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.

Patient First to offer free Halloween candy x-rays

Patient First will offer free digital X-ray imaging of Halloween candy at all neighborhood medical centers from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 29 through Oct. 31.

While an adult should always inspect candy before allowing a child to enjoy their trick-or-treating rewards, the free X-ray offer gives parents an additional precaution to consider and to provide peace of mind. X-rays may detect objects such as glass, metal or plastic; however, parents still need to provide supervision, since some foreign materials may not appear in x-rays. > Read more.

Reynolds CC to host sculptor Paul DiPasquale

Reynolds Community College will host Richmond sculptor Paul DiPasquale Sept. 28 as he shares his presentation “Art Talk, Why Art Matters” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Conference Center Gallery of the Workforce Development and Conference Center on the Parham Road Campus, located at 1651 E. Parham Road in Richmond. This event is free and open to the public. > Read more.

Theme for this year’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter announced

The theme for the annual Dominion GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Lakeside has been announced.

This year's event, which opens Nov. 25 and will continue through Jan. 9, will explore "Living Color" and show how the world's kaleidoscope of colors speaks to people, impacts nature and influences culture, according to Garden officials. The event features more than a half million lights, botanical decorations, trains, holiday dinners, family activities and more. > Read more.


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The President’s Own United States Marine Band, founded in 1798 and America’s oldest continually active professional musical organization, will perform at 3 p.m. at Glen Allen High School. “The President’s Own” is celebrated for its role at the White House and its dynamic public performances, which total more than 500 annually. This concert is the final performance of the 125th anniversary of the Marine Band Tour. In the style of the band’s 17th director, John Philip Sousa, who initiated the concert tour tradition in 1891, Marine Band Director Lt. Col. Jason K. Fettig has chosen a diverse mix of programs, from traditional band repertoire and marches to instrumental solos. Tickets are free but required. For details, visit Full text

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