Henrico County VA

Cracking down on texting while driving

Members of the House and Senate are optimistic that at least some of the 10 bills to crack down on texting while driving will make it past the legislative deadline called crossover day.

At the start of the session, three such bills were filed in the Senate bills and seven in the House. If a bill has not made it out of the House or Senate by Tuesday, it is left on table for the year. Beginning Wednesday, the House can consider only bills approved by the Senate, and the Senate can consider only legislation passed by the House.

Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria, is the chief patron of two of the Senate bills. He is hopeful the legislation will make it past crossover.

“We have been trying this for a few years and have been gradually making progress. I think the odds look good this year,” Barker said.

Last year, his bill to increase the penalties for texting while driving passed the Senate but died in the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee.

This year, Barker is sponsoring Senate Bill 1160, which would increase the fine for texting while driving to $200 for a first offense and $500 dollars for a second offense. (The existing penalties are $20 for a first offense and $50 for subsequent offense. They were set in 2009 when the General Assembly passed the current law against texting while driving.)

SB 1160 also would make texting while driving a primary offense. Currently, it is a secondary offense, meaning drivers can be charged only if they have been stopped for another violation.

Barker’s other bill, SB 1238, would make texting while driving punishable as reckless driving. Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg, has a similar proposal, SB 1222.

All three Senate bills will be heard in Senate Courts of Justice Committee on Monday [Feb. 4]. If approved by the committee, they will go to the full Senate.

The seven House bills have been folded into one – HB 1907, proposed by Delegate Rich Anderson, R-Woodbridge.

HB 1907 mirrors Barker’s bill: It would make texting while driving a primary offense and drastically increase the fines for an infraction. Anderson said this could be the year such a bill passes.

“It has a strong support, and a lot of people are committed to it. In prior years, there wasn’t as much focus on how much of a real danger this is,” he said.

Delegate David Bulova, D-Fairfax, said a recent event had a strong influence on the General Assembly’s attitude toward texting – a “tragedy to the highest extreme.”

In May 2011, Kyle Rowley, a college student, was killed by man presumed to be texting while driving in Fairfax County. When the case went to trial this past September, the judged dropped the reckless driving charge against the driver. The reason: The penalty for texting while driving is $20, and the offense counts as a minor traffic infraction. The judge ruled that it could not count as reckless driving.

“The situation was shocking to the General Assembly. We were appalled,” Bulova said. “You could see why the judge would rule that way. He wasn’t wrong; we were.”

On Friday, the House Courts of Justice Committee unanimously approved HB 1907. It is now before the full House of Delegates.

Bulova hopes the bipartisan support in the House and Senate will make 2013 the year Virginia targets texting while driving.

“We want to send a strong message that it is the driver’s primary responsibility to pay attention and monitor themselves while they drive,” he said.

The status of anti-texting bills
Here are the bills that would increase the penalties for texting while driving:

In the House, the main bill is HB 1907, proposed by Delegate Rich Anderson, R-Woodbridge. The full House of Delegates is scheduled to vote on the proposal. Six bills have been incorporated into this legislation. They are:

HB 1357, by Delegate Thomas Rust, R-Herndon
HB 1360, by Delegate Benjamin Cline, R-Amherst
HB 1495, by Delegate Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg
HB 1540, by Delegate Vivian Watts, D-Annandale
HB 1848, by Delegate G. Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond
HB 1883, by Delegate David Bulova, D-Fairfax

In the Senate, three bills are before the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. They are SB 1160 and SB 1238, by Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria; and SB 1222, by Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg.
Community

Lions Club donates backpacks to elementary school

The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.

Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Brews and bites done right

Urban Tavern’s big, bold themes impress

The Urban Tavern opened in August, replacing the former Shackelford’s space at 10498 Ridgefield Parkway in Short Pump. Because of local and longtime devotion to Shackleford’s, Urban Tavern has some big shoes to fill.

Without any background information, I headed to the restaurant for dinner on a Wednesday night, two months after its opening.

On a perfect fall evening, four out of eight outdoor tables were taken, giving the impression that the restaurant was busier than it was. On the inside, a couple tables were taken, and a few folks were seated at the bar. > Read more.

A terrible, horrible movie. . . that’s actually pretty good

‘Alexander’ provides uncomplicated family fun
It’s not surprising in the least that Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day doesn’t much resemble the book it’s based upon.

Judith Viorst’s 1972 picture book isn’t exactly overflowing with movie-worthy material. Boy has bad day. Boy is informed that everyone has bad days sometimes. Then, the back cover.

In the film, the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad-ness is blown up to more extreme size. Alexander Cooper (Ed Oxenbould) has a bum day every day, while the rest of his family (Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey) exist in a constant bubble of perfection and cheery optimism – to the point that the family is so wrapped up in their own success that Alexander’s being ignored.

So on the eve of his 12th birthday, Alexander makes a wish: just once, he’d like his family to see things from his perspective; to experience the crushing disappointment of one of those no good, very bad days. Once he has blown out the candle on his pre-birthday ice cream sundae, his family’s fate is sealed: one full day of crippling disasters for all of them. > Read more.

Deep Run HS plans fall musical

Tickets for Deep Run High School’s fall musical production – Aida – will go on sale Nov. 3. The Elton John-Tim Rice pop opera, inspired by Verdi’s classic opera, tells the story of enslaved Nubian princess Aida, who falls for captain of the guard Radames, who is betrothed to the Egyptian princess.

Performances will be held Nov. 13-15 at 7 p.m. each day. > Read more.

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