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Committee will craft state budget compromise

A legislative conference committee soon will begin deliberations to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the state budget, which would take effect July 1.

“We are cautiously optimistic that a solid, fiscally prudent budget will emerge from conference and be voted into law within the next few weeks,” House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, said Tuesday.

A number of sticking points could delay any agreement. They include road tolls in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, different provisions on Medicaid eligibility and the shuffling of money between education and transportation. The Republican-heavy conference committee could mean that a budget looking more like the House version will come out of the deliberations.

“With various localities and agencies waiting for final adoption of the budget, I hope that the conferees will produce a balanced conference report for final passage in short order,” Howell said.

Senate Democrats were able to use the evenly divided chamber to their advantage for the first time.

As lieutenant governor, Republican Bill Bolling has been able to cast tie-breaking votes on legislation, essentially giving Republicans an unofficial majority in the chamber. However, he cannot cast the deciding vote on matters pertaining to the budget.

Democrats pushed the advantage to force a budget more to their liking. It kept more money in education and pushed back tolls in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, according to Delegate Mark Sickles, D-Franconia.

“What the Senate has done is exactly what House Democrats were fighting for during each round of the budget process,” Sickles said.

A sizable Republican majority in the House blocked passage of the Senate version of the budget, setting the stage for joint budget conference meetings. A panel of senators and delegates will compare the two budgets, see where they don’t match up and try to hammer out a compromise. The result would go to both the House and Senate for final approval.

The budget conference committee consists of six representatives from each chamber. The panel has eight Republicans, including House Majority Leader Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights; three Democrats; and one independent, Delegate Lacey Putney of Bedford. Putney chairs the House Appropriations Committee.


Community

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden raises admission $1

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s admission has increased by $1 across all categories. Admission is now $12 for adults; $11 for seniors ages 55 and older; and $8 for children ages 3–12. Admission remains free for children ages 3 and younger and for members.

The last price increase was in 2011, before the Garden consistently hosted Butterflies LIVE! (which is included with admission). > Read more.

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

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Entertainment

‘Top Chef’ finalist to open Willow Lawn restaurant

A finalist in the Bravo television show Top Chef is bringing one of his four restaurant chains to Henrico County.

Bryan Voltaggio, who was the runner-up of the sixth season of Top Chef, (finishing second to his brother, Michael) and his business partner, Hilda Staples, will open their third Family Meal restaurant, at Henrico's Willow Lawn shopping center. The restaurant is expected to open early next year. > Read more.

US Army Field Band to perform in Henrico Aug. 3

The United States Army Field Band will present a free public performance at Deep Run Park in Henrico on Sunday, Aug 3 at 3 p.m.

Members of the band are soldiers who also serve as “musical ambassadors of the Army” and perform for schools and communities nationwide.

The Concert Band will be performing along with the Soldiers’ Chorus. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Get up and dance – square dance, that is – with the Tuckahoe Square Dance Club tonight! More musical events this weekend include family-friendly karaoke at Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House, the United States Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus Concert and the Henrico Teen Theatre Company’s production of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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The Fairfield Middle School Fresh Market will be held every Wednesday at the school, 5121 Nine Mile Rd., from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., through Aug. 13. All produce is… Full text

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