Sunday, April 14, 2013
"No officer, I was just typing directions into my GPS…"
Texting while driving is dangerous, but some people do it anyway. This year, Virginia's General Assembly passed a measure that increased the fine to $125 (it was $20) for the first infraction and $250 for the second. But Virginia legislators did not pass a hands-free measure like they have in the District, and as such enforcing the law could prove difficult. The problem: Using cell phones to dial a number or setting the phone GPS is legal. “Distracted driving is a big problem, but it’s bigger than just phone use,” said Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, to the Washington Post. “Even if a law were successful in stopping phone use and texting, it wouldn’t eliminate distracted driving.” Northern Virginia Del. Scott …
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. The reforms will make Medicaid look similar to non-government health insurance policies, according to legislators. Under the reforms, Medicaid will provide long-term care for more Virginians and more waivers for families with children who have …
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Bill would impose harsher penalties, make texting while driving a primary offense.
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. Del. Tom Rust's (R-86) House Bill 1357, which also addressed texting while driving and made it a primary offense, was incorporated into the bill last week. Rust said texting while driving is reckless behavior, and "committing another reckless, dangerous act shouldn't be required to stop the first." 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…
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Access to guns, mental health covered in Virginia rep's report by the National Science Foundation — topics he says need to stay part of the conversation.
Days after President Barack Obama spoke in his State of the Union address for people to call on Congress and the country to act on gun control, U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10th) has released a report that examines driving forces behind mass shootings, including violent media and mental health issues — topics absent from the president's address, Wolf said. The 41-page report, “Youth Violence: What We Need to Know,” includes several studies compiled by an advisory committee to the National Science Foundation (NSF). It will come before a U.S. House subcommittee later this spring. Among the study's findings: exposure to violent media is a significant risk factor in shootings, but also "one of the easiest risk factors to change,” the report says. …
Thursday, February 7, 2013
Republican-sponsored Senate bill proposed redrawing many districts for GOP edge.
Virginia Speaker of the House William J. Howell (R-Stafford) broke with his own party on Wednesday, using a procedural ruling to stop the Republican-sponsored redistricting plan. The plan might have had a chance of passing the Virginia House if it made it to the floor for a vote, but Howell quashed the bill, clearing the way for the House to concentrate on Gov. Bob McDonnell's transportation plan, The Washington Post reported. “I am committed to upholding the honor and traditions of both the office of Speaker, the institution as a whole and the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Howell said in a statement. The Senate had made changes to the House measure, so it had to return to the House of Delegates for approval. Howell said the amended bill was…
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Gov. Bob McDonnell's task force tells General Assembly more money for school resource officers, tougher gun penalties would help.
Tuesday, February 5
By Blake Belden, Capital News Service Gov. Bob McDonnell is urging state legislators to approve recommendations from his School and Campus Safety Task Force that would increase sentences for illegally buying guns, require mandatory lockdown drills at schools and establish more comprehensive suicide prevention programs, among other suggestions. McDonnell sent the General Assembly a letter outlining initial recommendations from the panel, which the governor established in the wake of December’s school shootings in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children. In the letter, McDonnell highlighted those recommendations he wants legislators to give the "most priority": 10 of them involve public safety (including …
Monday, February 4, 2013
Senate panel OKs tougher penalties for texting while driving.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Legislation modeled after federal DREAM Act moves forward in General Assembly.
A bill that would allow certain undocumented students to receive in-state college tuition in Virginia cleared a key legislative hurdle Tuesday in Richmond. "This has been a very good day for this issue," state Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) told Patch. "I'm overjoyed that it's gotten this far. But the fact is that we've got a lot of work to do still. And I'm going to continue working with Republicans and Democrats to hopefully bring this home." The Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce is among those who support the bill so far. Lopez introduced legislation modeled after the federal DREAM Act. Lawmakers on Tuesday combined it with a similar bill put forth by Del. Tom Rust, a Herndon Republican and chairman of the House Higher Education …
Sunday, January 27, 2013
Gov. McDonnell is against effort, which will head to state senate committee this week.
A Republican-led effort to end the Old Dominion's traditional winner-take-all approach to picking a president has drawn national attention and could weaken the influence of voters in urban areas like Northern Virginia. The bill, authored by state Sen. Charles Carrico, a Galax Republican, would divvy up electoral collage votes based on who wins each of this state's 11 congressional districts. Carrico has said that the current system casts aside the wishes of rural voters and that his bill is an attempt to even the playing field, according to the Roanoke Times. More broadly, proponents in the GOP say the new system would better reflect the popular vote. The bill heads to the full Senate Privileges and Elections Committee this week. Gov. Bob …
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Virginia senators say GOP redistricting plan is unconstitutional; Republican legislators say proposal helps the state better comply with the Voting Rights Act.
Thursday, January 24
By Mark Robinson, Capital News Service Virginia Democrats continued to call a Republican-backed plan to redistrict the state's senate seats unconstitutional on Wednesday -- but GOP leaders say the measure could actually help the Commonwealth better comply with the federal Voting Rights Act. After Republicans narrowly passed a bill Monday that included an amendment to redraw the lines of several state senate districts, the result of which in many cases was more seats with GOP-leaning voters, Democrats took to the Senate floor Tuesday to blast the measure, calling it unconstitutional. In remarks on the Senate floor on Monday, the bill's sponsor, Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, said the move would create a sixth majority-African American …