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Governor rejoices as transportation plan moves forward

Gov. Bob McDonnell has reason to celebrate after the House Finance Committee on Wednesday approved a key part of the transportation plan that he hopes will define his term.

“Our effort to enact a long-term solution to Virginia’s transportation funding challenges took a major step forward,” McDonnell said. “I am pleased that legislators from both parties voted in support of our plan.”

The committee voted 14-8 in favor of House Bill 2313, which would finance McDonnell’s plan, which he calls “Virginia’s Road to the Future.”

The 14 committee members who supported the plan included 10 Republicans (Delegates Richard Anderson of Woodbridge, Richard Bell of Staunton, Scott Garrett of Lynchburg, Chris Head of Roanoke, Tim Hugo of Centreville, Israel O'Quinn of Bristol, Bobby Orrock of Thornburg, Brenda Pogge of Yorktown, Harry Purkey of Virginia Beach and Ronald Villanueva of Virginia Beach) and four Democrats (Matthew James of Portsmouth, Joseph Johnson of Abingdon, Mark Keam of Vienna and Lynnwood Lewis of Accomac).

The eight committee members who opposed the plan included five Republicans (Delegates Kathy Byron of Lynchburg, Benjamin Cline of Amherst, Mark Cole of Fredericksburg, Bob Marshall of Manassas and Lee Ware of Powhatan) and three Democrats (Betsy Carr of Richmond, Eileen Filler-Corn of Springfield Vivian Watts of Annandale).

The committee’s action clears the way for the full House to vote on the bill.

“The can has been kicked for too long, and Virginians deserve a modern, well-funded transportation system that will get them to work and home on time, without delay,” McDonnell said afterward.

The transportation funding and reform package would invest more than $3.1 billion over the next five years into Virginia’s highways and transit systems. The plan also would make Virginia the first state in the nation to eliminate its 17.5-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax, which the governor said has been a declining source of revenue. Instead, the sales tax in Virginia would increase from 5 percent to 5.8 percent.

“With today’s vote, we are one step closer to delivering the long-term transportation fix that Virginians both want and deserve,” said House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford.

But not everyone was satisfied with the governor’s proposal. The House Democratic Caucus said the governor’s plan focused too much on road maintenance and not enough on Virginia’s infrastructure needs.

Hugo, who carried the bill along with Howell, said that he applauded his fellow delegates for offering alternative proposals but that he believed the governor’s plan would “stop the bleeding on the transportation trust fund.”

According to the “Virginia’s Road to the Future” website, launched by the governor this week, the transportation plan would provide funding for 158 highway projects throughout the state, including improving interstate paving, secondary system bridges and unpaved roads.

Although the bill overcame a major hurdle yesterday, it still must pass the House and Senate before becoming law.

“This first vote clearly demonstrates a growing, and bipartisan, consensus that transportation is a core function of government,” McDonnell said. “I look forward to continuing to work with legislators in both chambers, and from both parties, to see this plan passed into law, and get traffic moving again in Virginia.”


Community

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Do the Bunny Hop over to Meadow Farm on Saturday for an introduction to all the farm animals there! An introduction to “Global Sounds” – featuring Japanese, Indonesian, West African, Indian, and Brazilian music and dance performances – can be found at the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond will also host the annual Spider spring game, as well as the inaugural Spiders Easter Egg Hunt. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

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