Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton is taking applications for those interested in becoming members of the Standards of Learning Innovation Committee. The group of teachers, administrators, parents, legislators and other stakeholders will continually review the Standards of Learning and the way Virginia children are assessed. Republican Delegate Tag Greason of Loudon patroned this year’s SOL reform bill which created the committee.
Articles by Craig Carper
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.
China has lifted a 7-year-old ban on Virginia poultry. Now sales of Virginia chicken products are set to resume. The ban was the result of a 2007 case of bird flu at a farm in the in the Shenandoah Valley. Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore says after a lot of hard work by state, federal and Chinese officials to lift the ban, the state can conservatively expect to sell 20 million dollars in poultry products to China, including wing tips and feet or paws, which are considered a delicacy in Asia and command a premium price.
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.
Altria has donated $200,000 for improvements to the Arts and Cultural District on Broad Street. $100,000 will go toward facade improvements at 3rd and Broad, $50,000 to marketing for the district and another $50,000 will go to the mural creation along the corridor. The Arts District begins at North Belvidere along Broad, Grace and Marshall street’s, incorporating portions of Leigh, Clay and Franklin and extending to 7th street.
Same sex couples who were married in other states want Virginia to allow them to file their state taxes jointly as they already do with their federal returns. Virginia’s tax policy requires legally married same sex couples to file state tax returns as individuals. Gay rights advocates say’s Virginia’s non-conformity to federal tax law takes additional time and places a higher tax burden on same sex couples. Stephanie and Desiree Bryan, a lesbian couple from Midlothian, were married in Washington D.C. in 2010. They are expecting twin girls in the next two weeks.
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.