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GOP says its main focus isn’t social issues

Midway through the legislative session, House Republicans say they’re still focused on jobs, education, government reform and public safety – and they dispute Democratic charges that they’re pushing a “social issues” agenda.

Members of the House Republican Caucus discussed their priorities after “crossover day,” the deadline for each legislative chamber to act on its own bills.

“Of 603 bills passed in the House, over 42 percent have dealt with issues of jobs, education, government reform and safety,” said House Speaker William Howell of Fredericksburg. “These are the four main points of the Republican Party.”

Democrats have accused Republicans of being obsessed with social issues such as restricting abortion and gay rights and expanding gun rights. They point to measures such as House Bill 1, which would grant “personhood” rights to a fertilized egg at the moment of conception. Some critics say HB 1 could outlaw abortion and even some contraceptive methods, but the bill’s proponents disagree.

At a press conference Wednesday, House Republicans acknowledged that bills involving social issues have received a lot of press coverage and commentary. But they said those bills are a small part of the GOP agenda.

“I think the proof in the pudding is in the fact that less than 2.5 percent of bills introduced by Republicans have been social issues,” Howell said.

GOP leaders displayed a pie chart showing that only 2.2 percent of the bills approved by the House concerned social issues. In contrast:

• 42.3 percent concerned education, government reform, public safety and jobs.

• 12.3 percent involved judicial issues.

• 10.8 percent address local matters.

• And the rest concerned transportation, energy, the environment, health care, veterans and other issues.

One of the education-related bills would end the tenure-like system for public school teachers. Under House Bill 576, new teachers and principals would receive three-year contracts instead of continuing contracts – making it easier to fire poor performers.

“It’s going to be a good thing for good teachers, and bad teachers may find that the profession is not for them,” said Delegate Richard Bell, R-Staunton, who sponsored HB 576.

In the Senate, Republicans also touted their record this session.

Of the 684 Senate bills, 403 were approved by the upper chamber by crossover, the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus said.

“Our members should be proud of what we have accomplished so far this session,” said Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment of Williamsburg.

“We have approved important measures that will spur economic growth, streamline our government, and improve the quality of education in Virginia. And we have accomplished this by administering the legislative process fairly and transparently, allowing bills to be presented and discussed by the senators in full committee.”

The Senate approved several components of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s agenda, including his call to reduce and streamline the state’s boards and commissions. It also passed measures aimed at spurring economic development and creating jobs.

“The wide range of bills that were considered and approved is particularly impressive,” said Sen. Ryan McDougle of Mechanicsville, who chairs the Senate Republican Caucus. “Bills on jobs and economic development, education, public safety, government reform, health care, and veterans’ affairs have all been approved by the Senate and are headed to the House. We are on track to have one of the most productive sessions in recent memory.”

Each house now will take up legislation passed by the other chamber. Moreover, the General Assembly must turn its attention to crafting a state budget for the 2012-14 biennium.

The session is scheduled to end March 10.


Community

MADD walk raises more than $26,000

The Central Virginia chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) hosted its annual Walk Like MADD fundraiser April 12 at Dorey Park in Varina. More than 20 teams of walkers raised money from individual donors by participating in the walk, and in total the event generated more than $26,000 in donations for the organization. > Read more.

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.

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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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