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Republicans outline agenda for legislative session

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and other Republican leaders want the General Assembly to cut government spending and foster economic development during the legislative session that begins Wednesday.

At a press conference Tuesday, GOP officials outlined seven issues for the 2011 General Assembly. They dubbed their agenda “smaller government, stronger economy.”

“This is a positive, forward-looking agenda that recognizes the need for a smaller, smarter state government but also commits to job-creating efforts in the areas of transportation, economic development and higher education,” McDonnell said.

The Republicans said their joint agenda calls for:

• Fiscal responsibility and restructuring, including spending cuts, a hiring freeze and changes in the Virginia Retirement System

• Job creation and economic development

• Higher education reforms and reinvestment

• More funding for transportation

• Protection of private property rights

• Passage of a constitutional “repeal amendment” allowing states to federal laws for policy reasons

• Protection of Virginia’s right-to-work law by mandating that union elections be conducted by secret ballot

While all those points are important, McDonnell said he believes the economy is “the first and foremost issue facing Virginia with 285,000 Virginians unemployed.”

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said the GOP’s economic initiatives would help attract jobs to Virginia and support employers in bio-sciences, energy technology and communications. He called for legislation to provide $54 million in grants and incentives for job creation.

Bolling also wants the General Assembly to approve a $25 million program to help small technology companies in Virginia.

Another focus is renewable energy. Bolling said the Republicans’ proposed Clean Energy Manufacturing Incentive Grant program would give financial assistance to companies that supply renewable and nuclear energy.

“It’s an important part of our overall effort to achieve the goal of making Virginia the East Coast’s energy leader,” Bolling said.

McDonnell plans on continuing state budget cuts with permanent hiring freezes to save about $25 million. He said he wants to reduce funding for areas that are not government priorities, such as public broadcasting.

The governor also proposed eliminating and reducing various vacant state positions, boards and commissions.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli addressed private property rights of individuals. He said governmental entities should have to meet strict requirements before seizing a person’s property.

House Speaker William Howell of Fredericksburg touted the proposed “repeal amendment” to the U.S. Constitution. It would allow states to overturn a federal law by a two-thirds vote.

“It would have the important effect of deterring further expansion of federal power at the expense of the sovereignty of the people and of the several states. This resolution is timely, practical and non-partisan,” Howell said.

Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg, laid out the Republicans’ plans for higher education reform.

Norment, the Senate Republican leader, called for accessibility and affordability to ensure that Virginia students have access to top-tier universities without having to worry about financial restrictions.

The General Assembly convenes at noon Wednesday for a 46-day session. On Wednesday night, McDonnell will deliver his State of the Commonwealth Address to a joint meeting of the House and Senate.

In the speech, McDonnell said he plans to discuss Medicaid reform, energy policy, education and other issues.


Community

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.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > 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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