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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

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

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.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Is there an Echo in here?

‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.

But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.

That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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Commonwealth Parenting will present “The Goodnight Story: What New Parents Need to Know” at 6:30 p.m. at St. Mary’s Hospital, Room 164. Learn about the ages and stages of sleep,… Full text

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