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VaNews
February 20, 2020
Top of the News

House Democrats haven’t voted on bipartisan redistricting plan they supported last year

By MARIE ALBIGES, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

House Democrats are putting off a decision to act on a constitutional amendment that would form a bipartisan redistricting commission. It’s an amendment most Democrats favored last year when they were in the minority,


Virginia explores Blue Line extension into Prince William

By KATHERINE SHAVER, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Virginia lawmakers have included language in the state budget for a $2 million study of how Metro’s Blue Line could be extended through Fairfax into Prince William County to expand mass transit in the heavily congested and rapidly growing Interstate 95 corridor.


Bills Would Limit Police Authority to Question Immigration Status

By BEN PAVIOUR, WCVE

Law enforcement officers could no longer ask the immigration status of most crime witnesses under a bill passed by the state Senate on Wednesday. The bill is now headed to the governor’s desk; his spokesperson, Alena Yarmosky, said he would “carefully review this measure” but said both documented and undocumented people should feel “supported and protected by our public safety agencies.”


House passes Senate versions of one-gun-a-month

By MEL LEONOR, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

House lawmakers on Wednesday advanced two measures on gun control that previously passed the Senate — one that limits handgun purchases to one a month and another that does away with online gun competency exams for concealed-carry gun permits.


Amid political climate, concealed handgun class sets record in Pittsylvania County

By CALEB AYERS, Danville Register & Bee

Seventy-six people were arranged in groups of three at tables in the Pittsylvania County Community Center. They ranged in age from senior citizens to people in their 20s. And all of them were there for a concealed handgun class. In 20 years of teaching a monthly concealed carry class that usually has about 20 attendees, Chris Anderson never had as many people as he did Wednesday night.


Virginia lawmakers vote to repeal bans on cussing and fornicating, but draw line at spitting

By NED OLIVER, Virginia Mercury

Legislation to repeal arcane bans on cussing (in public) and fornicating (in private, among consenting adults) cleared the General Assembly on Wednesday and will head to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk for review. But the Senate voted down a third measure to repeal a ban on spitting in public places following an extended debate that alternately drew disgust, laughter and unintentional sexual innuendo.


Say Goodbye To Widely Loathed Gate 35X At National Airport

By ELLIOT WILLIAMS, WAMU

It’s happening: Reagan National’s nightmarish Gate 35X at Terminal C will soon be demolished. Construction is underway for Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s Project Journey, which will bring a new concourse to the north end of the airport and add new security checkpoints for Terminal B/C. MWAA describes Gate 35X as “less-than-pleasing” and “infamously congested.” But any one of the 6,000 daily passengers who journey through the gate—which is really just a claustrophobic bus terminal that funnels passengers to the tarmac—would likely recognize it by these descriptors: a “crime against humanity,” a dreaded “hell gate,” “punishment,” “the worst gate in the country.”

The Full Report
35 articles, 18 publications

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Virginia House will not take up redistricting; Senate version still alive

By MEL LEONOR, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

House Democratic leaders announced Wednesday that they would not take up a constitutional amendment on redistricting before their Thursday deadline, punting on an issue that has divided Democrats up to the highest ranks. The divisions became clearer on Wednesday,


Legislator’s small-business proposal finds a receptive audience

Inside NOVA (Metered Paywall)

A local legislator’s measure to refine the definition of “small business” when it comes to state-government procurement appears on the way to victory after being bottled up for several years in Richmond. Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington-Fairfax) patroned the measure that would define a small business as one with both 250 or fewer employees and less than $10 million in annual receipts.


Pending sale of CIT complex hovers over budget plans

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

As the House of Delegates and Senate prepare to adopt their versions of the two-year state budget on Thursday, they still don’t know how much money to expect from the pending sale of the Center for Innovative Technology complex in Northern Virginia.


House budget includes funds for Richmond transportation authority

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

For the Richmond area, the biggest state budget item depends on approval of House Bill 1541, which Del. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond, proposed to create the Central Virginia Transportation Authority. The regional authority would collect an additional gas tax of 7.6 cents per gallon


Blight-tax bill clears Senate panel with ease

By BILL ATKINSON, Progress Index (Metered paywall - 10 articles a month)

A Senate panel advanced legislation Wednesday that would clear the way for Petersburg, Emporia and Hopewell to enact an extra real-estate tax on blighted properties in those cities, but not until one panel member made an offhand remark about a locality not affected by the bill.


General Assembly works to ban skills machines

By DAVID MCGEE, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)

Virginia lawmakers appear poised to ban electronic skills games outright rather than regulate and tax them. Legislation in both chambers of the General Assembly would classify the electronic skills games, or gray market games that resemble slot machines, as “illegal gambling devices” and ban their use


Senate budget would freeze expansion of Rosie's gaming emporiums

Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

Colonial Downs Group might have a long delay at the starting gate before expanding its gaming business to Northern Virginia and other parts of the state. The proposed budget that the Senate will approve on Thursday includes a provision that would impose a five-year moratorium on additional off-track betting parlors


Faith Leaders Gather to Support Statewide Minimum Wage

By ROBERTO ROLDAN, WCVE

Faith leaders from the Virginia Interfaith Center gathered at the Capitol Wednesday, praying for lawmakers to end their divisions over how to raise the minimum wage. House Democrats have proposed raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour across Virginia by 2025. A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax), however, would raise the wage to $11.50 by 2023, with future increases tied to regional median incomes. That means that more expensive parts of the state, like Northern Virginia, would see a $15 minimum wage much faster.


Virginia Senate advances bill expanding access to renewable energy

By JEFFREY KNIGHT, VCU Capital News Service

A bill that would allow state residents, nonprofits and schools to more easily seek and secure alternative energy sources such as rooftop solar recently passed the Senate by a vote of 22–18. Senate Bill 710, patroned by Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D–Richmond, cleared the hurdle on crossover day, the last day for each chamber to advance its own legislation before it dies. McClellan’s amended bill helps remove some barriers that make it harder for individuals and organizations to access energy alternatives outside of public utility providers such as Dominion Energy.


Gun Transfers Have Become a Sticking Point for Universal Background Checks

By MICHAEL POPE, WVTF

A sweeping package of new restrictions on guns has been moving through the General Assembly. But, Democrats are divided about how universal background checks should be.


Bill to compensate Virginia man wrongfully convicted of 1975 rape advances

By FRANK GREEN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Legislation that would pay almost $160,000 to a former Fairfax County resident wrongly convicted of a 1975 rape for his wrongful imprisonment is sailing through the General Assembly. Winston Lamont Scott, 63, of Indiana was cleared of the rape and burglary by DNA testing


Dumfries council approves gaming parlor permit

By JARED FORETEK, Inside NOVA (Metered Paywall)

After weeks of back-and-forth, the Dumfries Town Council voted Tuesday night to clear the way for the state’s newest Rosie’s Gaming Emporium at the Triangle Center. By a 4-3 vote, the council approved a conditional use permit for the 18,364-square-foot gaming parlor and removed a requirement that Colonial Downs Group, Rosie's parent company, pay the town $100,000 for transportation improvements.


Charges filed over skilled-based gaming machines still operating in Danville

By QUASHON AVENT, Danville Register & Bee

The misdemeanor warrant states the Stop In Food Store on West Main Street had four skilled gaming machines running — despite lacking the proper permit — when police officers stopped in late last month. Now, the store has only two gaming machines, each sitting dormant and untouched:

STATE ELECTIONS

Chesterfield’s gun-toting senator is running for governor. But can she win?

By JIM MCCONNELL AND RICH GRISET, Chesterfield Observer

After she was kicked out of the Chesterfield County Republican Committee last September, a defiant state Sen. Amanda Chase said she would win reelection in the 11th District with or without party support and stated she was planning a run for governor in 2025. That timetable has been accelerated by four years.

FEDERAL ELECTIONS

Pence visits NASA Langley and Hampton University’s proton therapy institute

By LISA VERNON SPARKS, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

Kaylah Barney paused a moment when asked what it was like to meet Vice President Mike Pence. “It wasn’t on my bucket list,” she said. “I think it’s a cool opportunity to meet someone that important. He said I was remarkable." The 17-year-old Kecoughtan High School student who has completed treatment for brain cancer ― with her physician, Dr. Allan Thornton, by her side ― shook hands with Pence

STATE GOVERNMENT

$5 medical copays – equivalent to as much as 18 hours of labor behind bars – suspended at Va. prisons

By NED OLIVER, Virginia Mercury

Until this year, if prison inmates in Virginia needed to see a nurse or a doctor for anything other than an emergency, the state charged them a $5 copay — a modest amount in the context of ballooning health care costs nationwide but a huge sum behind bars, where most inmates are paid between 27 and 45 cents an hour for work assignments. The Department of Corrections suspended the policy on Jan. 1 without announcement or fanfare, instituting what officials described as a pilot program to see how things go without the copay. The General Assembly is considering legislation to make the policy permanent.


Jamming of cell doors at two Va. prisons prompts safety concerns and will cost $13.6 million

By FRANK GREEN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

The jamming of cell doors by inmates at two of Virginia’s high-security prisons will require replacing them at a cost of $13.6 million, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.


Officials Say Details Coming Soon on Plan for Sea Birds Impacted by Tunnel

By MALLORY NOE-PAYNE, WVTF

Governor Ralph Northam recently announced a plan to temporarily prepare barges, and another nearby island, as new nesting habitat. Bill Leighty, a former political insider who now represents a coalition of birding enthusiasts, welcomes the Governor’s move. But he told members of the state transportation board Wednesday that it’s now on them to make it all happen.

ECONOMY/BUSINESS

Amazon to open fulfillment center in Prince George

By JOHN REID BLACKWELL, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Online retail giant Amazon Inc. is expanding its operations in Virginia with plans to open a new fulfillment center in Prince George County. Amazon is leasing a former Ace Hardware Corp. warehouse in Prince George to serve as a fulfillment center for the company’s Amazon Basics line of products, state officials announced Wednesday.


Watkins Nurseries files for bankruptcy protection

By GREGORY J. GILLIGAN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

Watkins Nurseries Inc., one of the Richmond region’s oldest businesses that has been operated since 1876 by the Watkins family, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late Wednesday. The filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond cancels a foreclosure auction that was scheduled to be held Thursday morning


Local hemp growers gain access to crop insurance

South Boston News & Record

Mecklenburg, Halifax, Charlotte, Brunswick, Lunenburg and Pittsylvania counties are among the 84 Virginia localities where hemp growers are now eligible for crop insurance. Virginia senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced the news


Residents grapple with Red Front closing and what it means for a changing community

By NICOLE HOSTETTER, The Citizen

There was a time, not long ago, when people who lived along the Chicago Avenue corridor didn’t need a car to get what they needed. The one-mile stretch of road is home to a public elementary school, a public park, dozens of single- and multi-family homes, a restaurant, small businesses, a gas station, a bank and a grocery store. The road’s amenities drew residents into the homes that sprang up around the curving neighborhoods in the 1960s and ’70s. Small things changed, sidewalks came in, little businesses opened and closed, but for 62 years Red Front Supermarket remained. Until now.

TRANSPORTATION

Northern Virginia pedestrians, cyclists to see better paths after funds approved

By LIZ ANDERSON, WTOP

Improvements to transportation stretches that have been tricky for pedestrians and cyclists to navigate in Northern Virginia are one step closer to construction, now that funding has been approved to pay for the projects. Safety improvements for seven areas in Northern Virginia got the OK during the February meeting of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Transportation Planning Board.

HIGHER EDUCATION

U.Va. recruits more first-generation students

By KARIN KAPSIDELIS, Va Business Magazine

Alita Robinson, a second-year University of Virginia student from Delaware, delivers a personal message when she calls potential donors seeking support for financial aid programs. “I always tell people the only reason I’m at U.Va. and have these opportunities … is because I got a scholarship,” says Robinson,


Virginia Tech, former cadet resolve blood-pinning suit

By HENRI GENDREAU, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

A former Virginia Tech cadet settled the lawsuit he brought against the university when it suspended him for overseeing a blood-pinning ritual.

LOCAL

County feels trickle-down effect of delayed EDA audit

By JOSH GULLY, Northern Virginia Daily

Delays in the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority’s audit have resulted in the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality mandating the county’s opening of a trust to ensure money is set aside for maintenance at two local landfills.


City boasts fund balance on the positive side

By BILL ATKINSON, Progress Index (Metered paywall - 10 articles a month)

Unassigned money in Petersburg’s coffers sits at $2.8M, a significant jump from a $7.7M deficit just two years ago. City leaders are hailing Petersburg’s first positive-side fund balance in four years as a significant step toward the right side of the fiscal ledger.


County plans $15 increase in recycling fee

By JIM MCCONNELL, Chesterfield Observer

Chesterfield County is increasing the annual fee for curbside recycling from $25 to $40, a move county officials say will eliminate the need for a local subsidy and sustain the program until the current regional collection and processing contract ends in 2023.

 

EDITORIALS

Will House Democrats kill the constitutional amendment on gerrymandering?

Roanoke Times Editorial (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

In “The Lord of the Rings” Frodo Baggins was the keeper of the all-powerful “one ring to rule them all” for 17 years before even the humble hobbit from the Shire fell under the sway of its intoxicating power. The Democrats who now control the Virginia House of Delegates apparently do not possess the sturdy constitution of a hobbit. It’s taken them less than two months to become addicted


Persistence pays off for Sen. Kaine

Virginian-Pilot Editorial (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine must appreciate the story of the tortoise and the hare. The former Virginia governor spent years trying to restore balance between the legislative and executive over decisions of war — work that culminated last week in a Senate vote to approve a resolution limiting the president’s power to initiate a conflict with Iran.

COLUMNISTS

Schapiro: Where's Ken Cuccinelli when you need him?

By JEFF E. SCHAPIRO, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

In 2012, Virginians made a strong statement in support of property rights, tightening the state constitution to ensure that private lands and buildings could not be seized for public use unless owners are compensated. It was the cause célèbre of Ken Cuccinelli, a conservative Republican, then-attorney general and readying to run — and lose — for governor.

OP-ED

Mix: Virginia poised to hand power to tax-and-spend lobby

By MARK MIX, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

Just more than a 25 years ago, then-Democratic Gov. Doug Wilder signed H.B.1872/S.B.962, legislation that prohibits all collectivistic bargaining between government union officials and public employers in the state of Virginia.

Mix is president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee, both based in Springfield, Va


Epling: General Assembly should strengthen vaccine requirements

By JOHN W. EPLING, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

It is important for everyone to realize the continuing threat of vaccine-preventable illness in the United States. Issues like an abnormally severe flu season and recent measles outbreak demonstrate the growing public health dangers facing Virginians. Lawmakers now have a critical opportunity to raise the bar on health in Roanoke and across the state

Epling is a family physician from Roanoke


Coyle: Virginians still defend the rights of the unborn

By FRANK COYLE, published in Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

I cautiously wade into the abortion debate after reading Tarina Keene’s Jan. 29 Op-Ed column, "Pro-choice majorities are doing the voters’ will.” Keene’s argument for less restrictive abortion laws compels me to take issue with her position that abortion is a fundamental right. I believe there are objective truths — truths that stabilize society.

Frank Coyle is a retired navy officer who lives in Virginia Beach.


VanValkenburg: It’s now or never on redistricting

By SCHUYLER VANVALKENBURG, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

In Rucho v. Common Cause, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan wrote in dissent that partisan gerrymanders “deprived citizens of the most fundamental of their constitutional rights: the rights to participate equally in the political process.” It is on these grounds that the constitutional amendment to reform Virginia’s redistricting process represents real and significant progress.

Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Henrico, represents the 72nd District in the Virginia House of Delegates and is a public school teacher.