRGINIA PANEL QUICKLY KILLS PROPOSAL TO LIMIT HIGH-RATE LOANS

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

It took less than five minutes for a House of Delegates committee to kill a bill to shut down a kind of high interest rate loan that keeps piling on debt even when borrowers make their basic monthly payments. The sponsor, Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News, figured that was progress.


SENATE PANEL OKS LETTING SENIOR VOTE BY ABSENTEE

By JIM NOLAN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

Registered voters 65 or older would not need an excuse to vote absentee under legislation the state Senate Privileges and Elections Committee advanced Tuesday. Senate Bill 719, sponsored by Sen. Jeffrey L. McWaters, R-Virginia Beach, with three Democratic co-patrons, now heads to the full Senate for consideration.


HOUSE, SENATE PANELS BACK CONVENTION OF STATES TO AMEND CONSTITUTION

By MARKUS SCHMIDT, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

The House Committee on Rules on Tuesday passed House Joint Resolution 497, sponsored by Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William, calling for a convention of the states to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution.


SENATE COMMITTEE TO VOTE AGAIN ON GUN BILL

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

A Senate committee will vote again Wednesday on a gun control bill that appeared to pass on Monday but actually failed. The Senate Courts of Justice Committee considered SB943 sponsored by Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington. The bill would prohibit gun ownership for people convicted of stalking, assault and battery of a family member or sexual battery.


LAWMAKERS LOOKING OUT FOR GUMS AND COWBOYS

By KATHY HIEATT, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Mark your calendars, February may very well become Gum Disease Awareness Month. It would start in 2016 and pair well with Valentine’s Day candy splurges.


REEVES’ SENATE DISTRICT SWAP PROMPTS CLAIMS OF POLITICAL MANEUVERING

By GRAELYN BRASHEAR , C'ville Weekly

Thanks to a bill that passed in the State Senate Monday in a party-line vote, nearly 11,000 Albemarle residents are a step closer to getting reassigned to a new Senate district. SB1237 was introduced by Republican State Senator Bryce Reeves, whose 17th District includes part of Albemarle County and borders Democratic State Senator Creigh Deeds’ 25th District. Reeves said the bill is meant to correct split voting precincts in Albemarle.


BYRON BILL TO DEREGULATE HEALTH CARE DECISIONS DIES IN COMMITTEE

News & Advance

Del. Kathy Byron urged lawmakers to deregulate decisions about health care facilities Tuesday in favor of letting the free market reign. Her proposal, House Bill 2030, was voted down in committee, but may be part of longer-term talks about how to revamp the state’s certificate of public need — a program that requires new medical facilities and services to be submitted for state approval.


SENATE KILLS OBENSHAIN’S PARTY REGISTRATION BILL

By BRYAN GILKERSON, Daily News Record (Subscription Required)

A Valley legislator’s bill to bring changes to Virginia’s voter registration and electoral process has failed. On Tuesday, the state Senate defeated a bill to ask for a voter’s political party affiliation on their voter registration form. The bill, introduced by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, was defeated by a vote of 21-19, with two Republicans joining the Senate’s Democrats in voting against the legislation.


VIRGINIA SEN. CREIGH DEEDS' PROPOSED LEGISLATION WOULD 'DEVASTATE' COMMUNITY SERVICE BOARDS

By PRUE SALASKY, Daily Press (Paywall for certain articles)

There is neither the funding nor the workforce to meet the requirements set out in a proposal from state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, according to the leaders of local community services boards, which provide front-line mental health care. Senate Bill 1410 would require pre-screeners provided by community services boards in mental health emergencies to be licensed, in addition to the currently required credentials of a master's degree and training in a state-endorsed curriculum.


FILLER-CORN ANNOUNCES LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

Connection Newspapers

Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-41) recently unveiled the legislation she has introduced for consideration by the 2014 General Assembly. #Among Delegate Filler-Corn’s legislative priorities are education, public and campus safety, workforce development, childcare safety, creating the new Virginia economy and looking out for our seniors.


STATE SONG IS OFF-KEY

Loudoun Times

We’re a state in need of a song. Or so our legislators believe. Virginia has a rich heritage, a source of great pride. But it is currently one of only two states that doesn’t have an official anthem. That bothers state legislators who are ready to repeat a mistake. They want a new state song that captures the vibe of the commonwealth. They think one’s needed to kick off state functions, greet foreign dignitaries and give Virginians a fond reminder of home.


SUPERVISORS OPT TO SUPPORT SB 1172

By ALLIE ROBINSON GIBSON, Bristol Herald Courier

The Washington County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday night to support SB 1172, which seeks to add Trammel property as a development of regional impact. The bill is carried by Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Galax, and is expected to be heard in the Senate finance committee Wednesday morning.


SENATE PANEL OKS NONDISCRIMINATION BILL

By MEGHAN GAFFNEY, VCU Capital News Service

By one vote, the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee has approved a bill that prohibits discrimination in public employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The committee on Monday voted 8-7 for Senate Bill 785 after Sen. Jill Vogel of Winchester defected from her Republican colleagues and joined Democrats in supporting the measure.

State Elections

RICHMOND CONSULTANT TO MAKE DEMOCRATIC BID FOR STATE SENATE

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

Richmonder Emily Francis is hoping to move from policy advocate to politician by launching a Democratic bid for the state Senate. Francis, a 37-year-old nonprofit consultant who has worked on a variety of environmental, public health and consumer protection issues, is the first Democrat to formally announce a run to fill the opening created by the upcoming retirement of Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, in the 10th District.


MIKE WATSON WILL FORGO RUN FOR 93RD DISTRICT HOUSE OF DELEGATES

Daily Press (Paywall for certain articles)

Former Delegate Mike Watson announced Tuesday he will not seek re-election to the 93rd District seat he lost to Democrat Monty Mason in 2013, a re-match that many were expecting. Part of Watson’s reason for not running is the nature of the 93rd District. One of only a few “swing” districts left in the state, the 93rd has changed hands for the past three election cycles.


HAZZARD ANNOUNCES SENATE BID

Mechanicsville Local

Wayne Hazzard, South Anna District representative and chair of the Hanover County Board of Supervisors, said the best solutions to problems lay at their root, and that is his motivation for announcing his candidacy for the 12th District Virginia Senate seat. When Sen. Walter Stosch announced he would not seek re-election, Hazzard said he saw an opportunity to make a difference at the level where many local mandates originate: the Virginia General Assembly.


VIRGINIANS SAY THE STATE'S POLITICS AREN'T HONEST, CNU POLL FINDS

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

Barely one third of Virginians think the state's politics are clean, a new survey by Christopher Newport University's Wason Center for Public Policy shows. Some 64 percent of voters surveyed by the Center's student pollsters in the past several days say the the state’s political culture only somewhat or not very honest.

State Government

POLL: VIRGINIANS WANT TERM LIMITS, TOUGHER ETHICS LAWS

By BILL BARTEL, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Most registered voters in Virginia question the honesty of their elected leaders and want stricter controls on gifts to them, according to a poll released Tuesday. In the survey, conducted this month by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center for Public Policy, voters also favored term limits for state legislators and an inde


PORT TURNED ANOTHER PROFIT IN DECEMBER, SIXTH IN A ROW

By ROBERT MCCABE, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

The port generated an operating income of $631,114 in December while reporting another month of strong container volume as well, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced this morning. "I am very pleased to see the Port of Virginia not only setting records for cargo volume, but also posting six consecutive profitable months," McAuliffe said in a statement, released shortly after the start of a meeting of the Virginia Port Authority's board this morning.


VA OPENS MORE DOORS TO RURAL VETERANS IN VIRGINIA

By HUGH LESSIG, Daily Press (Paywall for certain articles)

About 5,500 veterans live on Virginia's Eastern Shore, and roughly 1,300 are receiving health care through the Hampton VA Medical Center. Keeping an appointment with a primary care doctor means driving from Accomack or Northampton counties, paying $13 to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and traveling through Norfolk into Hampton, hoping for no surprises at that other bridge tunnel. Until now.


VIRGINIA SCORES A 'C-MINUS' IN LATEST INFRASTRUCTURE REPORT CARD

By J. ELIAS O'NEAL, Daily Press (Paywall for certain articles)

When it comes to Virginia's infrastructure report card, the Commonwealth may want to consider taking some additional remedial courses. The grades are in for Virginia's 2015 Report Card for Infrastructure by the Virginia Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and out of 10 categories of the state's public works, the Commonwealth received a C-minus.

Economy/Business

NORFOLK SOUTHERN TO CLOSE ROANOKE OFFICE TOWER, RELOCATE 500 JOBS

By JEFF STURGEON AND DUNCAN ADAMS, Roanoke Times

Norfolk Southern Corp. dropped a bombshell Tuesday on 500 of its Roanoke employees, announcing that their jobs are moving to Norfolk or Atlanta and they must relocate to stay employed. The decision will eliminate nearly 30 percent of the company's 1,700-person workforce in the Roanoke region and close its downtown hub of white-collar jobs performing marketing, accounting and information technology functions.


NORFOLK SOUTHERN TO RELOCATE 500 ROANOKE EMPLOYEES

By KATHY HIEATT AND ROBERT MCCABE, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Five hundred employees in Norfolk Southern Corp.’s Roanoke office are being asked to relocate either to Norfolk or Atlanta, the railroad announced Tuesday. “This will not involve any involuntary force reductions, and we will provide substantial relocation packages for those who choose to relocate,” James Squires, Norfolk Southern’s president, said in a statement.


LAWMAKERS FROM ROANOKE AREA CRITICAL OF NORFOLK SOUTHERN'S MOVE

By JEFF STURGEON, Roanoke Times

Local elected leaders reacted quickly and forcefully to the news that Norfolk Southern Corp. plans to relocate 500 Roanoke jobs out of the area. Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, said the railroad’s announced plan “shows a blatant and insulting disregard for Roanoke’s role in helping to build the railroad in our region. Roanoke has long been a crossroads for the railroad. The railroad is central to our history to the point that it is the primary image on our city seal.”


GRIFFITH, GOODLATTE ISSUE STATEMENT ON NS ANNOUNCEMENT

By ALLIE ROBINSON GIBSON, Bristol Herald Courier

Republican U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, from Salem, and Bob Goodlatte, from Roanoke, issued a joint statement today, reacting to the news that Norfolk Southern Corp. will be closing its office building in Roanoke, impacting the jobs of all 500 employees working there. “Norfolk Southern came to our region more than 130 years ago with the primary purpose of moving mineral resources," the congressmen said.


STATE JOBLESS RATE FALLS TO LOWEST LEVEL SINCE OCT. 2008

By JOHN REID BLACKWELL, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

Virginia’s unemployment rate declined in December to its lowest level since October 2008, while non-farm employment in the state surpassed its previous peak before the economic recession. The state’s 4.8 percent jobless rate in December was down from 5 percent in November and 5.2 percent in December 2013, according to an announcement released by Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office.

Higher Education

POLL: VIRGINIANS WANT POLICE TO HANDLE CAMPUS SEXUAL ASSAULT ALLEGATIONS

By JIM NOLAN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

Virginians by an overwhelming margin believe colleges and universities should report campus sexual assaults to police and not handle them internally, according to a new Christopher Newport University poll. Nine out of 10 voters support the requirement — a figure that pollsters say includes all demographic, regional and political categories.


DETAILED REPORT EXPLAINS WHY NORFOLK STATE ON PROBATION

By DENISE WATSON, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Eddie Moore Jr. was upbeat Tuesday afternoon as the interim Norfolk State University president faced a crowd to explain why the school had been placed on probation last month. Moore was there to discuss a report the university had just received from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, an accrediting body that oversees NSU.


VCU JOINS TREND, WILL DROP SAT RULE

By KARIN KAPSIDELIS, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

Virginia Commonwealth University no longer will require applicants with a high school GPA of 3.3 or higher to submit SAT scores, President Michael Rao said Tuesday, calling the test “fundamentally flawed.” In his State of the University speech, Rao said the university will follow a national trend toward relying on the GPA as a better predictor of student success than the SAT, which he said research has shown to have racial and socio-economic biases.


NATIONAL SORORITIES BAN UVA CHAPTERS FROM MAJOR PARTY WEEKEND

By NICOLETTE GENDRON AND GRAELYN BRASHEAR, C'ville Weekly

Citing safety concerns, 16 national sorority organizations have banned their UVA chapters from participating in what is historically on of the biggest party nights for University Greeks. Sorority women at UVA are banned from attending parties scheduled for this coming Saturday, January 31. The evening known as “Boys’ Bid Night” celebrates the day University men accept fraternities’ invitations to pledge, and it’s also a major party night for sorority women, who can’t host their own house parties.

Virginia Other

OCEAN DRILLING PLAN EXCITES LOCAL OFFICIALS, UPSETS CRITICS

By AARON APPLEGATE, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

The Obama administration announced on Tuesday an unprecedented plan to allow drilling for oil and gas in federal waters off of four Southeastern states, including Virginia. The proposal angered environmentalists, who said the risk of a spill in the Atlantic Ocean is too great and is a step backward in efforts to slow climate change. Most local leaders greeted it with enthusiasm, including Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, who praised drilling as a job creator.


OBAMA'S OIL DRILLING PROPOSAL DRAWS FIRE FROM ENVIRONMENTALISTS

By REX SPRINGSTON, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

The Obama administration on Tuesday proposed opening part of the Atlantic coast, including an area off Virginia, to oil and natural gas leasing — which could lead to drilling. The move drew praise from prominent Democrats and Republicans and criticism from environmental groups.


OFFSHORE DRILLING POSSIBLE FOR VIRGINIA?

By TAMARA DIETRICH, Daily Press (Paywall for certain articles)

The Obama administration's proposed five-year draft plan designating potential areas of the Outer Continental Shelf for future offshore oil and gas drilling includes a swath of the Atlantic stretching from Virginia to the Florida border. U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell unveiled the long-awaited proposal Tuesday, saying it reflects the president's "all of the above" approach to domestic energy production.

Local

PRINCE WILLIAM SCHOOLS FACE ‘DRAMATIC REVENUE CUT’

By JILL PALERMO, Leesburg Today

Prince William County could have “a fundamentally different school system” if a proposal to hold real-estate tax bills at the rate of inflation is approved, a move that could trigger up to $20 million in cuts next school year, School Board Chairman Milt Johns says.


RICHMOND POLICE: BODY CAMERA PROGRAM WOULD COST $435,000 TO START

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

The city of Richmond could put body cameras on 400 police officers for $435,000 in the first year, Richmond Police Department officials said Tuesday. Retiring Police Chief Ray J. Tarasovic has made it clear that he’s on board with the nationwide push to have video cameras document police interactions with the public, but the main question is whether the city can and will fund a local camera program.


NORFOLK OPTS FOR WARD SYSTEM TO ELECT SCHOOL BOARDS

By TIM EBERLY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

The City Council voted Tuesday to adopt a ward system for the School Board after most people who publicly voiced their opinions said they opposed that method. The council voted 5-3 in favor of the ward system.


PORTSMOUTH SUPERINTENDENT CONTRACT STILL UNAVAILABLE

By CHERISE M. NEWSOME, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

On Dec. 18, the School Board voted to hire its next superintendent: Elie Bracy III. On Thursday, board members are scheduled to vote on a revised version of his contract. But the division has yet to provide a copy to the public. The document includes Bracy’s salary and other benefits, such as information about a car or housing allowance, and any retirement package details.


AUGUSTA SUPERVISOR CALLS BLACK REPORTER 'BOY'

By MEGAN WILLIAMS, News Leader (Metered Pay Wall)

At a staff briefing Monday, while loudly voicing his disagreement with an article written by a News Leader government reporter, Augusta County Supervisor Tracy Pyles said to him, "You got it wrong, boy — uh, son." Although Pyles tried at the last minute to take back his use of the word "boy" by replacing it with "son," the word slipped out.


Today's Sponsor:

Northern Virginia Association of Realtors®

The Northern Virginia Association of Realtors® and its 10,000 members thank the Virginia General Assembly for their service and VPAP for promoting open government. www.nvar.com

Editorials

OUR CLOUT IN CONGRESS

Daily Press Editorial (Paywall for certain articles)

It was American poet John Godfrey Saxe, not German leader Otto von Bismarck, who first compared the making of laws to the making of sausages. But even if a close examination of the legislative process is discouraged, the recipe for progress is hardly a secret to observers. It takes clout to get things done in Congress.


END OF AN ERA?

Roanoke Times Editorial

Norfolk Southern’s surprise announcement Tuesday that it will close its Roanoke office building and move all 500 jobs there either to Norfolk or Atlanta calls for some serious community R&R: reflection and realism. First, let’s not try to sugarcoat the obvious: Losing 500 jobs is bad. It’s bad for those families who have to make a big life decision; it’s bad for the Roanoke Valley economy; and it’s bad for downtown, which aside from losing all those workers will now have a big office building sitting empty. Although that last point might also be an opportunity; more on that later.


LAWMAKERS TRYING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN WAR AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Free Lance-Star Editorial

Unless you or someone close to you has been victimized or affected by the crime of human trafficking, its horrors might seem difficult to grasp. It can come across like one of those problems so insidious, so under the radar, that as much as we’d like to see it eradicated, the perpetrators are extremely adept at hiding in the darkness—just like the cockroaches they are.


AFTER BOTCHED EXECUTIONS, STATES ADD SECRECY TO THE LETHAL INJECTION PROCESS

Washington Post Editorial

AT LEAST three horrifically botched executions last year — in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Arizona — heightened public alarm and revulsion at the risk of cruel and unusual methods of capital punishment. Short of abolishing the death penalty, the solution for states is to seek and ensure more humane methods. Instead, some are taking a sneakier, and constitutionally more suspect, route: dropping a veil of secrecy over executions.


NO TO VOTER REGISTRATION BY PARTY

News Leader Editorial (Metered Pay Wall)

Virginia has its share of political and municipal quirks: one-term governors, off-year elections and an awkward city-county setup that pits neighbors against one another (see Augusta County Courthouse location) are three that can cause trouble. One we appreciate is that in Virginia, voters don’t register by political party. Not everyone agrees with our assessment. Some partisans are sure the other side is voting in their primaries and affecting results.


DIVERSITY IS NEEDED

Culpeper Star Exponent Editorial (Modified Pay Wall)

When we look out at our community, we see a vast array of women working in high pressure positions — helping make our area a better place. Why shouldn't the General Assembly be any different?


AG TACKLING TWO DIVERSE PROBLEMS

Daily Progress Editorial

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is continuing in the footsteps of his predecessor by targeting human trafficking as one of his key law enforcement initiatives. He also just launched “the nation’s first Attorney General Animal Law Unit” (The Daily Progress, Jan. 24).


INCUMBENCY OVERWHELMS DEMOCRACY

Virginian-Pilot Editorial (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

The effort to promote fairer, more competitive elections in state and federal legislative races received a big boost this week after a bipartisan coalition of state senators approved the first reading of a proposed constitutional amendment to overhaul Virginia's redistricting process. That process, corrupted beyond salvation in its current form, has allowed lawmakers to choose their constituents for so long that so many legislative races are effectively over before they start.


SMOKING BAN: OFF THE HOOKAH

Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

A man walks into a boxing gym and sees two people sparring. He reports this to the police — who arrest the sparring partners for assault. The courts then uphold their conviction, on the grounds that Virginia’s law against assault makes no exception for pugilists who consent to be hit by stepping into the boxing ring. This might seem absurd — but something precisely like that has just happened to the She-Sha Cafe and Hookah Lounge in Blacksburg.


ANIMAL WELFARE: DISCOURAGING MILLS

Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

Michael Vick’s participation in a dog-fighting ring that drowned, electrocuted and bludgeoned dogs to death shocked Virginians. But some residents might be nearly as horrified by the source of their own family pets. Puppy mills across the U.S. often keep dozens and even hundreds of dogs in heinous conditions that would put a slaughterhouse to shame. The animals are then sold through sometimes ignorant middlemen.

Columnists

SCHAPIRO: NAME FROM THE PAST IN FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE

By JEFF E. SCHAPIRO, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

In the battle over the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, there are more combatants going around in the dark than Santa Claus. And one of them is named Henry Howell III.


DOUGHERTY: WHO COST NORFOLK TAXPAYERS $315K? A RIGHT TO KNOW

By KERRY DOUGHERTY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Nothing to see here. Problem solved. Won't happen again. Trust us. That was the essence of the vague official response from Norfolk when asked how it was that the city neglected to pay FICA (Social Security) taxes on employee contributions to pension plans.

Op-Ed

SHEFFER: DECRIMINALIZING POT SENDS WRONG SIGNAL

By DEE SHEFFER, Published in the Roanoke Times

After reading Robert Sharpe’s commentary (“Time for marijuana reform in Virginia,” Jan. 11), I am compelled to share my concerns. Sharpe is troubled by various aspects of the war on drugs, yet he ignores other key issues that decriminalization would raise. No mention is made of the message decriminalization would send our youth, the likelihood that it would enhance the appeal of recreational marijuana use among young people, or the harmful effects research shows that marijuana has on youth.

Dee Sheffer is a former officer with the Roanoke Area Youth Substance Abuse Coalition and remains active as a volunteer.