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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

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

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.

Weekend Top 10


There’s no excuse for kids and families to not get out of the house this weekend! The Armour House and Gardens has an “Egg-celent Egg-venture” planned and Reynolds Community College will host the Reynolds Family Palooza. If you’re looking to give back to your community, Dorey Park will host Walk Like MADD and coordinators2inc will present the annual Kids Walk for Kids. And a special event for children with special needs will be on Sunday – the Caring Bunny will be at Virginia Center Commons. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

A new meaning for fried chicken

Is it heresy to say – in this bastion-of-tradition capital of the Old South – that it's time for Southern fried chicken to take a step back and make way for a new fried chicken king?

Count me among the new believers bowing to Bonchon Chicken's delectable double-fried bliss. Hand-brushed with signature garlic soy or hot sauce, flash-fried once and then again, the decadent drums and wings take "crisp" to a new level. If you're eating with a crowd and everyone bites in at once, be warned: you might need ear plugs to handle the din. > Read more.

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The Easter Bunny arrives today in the JCPenney Court at Virginia Center Commons. The Easter Bunny will be available for photos daily through April 19. Photo packages start at $24.99.… Full text

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