Columnist Jeff Schapiro analyzes Virginia political news: Ethics proposals go to lawmakers; one McDonnell conviction tossed; Webb’s presidential bid; abortion regulations to be reviewed; 25th Anniversary of Wilder’s Election.
The State Board of Health has voted 13-2 to begin a two-year review process of controversial regulations to abortion clinics including building standards equal to those for new hospitals.
Victoria Cobb, President of the Family Foundation of Virginia pushed for the regulations to be adopted in 2012. She says the review process will not diminish that victory.
Kathy Greenier of the ACLU of Virginia says the regulations have nothing to do with patient health and safety. She says Thursday the board voted for medicine over politics.
Yesterday, Governor Terry McAuliffe appointed former Democratic state Senator Mary Margaret Whipple to the Board of Health, less than 24 hours before its meeting this morning (12/4), where it will vote on whether to review controversial abortion clinic regulations. The rules impose the same building standards for abortion clinics as those for new hospitals.
Abortion rights advocates say the standards are an effort to force clinics to close, as two have already done. Anti-abortion activists say they are necessary to protect women’s health.
Speaking to reporters via Skype for Associated Press Day at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Senator Mark Warner said he’s glad the election is over and remains optimistic that things can get done in the new Congress. Warner believes the election results, including his narrow victory over his Republican opponent Ed Gillespie, put pressure on congress to show that they can govern.
Warner believes the Congress can make progress on infrastructure improvements, government data transparency, lowering student debt, improving Obamacare and simplifying the tax code.
Former Senator Jim Webb, who is contemplating a bid for the Democratic nomination for President, outlined his priorities for the country at the Associated Press Day at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Webb spoke of spreading economic fairness, noting that the stock market has nearly tripled since the economic crash of 2008 but real wages and loans to small businesses have slightly dropped.
The former senator says the mass incarceration of those convicted of non-violent offenses is a national crisis in the criminal justice system.
The Virginia Crime Commission has deferred action on teen sexting until next year, saying it needs more time to study the problem.
The Crime Commission had considered lowering criminal sentences for minors who send self produced nude images via text message or other electronic means, exempting them from prosecution under child pornography laws aimed at adult predators.
Camille Cooper, legislative director of the national child advocacy group PROTECT says Virginia’s sentencing data shows that juveniles are not receiving felony sentences for underage sexting.
The Virginia Crime Commission is recommending that retailers who sell cigarettes be licensed to do so, in order to fight the growing problem of cigarette trafficking. The Alcoholic Beverage Control would administer the licenses.
36 other states require similar licenses with costs ranging from $60-$240 dollars. The licenses would only apply to cigarettes, not cigars or other tobacco products.
The Governor’s Commission on Ethics has issued its recommendations to the General Assembly to act upon during 2015 session. Many of the recommendations are written to specifically address loopholes and concerns raised by the McDonnell trial.
Federal Judge James Spencer has rejected requests from former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen for new trials on their public corruption charges.
The Virginia Tobacco Commission gave away millions of dollars, more than what commission staff recommended, to help a politically connected power company. The Associated Press says commission staffers told the state inspector-general that the first of three $10 million installments paid to Dominion to help build a natural gas pipeline in Brunswick County should have been $6.5 million based on their calculations, and that they felt pressured by Governor Bob McDonnell’s office, though the inspector-general’s office did not find evidence to support that.