Despite US setback, Virginia moving forward on `Clean Power’

State-NewsRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia is moving forward to reduce carbon emissions linked to climate change amid uncertainty over the future of the Obama administration’s landmark environmental initiative. Despite a legal challenge, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the state’s largest power company and environmentalists all agreed Wednesday that work on Virginia’s share of the nation’s Clean Power Plan should continue. In fact, a group of power company executives, environmentalists and others working on the plan are to meet as scheduled Friday. A coalition of 27 primarily Republican-led states and industry opponents swayed a divided Supreme Court to grant a lower court hearing on the claim the proposed regulations are “an unprecedented power grab.” The justices issued the temporary freeze Tuesday.

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Senate votes to raise speed limit for reckless driving

General-AssemblyRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The Virginia Senate has passed a bill that would prevent some drivers from being charged with reckless driving for going 11 miles over the speed limit. The legislation passed Wednesday with bipartisan support that raises the threshold for charging drivers with reckless driving from 80 miles an hour to 85 miles an hour. The current reckless driving law applies to anyone going 20 miles an hour over the speed limit or 80 miles an hour. Virginia raised the speed limit in 2010 for some highways to 70 miles an hour, and supporters of the measure said drivers going 81 shouldn’t face potentially harsh penalties. Opponents said the higher limit for reckless driving would make Virginia’s roads less safe.The bill is authored by first-term State Senator David Suetterlein.

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Virginia House OKs electric chair as backup in executions

Virginia Electric ChairRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia’s Republican-dominated House of Delegates has approved a bill that would allow prison officials to execute inmates in the electric chair if lethal injection drugs are unavailable. The bill sailed through the House with a 62-33 vote Wednesday. Its real test will be in the GOP-controlled Senate, where a similar bill stalled two years ago. Supporters have been using the impending execution of a convicted murderer to make their case for the electric chair. The state says it doesn’t have enough pentobarbital to carry out the execution. Companies have blocked the use of their drugs in executions, forcing many states to consider other methods. Virginia is one of at least eight states that allow electrocutions, but it currently gives inmates the choice of lethal injection or the electric chair.

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Friend says slain Blacksburg teen talked of running away with alleged killer

Nicole Lovell

Nicole Lovell

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) _ A friend of the 13-year-old Virginia girl who was killed after climbing out of her bedroom window says the seventh-grader talked of running away and starting a family with the man now charged in her slaying. Natasha Bryant told The Washington Post that Nicole Lovell said 18-year-old Virginia Tech student David Eisenhauer was her boyfriend. She says Nicole described Eisenhauer as “funny and really nice” shortly before her Jan. 27 disappearance in Blacksburg. Eisenhauer is charged with abduction and first-degree murder. Another Virginia Tech student, 19-year-old Natalie Keepers, is charged with accessory before and after the fact and with illegally dumping Nicole’s body just across the state line in North Carolina.

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House OKs bill that would allow students to switch schools

General-AssemblyRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia’s House of Delegates has approved a bill that would allow students in underperforming schools to switch to a different one within the same district. The bill was approved by the Republican-controlled House with a 57-42 vote on Tuesday. Under Republican Del. James LeMunyon’s bill, the state would identify 12 underperforming public schools and give students there the choice to transfer to another school in the district.  The bill heads to the Republican-controlled Senate. Virginia Education Association President Meg Gruber says it hasn’t formally taken a position on the bill but has practical concerns about it. She said she questions what would happen if a lot of students wanted to switch a school that’s already overcrowded.

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Former McAuliffe ally turns against him on gun compromise

Gun-LawsRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ One of Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s biggest donors and political allies has turned against him with an advertisement campaign condemning a deal he struck with GOP leaders on gun policy. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s group Everytown for Gun Safety took out a full-page advertisement in a Richmond newspaper on Tuesday declaring that “Terry McAuliffe is wrong” and urging residents to pressure him into scrapping the deal. Everytown has also been running online ads comparing McAuliffe to the head of the National Rifle Association. McAuliffe’s administration is standing by the deal, which it says as a whole will make residents safer. Bloomberg has been one of McAuliffe’s biggest political patrons. His political action committee was McAuliffe’s single largest non-party donor during his successful 2013 gubernatorial bid.

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Virginia Senate OKs bill nixing party’s ‘loyalty oaths’

wfir-defaultRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A bill that’s making its way through Virginia’s General Assembly would prevent political parties from requiring voters to sign a party affiliation statement in a presidential primary. The Republican-led Senate voted 34-5 to approve the bill Monday. It heads to the House.  The state Republican Party had planned to require voters in the party’s March 1 primary to sign a statement affirming they’re Republicans before casting a ballot. But it later changed its mind amid criticism from Donald Trump supporters. A judge rejected Trump supporters’ attempt to block the loyalty oath, but the party rescinded its decision to use it anyway, calling it “bad publicity.” The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the bill applies only to state-sponsored primaries and that parties could still hold their own nominating contests with an oath.

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People gather in Blacksburg to remember slain 13-year-old at vigil

Nichole LovellBLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) _ Organizers held a vigil in Blacksburg to remember the life of a 13-year-old girl who was fatally stabbed last month. The Roanoke Times reports that more than 100 people gathered in downtown Blacksburg on Monday night to honor Nicole Madison Lovell. Light poles in the area were strung with blue Christmas lights and members of the community held candles throughout the night. Lovell’s mother, Tammy Weeks, addressed the crowd, thanking the community for their thoughts and prayers. Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam also spoke at the event, saying the community is strong and standing together. The event was sponsored by Womanspace at Virginia Tech and Take Back the Night, two organizations dedicated to student and citizen safety. Two Virginia Tech students have been charged in connection with Nicole’s death.

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Volvo scales back layoffs at Dublin truck plant

Volvo Trucks logoDUBLIN, Va. (AP) _ Volvo Trucks says it will lay off fewer workers at its Pulaski County plant than previously announced. The Roanoke Times reports that the truck maker confirmed last week that about 600 workers are losing their jobs this month. The company announced in December that it would lay off 734 workers at the New River Valley Assembly Plant in Dublin over a three-week period in February. Volvo attributed the cuts to a decrease in demand. John Miles, a spokesman for Volvo Trucks North America, said company officials have determined they can manage the market adjustment without cutting as many jobs as initially anticipated. The 1.6-million-square-foot plant employs 2,800 workers and is the largest Volvo truck manufacturing facility in the world.

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Today is deadline to register to vote in Virginia primaries

Election CheckRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginians who aren’t registered to vote but want to cast ballots in the March 1 presidential primary need to act fast. Monday is the deadline to register. In Virginia, voters don’t register by party. Any registered voter may choose to cast a ballot in either the Democratic or Republican primary. For weeks, it looked like voters in the GOP primary would have to sign a statement affirming their Republican affiliation. The plan drew criticism, and the State Board of Elections has rescinded that requirement at the request of the state GOP’s governing body.

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