Governor amends, vetoes numerous bills

Gov. Bob McDonnell on Tuesday recommended changing some of the requirements in legislation requiring voters to show identification on Election Day. His suggestions would make it somewhat easier for people who don’t have proper IDs to have their ballots counted.

McDonnell announced that he was recommending changes to 130 laws approved by the General Assembly and that he was vetoing seven bills. The assembly will reconvene next Wednesday to consider the governor’s actions.

Last month, lawmakers passed House Bill 9 and Senate Bill 1, requiring voters to present valid identification to cast a regular ballot. Otherwise, they would cast a provisional ballot, which would be counted only if the voter provides proper ID by the day after the election. Supporters said the bills would prevent voter fraud and ensure integrity of the voting process. Opponents likened the legislation to Jim Crow-style suppression of the minority vote.

“Ensuring the security, fairness and openness of our elections are cornerstones of a strong democracy. For people to have faith in their government, they must have faith in their elections. This legislation passed by the General Assembly attempts to increase the security of our elections by lessening the risk of voter fraud,” McDonnell said.

He added, “In reviewing this legislation, I want to preserve this goal of preventing illegal voting while promoting voter participation, and making sure we do not stand in the way of legitimate voting. I also want to ensure that this legislation complies with the requirements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

The governor proposed four changes to the legislation. Under his recommendations:

• Officials would compare the signature on a voter’s provisional ballot with the signature on file with the State Board of Elections. This means provisional voters would not have to present an ID to their registrar after the election, although that option would exist.

• Provisional voters would have more time to send or present ID to the local electoral board. McDonnell would give provisional voters until the Friday after the election to show ID or validate their signature.

• Community college identification cards would be an acceptable form of ID to cast an official ballot. (The bills specified an ID card from “any four-year institution of higher education.”)

McDonnell also proposed removing a provision in the legislation that says an election official can waive the voter ID requirements if he or she recognizes a voter who does not have valid identification. The governor cited concerns about the “subjectivity and lack of uniformity” in making such determinations.

Currently, Virginians who don’t have valid IDs can vote if they sign an affidavit swearing that they are registered voters.

“Under Virginia’s current voter ID law, approximately 0.25 percent to 0.30 percent of voters vote without identification and signing the affirmation,” McDonnell said. “Under this legislation, the number of people subject to the non-ID voting provisions will decrease with the addition of several acceptable IDs.”

Under existing law, acceptable forms of identification include a voter registration card, a Social Security card and a driver’s license. Under the legislation, a voter also could show a utility bill, bank statement, government check or paycheck.

The Republican governor also acted on bills on several other topics.

Education
As part of his “Opportunity to Learn” agenda, McDonnell signed SB 131 and amended a related measure, HB 321, giving tax credits to companies that provide scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools. His change would require scholarship foundations to allow an eligible student to attend any eligible private school.

The bills raise a contentious issue. Republicans believe such proposals can improve an underprivileged student’s education, but Democrats say they take away from the public school system.

Among his seven vetoes, McDonnell rejected SB 471, which would have required the State Board of Education to create physical education requirements for public schools.

Public employees’ retirement
McDonnell signed HB 1130 and made amendments to SB 497 and 498. SB 497 requires that local government employees pay a 5 percent contribution to the Virginia Retirement System, the public employee pension fund.

The governor proposed giving all local governments five years to phase in the 5 percent employee contribution requirement. SB 497 allowed only school boards to phase in the requirement.

McDonnell’s changes to SB 498 would make the sickness and disability coverage for local employees under the state’s new hybrid retirement plan mandatory, with an opt-out provision for localities that offer comparable disability coverage.

“Over the last few years, we have taken a number of important steps to help ensure that employees’ retirement is secure. This year, the General Assembly passed historic legislation to further improve the long-term solvency of the Virginia Retirement System,” McDonnell said.

Transportation
McDonnell amended two key pieces of his transportation agenda – the Comprehensive Port of Virginia Promotion and Reform Bill (HB 1183 and SB 578) and the Comprehensive Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority Promotion and Reform Bill (HB 813 and SB 284). Specifically, he recommended increasing from $7.5 million to $9.5 million the amount of annual funding for the Commonwealth Space Flight Fund. The fund would support efforts to develop Virginia’s commercial aerospace industry.
Bail Bonds Chesterfield VA

Environmentalists say budget hurts efforts to protect bay

Environmental groups are outraged at the Trump administration’s proposed funding cuts for Chesapeake Bay cleanup programs.

President Donald Trump’s budget plan, released last week, reduces the budget for the federal Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent. That includes a $427 million in funding to address regional pollution, such as the Chesapeake Bay protection efforts. The proposed budget would eliminate funding for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which received $73 million from the federal government in 2016. > Read more.

Glen Allen ES principal receives REB Award


Melissa Halquist-Pruden, principal of Henrico County’s Glen Allen Elementary School, earned the 2016-17 REB Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership. The Community Foundation presents the award to four principals annually – one each from the school systems of Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties and one from the city of Richmond schools.

The award recognizes principals who go beyond the day-to-day demands of their jobs to create an exceptional educational environment. The award stresses management and communication skills, and the ability to inspire, encourage and advocate for the school. > Read more.

Grant to help Hermitage H.S. upgrade CTE program equipment


Governor Terry McAuliffe announced recently that Henrico County’s Hermitage H.S. will be among 16 high schools and technical centers statewide to receive a grant to upgrade equipment for career and technical education (CTE) programs.

The program gives priority to challenged schools, Governor's STEM Academies and Governor's Health Science Academies. Each school or center will receive $37,500 to purchase new equipment and make other necessary improvements. At Hermitage, the funds will be used for precision machining equipment. > Read more.

Virginia raises a toast to George Washington’s whiskey


George Washington is recognized as the father of our country, but with a bill signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Washington also will be recognized under another title – distiller of Virginia’s official liquor.

SB 1261, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, adds a “state spirit” to the list of the commonwealth’s official emblems and designations and crowns George Washington’s rye whiskey with the title.

The bill, which McAuliffe signed last week, highlights George Washington’s contributions to the culture of Virginia as “a native son of Virginia born on February 22, 1732, in Pope’s Creek”; “the first American president, commander of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention”; and “a model statesman ... universally acknowledged as the father of our nation.” > Read more.

McAuliffe vetoes 6 more bills; GOP calls him ‘disengaged’


Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Monday vetoed six bills, including three Republicans said would help prevent voter fraud but the Democratic governor said would create barriers to voting.

McAuliffe has now vetoed 37 bills from the General Assembly’s 2017 session – and 108 during his four-year term as governor, surpassing any of his predecessors.

Republican legislative leaders say McAuliffe has broken his promise to be bipartisan, calling his office “the most disengaged administration we have ever worked with.” > 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

Metro Diner to open second Henrico location


Metro Diner, a comfort food concept, will open its second Henrico location next month. The company is accepting job applications for its Libbie Place location at 5626 West Broad Street. The diner concept, known for its fried chicken and waffles, meatloaf, and shrimp and grits, will bring 100 new jobs to the region as it plans to open its doors in April.

The 3,500-square-foot diner located in the Libbie Place Shopping Center will seat more than 100 and serve classic comfort food staples with a twist, such as fried chicken and waffles topped with strawberry butter and a stuffed challah bread French toast with strawberry and blueberry compote. > Read more.

 

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The Henrico Extension Office will present “Getting Started in the Vegetable Garden” from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Twin Hickory Library. Growing your own food can be rewarding and healthy, but it’s also hard work. Learn how to plan, plant, and harvest a garden of any size. Registration is required. For details, call 501-1920 or visit http://www.henricolibrary.org. Full text

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