2015 Virginia legislative session wraps up with ethics rules

State-NewsRICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s 2015 legislative session is in the books. Lawmakers adjourned Friday after passing legislation at the last minute aimed at tightening the state’s ethics rules for public officials and curbing sexual assaults on Virginia’s college campuses. The ethics-reform proposal puts a $100 cap on gifts lawmakers can accept — including meals, entertainment and travel — from lobbyists and their clients, or others seeking to do business with the state. Lawmakers were spurred to reform the state’s ethics rules following the conviction last year of former Gov. Bob McDonnell on corruption charges. Other measures passed this session include legislation assuring that a mother can breastfeed her baby in public, Virginia’s first effective medical marijuana legislation, and a bill that adopts two new official state songs.

 

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Va. governor OKs marijuana oils for treating epilepsy

State-NewsRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed into law a measure that allows the use of derivatives of the marijuana plant for treating severe epilepsy. The governor signed the bill Thursday at a Capitol ceremony featuring families with epileptic children who have suffered debilitating side effects from taking legal drugs. It’s the first effective medical marijuana legislation to win approval in Virginia, according to its House sponsor, Del. Dave Albo. The governor and other elected officials praised the families for being effective advocates for the new law. The law allows possession of cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil with written certification by a doctor that it is needed for treatment of intractable epilepsy.

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Appalachian Power residential bills to dip in Virginia

APCOROANOKE, Va. (AP) _ Residential customers of Appalachian Power in Virginia are seeing their monthly bills decrease by about 4 percent this month. The utility says the lower bills are the result of the reduction or expiration of three rate adjustment clauses. For Virginia customers, that means a monthly bill of $114.92 for 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month. That’s down from $119. Rate adjustments are separate from the base rate, which accounts for about 60 percent of a customer’s bill.

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USGS confirms small earthquake near Richmond

wfir-linkRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The U.S. Geological Survey has confirmed a small earthquake about 24 miles west of the capital of Virginia. The USGS reported on its website that the quake happened around 3:50 a.m. Thursday and had a magnitude of 2.5. It was centered near Goochland, outside of Richmond. Goochland County Sheriff James Agnew says there were no reports of damage or injuries in the county.

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Virginia to compensate victims of forced sterilizations

State-NewsRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia lawmakers have agreed to compensate victims who were involuntarily sterilized by state officials decades ago under a widely accepted program. The Virginia General Assembly budgeted $400,000 to compensate victims at the rate of $25,000 each. More than 7,000 Virginians were sterilized between 1924 and 1979 under the Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act. There are only 11 known surviving victims. Eugenics is the now-discredited movement that sought to improve the genetic composition of humankind by preventing those considered “defective” from reproducing.Virginia is the second state to approve compensation for victims. North Carolina approved $50,000 in compensation in 2013. The Virginia law became a model for similar legislation passed around the country and the world, including Nazi Germany.

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Va. lawmakers approve budget with state pay raises

General-AssemblyRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia lawmakers have approved a new state budget that includes a pay increases for state employees, boosts cash benefits for welfare recipients and gives Gov. Terry McAuliffe more money to spend on economic development. Lawmakers voted Thursday to approve a spending plan that does not raise taxes and also restores $30 million for local governments that had previously been cut. The GOP-controlled General Assembly did not include expanding Medicaid, a top priority for state Democrats. Virginia’s budget situation has brightened in recent months due to higher-than-projected revenues and other factors, giving lawmakers more money to spend this legislative session. The budget includes a 1.5 percent pay increase in the state’s share of teacher pay, and a 2 percent increase in the salaries of state police, state employees and college faculty.

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Roanoke County to form advisory panel for proposed pipeline

Roanoke-CountySALEM, Va. (AP) _ Roanoke County officials plan to create an advisory committee to gather information about the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline. The goal is to help county officials and residents stay informed about the project’s process.  The Roanoke County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to form the committee. Supervisors say the pipeline’s developers have failed to inform county officials about plans for the project. Mountain Valley Pipeline spokeswoman Natalie Cox told the Roanoke Times earlier this week that the pipeline team remains in constant communication with all county governments. The 300-mile pipeline is a joint venture between EQT Corp. and NextEra Energy Inc. It would run from Wetzel County, West Virginia, to another pipeline in Pittsylvania County.

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Va. assembly votes to ban regulations on wood heaters

State-NewsRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The General Assembly wants to make sure Virginia remains friendly to wood stoves. After a spirited debate Wednesday, the state Senate approved a House-passed measure that would prohibit the State Air Pollution Control Board from adopting any regulations limiting emissions from home wood heaters. The board would also be prohibited from enforcing any such regulations adopted by the federal government. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed regulations on new home wood heaters. Supporters of the bill warned that the EPA would take away wood stoves from Virginians who can afford no other source of heat. Opponents pointed out that any regulations adopted by the agency would apply only to new stoves, not existing ones. The bill was approved 32-7 and now goes to Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

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Study: Poultry industry big contributor to Va.’s economy

State-NewsHARRISBURG, Va. (AP) _ A recent study shows the poultry industry is a big contributor to Virginia’s economy. The study by economic research firm John Dunham & Associates found that the industry contributed $13.7 billion to the state’s economy in 2014. The study says more than 52,000 jobs are linked to poultry, including more than 15,000 jobs in the industry and more than 24,000 supplier jobs. Wages connected to the industry totaled $2.8 billion in 2014. Virginia Poultry Federation president Hobey Bauhan tells the Daily News-Record that poultry’s economic impact extends to livelihoods in various service and product industries. John Dunham & Associates conducted the study for the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association.

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Va. Senate rejects school vouchers for disabled students

State-NewsRICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The Virginia Senate has narrowly defeated a proposed private-school voucher program for disabled students. The measure would have allowed parents of a disabled child to apply for the child’s share of state funds that would otherwise go to his or her local public school system. The money could be used for tuition, fees and books at a private school. The bill, sponsored by Del. Dave LaRock, a Loudoun County Republican, was passed by the House of Delegates 57-42 earlier this month. The measure was defeated Wednesday in the Senate when Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, voted “no” to break an 18-18 tie. Two Republican senators, Ben Chafin of Russell County and John Watkins of Powhatan County, did not vote. Republican Majority Leader Tommy Norment of James City County abstained.

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