Ed Gillespie, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, was in Richmond yesterday to address the McShin Foundation, a group dedicated to helping veterans recover from addiction to drugs and alcohol, for their annual Awards Banquet. Gillespie says there is an epidemic of illicit drug use in America. Gillespie spoke of potential reforms of mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders and called for a renewed emphasis on prevention and early intervention. Though Gillespie said legalizing drug use would ignore the realities of addiction instead of acknowledging them.
Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have written a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx calling for stronger regulations on rail cars carrying crude oil following last weeks derailment in Lynchburg. Senator Kaine says it’s good news that American oil production has dramatically increased in recent years, but it makes the need to strengthen rail car regulations more urgent.
The Senators also say the public has a right to know what kind of hazardous materials are passing through their communities. They’re seeking improved communications with first responders.
Jeff Schapiro analyzes Virginia political news. (Digital delay in live broadcasting may result in a few seconds of the surrounding program being heard.)
Governor McAuliffe says he has the authority to authorize emergency spending for core government services in the event of a state shutdown, should the General Assembly fail to reach an agreement on Medicaid expansion. Governor McAuliffe has yet to comment on whether he believes he can take executive action to expand the state’s Medicaid program. Attorney General Mark Herring has yet to offer his legal opinion on the matter, but suggests they are looking into it, saying his office is being “prudent”. Governor McAuliffe says he wants to see Medicaid expansion accomplished legislatively.
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.