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General Assembly 2012

New law aims to improve breast cancer detection

Beginning July 1, women getting mammograms will learn whether they have dense breast tissue that could hide cancer. This is due to recent legislation that addresses the test’s failure to detect certain cancers in women with dense breast tissue.

Under the new law, if radiologists conducting mammograms find dense breast tissue, they must send the patient a letter noting that fact – and that dense breast tissue can hide cancer. The letter will urge women to talk to their physicians about the matter.

The new “patient inform” law resulted from efforts by a breast cancer survivor, Cathryn Tatusko of Fairfax County, with support from an aptly named national awareness organization called Are You Dense.

Cantor amasses cash for re-election bid

Forget David and Goliath. In the money race in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, it’s Wayne and Eric.

Democrat Wayne Powell is challenging incumbent Rep. Eric Cantor, the Republican majority leader in the U.S. House. From a campaign- finance standpoint, it’s not much of a contest: Cantor has 58 times more money on hand than Powell does.

Cantor, who has represented the Richmond-area district since 2001, has more than $2.2 million cash on hand. That’s far more than any other candidate for the U.S. House in Virginia. It’s almost as much as the state’s 18 Democratic congressional candidates hold collectively. (They have a combined $2.5 million.) And that’s just the cash on hand.

New law prohibits pointing lasers at aircraft

When a police helicopter was flying overhead searching for a criminal suspect in Virginia Beach, Christopher Willingham did something he now acknowledges was “stupid”: He pointed a green laser at the helicopter – temporarily blinding the pilot and halting the search.

That stunt was not only stupid – it was illegal: Willingham was charged with a felony under a federal law that prohibits pointing a laser at an aircraft. In January, Willingham pleaded guilty to interfering with the authorized operation of an aircraft and is scheduled for sentencing this week.

Willingham was prosecuted under federal law because there was no applicable state law. That will change on July 1, when a new Virginia law kicks in.

New law requires anti-bullying training

Thousands of students in schools across the country are subjected to bullying by their peers on a daily basis. Now Virginia is doing something about the problem.

During its 2012 session, the General Assembly passed legislation requiring teachers and other school personnel to receive training on anti-bullying tactics. Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed the legislation into law; it will take effect in July.

Lawmakers approved two identical measures – Senate Bill 271 and House Bill 504. They will require the Virginia Center for School Safety to provide employees in Virginia schools with training on how to stop bullying. State officials say such training has become necessary as bullying has become more common.

Study: Cut Va. taxes

The rich may be rich and the poor may be poor, but a nonpartisan think tank says there’s a way to eliminate state income taxes on the poorest Virginians while providing as much as a 10 percent tax cut to everyone else.

The Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy on Friday unveiled a plan to restructure Virginia’s tax system – which the group says could generate substantial economic growth.

The nonprofit group’s report recommends slashing certain business taxes and income taxes while expanding the sales tax to currently untaxed services.

Governor signs six bills to combat cancer

In a celebration last week at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Massey Cancer Center, Gov. Bob McDonnell ceremonially signed six pieces of legislation that will further cancer-related research, treatment and education throughout the state.

“While we can celebrate that more and more Virginians are surviving cancer today because of the work of cancer organizations like Massey, we must continue to work to find a cure,” McDonnell said.

State support to the Massey Cancer Center rose from $1 million to $7.5 million in the past two years, and with House Bill 1182 – one of the measures signed Monday – the center will now be able to apply for research grants from the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Fund.

New law lets motorcyclists ride side by side

Motorcyclists are eager to legally burn rubber side by side now that Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed legislation permitting them to ride two abreast in a single driving lane in Virginia.

House Bill 97, sponsored by Delegate Tony Wilt of Harrisonburg, allows two-wheeled motorcycles to drive alongside each other in one lane. Current state law prohibits motorcyclists from doing that; violators may be charged with reckless driving.

HB 97, which McDonnell signed into law on Feb. 28, will take effect July 1.

‘Solar freedom’ law won’t see light of day

The General Assembly has upheld Gov. Bob McDonnell’s veto of legislation preventing community associations from prohibiting the installation of solar panels on homes.

The Senate could not muster the votes to override the veto of Senate Bill 627, which had been sponsored by Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax.

Petersen expressed disappointment that his “solar freedom” bill will not become law. He said the bill would have allowed all Virginians who live in homeowners associations to lower their electricity bills and qualify for federal tax credits by installing solar panels on their houses.

EpiPen law may save kids with allergies

When Tiffany Glass Ferreira’s son Charlie was 3, she offered him a treat that nearly killed him.

“I gave him cashews. He took one bite and started to have a severe reaction, where he was crying, grabbing his tongue – his face started to swell,” Ferreira said. “He looked like a Klingon, like a science-fiction character.”

Charlie, now 5, ultimately recovered. To save other children from potentially fatal reactions to food allergies, Virginia last week adopted a law requiring schools to carry epinephrine auto-injectors, such as EpiPens. These devices deliver a single dose of epinephrine, or adrenaline, into the thigh of someone suffering a life-threatening allergic reaction.

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