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General Assembly

Governor approves bipartisan mental health bill


A month after being approved by the General Assembly, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed House Bill 206 into law at the beginning of April. The legislation requires each four-year public institution of higher education in the commonwealth of Virginia to create and feature on its website information dedicated solely to the mental health resources available to students at the institution.

The bill was drafted and proposed by a group of students from the University of Virginia, including Hannah Bondurant, a third-year student at the university.

“It’s an easy solution that hopefully will bridge treatment that is available and people actually getting help,” Bondurant told the Cavalier Daily.

Va. Senate, House debating student concussion policy

Student-athletes in youth-sports programs could be included under new concussion policies if a bill seeking to add guidelines for non-interscholastic teams passes.

House Bill 410 patron Delegate Richard Anderson, R-Woodbridge, said the bill was introduced in memory of Austin Trenum, a student from Brenstville High School in Prince William County. In August 2011, Austin -- the son of Prince William County School Board member, Gil Trenum -- took his own life after experiencing a concussion during a high school football game late that summer.

Reorganized Senate committee passes abortion bills

Two abortion-related bills were passed this past week by The Virginia Health and Education Senate Committee a day after the House of Delegates struck down a pair of identical measures in committee.

The Senate bills -- SB617 and SB618 -- introduced by Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton -- passed on party-line votes a week after Democrats took Senate control and reorganized several committees, including Health and Education.

Democrats take control of Virginia Senate

Democrats regained control of Virginia’s Senate this past week after Lynwood Lewis, D- Norfolk, assumed the District 6 seat vacated by Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam after an 11-vote victory against his Republican opponent. Lewis’s installation split the state Senate 20-20, with Northam casting most tiebreaking votes. The newfound voting-block majority prompted Democrats to alter committee assignments and Senate rules, just as Republicans had done in 2012 under the tiebreaking authority of former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, R- Hanover.

The new committee assignments give Democrats an advantage over Republicans in 11 committees.

Red light cameras remain legal

Red light cameras will remain legal in Virginia for at least another year, as the House Transportation Committee defeated a bill this past week that would have forced the discontinuation of such photo-monitoring systems.

The committee voted 13-8 against House Bill 973, sponsored by Delegate Benjamin Cline, R – Amherst, which would have repealed local authority to operate the systems known as “photo red” or “red-light cameras.”

Sunday hunting bills progress through General Assembly

Two bills seeking to allow Sunday hunting of deer and wild animals on private Virginia property and state waters are progressing through the General Assembly. However, hunting with dogs or hunting within 200 yards of a house of worship would be prohibited.

The House passed House Bill 1237 this past week and sent the legislation to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources. Senate Bill 154 is expected to go before the full Senate next week.

Bill seeks anti-violence funds consolidation

The 53 sexual and domestic-violence organizations in Virginia could serve victims better if a House of Delegates Appropriations committee acts on a bill to streamline the funding these organizations rely on.

House Bill 1, the first piece of legislation filed in the 2014 General Assembly session, would consolidate numerous sexual and domestic anti-violence funding streams and grant programs in a sub-fund of the Criminal Injuries and Compensation Fund.

Attorneys nixed for student conduct hearings

A bill was killed last week that would have allowed students to hire attorneys for representation when dealing with university disciplinary actions after officials at Virginia public universities expressed concern about multiple problems the bill would pose.

House Bill 1123, introduced by Delegate Rick Morris, R-Carrolton, would have allowed public college students or student organizations to hire an attorney if faced with more than 10 days of suspension or expulsion. The bill also would have allowed students to take their cases to circuit court after exhausting all college-level judicial affairs options.

House GOP debates Medicaid expansion rejection methodology

House Republicans are echoing national GOP rhetoric in rejecting the Medicaid expansion, strongly backed by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Delegate James “Jimmie” Massie, R-Richmond, said Obamacare could likely “implode.” Massie said he handles the “business side” of Medicaid reform.

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