Assembly continues funding for PBS

The state Senate has ensured that Virginians will still ask that age-old question: “Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?”

The Senate on Wednesday night overturned Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposal to eliminate state funding for public broadcasting over the next two years.

The Senate’s 27-13 vote doesn’t alter the 10 percent cut in funding for public broadcasting approved by the General Assembly during its regular session in February.

However, senators rebuffed McDonnell’s call to eliminate fully half of the money that public radio and television stations would receive during the coming fiscal year – and the remaining half the following year. The governor’s office said his plan would save taxpayers $4.2 million.

The House of Delegates upheld McDonnell’s budget amendment to phase out state funding for public broadcasting. However, the amendment dies if one chamber rejects it – as the Senate did.

The votes came during the General Assembly’s “reconvened session,” a one-day meeting to consider vetoes, changes to legislation and budget amendments made by the governor.

In all, the House and Senate upheld 66 of the governor’s 86 amendments to the budget. The other 20 were nixed.

Abortion Rights
The General Assembly also voted on one of the most controversial amendments – a provision that would block insurance coverage for abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or life-threatening health concerns.

The Republican-controlled House easily passed McDonnell’s abortion-restricting measure on a 61-36 vote. But the issue was the subject of heated debate in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority.

Two Democratic senators voted with the Republican minority in favor of the restriction. The result was a tie vote that was broken by Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, allowing the restriction to pass.

Bolling also cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of McDonnell’s amendment to allocate $380,000 for an abstinence education fund.

Environmental Fines
Two of the governor’s four vetoes this year dealt with the environment – and the General Assembly upheld both of them.

One bill would have allowed the state Department of Environmental Quality to impose civil penalties of up to $30,000. The other bill would have authorized the State Water Control Board to impose a civil penalty of up to $1,000 on people who fail to report certain water withdrawal information.

Since the General Assembly sustained the governor’s vetoes, both bills are dead.

Autism Insurance
Both houses approved four of the five amendments that McDonnell made to a bill requiring governments and large employers to include autism services in their employee health insurance plans.

Legislators upheld McDonnell’s proposals to create a licensing board for autism therapists and to require prior authorization for services.

Lawmakers rejected McDonnell’s amendment that would have gutted the entire law if part is “invalidated by state or federal law or a court of competent jurisdiction”

For more than a decade, parents of autistic children in Virginia pushed for a state law requiring insurers to cover autism services.

The legislation will require health insurers to pay for a set of therapies, known as applied behavior analysis, for children age 2 to 6 with autism.

The new law will apply to businesses with more than 50 employees; it also will cover public employees. The statute won’t apply to individual or small group insurance policies. Under the law, annual benefits will be limited at $35,000.

Physical Education
The Senate upheld McDonnell’s veto of a bill that would have required 150 minutes of physical education in elementary and middle schools.

The measure was widely criticized as an unfunded burden on local school systems.

In a letter to the governor, several educators and school board associations wrote that “Many elementary schools throughout the Commonwealth do not have gymnasiums or other facilities sufficient to meet the requirements of this bill.”

U.Va. Renovations
Both the House and Senate voted to give the University of Virginia almost $2.7 million in state bond funds to repair its landmark Rotunda. The House voted 98-1 in favor of the measure. The Senate voted 40-1.

Medical Malpractice
Both the chambers of the General Assembly shot down McDonnell’s veto of a bill to raise the amount that can be awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits. The bill will raise the existing $2 million cap by $50,000 a year – until it reaches $3 million in the year 2031.

To overturn the governor’s veto, both houses must achieve a majority of two-thirds.
Bail Bonds Chesterfield VA

Environmentalists say budget hurts efforts to protect bay

Environmental groups are outraged at the Trump administration’s proposed funding cuts for Chesapeake Bay cleanup programs.

President Donald Trump’s budget plan, released last week, reduces the budget for the federal Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent. That includes a $427 million in funding to address regional pollution, such as the Chesapeake Bay protection efforts. The proposed budget would eliminate funding for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which received $73 million from the federal government in 2016. > Read more.

Glen Allen ES principal receives REB Award


Melissa Halquist-Pruden, principal of Henrico County’s Glen Allen Elementary School, earned the 2016-17 REB Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership. The Community Foundation presents the award to four principals annually – one each from the school systems of Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties and one from the city of Richmond schools.

The award recognizes principals who go beyond the day-to-day demands of their jobs to create an exceptional educational environment. The award stresses management and communication skills, and the ability to inspire, encourage and advocate for the school. > Read more.

Grant to help Hermitage H.S. upgrade CTE program equipment


Governor Terry McAuliffe announced recently that Henrico County’s Hermitage H.S. will be among 16 high schools and technical centers statewide to receive a grant to upgrade equipment for career and technical education (CTE) programs.

The program gives priority to challenged schools, Governor's STEM Academies and Governor's Health Science Academies. Each school or center will receive $37,500 to purchase new equipment and make other necessary improvements. At Hermitage, the funds will be used for precision machining equipment. > Read more.

Virginia raises a toast to George Washington’s whiskey


George Washington is recognized as the father of our country, but with a bill signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Washington also will be recognized under another title – distiller of Virginia’s official liquor.

SB 1261, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, adds a “state spirit” to the list of the commonwealth’s official emblems and designations and crowns George Washington’s rye whiskey with the title.

The bill, which McAuliffe signed last week, highlights George Washington’s contributions to the culture of Virginia as “a native son of Virginia born on February 22, 1732, in Pope’s Creek”; “the first American president, commander of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention”; and “a model statesman ... universally acknowledged as the father of our nation.” > Read more.

McAuliffe vetoes 6 more bills; GOP calls him ‘disengaged’


Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Monday vetoed six bills, including three Republicans said would help prevent voter fraud but the Democratic governor said would create barriers to voting.

McAuliffe has now vetoed 37 bills from the General Assembly’s 2017 session – and 108 during his four-year term as governor, surpassing any of his predecessors.

Republican legislative leaders say McAuliffe has broken his promise to be bipartisan, calling his office “the most disengaged administration we have ever worked with.” > Read more.
Community

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Entertainment

Metro Diner to open second Henrico location


Metro Diner, a comfort food concept, will open its second Henrico location next month. The company is accepting job applications for its Libbie Place location at 5626 West Broad Street. The diner concept, known for its fried chicken and waffles, meatloaf, and shrimp and grits, will bring 100 new jobs to the region as it plans to open its doors in April.

The 3,500-square-foot diner located in the Libbie Place Shopping Center will seat more than 100 and serve classic comfort food staples with a twist, such as fried chicken and waffles topped with strawberry butter and a stuffed challah bread French toast with strawberry and blueberry compote. > Read more.

 

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The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen will hold an opening reception for “Vibrance: Lego Art” by Brickworkz/Brian Korte from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Colorful mosaics will be on display, made entirely with LEGO bricks. Wine and refreshments will be served. Admission is free and open to the public. The exhibit will be on display through May 21 in the Gumenick Family Gallery. For details, call 261-ARTS or visit http://www.artsglenallen.com. Full text

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