Friday February 24, 2017
By KATIE DEMERIA , Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)
As opioid overdose deaths are likely to have topped 1,000 in 2016, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed four bills into law Thursday that are meant to address the state’s ongoing opioid epidemic. The new laws put into action: syringe services programs; initiatives to increase access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone; changes to opioid prescription policies; and processes for providing services to infants exposed to opioids in utero.
By ALAN SUDERMAN, Associated Press
Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed a set of bills that aim to stem Virginia's growing opioid epidemic. McAuliffe's office said in a statement Thursday that among the measures he signed into law is one allowing community organizations to possess and dispense naloxone, an overdose-reversal drug. Another measure mandates that all opioid prescriptions be transmitted to pharmacies electronically by 2020.
By ONOFRIO CASTIGLIA, Winchester Star (Subscription Required)
Four bills aimed at combating the heroin and prescription drug epidemic were signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Thursday, and others are awaiting his signature. About 120 people in the region have lost their lives to heroin and prescription drug overdoses since 2011, according to data kept by the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition. Last year, overdoses surpassed car accidents as the No. 1 cause of unnatural death in Virginia, the state Office of the Medical Examiner reports.
By DAVID MCGEE, Bristol Herald Courier
Virginia lawmakers “waited too long” to address opioid addiction issues, but legislation signed into law Thursday is designed to meet some of the problem’s most pressing needs, Del. Todd Pillion said Thursday. Pillion, R-Abingdon, was the primary sponsor of House Bill 2165, which requires that all opioid prescriptions be transmitted to pharmacies electronically by July 1, 2020. It is designed to crack down on handwritten prescriptions that could be manipulated or diverted. It also creates a work group to study how to implement this change.
By MARY LEE CLARK, VCU Capital News Service
Capping off a signature issue of the 2017 legislative session, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed five bills Thursday to help arm the fight against opioid abuse and fatal overdoses in Virginia. The bills address the crisis in various ways. They include SB 848 and HB 1453, which allow community organizations to dispense and train individuals to use naloxone, a drug that can treat an opioid overdose in emergency situations.
By TRAVIS FAIN, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)
Virginia legislators are set to approve a $107 billion budget Friday evening as the 2017 legislative session heads toward the finish line. The two-year spending plan includes major raises for state police, a 3 percent increase for state employees, the state's portion of a 2 percent bump for public school teachers, raises for sheriff's deputies and university faculty as well as extra bumps for people in hard-to-fill positions, including nurses and other positions at Eastern State Hospital and other state facilities.
By JORDAN PASCALE, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)
By now you’ve probably heard that 3 percent raises for state employees are in Virginia’s revised budget. Now 2 percent raises for public school teachers and college faculty are in there, too. There have been disagreements over funding for mental health screenings in jails versus funding for a Jamestown milestone commemoration. The celebration gets all $10 million that it asked for. And the budget includes $28 million for larger mental health initiatives.
By TRAVIS FAIN, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)
The back-and-forth battle over capping the lengths of school suspensions, particularly for young students, ended Thursday when the last bill on the subject was shelved. State policy will remain as it is, with a one-year maximum for long-term suspensions. Republican legislators who joined with liberal activists to push for change promised they'll return to the issue again next year, and said they're likely marry cap proposals with new tools to promote school discipline. "We will be back," said state Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Moneta. "And we will be stronger and more comprehensive."
By ALAN SUDERMAN , Associated Press
Leaders in both parties are likely to claim victory when the 2017 Virginia legislative session ends this week, just as they have in years past. Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe and leaders of the GOP-controlled General Assembly will tout passage of legislation in priorities areas, such as mental health care, drug addiction treatment, and state employee pay.
By GRAHAM MOOMAW AND PATRICK WILSON, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)
The small black pouch left behind in a Virginia General Assembly conference room last week looked like it could’ve been a wallet. But when a state senator picked it up to try to identify its owner, she didn’t find a driver’s license and credit cards. She found a gun.
By PETER VIETH, Virginia Lawyers Weekly (Paywall for some articles)
After a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision invalidated parts of Virginia’s DUI laws, legislators revamped the whole package of statutes that regulate intoxicated operators, from the highway to the high seas. The resulting package made its way through the Assembly with many changes, but hardly any opposition. Sponsor Del. Chris Collins, R-Winchester, a criminal defense attorney,
By JESSICA SAMUELS, VCU Capital News Service
Students in Virginia’s largest public school districts can continue enjoying summer vacation through the Labor Day weekend after a Senate panel killed a bill that would have allowed school districts to start classes earlier. House Bill 1983, which sought to end a rule nicknamed the “Kings Dominion Law,” had been approved by the House in January. But the Senate Education and Health Committee voted 9-6 that the bill be “passed by indefinitely.”
By SARA GREGORY, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)
Without wanting to kick a gift-horse in the mouth, rural school superintendents said Thursday they’d hoped state help for districts struggling with enrollment losses would be more substantial. The joint House and Senate budget proposal announced this week sets aside $7.3 million to boost funding for 42 districts that have lost 5 percent of their students or more in a five-year span.
By JEREMY LAZARUS , Richmond Free Press
The Virginia General Assembly is poised to hand Hampton University a major victory in its bid to boost the use of its seven-year-old, $225 million cancer treatment center that uses proton beam radiation therapy to help eradicate the disease in its patients.
By AMBER GALAVIZ, Orange County Review
A complex broadband bill that had generated opposition from localities across the state was streamlined substantially and passed 35-3 Thursday in the Virginia Senate. The bill will now proceed to the governor for his signature. Introduced by Del. Kathy Byron (R-Bedford), HB 2108 was about government transparency, she said. Byron said the bill aimed to reduce local government spending of taxpayer dollars to build broadband networks in areas already covered by private providers. However, the bill received opposition from numerous counties—including Orange—which feared the bill would stop their efforts to bring rural broadband to tens of thousands of underserved Virginia citizens.
By BRIAN FUNK, Independence Declaration
Two bills from local legislators aimed at keeping the Southwestern Virginia Training Center open have failed to advance in the Virginia General Assembly. Del. Israel O’Quinn (R–5th District) and Del. Jeff Campbell (R–6th District) both introduced bills in the House of Delegates to stop or delay the training center’s scheduled closing in 2018. Their districts include the area served by the mental health facility in Carroll County. Both bills were referred to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Resources.
The rye whiskey developed by George Washington at Mount Vernon in the late 1700s will be designated Virginia’s official “state spirit” under legislation patroned by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th) and passed by both houses of the legislature. The measure, which now awaits a decision by Gov. McAuliffe, would add the whiskey to Virginia’s long list of official emblems and designations, joining the likes of milk (state beverage),
By BRIAN TROMPETER, Sun Gazette
It’s hard to roll up legislative victories when you’re in the minority party, but several local General Assembly members managed to pass bills in both houses and have them sent to the governor’s desk. Republicans have roughly a 2-to-1 advantage over Democrats in the House of Delegates, but hold the state Senate by only a 21-19 margin. Despite those odds, here are bills passed by state legislators – all of them Democrats – in the Sun Gazette’s readership area:
By LAURA VOZZELLA, Washington Post
Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam unveiled a plan Thursday to make community colleges and workforce training free in certain high-demand fields such as health care, cybersecurity and skilled construction trades. Northam, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, would also require students who benefit from the program to commit to a year of public service.
By FENIT NIRAPPIL , Washington Post
Across Virginia, progressive activists have been frustrated by the refusal of some Republican members of Congress to hold town halls. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello is offering to give them an audience instead. It is the latest move by the former one-term congressman to appeal to Democratic voters newly engaged in politics or energized by their opposition to President Trump.
By LAURA VOZZELLA , Washington Post
State Del. Glenn Davis, a Republican running for lieutenant governor of Virginia, is living in a van down by the river. That’s the joke going around Capitol Square, inspired by the red-white-and-blue campaign RV that’s been conspicuously rolling through Richmond since the General Assembly gaveled into session in January.
By BRYAN MCKENZIE , Daily Progress
With the bitterly contested presidential election recently over, thoughts of Central Virginia residents are now free to turn toward this year’s elections as challengers line up to contest local seats for the state’s House of Delegates. Among those facing competition are Del. David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, ... and Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, . Toscano’s challenge comes from a fellow Democrat, Ross Mittiga, who will challenge the delegate in the June 17 primary. Bell’s potential opponent is Kellen Squire, a first-time candidate from rural Albemarle County, a Democrat and father of three who works as an emergency room nurse.
By STEPHEN COWLES, Tidewater News
Two more people have announced they’ll seek to take the 64th chair in the Virginia General Assembly from Del. Rick Morris: Rex Alphin of Zuni and Emily Brewer of Suffolk, both on the Republican ticket. John Wandling of Carrollton, who made his announcement in December, is running as a Democrat.
Northern Neck News
Northumberland County’s Democratic Committee hadn’t planned an exciting meeting Thursday. ... Then, when hardly anybody even knew he had announced a run, Edwin Santana of Prince William, showed up to ask for the local party’s support. It was Santana’s first public appearance since filing to run against incumbent Republican Rob Wittman for the First District Congressional seat in the 2018 election
By GREGORY S. SCHNEIDER , Washington Post
The building where Virginia politicians plotted to close public schools rather than integrate was renamed Thursday in honor of the young African American girl who defied and ultimately defeated them. Barbara Rose Johns was 16 when she led a walkout of students at her segregated high school in the town of Farmville in 1951 to protest poor conditions. Black students had to wear coats and build fires in the little tar-paper shacks in which many of their classes were held.
By PETER DUJARDIN, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)
The newly hired head of the Hampton Roads Regional Jail — and one of the Newport News city officials who helped hire him — responded Thursday to a report about a 2013 inmate beating at the South Carolina jail he has led since 2004. ... The incident was first raised by James Boyd, head of the Portsmouth chapter of the NAACP, at a “stakeholders panel” on Feb. 15, Alan Archer, the assistant Newport News city manager who chaired the board’s personnel committee, told the Daily Press. ... "In other words, the entire context of the event was not discussed.”
By DAVE RESS, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)
Sen. Tim Kaine had a chance to speak with Pope Francis about the Holy See’s work to address the global refugee and migrant crisis, during an audience in Vatican City this week. “As the Pope stated so clearly yesterday, it is a 'moral imperative' to protect and defend the 'inalienable rights' of refugees and respect their dignity, especially by adopting just laws that protect those fleeing dangerous or inhumane situations.”
By CAROL VAUGHN , Eastern Shore News
U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor's first town hall meeting with his Eastern Shore of Virginia constituents was filled to capacity nearly an hour before it began, leaving more than 50 people unable to get into the Eastern Shore Community College in Melfa. Taylor spoke to some of those who were outside the room before heading in and said he would hold future town halls at Nandua High School, where the auditorium can seat more people. ... During the hour-and-a-half long meeting Taylor fielded 22 questions on topics ranging from health care to climate change, national security and gerrymandering, among others.
By DAVE RESS, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)
Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Newport News, called on Congress to enact legislation making clear that gay and transgender individuals should not be subject to discrimination at school or at work. His statement came in reaction to the repeal of a formal Department of Education guidance that transgender students are protected under a 1972 federal law banning discrimination on the basis of sex.
By BUTCH MAIER , Inside Business
"Hidden Figures," a movie up for three Oscars on Sunday night and approaching $150 million at the U.S. box office, was set in Virginia. And it was almost set to be shot in Virginia. When Academy Award-winning producer Donna Gigliotti was figuring out how to make the movie, she wanted to shoot it in the commonwealth, Virginia Film Office Director Andy Edmunds recalled Thursday. ... "Hidden Figures," one of nine best picture nominees for 2016, cost $25 million to make. Lack of financial incentives in Virginia gave Georgia what turned out to be a hit movie, Edmunds said.
By KIMBERLY PIERCEALL, Inside Business
Lidl, the European grocer that plans to open its first U.S. stores this summer, will start hiring 800 people across Virginia this week. The chain announced Thursday that it would begin hiring store associates for locations in 12 Virginia cities, including Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
By AUDREY THOMASSON, Rappahannock Record (Paywall)
Staff attorneys for the State Corporation Commission issued a report recently saying an underwater route for electric cables across the Rappahannock River is a viable alternative to new towers and should be considered. The SCC staff report calls on Dominion to evaluate the cost, reliability and environmental implications of the four alternate proposals included in a citizen’s lawsuit against the company as well as a fifth variation contained in the staff report.
By FREDRICK KUNKLE, Washington Post
Some Metro leaders think it’s time to start selling naming rights to its subway stations because of the agency’s worsening financial plight. But whether any company would risk its good name on the subway is another question. Twitter, however, was quick to solicit offers:
By DAVE RESS, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)
The airline that wants to connect Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport with the New York area is still keen to come, even though it has postponed a planned March launch, airport executive director Ken Spirito said Thursday. Elite Airways is waiting for the state to finish a review of the airport's use of state funds in 2015 to pay off a loan that TowneBank made to People Express Airlines, he told the Peninsula Airport Commission at its regular monthly meeting.
By STAFF REPORT, Daily Progress
A candidate in the University of Virginia’s Student Council election is facing criticism for her alleged support of President Donald Trump. This week, students at UVa are voting for their representatives in Student Council and the Honor Committee. An anonymous flier circulating on Grounds this week claims that Kelsey Kilgore, who is running for Student Council president, is unsuited for the office because she is — among other things — a Trump supporter.
By GABE CAVALLARO , News Virginian
The Augusta County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday night to prohibit fracking in the county in a move to keep clean water flowing in the area. Augusta is the first county in the commonwealth to pass a zoning ordinance that completely prohibits fracking on its lands. King George County passed restrictions on fracking in August 2016, but that ordinance is not a total prohibition.
By LINDA FARNETH , Westmoreland News
The Westmoreland County Supervisors will have a hard choice to make in the upcoming months due to public response over fracking restrictions. Last Wednesday, February 15, the Board of Supervisors heard from a packed room of residents, who came out to express their opposition to fracking following a peaceful protest outside of the old county courthouse.
By K. BURNELL EVANS, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)
Gregory Stringfield’s chest tightened as he described the phone call from his mother confirming the dead, and the worst moment of his life, which followed. He put his hand over his heart, willing it to keep beating, as he recalled coming to his sister’s hospital bedside with the news that her toddler son was among the dead, along with their brother, and her boyfriend, all of whom were sent skyward when a tornado ripped through their mobile home off U.S. 460 in Waverly.
By ASHLIE WALTER, News & Advance
One year ago today, Sandy Burchett came through the train tunnel by Twin Tunnel Lane and, when she turned the corner, saw her community devastated. Dozens of families who huddled in fear or groped for shelter as the wind and rain of an EF-3 tornado bore down on them came together at Evergreen Baptist Church on Thursday evening to hear testimonies like Burchett’s — stories of facing the storm and surviving.
By BOB STUART, News Virginian
Opponents and supporters of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline came to the Staunton Holiday Inn Thursday to tell the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission what they thought of the agency’s analysis of the project’s likely environmental impact. The environmental impact statement was made public in December and, for all intents and purposes, concluded that the pipeline would have a minimal adverse effect on the environment. By 6:30 p.m. Thursday, about 79 people had signed up to give comments to stenographers, and a large sheaf of written comments had also been submitted.
By JOHN BRUCE, Highland Recorder
A somber county discussion over the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline last Wednesday, Feb. 15, prompted a recommendation for residents to contact their U.S. senators and house members, not just the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to vent their concerns.
By FRANCES HUBBARD, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)
One of the key aspects in the lawsuit between 17-year-old Gavin Grimm and the Gloucester County School Board was revoked on Wednesday. Previous federal guidance that said school divisions must allow transgender students to use the bathroom matching their gender identity was withdrawn by President Donald Trump's administration.
By JUSTIN WM. MOYER , Washington Post
A longtime Maryland official and advocate of limits on blue-crab fishing in the Chesapeake Bay was fired this week after watermen critical of the limits met with Gov. Larry Hogan (R). The ouster Tuesday of Brenda Davis, a 28-year-veteran of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, was first reported by the Chesapeake Bay Journal. Davis was the crab program manager for DNR, which sets limits on how large crabs must be to harvest — at least five inches between April and July.
By PATRICIA SULLIVAN, Washington Post
Arlington County’s top administrator on Thursday proposed a two-cent hike in the property tax rate to pay for growing school enrollment and increased funding for Metro. The proposed $1.2 billion budget, a 4.3 percent increase from this year’s, would raise $14.8 million for the county and boost the average residential property tax-and-fee bill to $8,613, a $308 increase.
By SYDNEY KASHIWAGI, Loudoun Times
After numerous postponements, Loudoun County supervisors voted Thursday to deny a major rezoning at One Loudoun that included building 300 more residential units in exchange for a park and ride. ...The decision came after months of deliberation and negotiations centered on the number of residential units -- a number that has dropped by more than half since January. But before supervisors cast their vote, things got heated.
By NED OLIVER , Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)
Richmond City Councilwoman Reva Trammell says she’s withdrawing a long-languishing proposal to rename City Hall for former governor and Richmond mayor L. Douglas Wilder. “He had no interest in City Hall being named after him,” Trammell said Wednesday.
By ALLISON BROPHY CHAMPION, Culpeper Star Exponent (Modified Pay Wall)
The Culpeper Police Department’s implementation late last year of a body-worn camera program has contributed to the need for an additional prosecutor in the Culpeper County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office. That was the report from top prosecutor Paul Walther at a board of supervisors’ fiscal year 2018 budget meeting Thursday morning. He quoted the Rolling Stones in opening remarks to the board saying, “You can’t always get what you want but you get what you need.”
By MICHAEL POPE, WVTF
In Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe is breaking out the veto pen — killing many of the same bills he vetoed last year and the year before that. Michael Pope has this look at Groundhog Day at the General Assembly. It’s deja vu all over again at the Capitol, as Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoes coal tax credits and limitations on abortion rights and efforts to allow home school students to play on public sports teams. He vetoes the same bills year after year.
By SARAH MCCAMMON, NPR
The debate over transgender restrooms is nothing new in Gloucester County, Va. The largely rural county in the eastern part of the state is the home of Gavin Grimm, whose transgender-rights case is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. It's an area that voted overwhelmingly for President Trump in November. His administration has issued guidance rolling back protections for transgender students like Grimm — a policy popular with residents like Marshall Butler. The retiree says the county school board made the right call in refusing Grimm's request to use the boys' restroom.
By TOM HOWELL JR., Washington Times
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Thursday said President Trump’s new orders on immigration are “scaring people” and no replacement for comprehensive immigration reform. Already, the Democratic governor has promised to veto a trio of bills from the Republican-controlled legislature that would help federal agents root out illegal immigrants, saying his state won’t turn local officials into an arm of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
By PAULA C. SQUIRES, Virginia Business
Just as Virginia’s General Assembly is poised to pass legislation putting restrictions on short-term rentals, Airbnb released data Thursday showing that its Virginia’s hosts earned a combined $41.4 million in supplemental income while welcoming about 280,000 guests in 2016. According to the San Francisco-based company, this business represents a 111 percent uptick in year-over-year growth. Airbnb said the number of Virginia hosts grew 65 percent to 6,800 people in 2016.
By JULIA BROUILLETTE, Washington Times
Virginia lawmakers are moving to ban so-called “sanctuary” cities, as other regional jurisdictions vow to reaffirm their sanctuary status in response to President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration. The Republican-controlled General Assembly approved Wednesday a bill that would bar local governments from restricting the enforcement of federal immigration laws. Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has promised to veto the legislation.
Virginian-Pilot Editorial (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)
Officials at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail haven’t done enough to assuage concerns raised by the death of 24-year-old Jamycheal Mitchell in August 2015. That includes the jail’s 15-member governing authority, which should have given far greater urgency to the profound problems illuminated by Mitchell’s death and the ensuing investigations. The board, which includes representatives from each of the five communities that send inmates there, was tardy in seeking a change in leadership for the jail. And now it appears the authority acted with something less than aggressive diligence in selecting a replacement.
Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)
Whatever you think about 7th District Rep. Dave Brat — and he certainly inspires strong opinions, both pro and con — he deserves credit for the town hall he held on Tuesday night in Blackstone. Granted, he should have chosen a location closer to the heart of the district, rather than one that seemed designed to evade or inconvenience his critics. But if that was the aim, it failed. The audience raked Brat over the coals, interrupted him, booed him and heckled him. He kept his composure.
Roanoke Times Editorial (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)
There’s so much news coming out of Washington these days that it’s hard to keep up with what’s really important. Was President Trump’s first national security adviser in cahoots with the Russians? Is the president really conducting sensitive national security conversations in front of waiters at his Florida resort? ... In ruling that Trump’s initial ban is probably unconstitutional, a federal judge in Virginia had very different reasons from those cited by the West Coast judges. That’s why The Wall Street Journal says the Virginia ruling “potentially presents a thornier problem” as further legal challenges unfold.
By RICHARD SINCERE, Published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)
Who would have predicted, even a few weeks ago, that five of the six major-party candidates for governor of Virginia would be campaigning for reform of marijuana laws? Yet that is precisely where we find ourselves. Both candidates for the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nomination, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former Rep. Tom Perriello, have called for the decriminalization of marijuana. So have three of the four Republican candidates: Nelson County distiller Denver Riggleman, Prince William County Board of Supervisors chairman Corey Stewart, and state Sen. Frank Wagner.
Charlottesville writer Richard Sincere is a former chairman of the Libertarian Party of Virginia and a contributor to BearingDrift.com.
By RAFAEL LEMAITRE, Published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)
As the former epicenter of the tobacco industry, Richmond is no stranger to the influences of lobbying groups and powerful corporations, which have long held considerable sway over politics in our state. Financed by multibillion-dollar sales of a harmful, addictive product, tobacco lobbyists have spent millions to oppose even the most modest regulations here and across the nation that could curb their profits . We’ve learned painful lessons from our nation’s experience with tobacco, which is why it is so disheartening to see history repeating itself with another drug: marijuana.
Rafael Lemaitre served as associate director for public affairs for the White House Drug Policy Office under President Barack Obama.
The Friday Read
By MATT APUZZO, New York Times
Working from an office suite behind a Burger King in southern Virginia, operatives used a web of shadowy cigarette sales to funnel tens of millions of dollars into a secret bank account. They weren’t known smugglers, but rather agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The operation, not authorized under Justice Department rules, gave agents an off-the-books way to finance undercover investigations and pay informants without the usual cumbersome paperwork and close oversight, according to court records and people close to the operation.