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McAuliffe Signs More Mental Health Reforms

Yesterday Governor Terry McAuliffe ceremonially signed a comprehensive package of mental health reform bills at St. Joseph’s Villa in Richmond. Changes in Virginia’s mental health system that are now law include extending the time that an individual may be held under a temporary detention order to 72 hours, shortening the time that courts have to report involuntary commitment orders to state police and additional requirements for crisis intervention training for law enforcement and medical professionals.

Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces to See Funding Boost

During its reconvened session, the General Assembly approved a 5-dollar increase to the 10-dollar fee on all felony convictions that funds the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces (ICACs.) The state’s two ICACs use a national database of illicit child pornography to track Virginians trading in this material to their IP addresses and later to their homes. In many instances, the images and films are self-produced and investigators use these leads to uncover cases of child rape.

McEachin to Speaker Howell: Where is Your Plan?

Democratic Senate Caucus Chairman Don McEachin of Henrico is asking Speaker of the House Bill Howell for an alternate healthcare plan to cover the 400,000 working Virginians without health insurance.  In a January Op Ed, Howell said Virginia should find alternatives to expanding the state’s Medicaid program to help those uninsured in the coverage gap. A spokesman for Howell says the House of Delegates remains adamant that any discussion of expanding Medicaid must be removed from the budget.

Ed Gillespie Addresses McShin Foundation Awards

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.

Warner, Kaine Want Tougher Regulations After Spill

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.

McAuliffe Says He Has Authority to Fund Core Services in Event of Shutdown

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.

McAuliffe Says Lynchburg Derailment Will Lead to Increased Safety Measures

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.

Herring Grants Children of Illegal Immigrants In-State Tuition

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.

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