Adopt school safety ideas, governor tells Assembly

Gov. Bob McDonnell is urging state legislators to approve recommendations from his School and Campus Safety Task Force that would increase sentences for illegally buying guns, require mandatory lockdown drills at schools and establish more comprehensive suicide prevention programs.

McDonnell sent the General Assembly a letter Friday outlining the panel’s initial recommendations.

“I am pleased to report that the Taskforce has provided me with a number of initial recommendations that the members believe will help make our schools and campuses safer,” McDonnell wrote. “After reviewing their initial recommendations, I agree that these will help make our schools and campuses more secure.”

The letter highlighted 10 recommendations involving public safety (including restoring funding for school resource officers); two involving education (such as funding anti-bullying training); and three involving mental health (like expanding outpatient services).

“Given the limited time left in session and considering that budget development is already well underway, I am providing you with my thoughts regarding which recommendations should be given your highest consideration and most immediate attention,” the governor said.

McDonnell established the task force in the wake of December’s school shootings in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children.

The task force issued its initial recommendations Thursday.

Under current law, the illegal purchase or transport of firearms is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail. The task force’s proposal would make this violation a Class 6 felony punishable by up to five years in jail.

The recommendations would also increase the punishment for “straw-man purchases” of firearms. That’s when someone legally buys a gun with the intent to sell it directly to someone who is ineligible to purchase a firearm. The law currently provides a maximum punishment of 10 years in jail for straw-man purchases.

The task force proposed increasing the punishment for all straw-man transactions and mandating a punishment of 10 years in jail for the ineligible person if the transaction involves more than one firearm.

For people who enter a school with a firearm or explosive device, the panel suggested that they be sentenced to up to 20 years in jail.

No proposals limit any current laws of legal gun ownership.

The task force also issued recommendations that require more security on the schools’ part. For instance, all schools would be required to conduct a lockdown drill within the first 20 days of the fall and spring semester.

The task force also proposed that all schools institute a more in-depth mental health program and suicide prevention activities. Another proposal suggests that teachers undergo training and certification so they can recognize and treat mental or emotional distress among students or other faculty.

The General Assembly has less than a month to turn these recommendations into law. The legislative session is scheduled to end on Feb. 23.

The task force is expected to send the governor another set of recommendations by June 30.

In his letter to the General Assembly, McDonnell said, “I am confident that by working together we will make our schools and campuses safer and improve upon the legal and budgetary framework necessary to help our first responders, education and mental health profession protect all Virginians.”

On the web
In his letter to members of the General Assembly, Gov. Bob McDonnell listed all the initial recommendations issued by the School and Campus Safety Task Force, and noted which ones he considered priorities. The letter is available at http://www.tinyurl.com/safetyproposals.
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New utility services number for metro area

Richmond city, Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover county natural gas customers have a new number to call for their utility services.

The City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities has replaced its old number, (804) 646-7000 as well as 311, with it's new number, (804) 646-4646 for all calls relating to utilities. Utilities include natural gas, water, sewer, storm-water and electric street-lighting. > Read more.

Henrico County property transactions, July 10-16


A sample of property transactions during this period appear below:

3714 Pemberton Ave.- $105,000, 720 SF (built in 1957), from William F. Patton Jr. to Jessica Garcia.

510 Besler Ln.- $121,000, 964 SF (built in 1986), from Joseph and Coral P. Bolden to Taneen Marlow.

3502 Westcliffe Ave.- $140,000, 1,564 SF (built in 1947), from Benny H. Wilson Jr. to Benjamin A. Nyannor. > Read more.

FirstComp Insurance Company, Markel Corp. named top insurance carriers


Two Glen Allen-based insurance carriers have been named among the top such companies in the nation.

Markel Corp. and FirstComp Insurance Company (now owned by Markel) are among 38 carriers recognized on the Insurance Business America list of the top insurance carriers in the country. > Read more.

Walmart honors Citizen’s ‘Top Teachers’ during grand opening


The much-anticipated new Walmart Supercenter in Eastern Henrico opened to busy crowds last week, and company officials welcomed a special group of shoppers, too. > Read more.

‘It’s such a blessing’


On Independence Day, a Brazilian-born Henrico resident took the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance on the steps of the Virginia Historical Society and felt peace finally settle around her.

Jeanette Hamlett’s journey to U.S. citizenship is a story of faith and love, which she told with her husband, John Hamlett, by her side. > Read more.

Henrico Business Bulletin Board

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The Henricus Historical Park’s Discovery Day Program Series continues with “Food of the 17th Century: Learn about what breakfast, lunch and dinner might look like for a Powhatan Indian or English colonist.” The program, designed for children ages 3-10, is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Activities will include a story, short tour and activities in the historic site, and a make-and-take craft. Stay as little or as long as you like. All children must be accompanied by an adult. The series concludes Aug. 24. Admission is $10 per child and $7 per adult. Registration is required by calling 318-8797. Full text

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