Henrico County VA
General Assembly

Dating violence is a growing problem


Married couples are not the only ones affected by domestic violence. A nationwide trend of dating violence is on the rise. Dating violence can take many forms, including psychological, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. This is something Morgan Carey of Richmond knows firsthand.

Carey said the dating abuse she suffered was primarily emotional but started to take a more dangerous turn. So through Meetup.com, she started a support group for women in similar situations.

Starting the group had an unexpected benefit, Carey said. It helped her heal while it provided support for others.

College affordability bills now in Senate


After clearing the House of Delegates, two bills aimed at making college more affordable in Virginia have now moved to the Senate.

The bills, both sponsored by House Majority Leader Kirk Cox of Colonial Heights, received unanimous approval from delegates on Friday.

House Bill 1895 would give small and medium-sized public institutions of higher education in Virginia more flexibility in areas such as information technology, procurement and capital projects. HB 1897 would put a cap on the athletic fees that colleges and universities can charge students.

Capping athletic fees would generate meaningful cost savings for students and their families, Cox said.

Budget amendment would boost guards’ pay


Joined by a group of prison guards, two legislators Tuesday called for a budget amendment to increase the salaries of correctional officers in Virginia.

Democratic Dels. Patrick Hope of Arlington and Kaye Kory of Falls Church said officers at the state’s correctional facilities deserve a pay increase and better working conditions. The lawmakers said their proposed amendment to the state budget would boost correctional officers’ salaries by 5 percent.

The last pay increase officers received was in 2007, Hope said at a press conference. He said he has seen firsthand what the officers must endure and the dangers they face dealing with potentially violent offenders.

Families testify for medical marijuana


Haley Smith, 14, suffers from a rare disorder called Dravet syndrome, similar to epilepsy. In the middle of a hearing being conducted by the Senate Committee for Education and Health, she suffered a mild seizure in her sleep. Her mother, Lisa Smith, stroked the girl’s forehead until it stopped.

Minutes later, Smith addressed legislators: “This is normal for me. This is Haley for me.” Smith went on to ask senators to provide relief to Haley and other Virginians suffering from various diseases -- by approving a law authorizing the medical use of marijuana.

Law would let Dominion hike electric bills


Dominion Virginia Power would be allowed to avoid state regulation for eight years while having the ability to raise consumers’ electric bills, if the General Assembly passes a bill before the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor.

The legislation would require Dominion to maintain its base rate for eight years beginning in 2013 – when the state last reviewed the company’s rates – until 2020. While the base rate would stay the same, the company would retain the authority to increase fuel surcharges and other “riders” that are added to customers’ utility bills.

Health secretary urges Medicaid expansion


Virginia’s secretary of health and human services, William A. Hazel, wants legislators to put aside their political differences and ensure that every resident of the commonwealth has access to affordable health care.

Hazel is urging the General Assembly to expand Medicaid, the health coverage program for low-income people, as states are encouraged to do under the federal Affordable Care Act. Hazel made his case again in a recent talk to students at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center.

Although the Affordable Care Act made it easier and cheaper for many people to buy health insurance, Hazel said coverage gaps still exist.

Bill would ease prescription hassles


Doctors, hospitals and patients frequently face frustration and delays because health insurers require preauthorization before patients can obtain many prescription drugs. Different insurers use different preauthorization forms – and it’s done on paper, not electronically.

Two Republicans – Sen. Steve Newman of Lynchburg and Del. Greg Habeeb of Salem – have proposed legislation aimed at solving the problem. Senate Bill 1262 and House Bill 1942 would:

• Require health plans to use a common preauthorization form to be developed by the State Corporation Commission

2015 General Assembly Q&A

State legislators have returned to Richmond for a 45-day session of the General Assembly, during which they’re expected to make ethics reform a key issue, on the heels of former governor Bob McDonnell’s recent conviction and sentencing on corruption charges. Other issues expected to earn attention: daycare and SOL reform, Medicaid expansion and possible changes to legislative redistricting.

The Henrico Citizen invited each delegate and state senator whose district encompasses a portion of Henrico to provide their thoughts about the 2015 session. The answers of those who responded appear below.

Improve hate crime reporting, LGBT supporters say


With support from 10 state legislators, Equality Virginia, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Virginians, urged the General Assembly on Tuesday to pass laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. At a press conference, James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, said many LGBT individuals face hardships.

“LGBT individuals can still be fired from their job – or not hired at all – based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Parrish said. “They can also be discriminated against as they seek a place to live.”

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