Governor McAuliffe says Wednesday’s train derailment in Lynchburg will lead to increased scrutiny about rail safety, particularly on those that run through densely populated localities and abut rivers. State officials say the total spillage from the wreck into the James River is under 25,000 gallons, half of what they originally thought. A statement from Governor McAuliffe says water from the James remains safe to drink. The Governor says he’s hopeful that Virginia can learn from state and federal reports on the accident to prevent further such incidents in the future.
Virginia Atty. Gen. Mark Herring has advised college administrators that students who have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status are eligible for in-state tuition. Approximately 8,100 people living in Virginia have qualified for DACA status and are lawfully present in the U.S. In order to qualify, all students have to maintain this status for one year and intend to remain in Virginia indefinitely. Herring says this will not affect admission criteria.
Richmond City Council has announced amendments to Mayor Jones’ proposed $777 million dollar budget. Members want to include the additional $3.8 million general fund dollars requested by the School Board, but they have yet to identify the offsets to pay for it. City Councilwoman Reva Trammell says though times are tight, she believes the city can ultimately find the money. Trammell has proposed cutting $150,000 from the Mayor’s security detail to increase teacher salaries. Trammell says an organized protest by 200 students from Open High School had a big impact on the council.
At the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Governor Terry McAuliffe ceremonially signed a comprehensive package to reform the state’s mental health system. For Democratic Senator Creigh Deeds of Bath, mental health reform is personal. His son Gus tragically took his own life 5 months ago, after near fatally attacking his father, just hours after he was sent home for lack of bed space following a psychiatric evaluation. Looking to the future, McAuliffe says further reforms must be done at the Community Service Boards level.
Jeff Schapiro analyzes the reconvened session, the U.S. 460 controversy, and the Senate and House races.
The City of Richmond and Commonwealth of Virginia have requested a $25 million federal grant to cover half of the cost of construction of the Broad Street Bus Rapid Transit System. The 7.5 mile system stretching from Willow Lawn to Rocketts Landing aims to improve reliability and travel times for transit riders, support economic development along the Broad Street Corridor and generally expand access for non-drivers to jobs. If Virginia wins the grant, service could begin as soon as the end of 2017.
A New Wason Poll just released this morning (April 24) says most Virginia voters oppose using federal Medicaid funds to expand health coverage, but strongly want the General Assembly to compromise. Virginians say 53% to 41% that they oppose Medicaid expansion, a sharp reversal from the Wason Center survey when the 2014 legislative session began, which showed general support for Medicaid expansion, 56% to 38%. In that Feb.
The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors has just approved a tax hike of one cent for the 2014-2015 fiscal budget.
The Commonwealth could end up paying between $400 million to $500 million if the new U.S. Route 460 toll road is not built. Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne told the House Appropriations committee yesterday that the state has already paid $300 million in taxpayer funds and bonds for the project, a top priority of former Governor McDonnell, put on hold by current Governor Terry McAuliffe. The 55-mile road from Petersburg to Suffolk never received the required federal permits for construction to begin.
The General Assembly was unable to overturn any of Governor McAuliffe’s vetoes, though the House of Delegates rejected amendments to 11 bills with fiscal impacts that would delay their implementation until the passage of a budget. Republican Delegate Chris Jones of Suffolk, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee says the amendments were unnecessary and selective. McAuliffe says it was fiscally irresponsible to sign the bills with no budget agreement in sight, amounting to multiple unfunded mandates.