Henrico County VA
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Conference panel will seek transportation compromise

A conference committee of 10 legislators has less than a week and a half to hammer out a compromise between the House and Senate versions of a bill to increase transportation funding in Virginia.

The committee was named after the Senate on Wednesday passed a version of House Bill 2313 that differs greatly from the document approved by delegates last week.

As approved by the Senate on a 26-14 vote, HB 2313 would raise Virginia’s gasoline tax from 17.5 cents per gallon to 22.5 cents per gallon. In contrast, the House version of HB 2313 would get rid of the gas tax entirely and raise the sales tax from 5 percent to 5.8 percent.

The House version reflects Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposals for pumping more than $3 billion in road and transit projects over the next five years.

The Senate’s version of the bill would not provide transportation as much money from the state’s general fund as McDonnell originally proposed. Both the House and Senate versions would raise vehicle registration fees.

“The takeaway from today’s action by the Senate of Virginia on House Bill 2313 is that the discussion over transportation will continue right up until the end of the 2013 session,” said Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment of Williamsburg.

Norment was one of the 14 Republicans who voted against the Senate substitute for HB 2313.

After the Senate approved its version of HB 2313, the bill went back to the House for consideration. Delegates rejected the Senate version on a 19-78 vote.

As a result, the two chambers appointed a conference committee to try to put together a bill both side can agree on before the General Assembly’s session ends on Feb. 23.

McDonnell said that if the committee can agree upon “a fiscally responsible plan,” he will sign it into law.

Although most Republican senators voted against the Senate version of HB 2313, six voted for it. They were joined by all 20 Democratic senators.

“In casting their votes on the Senate substitute to House Bill 2313 today, Republican senators represented the best interests of the people of their respective districts,” Norment said. “For most, that meant opposing this plan. For others, it meant a favorable vote, in some cases in the expressed interest of getting a bill into conference.”

The conference committee will have eight Republicans and two Democrats.

The House appointed as its conferees Republican Delegates John O’Bannon of Henrico, Chris Jones of Suffolk, Beverly Sherwood of Frederick, and Dave Albo of Fairfax, as well as Democratic Delegate Onzlee Ware of Roanoke.

The Senate appointed at its conferences Republican Sens. Norment, Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach, Walter Stosch of Henrico, and John Watkins of Powhatan, as well as Democratic Sen. Janet Howell of Fairfax.

“The task before these conferees will not be easy,” said House Speaker William Howell. “But I know they are committed to addressing Virginia’s long-term transportation needs.”

With only10 days remaining in the session, McDonnell urged the conferees to work hard to reach common ground, laying out specifically what that would entail.

“That common ground must include a significant commitment of the projected future growth in the general fund revenues, greater reliance on sustainable revenue sources which grow with economic activity, as opposed to gasoline tax increases, and sufficient revenues to address maintenance crossover, construction, passenger rail, and transit needs without over burdening our citizens and businesses with taxes,” McDonnell said.

“We must act now. We must pass a plan this session. To do so will ensure that Virginia remains the top state in which to live, work, and raise a family.”


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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