Archive for February, 2013

Schools to Tell Parents about Eating Disorders

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

By Kristen Smith
Capital News Service


RICHMOND – Parents of Virginia public school students will be given educational information about eating disorders under a bill passed by the General Assembly.

House Bill 1406 was proposed by Delegate Richard P. Bell, R-Staunton, and co-sponsored by Delegates Mark Keam, D-Vienna, and Kaye Kory, D-Falls Church.

Both the House and Senate unanimously approved HB 1406, which requires each school board in Virginia to “annually provide parent educational information regarding eating disorders for pupils in grades five through 12.” The bill is awaiting Gov. Bob McDonnell’s signature. (more…)

The 2013 General Assembly Session is Over

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

The House and Senate adjourned sine die earlier this evening, wrapping up the 2013 session on time. 2,897 bills were filed, and many of those will now go before Governor McDonnell, who can either sign them or veto them. The General Assembly will reconvene briefly, on April 3, to respond to the governor’s vetoes.

House and Senate Reach Transportation Compromise

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

By Whitney Spicer
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Negotiators from both the House and Senate came to an agreement Wednesday on a transportation plan that, if passed, will be the first major transportation overhaul in Virginia since 1986.

“This is a huge moment for Virginia,” said Sen. Frank W. Wagner (R-Virginia Beach), one of the conference committee members. “We are on the cusp of bringing home real and lasting transportation solutions that will move Virginia forward now and in the future.”

The transportation compromise, which was hammered out by a 10-member conference committee over the past week, would potentially raise close to $900 million a year in transportation revenue.

The plan greatly reduces the gas tax by replacing the current 17.5 cent per gallon tax with a 3.5 percent wholesale gas tax. The tax on diesel would be 6 percent.


Governor Signs Bill to Extend Peanut Tax

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

By Allison Landry | Capital News Service

Gov. Bob McDonnell on Wednesday approved a bill to extend the 30-cents-per-100-pound excise tax on peanuts until July 1, 2016.

McDonnell signed House Bill 1320, which keeps the tax from reverting to 15 cents per 100 pounds on July 1. The tax generates more than $100,000 a year to fund the Virginia Peanut Board, which promotes the sale of peanuts grown in the state.

The Virginia Peanut Growers Association supported legislation to keep the tax at 30 cents, as it has been since 2010.

HB1320 was proposed by Delegate Rick Morris (R-Carrollton) and co-sponsored by Delegate Roslyn Tyler (D-Jarratt). It had been approved 87-0 by the House on Jan. 21st and 34-6 by the Senate on Feb. 7th.

Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) introduced an identical measure – Senate Bill 698. It also has been passed by both chambers of the General Assembly: on a 37-3 vote in the Senate on Jan. 16th and then on a 97-0 vote in the House on Feb. 8th.

Peanuts are one of the top farm commodities in Virginia. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Virginia’s peanut producers harvested 84 million pounds of peanuts last year, up 37 percent from 2011.

The peanut excise tax is levied on peanuts grown in and sold in Virginia for processing. The tax is paid by the processors – companies, cooperatives and other entities that clean, shell or crush peanuts.

Senate OKs Mammogram Notification Bill

Monday, February 11th, 2013

By Kristen Smith
Capital News Service


RICHMOND – The Senate on Monday unanimously joined the House in passing a bill that requires women to be notified of dense breast tissue in mammogram results.

Senators voted 40-0 for House Bill 1778, which had been approved 98-0 by the House on Jan. 25. The legislation now goes to Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Springfield, introduced HB 1778, which “clarifies the conditions under which a mammography services provider must notify a patient of dense breast tissue.” (more…)

Democrats Accuse GOP of Restricting Voting Rights

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

Alix Hines and Paige Baxter

Capital News Service


RICHMOND – Democratic lawmakers blasted Republicans’ recent actions to redraw Senate districts and require voters to show more identification during a roundtable meeting with the League of Women Voters of Virginia this past week.

Sen. Ralph Northam addressed the league regarding voting legislation. Photo By Paige Baxter

Several of the league’s guest speakers accused the GOP of gerrymandering political districts and trying to restrict voters’ rights. The General Assembly should be making it easier, not harder, to vote, Democratic legislators told about 30 league members Wednesday.

Sen. Ralph Northam, D-Painter, said the turnout for the 2012 presidential election was excellent: About 72 percent of Virginia voters cast ballots in November.

But some people across the state were discouraged from voting because they had to wait in line for hours at the polls, Northam said.

“Good democracy occurs when everybody has a voice,” he said. Northam said that’s why legislators this year filed bills such as “no-excuse early voting” legislation.

Senate Bill 724, proposed by Sen. John Miller, D-Newport News, would allow anyone 65 or older to obtain an absentee ballot for any reason. The Senate passed the bill, 28-9; it’s now in the House.

“Folks who are my age and older wouldn’t have to wait in a long line,” Miller said. “They could just call out and get an absentee ballot and be done with it.” (more…)

Bill Would Make Parental Rights ‘Fundamental’

Friday, February 8th, 2013

By Shelby Mertens
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A divided House of Delegates this week passed a bill formally declaring that parents have “a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control” of their children.

The House approved the bill 70-30, with Republicans overwhelmingly for it and Democrats generally against it. The Senate previously split along party lines in passing companion legislation.

Delegate Brenda Pogge, R-Williamsburg, sponsored House Bill 1642. She said she was inspired by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2000. In the case of Troxel v. Granville, only one of the nine Supreme Court justices said parental rights were fundamental.

Although the Virginia Supreme Court has declared parental rights as fundamental in every case it has considered, the General Assembly has never defined what level of protection parents have. HB 1642 serves as a declaration that parental rights are fundamental – the highest level of protection. (more…)

Study Ranks D.C. Traffic Worst in Nation

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

By: Allison Landry
Capitol News Service

RICHMOND –  If you’ve ever sat in your car for hours in a backup on Interstate 95 near Washington, you may have found yourself thinking, “This is the worst!”

A new study proves you were right on point.

The Texas Transportation Institute’s “Urban Mobility Report,” released Tuesday, rates the traffic congestion in the Washington, D.C, metro area as the worst in the country.

The study said the average Washington commuter spends 67 hours a year sitting in traffic. That was the highest among very large urban areas. The Los Angeles-Long Beach area and San Francisco-Oakland area in California were tied for the No. 2 spot at 61 hours.

The findings were no surprise to the thousands of Northern Virginia commuters who sit through the sluggish ordeal daily, wasting time in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

“You know it is bad when the beltway is occasionally backed up going to work at 5:30 a.m.,” said Matt Rawls, a stocking associate at Tyson’s Corner in McLean. “It also takes me 40 minutes to go five and a half miles from my house to George Mason University in Fairfax.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell used the Texas Transportation Institute’s report to boost his plan to pump more money into road and transit projects across the state. Citing the study, McDonnell called on the House and Senate on Tuesday to pass legislation to fund his plan.

“Congestion in Northern Virginia and the rest of the Washington region is the worst in the country, with drivers losing 67 hours in delays a year at the annual cost of almost $1,400 per commuter,” McDonnell said.

On a per-commuter basis, the Northern Virginia/Washington region also ranked highest in the amount of fuel wasted (32 gallons), the cost of congestion and the amount of carbon dioxide greenhouse gas released during congestion.

Citing the study, McDonnell also noted that:

  • Congestion in the Virginia Beach area is the 20th worst in the country. The average driver there faces 43 hours of delay per year, costing $877 and wasting 19 gallons of gas.
  • Congestion in the Richmond area is the 60th worst in the country. The average driver there faces 29 hours of delay per year, costing $581 and wasting 12 gallons of gas.

“Congestion is hurting our families, our economy and our way of life. For too long, we have kicked the can while Virginians have sat in traffic. And the problems we face have only gotten worse,” McDonnell said in a statement issued Tuesday morning.

“Today the House and Senate have the opportunity to change that. They have the opportunity to act to finally address and solve our transportation challenges. I urge the entire membership to put aside regional, partisan and personal differences to once and for all address this daunting challenge to our prosperity and our future.

“We must act decisively, and we must act now to pass comprehensive transportation funding reform. Today is the day Virginia must act.”

McDonnell sought legislation that would eliminate the state’s 17.5-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax, boost the sales tax from 5 percent to 5.8 percent, and dedicate more of the sales tax to transportation.

Later Tuesday, the Republican-controlled House of Delegates went along with the governor and passed a bill containing McDonnell’s funding plan.

However, a corresponding measure failed in the evenly divided Senate when all 20 Democrats voted against it.

Conservatives Rally Against Tax Hikes

Monday, February 4th, 2013

By Destiny Brandon
Capital News Service


RICHMOND – The country’s leading conservative grassroots organization is voicing its opposition to tax and fee increases before the General Assembly, including Gov. Bob McDonnell’s funding plan for transportation.

Americans for Prosperity, which claims 2.2 million members nationwide, including 85,000 in Virginia, has taken action online and at the state Capitol to try to stop the increases.

Members came to the Capitol from all over the state last week to talk about their legislative priorities.


Senate OK’s Letting Governor Serve 2 Terms

Friday, February 1st, 2013

By Shelby Mertens
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Starting in 2017, Virginia voters could have the opportunity to re-elect the governor to a second consecutive term if the House joins the Senate in seeking to amend the state’s Constitution.

The Senate this week approved a proposed constitutional amendment to allow governors to serve two terms in a row. The vote was 25-15.