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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

Celebrating 106 years

Former Sandston resident Mildred Taylor celebrated her 106th birthday Aug. 9. Taylor, who now lives in Powhatan, is still a member of Sandston Baptist Church. She was visited the day after her birthday by several members of the church, who played for her a recording of the entire church membership singing happy birthday to her during worship. > Read more.

YMCA breaks ground for aquatic center

YMCA officials gathered last week to break ground on the new Tommy J. West Aquatic Center at the Shady Grove Family YMCA on Nuckols Road. The center, which will featured 7,600 square feet of competitive and recreational space, including water slides, play areas for children and warmer water for those with physical limitations, is the fourth phase of a $4 million expansion at the facility. West was president and CEO of Capital Interior Contractors and a founding member of the Central Virginia Region of the Virginia Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. > Read more.

Rotary donates to ‘Bright Beginnings’

The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Journey to mediocrity

‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’ fails to capitalize on tasty concept
The Hundred-Foot Journey is a curious little Romeo and Juliet of a film. A family, forced out of their native India, begins a trek across Europe.

The family’s sole mode of transportation sputters and dies in a sleepy little French town, but the town’s food culture is high, and that’s a perfect place for a family of restaurateurs to settle down. There’s only one problem – the family’s rustic “Maison Mumbai” is right across the street (a hundred feet away, if the title didn’t clue you in) from a prestigious French bistro with a Michelin star, run with an iron fist by the dreaded Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren, pictured).

It’s here that a particular Romeo and Juliet story begins to develop, with Hassan (Manish Dayal) on the Indian side and Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) on the French side. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Enjoy the final days of summer with comedian Guy Torry, the Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour or mystery writer Mary Miley Theobald at Twin Hickory Library. Another great way to welcome the beginning of fall is to check out the UR Spider Football season opener with man’s best friend. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Bottoms up

Short Pump brewery offers more than just beer
I am still (happily) thinking about my entire experience at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery last week. Knowing nothing about this new brewery out of Denver, I was leery of brew-pub in the heart of Short Pump Town Center – this is not what I’d usually think of as a perfect fit, and yet, it was.

The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.

As I walked up to the back of the mall near the comedy club, I was taken aback by what I saw: at the top of the stairs was an overflowing restaurant with outdoor seating, large umbrellas and dangling outdoor lights. > Read more.

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