Governor-elect vows ethics reforms

Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe said Wednesday that he would push for greater transparency and ethics reforms in state government.

McAuliffe spoke to a roomful of journalists after a panel discussion on political journalism ethics and political finance and gift-disclosure organized by the Associated Press.

The Northern Virginia businessman said he “would be inclined” to “issue an executive order” to waive the fees currently charged to citizens and journalists requesting government documents under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Under the federal FOIA, federal officials can waive the often prohibitive costs of a public records request if it pertains directly to the public good, but the state does not.

“It’s the first I’ve been asked this question,” McAuliffe said. “I think it’s a great idea. I will take it back and talk to my transition team about it.”

He said he was not aware that Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act lacks a provision to allow fees to be waived if the FOIA request is in the public interest.

Echoing President Obama’s campaign slogans, McAuliffe said he would set a new standard of “transparent, accountable, state government that is beholden only to the taxpayers who fund it.” He added, “Virginians should never have to question who their leaders are putting first.”

The best way to ensure political transparency, McAuliffe said, is to issue an executive order limiting gifts to politicians to no more than $100, increasing penalties for violating current disclosure laws and eliminating conflicts of interest; however, McAuliffe did not offer details about how the order would achieve those ends.

McAuliffe, a Democrat, said his almost-daily talks with outgoing Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell often extend into weekends, facilitating what he called “the smoothest transition ever” as he prepares to take office.

In spite of their talks, however, McAuliffe said he knew only as much as the newspapers have reported about the federal investigation of McDonnell’s relationship with a dietary-supplement manufacturer.

McAuliffe spoke to about 50 journalists at AP Day at the Capital. The event, held at the Richmond Times-Dispatch offices, was organized by Virginia AP Managing Editors, the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association and the Virginia Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Also speaking at the event was Republican Delegate Bob Marshall of Manassas. He said not all secrecy is bad, citing the 1776 Constitutional Convention that took place behind closed doors without public oversight.

Marshall said people behave differently when they know they’re being watched, and limiting gifts to $100 would “force political activity underground.”

Marshall said a “no gifts” policy would lead to prosecutions for unreported golf tips, information and special discounts; for example, getting a car at half price because of a person’s status as a politician. Marshall said whether a politician received discounts is “not in the public interest.”
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Thoracic surgeon is first to perform 100 robot-assisted lobectomies in Central Virginia


Graham M. Bundy, a thoracic surgeon with HCA Virginia Physicians’ Cardiothoracic Surgical Associates, is the first such surgeon in Central Virginia to perform 100 minimally-invasive Da Vinci robot-assisted lobectomies (a surgical procedure to remove a lobe of the lung). The procedure is used to treat multiple types of conditions but is most often used to treat lung cancer. > Read more.

UMFS has urgent need for foster parents


UMFS officials say they have a desperate need for more foster families in the Richmond region and Central Virginia, especially those who would receive teenagers currently in the foster care system.

In recent years throughout the state, the number of children entering the foster care system has grown. > Read more.

VSP issues warning about automated traffic ticket email scam

Virginia State Police officials are warning Virginians about an email scam that tells people they are receiving an “automated traffic ticket” from the agency. State Police do not use or issue digital or automated traffic tickets or summonses, however. Anyone receiving such an email should delete it and not click on any links provided in the email, police said. > Read more.

READ Center offers free classes, training to low-literate people


One in six adults in Metro Richmond has literacy issues, and the READ Center in Henrico County is working to address the issue.

Next week – Sept. 24-30 – is Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, a time during which the READ Center is shining a light on its efforts to help some of the 35,000 adults in the region for whom reading, writing and basic math remain an elusive target. > Read more.

Play Day RVA planned for Sept. 21


The Richmond region will celebrate Play Day RVA Thursday, Sept. 21, with activities throughout the area to celebrate the opportunities that exist to play in the community. Dozens of employers, local governments, schools and community organizations will participate by hosting events that integrate playful activities into daily life and spread awareness of the value of active living. > Read more.

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September 2017
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The Pocahontas Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society will meet at 7 p.m. at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Randolph-Macon College Professor Dr. Nicholas Ruppel will discuss his VNPS-funded research – the project of assessing the diversity of insect pollinators on native plants in Ashland. The program is free and open to the public. A short business meeting will follow the presentation. For details, visit http://www.pocahontaschapter-vnps.org. Full text

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