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Senate Republicans unveil 2011 agenda

Senate Republicans are calling for fiscal responsibility, a freeze on new taxes and stronger immigration laws as part of their agenda for the 2011 legislative session.

The Virginia Senate Republican Caucus announced its agenda at a press conference Tuesday.

“These are not new ideas,” said Sen. Thomas K. Norment, R-Williamsburg. “The ultimate objective is very simple – to obtain transparency.”

While Republicans control the Virginia House of Delegates, they are a minority in the 40-member Senate. Norment is the Senate minority leader.

Norment presented the agenda alongside 17 of the 18 GOP senators and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, the Senate’s presiding officer. (Sen. John Watkins, R-Midlothian, was absent.)

An “overarching tone of unprecedented cooperation” would drive the Senate’s 2011 session, said Norment, who has served in the upper chamber since 1992.

The Republicans’ agenda includes seven legislative goals and principles:

1. “Putting Virginia’s fiscal house in order.” The caucus aims to stop what it sees as costly budget increases. Senate Bill 1353, sponsored by Norment, would require state budget writers to identify any budget item “that represents legislation that failed in either house.” Norment called his bill “a step toward ensuring more accountability.”

2. “Stopping higher taxes.” The caucus opposes new taxes or tax increases.

3. “Creating jobs by strengthening Virginia business.” The group called for a constitutional amendment to protect a person’s “right to work” without union representation. The GOP caucus also wants to ensure secret ballots in union elections. “Workers shouldn’t have to declare their opposition to or support of unionization,” said Sen. Walter Stosch, R-Glen Allen.

4. “Strengthening federalism.” The caucus supports the proposed “federal Repeal Amendment,” which would make it easier for states to reject federal laws.

5. “Streamlining government.” The senators said they back fellow Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s efforts to consolidate or eliminate some state boards, agencies and departments.

6. “Enforcing immigration laws.” The caucus wants to require Virginia’s public contractors to electronically verify whether employees are legally eligible to work in the United States.

7. “Preventing taxpayer funding for abortion.” The group called for legislation to have Virginia opt out of a federal health care mandate requiring abortion coverage.

Bolling praised the caucus’ agenda. He said it would counter the “excessive overreaches of the federal government.”

Senate Democrats have not announced their legislative agenda for the session.

Here are some of the bills supported by the Senate Republican Caucus:

• Senate Bill 1125, sponsored by Sen. Walter Stosch, R-Glen Allen. It states that in labor union elections, “the right of an individual employee to vote by secret ballot is a fundamental right that shall be guaranteed from infringement.”

• SB 1202, by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg. It “prohibits any qualified health insurance plan that is sold or offered for sale through a health benefits exchange established or operating in the Commonwealth pursuant to federal health care reform legislation from providing coverage for abortions.”

• Senate Joint Resolution 280, by Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Mechanicsville. It calls for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution “that permits the repeal of any federal law or regulation by the vote of two-thirds of the state legislatures.”


Community

Agencies combine on new entry point to Chickahominy


Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.

The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.

Equestrian clinic planned July 7-8 in Henrico

Henrico equestrians interested in deepening the bond between themselves and their horses have the opportunity to attend a two day clinic, held at Steppin’ High Stables on July 7-8 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The clinic, “Become Partners with your Horse,” will be taught by multiple world champion equestrienne Terry Preiser and will focus on how riders and horses can work together to achieve more. > Read more.

Henrico school bus driver honored

The Henrico-based Hephaestus Society recently awarded its first annual community heroes award (the Hephaestus Award) to Hicham Elgharouch (pictured, center) for what it termed his "selfless acts of caring" in his duties as a Henrico County Public Schools bus driver. Henrico County Director of Pupil Transportation Josh Davis, joined Hephaestus Society President Travis Gardner, in presenting the award and an accompanying $1,500 check to Elgharouch last month.

Elgharouch was selected for his clear and demonstrated patience and for his infectious positive attitude, according to the society. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Don’t party too hard on the Fourth because a whole weekend of fun events await! Enjoy a classy date night without the kids at James River Cellars Winery’s second annual Smoke and Vine Festival. Another date night option is at the Richmond Funny Bone, where comedian April Macie will perform all weekend. The kids have their own options this weekend as well. Choose from storytime at Tuckahoe and Twin Hickory libraries or family-oriented karaoke at Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House – I hear they have hits from Disney’s “Frozen.” 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.

Weekend Top 10


This weekend has something for everyone in your family – whether it’s improv comedy with ComedySportz or West End Comedy, or an inspirational concert from the Ezibu Muntu African Dance Company! Families will also enjoy music, games and crafts at Hidden Creek Park or reading to a therapy dog at Glen Allen Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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