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VaNews

Friday January 24, 2020

FROM VPAP


VISUALIZATION: SPIKE IN DEMOCRAT-SPONSORED LEGISLATOIN

The Virginia Public Access Project

In the Virginia legislature, the proportion of Republican- and Democrat-sponsored bills introduced each year has roughly mirrored the number of seats each party held. This year, Democrats -- who regained control of both chambers for the first time in two decades -- have introduced more than their share of bills.


VISUALIZATION: LEGISLATURE IS JUST CRANKING UP

The Virginia Public Access Project

The first two weeks of the General Assembly session are always the slowest as committees get organized and begin to review legislation. VPAP compares the number of bills referred from House and Senate committees in the first two weeks with the number of measures referred in recent years following an election.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY


CRACKDOWN ON HIGH-INTEREST LOANS — BLOCKED FOR A DECADE IN RICHMOND — CLEARS A CRITICAL FIRST HURDLE

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

A bill that bans the kind of online loans that hit Virginians with interest rates sometimes exceeding 900% passed a key first hurdle in the General Assembly on Thursday. The legislation targeting the online firms also would slash charges levied for payday, car title and other short-term loans.


NEW GAME IN TOWN: BILL WOULD ALLOW SLOT MACHINES IN RESTAURANTS, CONVENIENCE STORES IN VIRGINIA

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

Virginia would open the door for state-regulated slot machines under a new legislative proposal that would end the legal distinction between games of skill and chance. Sen. Jeremy McPike, D-Prince William, chairman of a Senate subcommittee on gaming, introduced a new proposal on Thursday that would turn the debate over electronic gaming machines on its head.


AMAZON-INSPIRED BILL COULD ALLOW N. VA. OFFICIALS TO FORCE DEVELOPERS TO STRIKE AGREEMENTS WITH UNIONS

By ALEX KOMA, Washington Business Journal (Subscription required for some articles)

New state legislation could soon allow Northern Virginia officials to force developers of large projects to strike agreements on wages and benefits with construction unions — perhaps a meaningful change as Amazon.com Inc. advances its HQ2 projects in Arlington. State Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, is backing a bill that would allow several localities to require these deals,


PROPOSAL TO INCREASE STATE CORPORATION COMMISSION SIZE DRAWS SHARP QUESTIONS

By SARAH VOGELSONG, Virginia Mercury

In a narrow 10-9 vote, the House Labor and Commerce Committee on Thursday signed off on a bill that would increase the size of the State Corporation Commission, the powerful body that oversees all Virginia utility regulation, as well as insurance, banking and securities, from three to five members.


REFORM FOR WHEN KIDS ARE TRIED AS ADULTS CLEARS MAJOR HURDLE

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

Some two and half decades after tough-on-crime laws sailed through a General Assembly alarmed by tales of “wilding” teenagers, a sweeping rethinking of how to deal with kids accused of felonies is headed on its way into law. A bill that gives judges discretion about when to send 14- and 15-year-olds to adult court to be tried for violent felonies passed the House of Delegates’ Criminal Law subcommittee, a panel that has long been skeptical of reform.


ADVOCATES WANT TO MAKE VIRGINIA AN ABORTION ‘SAFE HAVEN’

By SARAH RANKIN, Associated Press

With a newly empowered Democratic majority at the Virginia General Assembly, abortion-rights advocates say the state has a chance to roll back decades of restrictions and become a “safe haven” for women in neighboring conservative states.


BILLS ADVANCE TO ROLL BACK ABORTION RESTRICTIONS ADOPTED BY REPUBLICANS

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

Virginia Democrats have advanced legislation to the floors of the House of Delegates and Senate that would dismantle abortion restrictions Republicans put in place over the past two decades.


SENATE PASSES BILL FOR SCHOOLS TO PROVIDE MENSTRUAL PRODUCTS

By MAIA STANLEY, VCU Capital News Service

The Virginia Senate unanimously passed a bill Tuesday requiring public schools to include free menstrual products in their bathrooms. Senate Bill 232 applies to schools that educate fifth-to-12th graders. According to the Virginia Department of Education, this encompasses 132 school districts and almost over 630,000 female students.


SENATE PANEL KILLS STUDENT CENSORSHIP BILL

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

Virginia schools can still censor student media. The Senate Education and Health Committee on Thursday punted on Senate Bill 80 from Sen. David Marsden, D-Fairfax, which would have added free speech protections to student journalists. The committee chose, in a 13-1 vote, to pass the bill by for the year.


FREITAS REINTRODUCES ‘TEBOW’ BILL TO ALLOW HOMESCHOOLERS TO PLAY PUBLIC SCHOOL SPORTS

By ALLISON BROPHY CHAMPION, Culpeper Star Exponent (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

In a session dominated by debate over guns, Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, is again going to bat for home-schooled students. For the second year in a row, the local delegate is chief patron of a measure that would allow children taught at home to participate in public school sports. Also known as the Tebow bill, House Bill 226 was referred Wednesday to a Virginia House of Delegates education subcommittee.

STATE GOVERNMENT


VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS BANS STRIP SEARCHING OF MINORS WITH LEGISLATORS POISED TO STEP IN

By GARY A. HARKI, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

As several state legislators bring bills to stop Virginia prisons from strip searching children and banning people from visiting inmates if they refuse the invasive inspection, the state Department of Corrections says it has decided to stop the practice.


VPRJ BOARD SELECTS INSIDER TO RUN JAIL

By STEVE ROBERTS JR, Virginia Gazette (Metered Paywall - 5 Articles per Month)

The body that oversees the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail has selected a new superintendent to run the jail’s day-to-day operations after its former head resigned for personal reasons at the end of 2019. Lt. Col. Roy C. Witham took over as the jail’s superintendent effective Jan. 15, according to a VPRJ news release.


CLOCK TICKING FOR HAMPTON ROADS AND OFFSHORE WIND INDUSTRY, STATE OFFICIAL SAYS

By TREVOR METCALFE, Inside Business

Hampton Roads has a chance to create thousands of jobs and attract a potential multibillion-dollar industry to the region. The only question now is whether regional stakeholders are up to the task. That’s the message Virginia wind energy leader Jennifer Palestrant told a room full of Hampton Roads mayors, city council members and others during a Hampton Roads Planning District Commission meeting Jan. 16.


GOV. NORTHAM TO APPEAR AT WESLEY HADSELL MURDER TRIAL

By KAYLA GASKINS, WAVY

Gov. Ralph Northam will be subpoenaed to testify at the trial of Wesley Hadsell, the man accused of murdering his stepdaughter, Anjelica “AJ” Hadsell. Defense lawyers for Hadsell filed the motion to subpoena Northam on Thursday in Southampton County court. A Southampton County judge granted the defense’s request to put the governor on the stand. Northam, who is also a pediatric neurologist, was AJ Hadsell’s doctor. Court documents show Northam prescribed AJ anti-depressants two months before she disappeared in March 2015 on spring break from Longwood University.

CONGRESS


SENATORS URGE QUICK REVIEW OF VIRGINIA'S PLAN TO REGULATE HEMP PRODUCTION

By ERIN PATTERSON, WVEC

The Virginia General Assembly adjourns in March. Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine on Thursday pushed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to hurry along its review of Virginia's plan to regulate hemp production. The Senators want the plan approved so the General Assembly can update the Commonwealth's hemp laws and address any flaws that could occur after the USDA's review


RIGGLEMAN TELLS UVA GROUP HE PLANS TO STAY TRUE TO VALUES OF FREEDOM

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

Fresh off announcing his re-election campaign, Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-5th, attended an event Thursday hosted by the College Republicans at the University of Virginia to discuss his first term and drum up support. During his term, Riggleman has drawn much attention for actions that have displeased some conservatives in the district.


CLINE ADDRESSES IMPEACHMENT, PROPOSED GUN LEGISLATION

By JUSTIN FAULCONER, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

As the third day of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump unfolded Thursday, Rep. Ben Cline, R-6th District, was on the front line in Trump’s defense during a town hall in Lynchburg attended by about 100 people, including many veterans.

ECONOMY/BUSINESS


HARD ROCK TO BE EQUITY PARTNER IN BRISTOL

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

Hard Rock International will be an equity partner in the proposed Hard Rock Bristol Resort and Casino — a project now expected to cost $400 million. Jim McGlothlin and Clyde Stacy, two longtime Twin City business leaders and backers of the casino planned for the former Bristol Mall property, discussed those and other details during an interview with the Bristol Herald Courier this week.


APPALACHIAN POWER RESTARTS ITS SEARCH FOR SOLAR ENERGY PROJECTS

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

Appalachian Power Co. is still looking for a bright spot in its search for solar energy. After making a request for proposals for large-scale solar farms in November 2018, the utility recently re-issued its call for bids when the first round “did not result in any viable projects,” it said in a news release.


NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD’S HISTORY-RICH DRY DOCK TO GET $200 MILLION RENOVATION

By HUGH LESSIG, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Norfolk Naval Shipyard broke ground Thursday for a $200 million upgrade of historic Dry Dock 4, one piece of a larger puzzle that will help the Navy’s oldest public yard maintain the modern fleet. Dry Dock 4 opened in April 1919, the first of three dry docks built during the yard’s World War I expansion.


THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT BUILDING IN NORFOLK SOLD TO MONUMENT COS. FOR $9.5 MILLION

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

A deal to sell The Virginian-Pilot’s Norfolk headquarters, first opened in 1937, is official. The Monument Cos., which had been under contract since at least October to buy the newsroom at 150 W. Brambleton Ave. from Chicago-based Tribune Publishing, closed on the purchase Wednesday night.


THE WINCHESTER STAR'S O'CONNOR DITCHES EDITORIALS FOR RETIREMENT

By BRIAN BREHM, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The man who has given voice to The Winchester Star’s Editorial Page for nearly 30 years is signing off. Adrian O’Connor, 65, will leave the newsroom today and quietly segue into a well-deserved retirement with his wife of 21 years, Toni Korb O’Connor. His departure will be both mourned and celebrated. That’s because O’Connor’s daily opinion pieces were loved by some readers and hated by others.

VIRGINIA OTHER


DISRESPECTED NO MORE, LOCAL RADIO HOSTS FORM AN ARMY FOR TRUMP

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

With breakfast from McDonald's in his left hand and his softsided briefcase rolling behind him, John Fredericks strolled into his radio studio, housed in a small, isolated building on the south side of this city. He has engaged in some version of this ritual in the pitch dark for the past eight years as host of a morning show on a local AM radio station — an unlikely career path for the lifelong stutterer.


DAVID DUKE AGREES TO PAY $5K TO MAN HURT AT VIRGINIA RALLY

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, Associated Press

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke has agreed to pay an Ohio man $5,000 after the man alleged he was severely injured during a white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally two years ago in Virginia attended by Duke, according to attorneys and court documents. Bill Burke, of Athens, Ohio, says he was struck by a car driven by James Alex Fields Jr. — in a crash that killed counterprotester Heather Heyer — during the August 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

LOCAL


LEESBURG COUNCILMAN CLAIMS FOUR COLLEAGUES PLANNING TO OUST TOWN ATTORNEY

By ELIZABETH STINNETTE, Loudoun Times

Leesburg Town Councilman Neil Steinberg, Mayor Kelly Burk and Vice Mayor Fernando “Marty” Martinez leveled accusations this week that their council colleagues are planning to show Town Attorney Barbara Notar the door. Furthermore – in spite of Councilwoman Suzanne Fox’s claims otherwise – the three suggest Fox is being motivated by a developer’s campaign contributions.


TRANSPARENCY QUESTIONED

By ALEXA MASSEY, Farmville Herald (Paywall)

The Cumberland County Board of Supervisors, consisting of five new members, met Jan. 14 for its first meeting of the new year. ... A comment involving an unpublicized December meeting involving the new board members and representatives from Green Ridge Recycling and Disposal Facility prompted a heated discussion about both the landfill and board transparency.


BRISTOL, VIRGINIA SCHOOLS CLOSED TODAY TO 'DEEP CLEAN' AFTER ILLNESSES

By TIM DODSON, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

After a spike in absences of students, teachers and staff due to illness, Bristol Virginia Public Schools will be closed today for a deep cleaning. “We will use this time to deep clean and sanitize our facilities and buses,” BVPS Superintendent Keith Perrigan wrote Thursday on Twitter.

EDITORIALS


WILL VIRGINIA FINALLY MANDATE EQUAL SCHOOLS?

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

The General Assembly is busy making lots of changes: new gun laws, an end to Lee-Jackson Day, and ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. However, the proposal that would make the most substantial change — at least in terms of the number of people affected — has received scant attention.


IS GASIFYING THE ANSWER TO TRASH PROBLEM?

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

Mountains of garbage produced in local jurisdictions and even out of state are piling up in Virginia’s landfills. Meanwhile, the U.S. recycling market is depressed due to foreign countries’ refusal to take any more of our trash due to contamination problems. In 2018, China no longer accepted most shipping containers of imported trash; and last year, Malaysia followed suit, saying it refused to be “the rubbish dump of the world.” METT USA, a company based in Smithfield County, Va., wants to come to the rescue


FOR REGIONAL JAIL, TURMOIL CONTINUES

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

The Hampton Roads Regional Jail Authority yet again has the unenviable job of finding someone to lead that facility, a post that should be considered the most challenging corrections job in Virginia.


RECOVERY HIGH SCHOOL IN CHESTERFIELD COUNTY IS NEEDED

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

For teens struggling with substance abuse, high school can pose a daunting challenge. Without the proper support, achieving sobriety can be a struggle. A bill pending before the General Assembly would create a pilot recovery high school in Chesterfield County that would offer students with substance abuse issues a stable environment for learning while receiving the help they need.

OP-ED


CHIPMAN: A DANGEROUS NEW PHENOMENON IN VIRGINIA

By DAVID CHIPMAN, Published in the Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

As a former Special Agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) who spent a good part of my career busting gun traffickers in Virginia, I understand how illegal guns can tear apart communities. I’m also a proud gun owner who has sometimes been mischaracterized as a gun grabber, first in my career in service to my country and now as an advocate for gun safety.

Chipman is a former special agent for the Buruea of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He is now senior policy adviser for Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.


WOLL: VIRGINIA MUST PUSH AHEAD ON WIND POWER

By EILEEN WOLL, Published in the Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

In Virginia, our 2018 goals centered on moving Gov. Ralph Northam to embrace the potential of offshore wind, and we were successful in getting development of 2,000 MW of offshore wind by 2028 into his Virginia Energy Plan. Our 2019 goals centered on pushing Dominion Energy to commit publicly to that same goal, and to that end we were more than successful.

Eileen Woll is the Offshore Energy Program Director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter.


SICKLES AND BARKER: TIME TO END BALANCE BILLING

By MARK SICKLES AND GEORGE BARKER, Published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Many Virginians have experienced confusion and distress after receiving an unexpected bill from a health care provider following medical treatment. Despite having health insurance and even visiting a hospital that is in-network, they sometimes face paying the remaining balance for their care that was not covered by their health insurance because one or more services or treating physicians were outside of their insurer’s network.

Del. Mark Sickles, D-Fairfax, represents the 43rd House District. Sen. George Barker, D-Fairfax, represents the 39th Senate District.


EASTER: DON'T FORGET HORSES AND FARMS WHEN CONSIDERING GAMING LEGISLATION

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

A little more than six years ago, Virginia’s long and storied racing heritage looked to be over. Colonial Downs — the longtime home for horse racing in the commonwealth — held its last race in 2013 and closed its doors the following year. Somehow, the state that Secretariat once called home was looking at the end of its historic racing culture.

Debbie Easter is the president of the Virginia Equine Alliance.

THE FRIDAY READ


'THE RIGHT FIT': OWNER SEEKS TO SELL HISTORIC STORE FOR PRICE OF $1

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

Tucked into the woods of southern Albemarle County is a store that could be the star of a Hallmark Christmas movie. And for $1, owner Alex Struminger will hand over the keys to the business. Struminger opened the Batesville Market in 2014, a year after the previous business shuttered. He wanted to bring the store back for the community and is looking for a new owner to keep it going.