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VaNews

Friday March 22, 2019

EXECUTIVE BRANCH


NORTHAM SIGNS BILL ALLOWING SCHOOLS TO OPEN BEFORE LABOR DAY

By JUSTIN MATTINGLY, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Every school in Virginia will now be able to start before Labor Day. Gov. Ralph Northam signed two bills this week eliminating the requirement that schools open after Labor Day, chipping away at the so-called Kings Dominion law passed in 1986 to protect hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of economic activity over the final weeks of summer.


LONG JOURNEY FOR AUTISM ADVOCATES ENDS WITH STROKE OF GOVERNOR'S PEN

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

More than a dozen years ago, Dr. Ralph Northam helped Mark Llobell on the path to a diagnosis for his grandson, Mark III, who has autism. This week, as governor, Northam completed Llobell’s long political battle for insurance to pay for services to Virginians with autism, no matter their age.


GOVERNOR VETOES SWITCHBLADE KNIVES BILL

By AMY FRIEDENBERGER, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Gov. Ralph Northam vetoed a bill Thursday that would have allowed knife manufacturers in Virginia to make switchblades but only distribute them out of state. The legislation would have benefited two Marion-based knife companies: Blue Ridge Knives, a manufacturer, and online retailer Blade HQ. Under existing law, neither company can manufacture and possess switchblades.


NORTHAM SIGNS BILL APPROVING COMPENSATION FOR WRONGLY CONVICTED COVINGTON MAN IMPRISONED FOR 11 YEARS

Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday signed a bill to compensate a Covington man who spent a more than a decade in prison for bank robberies he did not commit. Northam’s signature authorizes $520,163 in compensation for Gary Linwood Bush for the 11 years he spent in prison for 2006 bank robberies in Petersburg and Prince George County committed by another man who came forward and confessed.


NORTHAM OK'S JAMES CITY CHARTER CHANGE TO REGULATE INOPERATIVE VEHICLES

By JACK JACOBS, Virginia Gazette (Metered Paywall - 5 Articles per Month)

Gov. Ralph Northam recently signed a bill to change James City County’s charter to allow the locality greater power to regulate inoperative vehicles. Senate Bill 1408 amends the county’s charter to allow it to forbid residents from storing inoperable vehicles within view on properties that are 2 acres or smaller and zoned for residential, commercial or agricultural proposes. The restriction applies to trailers and semitrailers but doesn’t apply to vehicles “shielded or screened from view,” according to the bill’s summary.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY


VIRGINIA STATE SEN. MAMIE LOCKE HIT BY CAR, UNDERGOES SURGERY

By MARIE ALBIGES, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

State Sen. Mamie Locke spent her birthday in the hospital after being hit by a car, according to a post on her Facebook page. She said the last thing she remembers was crossing the street at Hampton University, where she teaches political science, before she woke up and and began talking to EMTs. “I was hit by a car I’m told,” she wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday morning. The post didn't say what day she was struck.

STATE ELECTIONS


FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN GIFFORDS WORKS TO HELP DEMOCRATS WIN VA. GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON GUN ISSUE

By ANTONIO OLIVO, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

The gun-control group headed by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords plans to endorse Democrats in two key Republican-held districts in Virginia on Friday, part of an effort to help the party regain control of the General Assembly in the fall. The Giffords group said it will support Dan Helmer in his Fairfax County race against Del. Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax), and Del. John Bell (D-Loudoun) in his bid to fill retiring Republican Sen. Richard H. Black’s Loudoun County seat


LAW STUDENT IS ONE OF THREE DEMOCRATS SEEKING TO FACE GOP SEN. GLEN STURTEVANT

By WHITTNEY EVANS, WCVE

A 23-year-old University of Richmond law student is campaigning to unseat 10th District Republican State Senator Glen Sturtevant in the upcoming election. The district includes Richmond, Powhatan and Chesterfield. Zachary Brown was born and raised in Southern California and moved to Virginia to attend law school. The progressive Democrat says his platform is focused on LGBTQ rights, supporting small businesses and providing every Virginia resident an equal opportunity to succeed.

STATE GOVERNMENT


VIRGINIA PENSION FUND IN TROUBLE IF MARKET MELTDOWN HITS

By ALAN SUDERMAN, Associated Press

Virginia’s pension fund is in a worse position to handle a market meltdown than it was before the Great Recession more than a decade ago, according to a recent state report. That’s despite a 10-year bull market and pension reform efforts by lawmakers to make the fund more resilient. The Virginia Retirement System’s recent “stress test” predicts that a market crash or several years of lower-than-expected returns would add billions to the plan’s current unfunded liabilities. Such hits would leave lawmakers with limited and painful options, like slashing services or raising taxes to meet required contribution levels or underfunding the pension plan and leaving higher costs for future generations to pay off.


PROPOSED REGULATIONS WOULD LIMIT VIRGINIA'S POLICIES ON RESTRAINING, ISOLATING STUDENTS

By SARA MCCLOSKEY, WRIC

Outraged parents told the Virginia Board of Education Thursday about the experiences students have had being physically restrained and isolated in school. School divisions have used these practices to make sure kids don’t hurt themselves and others, but parents say that’s not always the case


PARENTS, ADVOCATES AGAINST SECLUSION AND RESTRAINT POLICIES TALK WITH VA. BOARD OF EDUCATION

By CHRIS HORNE, WAVY

Parents and their advocates talked directly to the Virginia Board of Education on Thursday about how they see seclusion and restraint as harmful and psychologically damaging. The board is working its way through adopting regulations governing the controversial form of behavior control.


HAMPTON ROADS REGIONAL JAIL TOO SLOW TO ADDRESS PROBLEMS FEDS FOUND, ADVOCATES SAY

By SCOTT DAUGHERTY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Help us." "We are dying in here." "They are trying to kill us." Those are just some of the words civil rights and mental health advocates said they heard from inmates Thursday afternoon as they toured Hampton Road Regional Jail.

CONGRESS


REP. JENNIFER WEXTON'S IDEA FOR HEADING OFF GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWNS

By GRACE SEGERS, CBS News

Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a Virginia Democrat, has an idea for heading off future government shutdowns. She thinks that the only way to ensure that Congress can't shut down the government is to "get rid of the concept of essential employees."


GRIFFITH NO FAN OF 'GREEN NEW DEAL'

By DAVID MCGEE, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith couldn’t hide his disdain on Thursday for the “Green New Deal.” Griffith, R-Salem, said he was surprised that 100 Democrats have signed on as supporting the plan unveiled last month by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., which proposes massive federal stimulus programs to primarily address climate change.


MODERATE DEMOCRATS UNDER PRESSURE AS PARTY'S LEFT GRABS ATTENTION

By KELSEY SNELL, National Public Radio

For Democrats, one of the keys to winning control of the House of Representatives last year was convincing voters in formerly Republican districts that there's more than one way to be a Democrat. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., was one of dozens of new members who ousted Republicans, in part on a pledge to buck party leaders and work across the aisle.


VOUCHER PORTABILITY COSTING LOCAL HOUSING AUTHORITIES

By DAVID MCGEE, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

The portability aspect of a federal housing program is causing financial problems for local housing authorities, area officials told U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith on Thursday. Griffith, R-Salem, spent about an hour meeting with officials from the Bristol, Virginia, and Wise County redevelopment and housing authorities. Among the issues they discussed were abuses of the housing choice voucher program, which helps pay rent for low income individuals.

ECONOMY/BUSINESS


VIRGINIA COAL MINING JOBS INCREASED IN 2018

By SLATER TEAGUE, WJHL

Coal mining jobs in Virginia increased in 2018 for the first time in five years. Data from the Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy shows there were 2,969 employed coal miners last year, nearly 700 more than in 2017. The last time coal mining jobs increased was in 2013.


EDITOR OF THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT, DAILY PRESS LEAVES AMID RESTRUCTURING

By KIMBERLY PIERCEALL, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Tribune Publishing, the owner of The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press newspapers, has announced the departure of the publications' top editor. Marisa Porto had been both editor and publisher of the Daily Press since 2016 and editor of The Virginian-Pilot since shortly after Tribune bought The Pilot in May 2018 for $34 million from the Batten family.

TRANSPORTATION


VA. OUTLINES ALTERNATIVES DURING MONTHSLONG CLOSURE OF BLUE, YELLOW LINES

By MAX SMITH, WTOP

Virginia will spend $3.6 million to let buses run past traffic on part of the Capital Beltway, discount Amtrak trips for VRE riders and to support expanded bus and water taxi service during this summer’s monthslong Metro shutdown of six Blue Line and Yellow Line stations.


CREWS FINALLY DIG OUT SKYLINE DRIVE AFTER STORMS, SHUTDOWN

Associated Press

Crews are finally digging out a 40-mile stretch of Virginia’s scenic Skyline Drive after a series of winter storms closed it for more than four months. Shenandoah National Park spokeswoman Sally Hurlbert said Wednesday that the southern portion of the road should be open by early April. The closure was one of the longest in decades after ice storms pounded the Blue Ridge Mountains. The five-week partial government shutdown only delayed the cleanup.

HIGHER EDUCATION


VCU BUDGET PLAN LEAVES TUITION RATE UNCHANGED, PROPOSES FEE INCREASES

By JUSTIN MATTINGLY, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

A proposal from Virginia Commonwealth University administrators calls for no tuition increase next year. President Michael Rao and Chief Financial Officer Karol Gray presented the university’s board of visitors on Thursday with a proposed budget for next year that for the first time in nearly 20 years wouldn’t rely on a tuition increase.


GEORGE MASON GETS $1.1 MILLION KOCH GIFT FOR RESEARCH ON IMMIGRATION, LABOR

By SARAH LARIMER, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

A $1.1 million gift to George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government will pay for research on demographic changes, immigration and labor issues, the university announced Thursday. The money, a five-year grant from the Charles Koch Foundation, will underwrite work at the Center for the Study of Social Change, Institutions and Policy at George Mason, a public university in Northern Virginia. At least five new PhD fellows are expected to be involved in the research, and the funding will also cover an annual workshop, according to a news

VIRGINIA OTHER


VIRGINIA AS THE "SILICON VALLEY" OF SEA LEVEL RISE? IT COULD HAPPEN.

By GORDON RAGO, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Can Virginia make money off sea level rise? The very idea sounds backwards — usually frequent flooding from bigger and more destructive storms is costly. Remember Hurricane Florence? One study showed a direct hit could have cost the region $5 billion of its gross domestic product in just three months. But some are looking at the rising seas and sensing opportunity.

LOCAL


PW SCHOOL BOARD ADVANCES BUDGET WITH HIGHEST TEACHER PAY INCREASE IN 10 YEARS

By EMILY SIDES, Inside NOVA

The Prince William County School Board unanimously voted 8-0 on Wednesday to approve it's $1.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2020, which starts July 1. The budget will advance to the Board of County Supervisors for approval. It would more than double the annual pay for school board members — the first increase in 19 years.


BUDGET FUNDS TEACHER RAISES AND MORE FIRST RESPONDERS

By DON DEL ROSSO, Fauquier Now

Fauquier’s board of supervisors Thursday afternoon unanimously approved a $330.7-million budget that requires a small real estate tax rate increase, includes funding for 12 new positions and provides salary increases for teachers and county government workers.


WHY DID PORTSMOUTH POLICE CHIEF LEAVE? DAYS LATER, NO ONE WHO KNOWS IS TALKING.

Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Days after Police Chief Tonya Chapman suddenly resigned, a clear picture of what happened has yet to emerge. The absence of answers from city officials or the ex-chief left speculation and rumor, and at least two organizations have raised questions about the circumstances of Chapman’s abrupt departure.


CHARLOTTESVILLE SCHOOLS TO CLOSE FRIDAY AS THREAT INVESTIGATION CONTINUES

By KATHERINE KNOTT, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

City police are working around the clock to find the source of a threatening online post directed at Charlottesville High School. All Charlottesville public schools will be closed again Friday as police investigate the credibility of the threat and the identity of the individual behind the anonymous post.


NO GLASS OR PLASTIC RECYCLING SERVICES IN STAUNTON, WAYNESBORO, AUGUSTA COUNTY

By LAURA PETERS, News Leader (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Edna Hunter received a letter that would drastically change her business. She's the owner of Augusta County Disposal, a disposal service in Augusta County that offers free recycling service for 20 years. Now, she had to let her customers know they can't take plastic recyclables starting March 30.


SMYTH COUNTY SUSPENDS RECYCLING FOLLOWING PLANT CLOSURE

By STEPHANIE PORTER-NICHOLS, SWVA Today

Smyth County officials suspended the community’s recycling services last week. The county joined a growing number of localities in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee impacted by the closure of the last Tri-Cities recycling plant. Tri-Cities Waste Paper, which handled the county’s paper and plastic recyclables, ceased operating in recent days. That closure had already prompted Washington County to also suspend recycling except for cardboard and aluminum. Abingdon has removed its recycling drop-off stations, and Bristol, Va., has halted its paper and plastic recycling.


ORANGE, GREENE AGREE TO BOUNDARY

By TERRY BEIGIE AND JEFF POOLE, Greene County Record

Supervisors in Orange and Greene counties voted unanimously last Tuesday to redraw a small portion of the boundary providing some geographic clarity for a handful of residents in the Preddy Creek subdivision live. In early 2018, several property owners in the Preddy Creek subdivision of Greene County were notified by the state board of elections that they are actually reside within Orange County after decades of believing their properties were within Greene County.


GOOGLE BRINGS MOBILE WIFI PROGRAM TO 4 SCHOOL BUSES IN BATH COUNTY

By ALISON GRAHAM, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Bath County Public Schools announced Wednesday it’s partnering with Google to equip buses with WiFi so students can complete schoolwork during long commutes. Valley Elementary School in Hot Springs is the first in Virginia to be selected for the Rolling Study Halls program, which has been set up in 16 communities in 13 states, program manager Alex Sanchez said. Google typically chooses remote areas that struggle with internet access and where students spend more time on the bus.

EDITORIALS


BILL BOOSTS MENTAL HEALTH AID TO VETERANS

Daily Progress Editorial (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

A suicide-prevention coordinator at every VA hospital. Given reports on the number of military veterans who take their own lives under the burdens of their mental and emotional injuries, such a basic level of care seems an obvious necessity.


WILL AMAZON BRING JOBS TO SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA?

Roanoke Times Editorial (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

One of the raps against Amazon is that its sheer size will drive up the cost of living in Northern Virginia and, subsequently, drive out people and businesses who can’t afford to pay those prices. For those of us in the western part of the state, that may be exactly what we should wish for. A few weeks ago, the Valleys Innovation Council — a business group interested in growing a bigger start-up culture in the Roanoke and New River valleys — hosted a business consultant named Thomas Osha. One of the things he told the gathering of nearly 200 business and government leaders was that some of the nation’s tech capitals have become so expensive that some people and companies are looking for lower-cost alternatives nearby.


SLASHING BAY FUNDS WOULD HARM RECOVERY PROGRESS

Virginian-Pilot Editorial (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

The struggle to reverse decades of pollution and neglect of the Chesapeake Bay is tough enough. Those who have been making significant but fragile progress in that battle shouldn’t also have to fight attacks by President Donald Trump year after year. As he did in 2017 and 2018, Trump has come up with a budget proposal that all but eliminates the program that’s been at the heart of recent progress in bringing the bay back to life.

OP-ED


TOSCANO: COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY WITHIN REACH

By JAMES P. TOSCANO, Published in the Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

It's been said that a budget is an embodiment of our values, and this year the General Assembly has made clear with virtually unanimous and bipartisan votes that it’s time to draw a line in the sand when it comes to the price of a state-supported college degree. Offering $52.5 million more in funding for our public colleges and universities in exchange for freezing tuition is a major milestone and can help put a degree within reach for more in-state students and families living on a budgetary knife-edge.

Dr. James P. Toscano is president of Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust.

THE FRIDAY READ


VIRGINIA LAWS USED TO FORCE RACCOON HUNTERS TO TAKE SUNDAY OFF. NOT ANYMORE.

By EDDIE DEAN, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

"Hear how his bark has got short? He's got him treed!" We are deep in the woods on the side of a rocky ridge in far western Loudoun County. It is dark and muddy, and the only sound is the faraway yelping of a coonhound named Storm. About 30 minutes ago, just after sundown, Glenn Cogle let the 4-year-old hound off his leash and watched as Storm disappeared into the bramble. Twice, the hound circled back to us with a dejected look when the trail went cold. "Go on, go get him!" Cogle said, and the dog bolted.