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Assembly continues funding for PBS

Lawmakers uphold 66 of McDonnell's 86 amendments to state budget
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.
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

The Boathouse to open at Short Pump Town Center

The Boathouse restaurant will open at Short Pump Town Center in the spring, its third location in the region.

“People have asked us to come to the West End for years,” said owner Kevin Healy. “When the opportunity arose, we knew had to jump on it.”

The new restaurant will be located in a 5,800-square-foot space under the Hyatt House Hotel at the town center and will include a large outdoor patio. > Read more.

Getting a ‘mouf’-ful

Boka Kantina exceeds its strong food truck reputation
Already a fan of Boka fare from outdoor events with the Tako Truck, I was delighted to learn of the new restaurant, and eager to see if its reputation held up after putting down brick-and-mortar roots.

Would the food lose its zest if I wasn’t enjoying it in the great outdoors? Would it seem pedestrian served from an ordinary kitchen instead of a truck?

Would the tacos be less satisfying as an antidote to normal lunch hunger – instead of being ingested to stave off desperate hunger after a long afternoon of crowds, sun, and tedious lines? > Read more.

Lakeside microbrewery beginning to take shape

Original Gravity gets the green light to move forward with relocation, expansion into larger space

A Lakeside home-brewing shop has felt the gravitational pull toward the booming craft beer scene.

Original Gravity, a shop that sells beer and wine kits for homebrewers, has just been given the green light to start work on a microbrewery.

Owner Tony Ammendolia is expanding his 1,000-square-foot shop in Lakeside Town Center to 5,000-square-foot digs a few doors down to add a brewery and expand his supplies.

Ammendolia opened the home-brew supply store in November 2011 and since then he said business has taken off.

“I think I outgrew this place in the first year,” Ammendolia said. “We’ve seen steady growth and I’ve been looking for a place to expand to move the shop to get more square footage.” > Read more.

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