Archive for January, 2011

Public.Resource.Org Funds 2010 Session Video

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Big, surprise news just came: Public.Resource.Org has agreed to fund the purchase of the video of the entire 2010 Virginia General Assembly session! Richmond Sunlight operates on a $0 budget, so there was literally no money to buy last year’s video—hence the fundraiser to buy the 2011 video. It was such a surprising success that the folks at Public.Resource.Org noticed and, out of the blue, dropped $900 in our lap to put all of last year’s session online. It all feels a bit like the last few minutes of It’s a Wonderful Life:

Ernie Bishop: Just a minute! Quiet everybody! Quiet, quiet. Now get this, it’s from London.
Ma Bailey: Oh!
Ernie Bishop: [Reading the telegram in his hand] “Mr. Gower cabled you need cash, stop. My office instructed to advance you up to twenty-five thousand dollars, stop. Hee Haw and Merry Christmas! Sam Wainwright.”

We’re all very grateful to everybody who donated, and to Carl Malamud at Public.Resource.Org for matching those donations and doubling the amount of video that we’ll be able to put online for everybody to have. It’s been a great couple of days!

You Did It—The Whole Year’s Video Purchased!

Monday, January 31st, 2011

In just 46 hours, enough of you chipped in to cover the cost of buying every DVD for the 2011 General Assembly session! Big, big thanks to Larry Gross, Shaun Kenney, Jim Duncan, Craig Fifer, Kathy Mateer, Jeffrey Uphoff, Jeannine Lalonde, Bruce Roemmelt, Janis Jaquith, Susan Schoppelrey, Paul Wright, Peter Griesar, Vivian Paige, Tim Tolson, Jill Jaquith, Connie Jorgensen, Claire Chantell, Richard Martin, Sean Holihan, B G Hays, Sheila McMillen (in honor of Hamish), Jason Kenney, Beth Roemmelt, Max Fenton, Delegate Bob Brink, and Compass Home Loans for their generous contributions. We’re going to buy all of the DVDs for the session thus far—then keep buying them as the session goes on—and, one by one, extract the video, compress it, and upload it to the site to be used by anybody for any purpose. The legislature might want to keep their proceedings under wraps, but together, we’re opening it up to everybody.

How to Advocate at the General Assembly

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Planning to visit the General Assembly to advocate for or against a bill? There’s a right way to do that, and a wrong way to do that. We’ve put together this brief video to help you understand what to expect and how to make the most of your time.

Rams Climb Hill to Lobby Lawmakers

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

By Kayla Wamsley and Alyx Duckett
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Despite the rain, a small group of Virginia Commonwealth University students gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday to lobby state legislators at Rams Day on the Hill.

The event, sponsored by VCU’s Student Government Association, allows participants to meet with lawmakers and lobby for bills that affect the university.

Matt Harris, political affairs aide for the SGA, said students need to get involved in mustering support for higher education.

“We live in a democratic society. And if students don’t get involved, higher education – VCU in particular – is going to get ignored,” Harris said. “If we want to have the changes that we all obviously want, we’re going to have to go and talk to our representatives.”
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Activists Call for Abortion Restrictions

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

By Jillian Quattlebaum
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – More than 150 anti-abortion activists rallied at Capitol Square on Thursday to urge Gov. Bob McDonnell to support abortion clinic regulations and other “pro-life” bills.

At the rally at the Bell Tower, Delegate Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, discussed House Bill 1440, which states that “the life of each human being begins at conception” and that “unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being.”

“This is recognition that that is a person,” Marshall said.

He said his bill’s goal is to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which gives women the right to have an abortion.

“If we can affirm this principle in one area … [we] can affirm it elsewhere,” Marshall said.
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Panel OKs Crackdown on Illegal Immigrants

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

By Jeannette Porter
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – On party-line votes in a packed hearing room, a House subcommittee has endorsed a legislative package that Republicans said will curb illegal immigration but opponents said may unfairly punish undocumented residents and promote discrimination.

The immigration subcommittee of the House Courts of Justice Committee approved bills to make Virginia’s public colleges and universities spell out their policies against enrolling illegal immigrants; have the Virginia State Police enforce federal immigration laws; require public contractors to verify that their employees are legal U.S. residents; and check the immigration status of everyone arrested in Virginia.

Most of the bills were endorsed on 4-2 votes, with Republicans voting yes and Democrats no. (more…)

We Need Your Help to Get Session Video Online

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

The legislature refuses to put video of their sessions online for you to download. But they will sell it on DVD. So, in years past, Richmond Sunlight has spent nearly a thousand dollars each year to buy many dozens of DVDs, rip the video, and provide it on our website, free of charge. It’s even indexed by bill number and legislator—an incredibly powerful feature. But if you want the video for the 2010 session, you’re out of luck. We didn’t have the money, so we have no video.

Don’t let another year go by without video. We need your help. We’ve done the math, and it costs us, on average, $18/day to buy the DVDs for the House and the Senate. That’s exactly what we’re asking you for—no money for overhead, no money for processing the videos, only the exact cost of the DVDs. Donate $18 and sponsor one day’s video. Free one day’s video from the legislative archives and let us make them available to anybody in the world. We’ll put your name on that day’s page as the sponsor. If you sponsor at least five days of video—$90—we’ll display your organization’s logo and link to your website.

Richmond Sunlight has a $0 budget. This whole website was created and is operated entirely on a volunteer basis. There are no “dollars to be shifted around,” no priorities to be changed—there’s simply no money. So if we don’t raise enough money to cover the whole session, then we can’t put that video online.

Please, donate to an open democracy. Let’s pour sunlight into the General Assembly.

January 31 Update: You did it!

Brunswick Stew Day Warms Virginia Legislators

Friday, January 28th, 2011

By Tracy Kennedy
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A chilling mist floated over the state Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, but it did not deter legislators and their staffers from going outside to eat David Tucker’s award-winning Brunswick stew.

“This is my 18th year in the General Assembly session and my 18th Brunswick Stew Day that I’ve attended,” said David Larrimer, an aide to Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Tazewell. “We always look forward to it every year.”

Legislators and their staffers crowded around the Brunswick County Tourism Board’s tent in the Capitol’s courtyard for the chance to taste the stew. Many of those waiting in line were coming back for seconds. Even Gov. Bob McDonnell stopped by to sample some stew.

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Watkins Pushes ABC Privatization, Roads Plan

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

By Jeannette Porter
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – As the General Assembly’s 2011 session revs up, Sen. John Watkins, R-Midlothian, is helping drive Gov. Bob McDonnell’s plans to sell off state-owned liquor stores and pump the proceeds into transportation projects.

Watkins is co-sponsoring Senate Bills 1272 and 1417, which would carry out the governor’s proposal to privatize the ABC stores. In his State of the Commonwealth Address this month, McDonnell thanked Watkins and several other legislators “for introducing these bills and leading this reform effort this session.”
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Mercury Rising: Environmentalists Want Power Plant Limits

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

By Matt Birch
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Mercury pollution is on the rise in America, and it’s having a detrimental effect on the environment. The toxic gas, which is emitted by power plants and released into the atmosphere, hurts the health of people as well as animals, environmentalists say.

The group Environment Virginia released a report this week titled “Dirty Energy’s Assault on our Health: Mercury.” It says power plants in Virginia emitted 2,062 pounds of mercury pollution in 2009. Virginia ranked 23rd among the 50 states for such emissions.

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