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VaNews

Tuesday January 15, 2019

GENERAL ASSEMBLY


IN SURPRISE, SENATE PANEL ADVANCES BILL TO RAISE MINIMUM WAGE

By STAFF REPORT, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

A Senate panel cast a surprise vote on Monday for a bill to gradually increase Virginia’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 per hour by 2021, as two senior Republicans backed the measure sponsored by Sen. Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg. Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City County, and Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, joined Dance and three other Democrats in the 6-4 vote


DANCE’S MINIMUM-WAGE RAISE BILL ADVANCES

By BILL ATKINSON, Progress Index (Metered paywall - 5 free articles a month)

A minimum-wage increase bill annually sponsored by state Sen. Rosalyn R. Dance and annually shot down by a Senate panel has finally cleared that hurdle and is en route to a floor vote. The bill, which would raise Virginia’s minimum wage in increments from the current $7.25 to $15 in 2021, cleared the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee Monday afternoon on a narrow 6-4 vote. The difference was two votes in support by GOP senators.


NO GUARANTEE FOR EXTRA TEACHER RAISE, STATE EMPLOYEE BONUS IN HOUSE BUDGET

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

An extra 2 percent raise for teachers. Money to repair and replace public school buildings. A 1 percent bonus for state employees. None is guaranteed in the budget the House Appropriations Committee is preparing, as the General Assembly girds for battle with Gov. Ralph Northam over Virginia tax policy and the revenues available to spend in the current biennium.


SOCIAL SERVICES ANTICIPATES $10.4 MILLION COST TO IMPLEMENT MEDICAID EXPANSION WORK REQUIREMENTS

By BRIDGET BALCH, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The Department of Social Services has asked the Senate Finance Committee to approve $17.2 million in budget amendments over the next two years, with more than half of that to pay for the costs to implement work requirements, as well as employment and housing services, that were a condition of the legislature approving Medicaid expansion.


STATE LAWMAKERS KICK OFF PROCESS TO HAND OVER UP TO $750 MILLION IN INCENTIVES TO FINALIZE AMAZON DEAL

By ALEX KOMA, ArlNow

State lawmakers are now setting the wheels in motion to approve at least $550 million in grant money to Amazon, a process that should help seal the deal to bring the tech giant to Arlington. Legislators in both chambers of the General Assembly have now introduced bills to make good on the deal that Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration helped strike with Jeff Bezos’ firm, promising hundreds of millions in incentive cash if Amazon comes through on its promise to bring 25,000 jobs to Pentagon City and Crystal City between now and 2030.


MOVE FAST TO GRAB GAMBLING DOLLARS? OR SLOW DOWN AND STUDY?

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

Asked what he has to say to social conservatives who oppose casino gambling in Virginia, state Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson, said, “Even God gives us free will.” Instead of imposing his own convictions on others, Carrico said, he’ll leave it to the people to decide. “I probably won’t set foot in the casino,” said Carrico, a former state trooper who is new to the pro-casino side. “I will!” said Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, who has pushed for a casino in her city for years and jokingly described the “research” she’s done at casinos up and down the East Coast.


LAWMAKERS, BACKERS TOUT VALUE OF CASINOS TO BRISTOL, OTHER CITIES

By KATHLEEN SHAW, ARIANNA COGHILL AND KATJA TIMM, VCU Capital News Service

Members of the General Assembly from Bristol, Portsmouth and Danville urged their colleagues Monday to approve legislation to allow casino gambling to help create jobs and boost the economies of those cities. Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Galax, and Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, joined delegates from each locality and Portsmouth city leaders at a Monday news conference to push for a state law authorizing casinos. They claimed that in seven years, three such gambling operations could generate a total of nearly $100 million in local revenue and create about 16,000 jobs.


WHILE COALITION FROM THREE CITIES SHOW CASINO SUPPORT, STATE SEN. BILL STANLEY NOT SOLD ON IDEA

By JOHN CRANE, Danville Register & Bee

Virginia legislators from three cities announced their efforts Monday in Richmond to try to get legislation passed that would legalize casinos in the state, and a Danville City Councilman went to listen and lend his support. “It’s a coalition between Portsmouth, Bristol and Danville and we wanted to show that we’re in this together,” City Councilman Gary Miller said.


CASINO SUPPORTERS JOIN EFFORTS IN VIRGINIA

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

Virginia lawmakers from different parts of the state announced plans this morning to join efforts to promote casino legislation for Bristol and two other cities. The joint legislation would allow citizen referendums in Bristol, Danville and Portsmouth, if the General Assembly approves the plan, according to a subsequent written statement.


TWO NORTHERN VIRGINIA LAWMAKERS PUSH BILL REQUIRING 12 WEEKS OF PAID FAMILY LEAVE FOR ALL WORKERS

By MARTIN AUSTERMUHLE, WAMU

Both were mothers who faced financial pressures after giving birth, and now they want to prevent other Virginians from going through the same hardship. Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax) and Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-Prince William) have teamed up on a bill that would give many workers in Virginia up to 12 weeks of paid family leave a year to care for a new child, attend to a medical condition or care for an ill family member. If the bill becomes reality, it would be one of the country’s most generous state-run programs.


BILLS AIMED AT PROTECTING VIRGINIANS FROM HATE CRIMES, STALL IN COMMITTEE

By WHITTNEY EVANS, WCVE

Senate Republicans in Virginia effectively killed two bills Monday morning that are part of Attorney General Mark Herring’s anti-hate crimes legislation package. One bill takes aim at paramilitary or militia activity, making it a felony to gather in a group, carrying weapons, with the intent of intimidating a group or person. The legislation was redirected to a finance committee, where it will likely be killed.


BILL EXPANDING HATE CRIME DEFINITION DEFEATED

By EVAN GOODENOW, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

A bill that would’ve broadened Virginia’s hate crimes law to include gender and sexuality was defeated Monday in the state Senate, disappointing some in the local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. “The vote is a gross miscarriage of justice for those of us being persecuted by the far right [in] public [and] at large,” Christine Frey, who co-organized Winchester’s first gay pride parade last year, wrote in an email.


BILL SPONSOR SAYS LEGAL MARIJUANA IS EXAMPLE OF LIMITED GOVERNMENT, PERSONAL LIBERTY

By TYLER ARNOLD, Virginia Watchdog

A bill introduced into the Virginia House of Delegates would legalize recreational marijuana for individuals 21 years or older. The bill’s sponsor, Del. Steve Heretick, D-Portsmouth, told Watchdog.org that legalizing the plant would serve the aim of “limited government” and “personal liberty,” which he said is something he thinks both major political parties value.


VA. LEGISLATORS TO AGAIN CONSIDER BILL AIMED AT EXONERATION OF PERSONS CONVICTED BY 'JUNK SCIENCE'

By FRANK GREEN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

Hailed decades ago as a cutting-edge forensic tool, bite-mark evidence has since led to the wrongful convictions and indictments of more than two dozen people across the country, including an innocent Portsmouth sailor sent to prison for 33 years.


BAN ON EXECUTION OF MENTALLY ILL MOVES FORWARD IN VIRGINIA SENATE

By DAVE RESS, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

A state Senate panel voted Monday to bar the execution of people with serious mental illnesses. The same bill failed last year, but a last-minute move by Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Warm Springs, will send the legislation to the Senate floor. The Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted for the bill 8-6.


DELS. CHRIS HURST, DANICA ROEM INTRODUCE BILLS TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS

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

Two journalists-turned-lawmakers introduced bills aimed at protecting student and professional journalists. The bill from Del. Chris Hurst, D-Blacksburg, is part of a movement pushing for legislation to protect student journalists from censorship and their faculty advisers from punishment. The bill from Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, would protect journalists from revealing their confidential sources.


VIRGINIA LEGISLATORS WANT TO STOP SCHOOLS FROM CENSORING STUDENT MEDIA

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

wo former journalists who now serve in the General Assembly are trying to protect their past peers. Del. Chris Hurst, D-Montgomery, and Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, have introduced bills that would add free speech protections for both student and professional journalists.


VIRGINIA LEGISLATORS SEEK REFUND FOR UTILITY CUSTOMERS

By DANIEL BERTI, VCU Capital News Service

Democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill to return millions of dollars to Virginia residents who they say have been overcharged by the state’s utility companies. Bill sponsors say Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power, the largest energy providers in the state, are charging residents more than they should for utility costs.


NEW DEMOCRATS SAY THEY WANT TO REIN IN DOMINION

By MALLORY NOE-PAYNE, WVTF

Democratic state Delegate Sam Rasoul says Dominion customers are having to pick up the tab for the company’s lobbying efforts, high-paid executives, and planned natural gas pipeline. “We believe that there is a system that has been rigged in favor of these monopolies that needs to be reined in,” said Rasoul during a press conference at the Capitol Monday.


BILL BARRING "SANCTUARY CITIES" IN VIRGINIA SENT TO FULL SENATE, SPARKS CONFRONTATION

By DENISE LAVOIE, Associated Press

A bill aimed at prohibiting "sanctuary cities" in Virginia sparked an angry confrontation Monday between immigrant advocates and the state senator who sponsored the legislation. The bill proposed by Republican Sen. Dick Black would bar localities from adopting ordinances or policies restricting the enforcement of federal immigration laws. During a hearing Monday, about a dozen immigrants and advocates spoke against the bill before the Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 8-6 to send the proposal to the full Senate.


BILL TARGETS PENALTY FOR DUI INJURIES

By JESSICA WETZLER, Daily News Record (Subscription Required)

Del. Robert Bell, R-Albemarle, is looking to increase the penalty for a person caught driving while intoxicated through new bipartisan legislation this General Assembly session. Sponsored by Bell and Del. Mike Mullin, D-Williamsburg, HB 1941 would require those arrested for drunken driving or operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated who cause seriously bodily injury to another person to be charged with a Class 4 felony, costing a fine up to $100,000 with two to 10 years of imprisonment.


VIRGINIA BILL MAKING NOT CLEARING YOUR CAR OFF AFTER SNOW FROZEN IN ITS TRACKS

By SHAYNE DWYER, WSLS

The weekend snow has come and gone, but we're still feeling the effects as a Campbell County man is left to deal with costly repairs to his car after flying ice drilled him on the highway. And as it turns out, he's not alone, and state lawmakers tried to make it illegal, but this is a fight frozen in its tracks. Many people clear just enough of the car to be passable and while that may seem fine, it's putting other drivers at serious risk. Scott Elvira knew his commute the day after the storm was going to be a tough one and he left extra early because of it. But he never expected what happened to him next.


DELEGATE FILES BILL TO CHANGE ALPACA CLASSIFICATION IN VIRGINIA CODE

By MARIELENA BALOURIS, WAVY

The Virginia laws surrounding alpacas may be changing. Back in October, two dogs attacked three alpacas on Jolly Pond Road. 10 On Your Side spoke with the family that owns the alpacas. They are upset that the charges against the dog owner were dismissed, because alpacas are not considered livestock


LEGISLATURE TAKES ON ‘HORRIBLE TIME OPPRESSION’ OF DAYLIGHT SAVINGS

By BEN PAVIOUR, WCVE

It’s Republican Delegate Richard “Dickie” Bell’s last session in the General Assembly, and he’s spending a sliver of his political capital on an old gripe: daylight savings time. Bell is re-introducing a bill that would require the state to study repealing daylight savings time or making it year-round after hearing complaints from constituents

STATE ELECTIONS


ELECTION NEARS FOR 86TH DISTRICT SEAT IN VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES

By CATHERINE DOUGLAS MORAN, Reston Now

Voters have an upcoming special general election for the 86th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. On Saturday (Jan. 12), Ibraheem Samirah was nominated to represent the Democratic Party to fill State Sen. Jennifer Boysko’s vacated seat.

STATE GOVERNMENT


OVER 4,500 NEWLY ELIGIBLE PEOPLE ENROLL IN MEDICAID IN REGION

By MAX LEE, Northern Virginia Daily

Since Jan. 1, residents across Virginia whose incomes fall below 138 percent of federal poverty guidelines have been eligible for Medicaid, following the state’s passage of Medicaid expansion last year. According to data released Thursday by Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services, that has resulted in over 4,500 newly eligible Medicaid enrollees in Shenandoah, Warren and Frederick counties and Winchester.

CONGRESS


MORE THAN 550 FURLOUGHED FEDERAL WORKERS IN VIRGINIA HAVE FILED FOR UNEMPLOYMENT

By KATHERINE HAFNER, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

As the partial government shutdown enters its fourth week, at least 550 federal workers who are furloughed have filed for unemployment benefits in Virginia — and the number continues to climb.


DELEGATES CALL TO FREEZE TOLLS FOR FEDERAL WORKERS COMMUTING TO UNPAID WORK

By CATHERINE DOUGLAS MORAN, Reston Now

Del. Ken Plum and 14 members of the Virginia General Assembly want toll relief for federal workers who are commuting on Virginia toll roads — including the Dulles Greenway — to go to their unpaid jobs as the longest government shutdown in U.S. history continues without an end in sight.


COAST GUARD FAMILIES TAKE ON EXTRA WORK, CUT EXPENSES AS SHUTDOWN CONTINUES

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

Stacy Boone started taking on more clients when it started to look like the partial government shutdown would engulf the Coast Guard. A hairstylist, Boone is married to an active duty Coast Guard member who has served for nearly 14 years. Her income has been a supplement to his, until now.

ECONOMY/BUSINESS


GANNETT GETS HOSTILE TAKEOVER BID, SAYS IT WILL REVIEW OFFER

By JEFF CLABAUGH, WTOP

USA Today publisher Gannett says it will review an unsolicited takeover offer from MNG Enterprises, a hedge fund-backed newspaper owner, which has offered to buy the Tysons Corner, Virginia-based company for nearly $1.4 billion. MNG Enterprises Inc., also known as Digital First Media and known for aggressive cost-cutting at its papers, owns 200 publications including The Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News. It has sent a letter to Gannett’s board of directors offering $12 a share, a 23 percent premium over Gannett’s Friday closing price.


HOSTILE BID FOR GANNETT RATTLES SOME IN THE NEWSPAPER BUSINESS

By KEACH HAGEY AND LUKAS I. ALPERT, Wall Street Journal (Subscription Required)

The hostile takeover bid for USA Today parent Gannett Co. GCI 21.23% by MNG Enterprises Inc., a newspaper group backed by a hedge fund, stoked fears that an industry already reeling from years of cutbacks could be in for even more severe cost-cutting as financial owners become bigger players.

HIGHER EDUCATION


LOCAL UNIVERSITY WAIVES APPLICATION FEE FOR STUDENTS AFFECTED BY PARTIAL SHUTDOWN

By JULIA MARSIGLIANO, Williamsburg-Yorktown Daily

Christopher Newport University is waiving the application fee for students whose parents missed paychecks because of the partial government shutdown. The parents must be federal employees or contractors to get the $65 admission fee waived. Read more about the waiver here.

LOCAL


AS SHUTDOWN DRAGS ON, COUNTY OFFERS MORE ASSISTANCE FOR FURLOUGHED WORKERS

By ALEX KOMA, ArlNow

Now that this latest government shutdown has become the longest in the nation’s history, Arlington officials are taking some new steps to lend a hand to furloughed workers missing out on paychecks. The county already announced plans last week to arrange payment plans for utility bills, should any of Arlington’s thousands of federal employees need help keeping afloat while the shutdown continues. Now, it also plans to offer tax relief and waive some fees as well, per a press release.


RICHMOND COUNCIL APPROVES ‘LIVING WAGE’ FOR CITY EMPLOYEES

By MARK ROBINSON, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Thousands of city employees will see a bump in their next paycheck after the Richmond City Council on Monday backed an increase to the city government’s minimum hourly wage and approved a 1 percent raise for which it had previously budgeted. The council voted to increase the lowest hourly wage city employees are paid from $11.66 to $12.07. The new rate — referred to as a “living wage” by Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration — is a part of an overhaul of the pay plan for about 4,000 city employees


NORFOLK'S $112 MILLION FLOODING PLAN WILL FORTIFY ONE NEIGHBORHOOD — AND TEST OTHER SOLUTIONS

By RYAN MURPHY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Sandwiched between the northern shore of the Elizabeth River’s eastern branch and I-264 sits what Levi Daugherty calls Norfolk’s best kept secret. Chesterfield Heights is a historic neighborhood with homes dating back more than 120 years. Daugherty has lived on the riverfront street there for 25 years and raised five children.


VIRGINIA BEACH IS OFFERING EARLY ISSUANCE OF FEBRUARY 2019 SNAP BENEFITS BECAUSE OF THE SHUTDOWN

Southside Daily

Because of the ongoing government shutdown, the Virginia Beach Department of Human Services will begin the early processing of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP Benefit renewals on Jan. 14 until 7 p.m. and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15. The USDA, which oversees the SNAP program, has asked states to make February benefits available early to participants in the program due to the shutdown, according to a news release from the city.

EDITORIALS


BIPARTISAN EFFORT TO TACKLE I-81 PROBLEMS

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

Are we seeing some encouraging signs — in the cause of infrastructure — in the recently-opened General Assembly session? Maybe so. Last Tuesday, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, flanked by Republican lawmakers, announced plans to address the dismal, dangerous mess called Interstate 81, that great track of space previously defined by the adjacent “Valley Road” or Route 11.


STAND UP FOR THE RESIDENTS OF CVTC

News & Advance Editorial (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

In August 2008, the U.S. Justice Department under Attorney General Michael Mukasey began an investigation of the Central Virginia Training Center in Madison Heights. The probe was launched under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act to ascertain whether the commonwealth was doing all it could to provide community-based, rather than institution-based, care for the most severely intellectually and physically disabled Virginians.


RECONSIDERING CERTIFICATES OF PUBLIC NEED

Free Lance-Star Editorial (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Once again, bills to limit or even repeal Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need program have been introduced in the Virginia General Assembly. Although previous attempts failed in the past few years, it might be time for lawmakers to reconsider.


A FIRST STEP FOR VIRGINIA AND FOI

Bristol Herald Courier Editorial (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Virginia lawmakers took steps last week to strengthen the state’s historically weak Freedom of Information (FOI) laws by introducing a series of bills that seem tailor-made to address Southwest Virginia’s transparency problems. If Thomas Jefferson was right that information is the currency of democracy, then Virginia is struggling to make ends meet.


SEISMIC BLASTING IS TOO RISKY ALONG ATLANTIC COAST

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

Virginia must push against federal efforts to use seismic blasting as a method for energy exploration Imagine the misery of living next to a rock quarry in a place where local laws did not inhibit the company’s use of explosives or the times they could blast.


BILL WILL NOTIFY TEACHERS OF PROTECTIVE ORDERS — GOOD ... WHY NOT TEACHERS, TOO?

Winchester Star Editorial (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

When the Francesca Furor bubbled up and boiled over late last school year, we wondered if anything good or positive could come of it. That seemed well-nigh out of the question, particularly when you consider the basic facts of the case. Before starting high school, a rising freshman at Handley was reportedly assaulted sexually by a classmate in a city park. The boy pleased no contest to the charges in juvenile court. A protective order was filed in the case on Francesca’s behalf.


WHY VIRGINIA WESTERN'S FUND-RAISING CAMPAIGN MATTERS

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

Sometimes it’s easy to see how the old economy dies and a new one arises: General Electric is shutting down its manufacturing operations in Salem while yet another building for the Virginia Tech Carilion Academic Health Center arises out of a former brownfields in Roanoke. Other changes are less visible, but no less dramatic. Here’s another: Virginia Western Community College has launched a drive to raise $15 million for its educational foundation. There are lots of fund-raising campaigns in the world. What makes this one so different?

COLUMNISTS


POLITIFACT VIRGINIA: KAINE "MOSTLY TRUE" ON BORDER WALL FUNDING CLAIM

By WARREN FISKE, WCVE

Sen. Tim Kaine says President Donald Trump was once offered all the money he wanted for Southern border security, and turned it down. His comments came during a Jan.9 interview on CNN, amid a federal government shutdown over disagreements on funding to expand a security wall on the Southern border. Trump is demanding $5.7 billion for project; congressional Democrats are drawing the line at $1.3 billion.

OP-ED


NORTHAM: IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF LIFE FOR STATE EMPLOYEES

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

Over the past year, my first as governor, I’ve often been asked what has impressed me the most. My answer is that it’s the dedication and commitment of our state employees. From road crews to health departments, veterans offices to state parks, our employees work hard every day

Ralph Northam is governor of Virginia


PARRISH: TIME TO MOVE EQUALITY FORWARD

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

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Equality Virginia. It also marks a golden opportunity to move equality forward in the commonwealth. I serve as the executive director of Equality Virginia, the state’s leading advocacy organization that works every day on behalf of the 220,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people who call Virginia home.

James Parrish is executive director of Equality Virginia