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.
Bail Bonds Chesterfield VA

Democrat VanValkenburg kicks off Gen. Assembly campaign


Senior students at Glen Allen High School will get a personal touch when studying elections with their AP government teacher.

That teacher, Schuyler VanValkenburg, recently announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the 72nd District seat in the House of Delegates. If he earns the nomination, he will run against Del. Jimmie Massie, R-Henrico, who has been unopposed for 10 years.

VanValkenburg, a 2004 University of Richmond alumnus who majored in history, is running for office for the first time. Although he has lived in Richmond since he began his undergraduate studies, aside from one year spent in Seattle, he said he never felt it was his time to run. > Read more.

Construction begins on JA Finance Park at Libbie Mill


School and business leaders from around the region, including (pictured, from left) Simon Hodges of Dominion Resources, Daphne Swanso(president of Junior Achievement of Central Virginia) and Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas, gathered at Libbie Mill Library Feb. 23 for the Junior Achievement Finance Park construction kickoff. > Read more.

Assembly poised to OK state budget on Friday


Finishing a day early, House and Senate negotiators agreed on a budget Wednesday that includes employee pay raises and more money for K-12 education and mental health.

The negotiators presented their budget to their fellow lawmakers in time for the required 48-hour review, which could be completed by Friday night with a chance to adjourn their 2017 session before Saturday’s target date.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate praised the spending plan’s conservative fiscal policies. > Read more.

Section of Charles City Road to close beginning Feb. 26


A section of Charles City Road, from Lewis Road to South Airport Drive, will be closed beginning Sunday, Feb. 26 as part of a project to widen and improve the road.

The Henrico County Department of Public Works expects the closure to last for a few weeks.

Westbound traffic on Charles City will be detoured around the work zone by way of South Airport, Seven Hills Boulevard and Laburnum Avenue. > Read more.

ACLU urges McAuliffe to veto anti-immigration bills


Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union called on Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday to veto Republican-backed legislation banning local governments in Virginia from designating themselves as sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. They also said they plan to fight federal and state policies that they believe violate immigrants’ rights.

At a news conference, representatives of the ACLU of Virginia and other civil rights organizations criticized anti-immigrant measures passed by the General Assembly. They also condemned the recent spike in deportation raids on immigrant communities in Virginia by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as President Donald Trump’s recent executive order banning immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries. > Read more.
Community

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Given the warm weather lately, Saturday’s RVA Polar Plunge Winter Fest, benefiting Special Olympics Virginia, might actually be enjoyable! Other weekend events you’re sure to enjoy include the 14th annual Richmond Kids Expo at the Richmond Raceway Complex, the Richmond Symphony and The Taters in concert at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, and the Richmond Ballet Minds in Motion Team XXL performing at the Henrico Theatre. This is also the last weekend to check out HATTheatre’s production of “Bill W. and Dr. Bob.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

 

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Three-Penny Theatre will present “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” a new play adapted from Victor Hugo’s classic novel, at 7 p.m. March 10 and at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. March 11 at The Gayton Kirk Presbyterian Church. Set in and around Notre Dame Cathedral, the story explores the place where human emotions but up against organized religion and faith. Acts of Faith Talkbacks with theologians and academics follow each performance. Ticket prices are “pay what you want.” For details, visit http://www.3pennyplays.org. Full text

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