Monday, February 25, 2013
Final budget amendments includes $3.4 million to add 1,700 in-state undergraduate seats at Virginia universities.
Monday, February 25
By Jessica Dahlberg, Capital News Service As the 2013 legislative session came to a close, the Virginia General Assembly approved amendments to the state’s two-year budget Saturday that included expanding Medicaid and spending more money on education. The amendments were passed by both the House (on an 83-17 vote) and the Senate (31-8) after tense discussions over Medicaid, which provides medical care for low-income residents. Legislators agreed to expand the program if certain reforms are made. Del. Barbara Comstock (R-McLean) was the only Vienna-area legislator to vote against the budget. See vote tally below. The reforms will make Medicaid look similar to non-government health insurance policies, according to legislators. Under the …
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Virginia Sen. Chap Petersen speaks out against police power in bill headed to governor's desk.
Thursday, February 21
One of the biggest public safety concerns over the past few years has been “texting while driving.” There have been countless accidents, including fatal ones, caused by foolish people who send texts while operating a moving motor vehicle. It’s hard to think of a more dangerous activity. As with all public safety problems, the General Assembly of Virginia has the answer. Or at least an answer. In 2010, we outlawed “driving while texting” and made it a civil infraction. As noted before in this column, that was a mistake. By establishing a lesser penalty for “DWT,” we essentially removed that activity from the list of “reckless”driving offenses. So drivers who caused a fatal accident while texting were guilty — of a civil penalty not …
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Fisher, a former Vienna Town Council member and the 35th District representative who held Keam's seat from 1990-97, died in August.
Del. Mark Keam (D-Vienna) gave a nod to one of his Virginia 35th District predecessors Tuesday with a resolution celebrating his life. Keam presented House Joint Resolution 735 during this year's session in memory of the four-term Republican Del. Dick Fisher, who died in August. On Tuesday, Keam presented the resolution to his widow, Christine (Tina) Fisher, and other family members on the House floor. The former executive for the Washington Gas Light Company was 64 at the time of his death. Fisher served the Virginia House of Delegates from 1990-1997, in the same seat Keam now holds, a district which includes Vienna, Tysons Corner, Dunn Loring and parts of Oakton and Fairfax. Before that, Fisher served three terms during the late 1980s on…
Sen. Janet Howell votes for bill that would impose harsher penalties, make texting while driving a primary offense; Sen. Chap Petersen votes against it.
A bill that would impose tougher penalties on those convicted of texting while driving cleared the state Senate on Tuesday and now heads to the desk of Gov. Bob McDonnell. The bill increases the fine to $250 — up from $20 — for the first texting-while-driving offense and $500 for each subsequent conviction. It also makes texting while driving an aggravating circumstance to reckless driving, and so anyone convicted of such would face a mandatory minimum $500 penalty if they were texting while they were driving recklessly. Texting while driving would also become a primary offense, which means police can stop someone on the suspicion that a driver is texting; current law allows police to charge someone with texting while driving only if they'…
Monday, February 18, 2013
Virginia voters wishing to cast an absentee ballot would still be required to give a reason.
A bill designed to alleviate privacy concerns about the absentee voting process could be heard by the full House of Delegates as early as Tuesday. Senate Bill 967 would still require a person to give a valid reason to vote absentee, though certain personal information would no longer be required on the application. "It's important that we not set up artificial roadblocks to voting absentee," said Democratic Sen. Adam Ebbin, the hill's sponsor. "While some of my colleagues seem to not want to make it easier to vote, I was happy that we are removing an unnecessary roadblock — or, an unnecessary invasion of privacy." The bill is a far cry from no-excuse absentee voting, sometimes called early voting, which would give any registered voter the …
Sunday, February 17, 2013
The bill that would make texting while driving a primary offense with a fine of $250 has received wide bipartisan support, and several other bills are under consideration.
The Virginia Legislature is vetting a number of bills that would implement harsher texting while driving laws. Last week, the house passed a bill (HB 1907) that increases the fine for the first texting-while-driving offense to $250 upon conviction, and $500 for each subsequent conviction. The current fine is $20. The bill passed the House in a 92-4 vote, and was unanimously supported by the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday. Del. Barbara Comstock, who represents part of Vienna, is a patron. The bill is currently being vetted by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. The legislation would make texting while driving a primary offense, which means police can stop someone just on the suspicion that a driver may be texting at the …
Saturday, February 16, 2013
Legislators join activists, fellow lawmakers in Richmond to call for change.
Saturday, February 16
By Amber Galaviz, Capital News Service State officials joined gay rights activists at a press conference Thursday to discuss their disappointment in Virginia's failure to repeal the state's constitutional ban against same-sex marriage in this year's General Assembly session. “I believe that marriage is about loving, committed couples wanting to make lifelong promises to each other – take care of each other, be responsible for each other and support each other,” Del. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) said at the event at the General Assembly Building. “And I think that if anybody – gay, straight – wants to stand up in front of their family and friends and make that commitment to grow old together, it’s not for me, or the judge or the state to …
Friday, February 15, 2013
Senate Committee Kills ‘Tebow Bill’ on Thursday night, but some Patch readers think proposal should be voted into law.
Virginia's Senate Education and Health Committee shot down a bill Thursday that would have allowed home-schooled students to participate in public schools’ sports teams. Committee members killed House Bill 1442 — also known as the “Tebow bill" — on a 7-8 vote, shelving it for the remainder of this legislative session. But should the bill have reached the full Senate floor? In a Patch blog post, Fairfax County School Board member Ryan McElveen highlighted the defeat of the bill as one of the three most important actions residents could advocate for this session as Richmond pressed on with what he called an "educational extremism." The school board voted to advocate against the proposal, McElveen wrote, "because, in short, the bill would …
Virginia will remain among the 21 states that do not give home-schoolers access to play public school sports.
Friday, February 15
By Paige Baxter, Capital News Service. A Senate committee Thursday shot down the “Tebow bill” aimed at allowing home-schoolers to participate in public schools’ sports and other extracurricular activities. The Senate Education and Health Committee defeated House Bill 1442 on a 7-8 vote, taking the matter off the table for this legislative session. All of the Republicans on the committee voted in favor of HB 1442, except Sen. Harry Blevins (R-Chesapeake), who joined the seven Democratic committee members —including Vienna-area Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston) in opposing the bill. Do you think the bill should have made it to the Senate floor? Speak out here. The legislation is nicknamed for NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who as a home-schooler in …
Thursday, February 14, 2013
With 10 days left in the 2013 Virginia General Assembly session, Vienna-area Sen. Janet Howell joins group that will hammer out a transportation deal.
By Whitney Spicer, Capital News Service A conference committee of 10 legislators has less than a week and a half to hammer out a compromise between the House and Senate versions of a bill to increase transportation funding in Virginia. The committee was named Wednesday after the Senate passed a version of House Bill 2313 that differs greatly from a proposal approved by delegates last week. The group will have eight Republicans and two Democrats — including Vienna-area Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston). Nearby, Fairfax's Republican Del. Dave Albo was also appointed to the group. McDonnell said that if the committee can agree upon “a fiscally responsible plan,” he will sign it into law. The panel must agree on a plan before the General Assembly’…