Assembly continues funding for PBS

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.
Bail Bonds Chesterfield VA

Smither named director of Henrico’s Department of Finance

Henrico County Manager John A. Vithoulkas has appointed Edward N. “Ned” Smither Jr. to serve as director of the Department of Finance, effective July 1.

Smither has served Henrico since 2013 as director of the Accounting Division in Finance. He will succeed Eugene H. Walter, who has delayed his retirement until June 30 to ensure an orderly transition within the department.
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State honors EMS officials this week

There were nearly 1.5 million emergency medical services calls and 4,063 incidents per day in Virginia just last year.

This week, May 21-27, declared as National EMS week by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, recognizes the more than 34,000 EMS personnel and 631 agencies in the state and commends their efforts and commitment to Commonwealth citizens.
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Norfolk man arrested at RIC after TSA catches him with gun

A Norfolk man was arrested at Richmond International Airport May 18 after Transportation Security Administration officers detected a loaded semi-automatic handgun in the traveler’s carry-on bag.

A TSA officer detected the .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun inside the man’s carry-on bag as it passed through the security checkpoint X-ray machine. The handgun was loaded with 13 bullets.
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Police release photo of hoax bomb

Henrico Police have released a photo of the clock that resembled a bomb that led to the arrest of a Richmond woman in Shot Pump earlier this week.

The device, which the woman told police she purchased at a yard sale, was visible in her car at the Whole Foods at West Broad Village May 19, and a passerby called police, fearing it was a real bomb. Police responded as they would have had the device been real, they said, because they weren't sure if it was real or not.
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Henrico school buses with compliance issue to be fixed this summer


The 176 Henrico school buses that have been purchased since March 2011 will be fixed during the summer, Henrico Schools spokesman Andy Jenks told the Citizen. The bus manufacturers will retrofit the buses at no cost to the school division, he said.

The brake interlock device is required on all automatic transmission buses in Virginia that were purchased after March 2011, which is when the device was added to the state Board of Education's requirements for school buses. As many as 4,000 school buses in the state may be affected, according to the Virginia Department of Education.
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May 2017
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The Greater Richmond Multiple Myeloma Support Group meets the third Monday of each month (except July and August) from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital Forest Campus, Forest Conference Room Side B. For details, visit http://www.richmond.myeloma.org. Full text

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