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VaNews

Saturday February 16, 2019

EXECUTIVE BRANCH


TAX DEPARTMENT TO 'CRANK IT UP' AS NORTHAM SIGNS TAX BILLS

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

Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne had a quick message for Virginia’s tax commissioner, soon after Gov. Ralph Northam signed long-awaited legislation to conform the state’s tax code to changes in federal law enacted almost 15 months ago. “Crank it up,” Layne told Virginia Tax Commissioner Craig Burns at midday on Friday.


NORTHAM'S HOMETOWN STRUGGLES TO SQUARE THE MAN THEY KNOW WITH THE PHOTO IN HIS YEARBOOK

By JOHN RAMSEY, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Ralph Northam was named most dignified student at Onancock High in his senior year. In that 1977 yearbook, he's pictured as a leader in the Beta Club and other groups, almost always alongside black classmates who a decade earlier wouldn't have been allowed to enroll there.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY


COAL ASH BILL HEADS TO GOVERNOR'S DESK

By MEL LEONOR, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Legislation to require the excavation of the state’s legacy coal ash now stored in Dominion Energy ponds is on its way to the governor’s desk, after clearing the House overwhelmingly on Friday. Gov. Ralph Northam, whose administration played a key role in securing a deal on the legislation, is likely to sign it — putting an end to a yearslong fight over how to close the ash ponds.


VIRGINIA LAWMAKERS SEND COAL ASH BILL TO GOVERNOR

Associated Press

Virginia lawmakers have approved legislation to require the state's largest electric utility to excavate and clean up unlined coal ash pits. The General Assembly approved legislation Friday to require Dominion Energy to recycle or store in lined landfills millions of cubic yards of coal ash currently located at sites around the state.


A YEAR AFTER PARKLAND SHOOTING, VIRGINIA REJECTS GUN CONTROL BUT PASSES SCHOOL SAFETY BILLS

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

When 17 students were killed at a Parkland, Florida, high school on Valentine’s Day last year, the Virginia General Assembly noticed. On Thursday, Democrats used the one-year anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting to highlight the need for better school safety and gun violence prevention measures.


VIRGINIA LAWMAKERS OK BILLS TO ADDRESS HOUSING ISSUES

By DANIEL BERTI, VCU Capital News Service

A flurry of bills addressing affordable housing and high eviction rates in Virginia cities moved forward in the House and Senate this week. Three bills on those issues have passed both chambers and have been sent to Gov. Ralph Northam to be signed into law. Several other measures have passed one chamber and are awaiting a floor vote in the other.


ICE COOPERATION BILLS PROGRESS THROUGH VIRGINIA LEGISLATURE

By GEORGIA GEEN, VCU Capital News Service

Raising concerns from immigrant advocacy groups, two bills that would increase cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities are advancing through the Virginia General Assembly.


HOUSE REPUBLICANS LET LGBT NON-DISCRIMINATION BILLS DIE WITHOUT A HEARING

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Heading into the 2019 session, the LGBT rights group Equality Virginia had high hopes. The group had lined up a Republican sponsor in the House of Delegates for a bill to ban housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Three House Republicans appeared at a news conference in January to support the bill, enough to show the legislation would likely pass if it came to a vote on the House floor.


LGBT ACTIVISTS UPSET WITH LOSS OF VA. ANTI-DISCRIMINATION BILLS TURN TO NOVEMBER

By PATRICIA SULLIVAN, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Gay and transgender activists, fed up with four consecutive defeats in trying to ban discrimination in housing and government employment, say they will now turn to the ballot box, targeting GOP leaders who have failed to support them.


PINNACLE PARKWAY BUDGET REQUESTS FILED IN GENERAL ASSEMBLY

By JOE TENNIS, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

A Virginia state budget amendment request has been introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates to fund a $10 million extension of Pinnacle Parkway in Washington County, Virginia. The request’s patron is Del. Todd E. Pillion, R-Abingdon, and co-patron is Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol.


HOUSE PANEL BACKS MANDATORY MINIMUM FOR KILLING POLICE DOGS

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

Legislation that would require a mandatory minimum sentence of six months for anyone who maliciously kills or injures a police dog advanced from a General Assembly committee on Friday.


DISTRICT DIRECTOR FOR GRIFFITH APPOINTED TO JUDICIAL POSITION

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

Michelle Jenkins will leave her longtime post as district director for U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith this summer to accept a judicial appointment. On Thursday, the Virginia General Assembly made dozens of judicial appointments statewide. Jenkins, an attorney from Gate City, was appointed to the 30th Judicial District Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court bench to hear cases in Lee, Scott and Wise counties.


'WELL-ORGANIZED CAMPAIGN' FORCED ERIC MONDAY TO WITHDRAW FROM JUDICIAL RACE IN HENRY/PATRICK DISTRICT

By PAUL COLLINS, Martinsville Bulletin

Martinsville City Attorney Eric Monday surprisingly withdrew from consideration for a judgeship in the 21st Judicial District, saying attacks on his candidacy had destroyed his desire to serve. Monday announced his decision Thursday afternoon in a statement he emailed to the Bulletin, ending a tumultuous week in which he and three colleagues seemed certain to be approved by the General Assembly.


BILLS TACKLING EVICTIONS IN VIRGINIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY GET BROAD SUPPORT

By WHITTNEY EVANS, WCVE

It’s been smooth sailing this year for legislation aimed at curbing evictions in Virginia. A package of bills has already passed both chambers of the General Assembly, and there might be some new money for affordable housing. The topic took center stage in Virginia last year after a New York Times article highlighted the disproportionate number of evictions in the Commonwealth. Five Virginia cities made the top 10 for highest rate of eviction judgements in 2016.


VA. VOTERS TO GET A LITTLE MORE PRIVACY AT CHECK-IN

Inside NOVA

It’ll soon be sounding less like an echo in polling precincts across Virginia. Both houses of the General Assembly have unanimously passed legislation patroned by Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) eliminating the requirement that election officers repeat the address of voters as they are in line to receive ballots.


VIRGINIA’S BLACK CAUCUS GAINS STRENGTH AMID POLITICAL TURMOIL

By SCOTT CALVERT AND JON KAMP, Wall Street Journal (Subscription Required)

When Virginia Democrats held a conference call Sunday on the state’s latest leadership crisis, several African-American lawmakers spoke first and cited legal and political objections to an effort to impeach Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax over sexual-assault allegations. Before sunrise the next day, the impeachment push had ground to a halt, marking the latest example of how the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus—a 21-member, all-Democratic group in a legislature that totals 140 seats—has shaped the party’s response to the state’s still-unfolding political turmoil.


POLL: MAJORITY OF VIRGINIANS SAY THIRD-TRIMESTER ABORTION SHOULD BE LEGAL IF WOMAN’S HEALTH IS AT RISK

By SAMANTHA SCHMIDT AND EMILY GUSKIN, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Amid a recent charged debate over late-term abortions, a clear majority of Virginians say terminating a pregnancy in the third trimester should be legal if the woman’s health is at risk, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll.


AFTER PERSUASION, BILL CHANGING 'GOOD SAMARITAN' LAW ADVANCES FROM HOUSE PANEL

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

For a few minutes, Sen. Ryan McDougle’s bill seemed ready to face defeat in a General Assembly panel. McDougle, R-Hanover, proposed changing a 2015 “Good Samaritan” law requiring that anyone who calls police to report an overdose must “substantially cooperate with law enforcement in any investigation of any criminal offense reasonably related to an overdose” in order to avoid prosecution for a drug offense.


LEGISLATORS SEEKS TO DEDICATE I-81 BRIDGE TO DOWELL'S MEMORY

By STEPHANIE PORTER-NICHOLS, Smyth County News & Messenger

State legislators hope to dedicate a Smyth County bridge to the memory of Trooper Lucas Dowell, who was killed in the line of duty early this month. During the Senate’s Thursday session, Sen. Mark Peake made a special request of his peers on behalf of himself and Sen. Bill Carrico.

STATE ELECTIONS


VIRGINIA ELECTION ON TUESDAY COULD OFFER FIRST GLIMPSE OF SCANDALS’ IMPACT

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

A special election on Tuesday to fill a vacant seat in the Virginia House of Delegates could be the first sign of how much damage the scandals in Richmond have hurt Democrats.


VIRGINIA DEMOCRATS NOW LOOK TO WOMEN OF COLOR FOR LEADERSHIP

By SARAH MCCAMMON, National Public Radio

When you talk to Virginia Democrats these days, you hear a lot of words like "disappointing" and "frustrating." That's because the men at the top of state government — and at the center of these scandals — have been well-liked by a lot of people who worked hard to help elect them.

STATE GOVERNMENT


VA. AGENCY'S HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR 'TIDYING UP' AFTER PHOTO SHOWS PILES OF PAPER, FILES

By PATRICK WILSON, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

A photo sent to the Richmond Times-Dispatch by a concerned citizen shows piles of paper and files on desks and the floor of the human resources director of the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation. Acting DPOR Director Mary Broz-Vaughan said Friday that Linda Bell, the human resources director whose office is shown in the photo, “is in the process of tidying up. But she does work with a lot of paper.”

ECONOMY/BUSINESS


AMAZON PAYS NO FEDERAL INCOME TAX FOR 2018, DESPITE SOARING PROFITS, REPORT SAYS

By JOEL SHANNON, USA Today

Profits for online retail behemoth Amazon soared in 2018, but it paid no federal income tax for the second consecutive year, according to a report published Wednesday. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy says the company is subject to a 21 percent tax rate on its U.S. income. However, through various tax breaks and credits, the company will receive a tax rebate of $129 million.


COUNCIL: WHAT WILL BALLAD DO WITH HOSPITAL?

By TERRAN S. YOUNG, Coalfield Progress

A Ballad Health executive came to discuss regional commitment, but town council zeroed in on one topic — the future of Lonesome Pine Hospital. The answer: There will be change, but the details are not yet clear.

TRANSPORTATION


WINNER OF $3.3 BILLION HRBT CONTRACT ANNOUNCED

By MATT JONES, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Friday that the state would award the $3.3 billion contract to design and build an expansion to the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel by 2025 to Hampton Roads Connector Partners. In a news release, the governor’s office called the project the largest construction project the Virginia Department of Transportation has ever undertaken.


PROJECT TO EXPAND CHESAPEAKE BAY BRIDGE-TUNNEL IS YEAR BEHIND SCHEDULE

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

Anyone looking forward to seeing Chessie the tunnel boring machine drill a mile-long expansion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel will have to wait a little longer.

VIRGINIA OTHER


CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION OF MOUNTAIN VALLEY PIPELINE UNDERWAY, DOCUMENT SHOWS

By LAURENCE HAMMACK, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

The Mountain Valley Pipeline is under criminal investigation into possible violations of the Clean Water Act and other federal laws, one of the companies building the project has confirmed. EQM Midstream Partners, the lead company in the joint venture, made the disclosure in an annual report filed Thursday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.


LIST OF PRIESTS WHO WERE ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ABUSE NOT ENOUGH, SAYS SURVIVORS GROUP

By ST, Williamsburg-Yorktown Daily

On Wednesday, the Catholic Diocese of Richmond made waves when it published a list of 42 names of clergy with “credible and substantiated” allegations of sexual abuse involving minors. Some of the names were priests who were assigned in Catholic churches in Virginia Beach and Norfolk.


PRINCE WILLIAM, FREDERICKSBURG PRIESTS ACCUSED OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT

By OLIVIA AVENI BRISCOE, Potomac Local (Subscription Required)

Three priests who served in Prince William County are suspected of sexually abusing minors, according to the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, which encompasses Catholic parishes in Prince William County and Fredericksburg. Reverend Kevin Downey, O.F.M., served as Pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Triangle from July 2011 to May 2016.

LOCAL


PROBE FINDS NO WRONGDOING ON PART OF CRB MEMBER

By TYLER HAMMEL, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

A member of the Charlottesville Police Civilian Review Board did not violate the Virginia Conflict of Interests Act at a traffic stop involving her son, according to a letter from the city’s commonwealth’s attorney. Following a call from the Southern States Police Benevolent Association to investigate the conduct of CRB member Katrina Turner during a Feb. 1 traffic stop, Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania wrote that Turner did not violate a state act or use her position “threateningly.”


CITY POLICE DATA AGAIN SHOW MORE AFRICAN-AMERICANS STOPPED WITHOUT ARREST THAN WHITES

By NOLAN STOUT, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Nearly twice as many African-Americans were stopped in December by Charlottesville police officers than were white people. The Charlottesville Police Department released data on investigative detentions for January, commonly called “stop-and-frisk,” on Friday.


COURT: STORMWATER CHARGE APPLIES TO NORFOLK SOUTHERN LAND IN ROANOKE

By JEFF STURGEON, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Roanoke’s ongoing charge to fund stormwater management is a valid regulatory fee applicable to acres of Norfolk Southern property in the city, a court has ruled. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the railroad’s argument that the charge levied on improved real estate with impervious surfaces is a discriminatory tax.

EDITORIALS


DESPITE THE BIG TALK, FUNDING FOR INTERSTATE 81 IMPROVEMENTS IS SHELVED UNTIL 2020

News Leader Editorial (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

2019 was going to be the year to solve the problems of Interstate 81, that truck-clogged artery that carries an economic lifeblood through much of western Virginia. And now, suddenly, it isn't.


LESSONS FROM GENERAL ELECTRIC

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

If you’ve driven around the Roanoke Valley the past month or so, you likely saw one of the billboards that a union at the General Electric plant in Salem has put up. The wording varied from sign to sign but the one that was up at the Interstate 581 entrance ramp at Orange Avenue in Roanoke summed up the essence of things: “GE moving Salem, VA jobs to India & China while CEO makes millions.”

OP-ED


GEWANTER: WHEN YOUR DOCTOR IS NOT THE ONE DECIDING YOUR TREATMENT...

By HARRY GEWANTER, Published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Every day a Virginia doctor and patient discuss and determine the best treatment given the specifics of the patient’s situation, only to have someone else decide what care the patient will actually receive. Why? Because the doctor then has to discover what treatment the insurer or pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) considers appropriate and will actually cover.

Harry Gewanter, a Richmond pediatric rheumatologist, serves as the Advocacy Chair of the Arthritis Foundation’s Virginia Chapter, and is an advocate with the Fair Health Care VA Coalition


KASS: DOGMA LIVES LOUDLY WITHIN VIRGINIA'S DEMOCRATS

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

If there were a state that could educate Americans on politics, and what happens when virtue smacks up against raw political power, you’d have to say it’s Virginia. Illinois is broken. People flee Illinois for the same reason they flee New York: taxes. But they don’t run from Virginia.

John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.