RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The Virginia Supreme Court has upheld a judge’s decision rejecting a conservative group’s attempt to obtain a former University of Virginia climate researcher’s emails. The justices on Thursday agreed with retired Arlington Circuit Judge Paul Sheridan that Michael Mann’s emails are exempt from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The records were sought by the American Tradition Institute, which disputes the assertion by Mann and other climate scientists that decades of heat-trapping carbon gas emissions into the atmosphere are responsible for global warming. Republican state Delegate Bob Marshall joined the institute in seeking the records. According to the court, the emails are proprietary records exempt from disclosure because they deal with academic research.
CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (AP) _ A man accused of shooting and wounding two women at a community college inside a Christiansburg mall has pleaded guilty to four felony charges. Neil Allan MacInnis, 19, of Christiansburg, pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of aggravated malicious wounding and two counts of using a firearm in a felony. Sentencing is set for July 10 in Montgomery County Circuit Court. Police have said the women were in the lobby when a gunman entered a satellite campus of New River Community College in the New River Valley Mall on April 12, 2013. The suspect was subdued by an off-duty security guard and Christiansburg police. MacInnis has been held without bond at the Western Virginia Regional Jail.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia Tech has paid federal fines for its actions on the morning of April 16, 2007, when a lone gunman killed 32 people on the school’s campus. The U.S. Department of Education said Wednesday the university has paid two fines totaling $32,500 for violations of the Clery Act, which requires universities to issue timely warnings of campus threats.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ House Republicans say they remain resolute in their opposition to using federal Medicaid funds to provide health insurance to as many as 400,000 low-income Virginians. During a conference call with reporters Tuesday, House Speaker William J. Howell said he is optimistic that Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Democratic lawmakers would back down from their support of a proposed state budget that includes expanding Medicaid eligibility. State services could shutter if a state budget isn’t passed by July 1. House Republicans also sent a letter to Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner asking him to support their position. Last year, Warner condemned national Republicans who forced a federal government shutdown over a failed effort to defund the Affordable Care Act. Howell said McAuliffe is using similar tactics in the Virginia Medicaid expansion debate.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia’s attorney general has told an appellate court reviewing a judge’s ruling that the state’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional that homosexuals have just as much right to marry as interracial heterosexual couples. Attorney General Mark Herring made the argument in a brief filed Friday in the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Arguments are set for May 13. Herring is backing two gay couples who filed the lawsuit. He says in the brief that the judge who struck down the ban in February was correct in citing the 1967 Supreme Court case that invalidated state laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Herring says the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause protects the fundamental right to marry and trumps the states’ authority to decide the issue.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The Virginia Senate has approved its version of a roughly $96 billion two-year budget that includes accepting additional federal funds to provide health insurance to as many as 400,000 low-income residents. The Senate voted Tuesday to approve a budget that contains “Marketplace Virginia,” which would use federal Medicaid funds to provide private insurance to low-income residents. The majority of Virginia’s current Medicaid population is currently enrolled in private plans, but supporters of the Senate plan insist Marketplace Virginia is not an expansion of Medicaid. The issue of whether to include expanded Medicaid eligibility in the state budget has deadlocked the Democratically controlled Senate and the GOP-controlled House. Lawmakers are currently in a special session devoted to finding a compromise. But there’s been little sign of movement on both sides.
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — The Virginia Community College System is abandoning a policy that was challenged by a student who was barred from preaching on a Hampton campus. Thomas Nelson Community College student Christian Parks claims in a lawsuit that the policy governing campus demonstrations violates his free-speech and religious rights. Under the policy covering all 23 Virginia community colleges, only demonstrations by recognized student organizations in designated areas are allowed. In a proposed consent order filed Friday in federal court, the community colleges agreed to suspend enforcement while a settlement is worked out and a new policy is developed. The consent order requires a judge’s approval. It was filed the same day Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed legislation limiting public colleges’ authority to restrict student speech.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Gov. Terry McAuliffe wants lobbyists to disclose what they spend on gifts to lawmakers’ families. The governor amended an ethics bill Monday that passed the General Assembly in the wake of a gifts scandal that led to corruption charges against former Gov. Bob McDonnell. McAuliffe’s proposed changes, which the General Assembly still has to approve, would require lobbyists to report what they spend on gifts and entertainment events for both lawmakers and their families. The bill initially proposed by the General Assembly only required lobbyists to report what they spent on lawmakers directly. The governor did not make any other substantive changes to the ethics bill, which critics have said would still allow the type of behavior that ensnarled McDonnell in controversy.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A key part of Sen. Creigh Deeds’ efforts to fix Virginia’s mental health system is now law. Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed legislation Monday that extends the length of time allotted for finding a psychiatric bed for those under an emergency custody order from six hours 12 hours. And after eight hours of searching, if no private beds can be found, a state hospital will now be required to admit those under an emergency custody order.
Deeds’ son attacked his father then committed suicide at their Bath County homestead last November. The incident occurred after the local community services board said it was unable to locate an available psychiatric bed for Gus Deeds within six hours.
ROCKY MOUNT, Va. (AP) — Some 30,000 gallons of cow manure wastewater has spilled into the Pig River in Franklin County, prompting a public health alert. The state Department of Health is advising residents to avoid recreational use of a section of the river, including swimming, boating or fishing.
The wastewater spilled Thursday from a holding lagoon west of Rocky Mount. The spill entered a tributary of the Pigg River. Local and state public health officials are working to evaluate the spill and minimize any potential risk.