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.
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State Police urge motorists to #MoveOver during Memorial Day weekend

Memorial Day signifies the official start of summer, and Virginia State Police officials are urging motorists to "do what’s right when they see lights" and move over.

The “Move Over” law is a lifesaving law intended to protect public safety professionals and highway workers who help to maintain the safety of the Commonwealth’s roads. State Police are using the #MoveOver hashtag on social media to promote the law. > Read more.

Henrico to hold June 8 open house on Route 5 Corridor/Marion Hill study

The Henrico County Planning Department will hold an open house Thursday, June 8 for residents and other members of the public to provide input for a study of the Route 5 Corridor/Marion Hill areas.

The open house will be held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Varina Area Library, 1875 New Market Road. The meeting’s informal structure will allow the public to attend at their convenience and to ask questions and discuss the study one on one with Planning staff. > Read more.

Henrico real estate staying strong despite low inventory

The Henrico real estate market has been relatively strong for the past month, despite a lower amount of inventory, according to data from Long and Foster Real Estate.

In the past month, 408 homes have been sold in Henrico, which is 2 percent less than were sold in the same timeframe in 2016.

Last year the median sale prices for Henrico homes was $219,975, whereas this month it's up to $232,500, a 6 percent increase. Which means half of the homes in Henrico are priced above $232,500 and half are priced below. > Read more.

Smither named director of Henrico’s Department of Finance

Henrico County Manager John A. Vithoulkas has appointed Edward N. “Ned” Smither Jr. to serve as director of the Department of Finance, effective July 1.

Smither has served Henrico since 2013 as director of the Accounting Division in Finance. He will succeed Eugene H. Walter, who has delayed his retirement until June 30 to ensure an orderly transition within the department.
> Read more.

State honors EMS officials this week

There were nearly 1.5 million emergency medical services calls and 4,063 incidents per day in Virginia just last year.

This week, May 21-27, declared as National EMS week by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, recognizes the more than 34,000 EMS personnel and 631 agencies in the state and commends their efforts and commitment to Commonwealth citizens.
> Read more.

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Richmond’s original all-musical improv troupe returns with a special Cinco de Mayo show at 10:15 p.m. at ComedySportz Richmond, 8906-H W. Broad St. Late night comedy for the adult crowd. Tickets are $5 online at http://www.comedysportzrichmond.com. Full text

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