General Assembly

Capitol is site of dueling gun allies


Unified by their desire to preserve safety, but divided on ways to do so, both sides of the Virginia gun debate rallied on Capitol Square on Monday.

“Hello deplorables. Are you ready to take back the Commonwealth of Virginia?” Corey Stewart, a Republican candidate for governor, asked as members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League rallied in the morning.

Stewart cautioned the crowd that while it is possible to lose a battle and win the war, that means it is also possible to win the battle and lose the war. He said they won the battle for the presidency with Trump’s 2016 election.

House OKs amendment to increase charter schools


By a 52-47 vote, the Virginia House of Delegates Feb. 12 approved a constitutional amendment that could open the doors for more charter schools in the state.

House Joint Resolution 1, introduced by Delegate Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, would allow the State Board of Education to authorize such schools if the local school board refuses. Republicans have championed the issue, saying Virginia school districts have thwarted attempts to create charter schools, which are public schools that are freed from certain regulations and often offer innovative or specialized programs.

Increasing the number of charter schools was a priority on the GOP education agenda for this legislative session.

Smoking in a car with kids soon may be illegal


Smoking in a car with children younger than 8 soon could be a crime in Virginia under a bill passed by the House of Delegates on Friday.

The offense would involve a fine of $100 under House Bill 1348. Defined as a secondary offense, this civil penalty would apply only to individuals who have already pulled over by police for a traffic violation.

The House passed HB 1348 on a vote of 59-38. The bill will move to the Senate next week.

Va. House blocks localities from regulating drones


The Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill to prohibit local governments from regulating unmanned aircraft, as Charlottesville tried to do in 2013 when it declared the city a “No Drone Zone.”

Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, said the goal of his legislation is to have uniform rules about drones across the commonwealth – and not different regulations in each locality. He said the House Courts of Justice Committee will explore the issue.

“What the bill says is that no locality may regulate this until … the courts committee comes up with a way to make sure that we have an across-the-board way to regulate drones,” Kilgore told delegates during a discussion of House Bill 412 on Monday.

Patient First no longer accepting new Anthem patients


Virginia’s largest provider of primary and urgent health care, Patient First, has stopped accepting new patients insured by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, citing Anthem’s “reduction in the reimbursement rates paid.”

The change, which took effect Feb. 2, also excludes all Anthem members with HealthKeepers Plus plans, even people who are existing patients at Patient First.

Ian Slinkman, the director of marketing and public relations at Patient First, said in an email, “The costs for delivering care increase year over year. Every one of the other Virginia payors with whom we contract understands this and provides reasonable trend increases that enable us to maintain our high levels of access and service.”

Poll finds support for more school funding


In a poll conducted by the Virginia Education Association, most Virginians say the state budget doesn’t adequately cover the needs of the state’s public schools or properly compensate teachers. The poll found that 66 percent of respondents feel that the current budget for public schools is not enough.

“The public is squarely behind the need to improve funding for our public schools,” said Meg Gruber, president of the VEA. “Members of the House and Senate deliberating the budget need to know that as it stands now, Virginia is 41st in the country on funding public schools.”

McClellan’s bill for school resource officers passes House


The House easily passed a bill by Henrico Del. Jennifer McClellan that would relieve school resource officers of their current duty to enforce school board rules and codes of student conduct.

The bill, HB 487, passed 95-2 Thursday and awaits discussion in the Senate Committee on Education and Health. Del. James LeMunyon, R-67, and Del. Brenda Pogge, R-96, were the only legislators to vote against the bill.

House committee to weigh Farrell’s workers’ compensation reform bill


A key House committee plans to review a bill by Henrico Del. Peter Farrell that he said would make workers’ compensation more fair and transparent.

The bill, HB378, would establish fee schedules for medical services. Farrell said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the bill’s future.

“For at least four or five years now, we’ve been trying to figure out how to come up with a more transparent reimbursement system in our workers’ compensation world in Virginia,” he said.

Senate passes McEachin’s toxic waste inventory bill


The Virginia Senate passed a bill by Henrico Sen. Donald McEachin to require the Department of Environmental Quality to create an inventory of toxic waste sites not managed by the EPA.

The legislation, SB 227, passed Friday 38-1. Sen. Richard Black, R-13, was the only vote against the bill. Despite multiple attempts, Black could not be reached for a comment.

The victory for McEachin comes the day after his environmental agenda took a devastating blow in the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee, of which he is a member.

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The Henrico Business Leaders’ Monthly Breakfast Meeting will take place from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas will give a State of the County address. Registration is required. Cost is $35 to $45 for nonmembers; free for members. For details, call 675-7502 or visit http://www.henricobusinessleaders.com. Full text

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