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Virginia Politics Blog: February 14, 2010 - February 20, 2010

McDonnell, Republican governors urge Obama to include them in health-care meeting

Gov. Bob McDonnell and other leaders of the Republican Governors Assocation called on President Obama to include the nation's governors in the health-care summit he has scheduled for Thursday in Washington. "Governors are major stakeholders in federal health-care reform and should be at the table as it is being discussed," McDonnell said. "We know the importance of reforming the current health-care system and are ready to offer our ideas." McDonnell was elected to RGA's seven- member executive committee in December, just weeks after his overwhelming win against Democrat Creigh Deeds in the Virginia governor's race. The RGA is meeting in Washington this weekend. Last week, Obama invited Republicans in Congress to participate in a bipartisan, half-day televised summit on health care on Feb. 25. This week, the RGA wrote a letter to the president encouraging the participation of the nation's governors. It has not received a response from the White...

By Anita Kumar  |  February 20, 2010; 12:29 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Barack Obama , Robert F. McDonnell  
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McDonnell and Salazar talk about wind energy, offshore drilling

Gov. Bob McDonnell hopes to meet today with U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to talk about the possibility of drilling for oil and natural gas off the coast of Virginia.

By Anita Kumar  |  February 19, 2010; 2:55 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Barack Obama , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Senate Democrats overcome divisions on budget, but Republicans are wary

With about 48 hours to go before the House and Senate release their proposed budgets, we now hear that Senate Democrats have perhaps patched up some of their divisions. But the Republican leadership, once thought likely to join with Democratic leaders in supporting a budget, may be having second thoughts. By proposing increased fees and recognizing new revenues, Democrats think they've come up with a way to produce a plan that cuts less deeply into public education than that proposed by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) or the House of Delegates. Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (D-Arlington), chairwoman of the Democratic caucus, said today she believes all 22 members, a slim majority in the chamber, will support the budget put forward Sunday by the Finance Committee. "Day to day, we all have a lot of heartache about this budget," she said. "But I do think we're going to have 22 votes." But...

By Rosalind Helderman  |  February 19, 2010; 2:42 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate  
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Cuccinelli to speak at CPAC, but not with Obama citizenship challenger

Virginia Democrats, be still your beating hearts. Outspoken conservative Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will not be sharing a stage with an attorney who has represented those who question President Obama's American citizenship at the Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend, despite information on a publicly available schedule from CPAC. According to an agenda on CPAC's Web site, Cuccinelli was to take part in a panel discussion Saturday entitled "Saving Freedom and Due Process from Oppressive Justice Department." One of his fellow panelists, according to the schedule, was to be Gary Kreep, executive director of the United States Justice Foundation. Kreep is the attorney who filed suit in federal court arguing that Obama cannot legitimately serve as President of the United States because he was not born in this country. But Cuccinelli's chief deputy attorney general Chuck James said this morning that the online schedule is incorrect. Though Cuccinelli had...

By Washington Post Editors  |  February 19, 2010; 10:56 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  | Tags: Barack Obama, CPAC, Gary Creep, Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia, attorney general, birther, citizenship, conservative political action conference  
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Updated: McDonnell stops by CPAC; Cantor, Gilmore, Cuccinelli to speak at conference

Updated: 4:51 p.m. We have just learned that McDonnell has stopped by CPAC to shake hands and conduct some radio interviews. We're told he took the stage for a impromptu two-minute speech. Gov. Bob McDonnell may be skipping the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington this weekend, but Virginia will be well represented at the gathering, which often provides a stage for presidential hopefuls. U.S. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor will be there. So will former governor Jim Gilmore. And Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. This morning, Cantor and Cuccinelli will speak on a panel, "Saving Freedom: It's About Jobs, Stupid!" A few hours later, it's Gilmore's turn. The new president of the conservative Free Congress Foundation's topic is "Does Security Trump Freedom?" So why is McDonnell skipping the event? Spokeswoman Stacey Johnson says the governor plans to stay in Richmond for the weekend while the House and Senate prepare...

By Anita Kumar  |  February 19, 2010; 9:11 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Eric Cantor , James Gilmore III , Ken Cuccinelli , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Virginia General Assembly boasts at least 13 millionaires

The General Assembly has at least 13 millionaires, according to the statement of economic interests filed with the state and released today by the Virginia Public Access Project, a non-partisan tracker of money in politics. But state law doesn't require legislators to provide all their assets, just a certain range of stocks, so it's unclear who else may be millionaires through real estate or other means. Here are the millionaires we do know: In the House: Watkins Abbitt (I-Appomattox); John Cox, (R-Hanover); Scott Garrett, (R-Lynchburg); Kaye Kory, (D-Fairfax); Danny Marshall, (R-Danville); Bob Purkey, (R-Virginia Beach) and Tom Rust (R-Fairfax). In the Senate: Janet Howell (D-Fairfax); Jeff McWaters (R-Virginia Beach), Tommy Norment (R-James City), Walter Stosch, (R-Henrico), Frank Wagner, (R-Virginia Beach), and John Watkins, (R-Powhatan)....

By Anita Kumar  |  February 18, 2010; 6:42 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , State Senate  
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McDonnell speaks to students via laptop, touts virtual schools

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) spoke to nearly 100 students across the state this afternoon using a laptop set up in the living room at the Executive Mansion. The children -- all students at the Virginia Virtual Academy -- take classes online from their own homes. A handful of students from the school were also on a class field trip to Capitol Square today learning about how a bill becomes a law. They visited the mansion and saw the governor in person. "This is an exciting new way of learning,'' McDonnell said. "When I was growing up, we didn't have anything like this." The children, grades K to 8th grade, asked loads of questions -- what's his favorite room in the mansion (bedroom), what did he study in school (law and business), what does he like to do in his space time (hang out with his kids and argue about ideas)....

By Anita Kumar  |  February 18, 2010; 5:48 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Anti-abortion activists say Robertson was right about Haiti

A press conference called today by abortion-rights foes to drum up support for cutting all financial support for Planned Parenthood veered, of all places, into Haiti, voodoo and the island's alleged pact with the Devil. The event, sponsored by the Virginia Christian Alliance, was running along according to message -- namely, allegations that Planned Parenthood is a genocidal, racist, taxpayer-funded menace responsible for the collapse of the African-American family, the epidemic rise in sexually transmitted diseases, numerous criminal violations regarding abortions performed on minors and the death of millons of unborns. "We are gathered this afternoon to draw attention to the unethical, immoral and racist practices of the largest abortion provider in America," said Dean Nelson, executive director of the Network of Politically Active Christians and a VCA board member. Claiming that Planned Parenthood targeted the black community from the beginning, Nelson said its long-term agenda was designed to "exterminate...

By Fredrick Kunkle  |  February 18, 2010; 5:47 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  !General Assembly , Fredrick Kunkle , General Assembly , General Assembly 2010  
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Senators seem skeptical about proposed pension changes

The Virginia Senate's Finance Committee shuffled a bill to subcommittee today that would reduce benefits for state and local public employees hired after July 1, 2010. But since the Senate must write a budget by Sunday, the senators were signalling that they are unlikely to include the proposal in it.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  February 18, 2010; 5:13 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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Virginia's commerce secretary's other title: singing star Jeanette Wang's husband

Singer Jeanette Wang, who is married to Virginia's new Secretary of Commerce and Trade Jim Cheng, is so famous in her native Taiwan that when she walks down the street people recognize her -- and sometimes hum her songs. In her career she recorded 36 albums, many TV theme songs and what many people consider to be the unofficial national anthem of Taiwan, "The Skies of Taipei." When Gov. Bob McDonnell named her husband to his Cabinet it made the entertainment news in Taiwan. We can't understand much in the Taiwanese newscast, but we can see McDonnell's photo and we hear the word Virginia uttered a few times. Check out the link to Wang singing "The Skies of Taipei" below. Other songs can be found on YouTube....

By Anita Kumar  |  February 18, 2010; 7:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell  
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After weeks of pressure, McDonnell releases budget cut proposals

After weeks of pressure from legislators, advocates and reporters, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) today publicly announced his list of $2.3 billion in recommended budget cuts, just four days before the House and Senate release their own versions of the state budget. As we reported last night, McDonnell is proposing deep cuts to core services in K-12 education and health and human services. The K-12 reductions would loosen the state's basic educational standards while reducing funds for support staff, supplemental salaries for coaches and health insurance for teachers. The health cuts would reduce mental-health treatment beds by 232, take 5 percent in funds from community service boards that offer substance abuse and mental health treatment programs, and freeze enrollment for a program that provides insurance to low-income children. Other proposed cuts include five unpaid days off annually for state workers, closing five state parks, including Mason Neck in Fairfax County, and...

By Anita Kumar  |  February 17, 2010; 3:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (19)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Robert F. McDonnell , State Senate  
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Cuccinelli on UN global warming report: "Unreliable, unverifiable and doctored"

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) has injected Virginia directly into the global warming debate with a petition to the EPA and a lawsuit in federal court challenging the EPA's December ruling that greenhouse gases harm human beings by causing global warming.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  February 17, 2010; 2:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (17)
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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McDonnell's recommends $2.1 billion in budget cuts to legislators behind closed doors

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has privately recommended to legislators that the state cut $730 million from K-12 education and $300 million from health programs, as well as change the state retirement system and require 10 days of furloughs for state employees, all to help offset a $2.2 billion budget shortfall over two years, according to sources familiar with the plan. The K-12 reductions would loosen the state's basic educational standards while reducing funds for support staff, supplemental salaries for coaches and teachers who serve as club sponsors and department chairmen, and health insurance for teachers. The health cuts would reduce mental-health treatment beds by 232, take 5 percent in funds from community service boards that offer substance abuse and mental health treatment programs, and freeze enrollment for a program that provides insurance to low-income children. The governor is also recommending millions of dollars in trims to public libraries, shuttering some...

By Anita Kumar  |  February 17, 2010; 7:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Robert F. McDonnell , State Senate  
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Property tax hike proposed for Arlington

Arlington County can fill a $65 million budget gap, which is shared with the school system, by increasing the property tax rate by 6.7 cents and by cutting more than $16 million in operational costs, acting Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan told county board members Tuesday. The proposed $941.8 million budget is $5 million less than the fiscal 2010 budget. It includes 87 fewer county employee positions, 20 of which are currently filled. Libraries will close one service day a week and reduce hours. Funds for mowing and other county maintenance also will be cut. One of the county's two special Heavy Rescue Units will no longer be staffed full-time, among other items. Donnellan's property tax rate, 94.2 cents per $100 of a property's assessed value, would cause the average household to pay an additional $189 a year, if approved. Both residential and commercial property values fell in the county....

By Washington Post Editors  |  February 16, 2010; 7:20 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Increase proposed in Alexandria property tax rate

Alexandria City Manager James K. Hartmann proposed a 7-cent increase to Alexandria's property tax rate Tuesday to help fill a $44.million budget gap. The tax rate would increase to 97.3 cents per $100 of a property's assessed value if approved. Both residential and commercial property values fell, but the average homeowner would still pay $103 more in 2010, said city officials. The city's $534.1 million budget, a 3.5 percent decrease from fiscal 2010, cuts 67 full- and part-time city employee positions, only 10 of which are currently filled. The community policing unit will be reduced, and a city-owned property housing older foster youth will be sold for approximately $1.1 million, among other items. The proposed budget also includes a 2 percent increase, or $3.3 million, to Alexandria public schools. The transfer is about $700,000 short of what the superintendent had requested. The proposed budget has several other options to increase...

By Washington Post Editors  |  February 16, 2010; 7:10 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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Planned Parenthood license plates bill clears Va. Senate

The Virginia Senate, controlled by Democrats, has passed a measure that would create a specialty state license plate with the message "Trust Women/Respect Choice." Some of the application fee money paid by drivers who select the plate would go to the Virginia League of Planned Parenthood. Drivers in Virginia, which loves its vanity plates, already are allowed to select one with the logo "Choose Life." Today's action put the Senate's bill on the issue in conflict with one passed by the Republican-controlled House of Delegates on Monday. Delegates chose to strip out Planned Parenthood funding and send the application fees for the plate to a state fund to help pregnant women instead. Democrats in the Senate fended off an amendment to the bill from state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonberg) that would have followed the House's lead, allowing the creation of the plates but without sending money to Planned Parenthood. The...

By By Rosalind S. Helderman  |  February 16, 2010; 2:52 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  General Assembly , General Assembly 2010 , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate  
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Va. Senate votes to allow guns in restaurants

The Democratically-controlled Virginia Senate has voted to allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry guns in restaurants that serve alcohol, as long as the person carrying the weapon does not drink. The gun bill passed on a 22 to 18 vote, after senators had a vigorous debate about whether or not people might have a reasonable reason to carry guns in restaurants. The House has passed a similar bill; Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has expressed support for the measure, and is expected to sign it into law. Both chambers also passed it last year, but Gov. Tim Kaine (D) vetoed it. Sen. Emmett Hanger (R), who sponsored the measure, said he was doing so on behalf of those who now violate the law that prohibits guns in such establishments rather than leave their weapons in their cars when they go out to eat. He said this was a particular issue...

By By Rosalind S. Helderman  |  February 16, 2010; 1:43 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (369)
Categories:  !General Assembly , 2010 legislative session , General Assembly 2010 , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate  
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Cantrell, Hare join McDonnell's administration

We hear from sources that a pair of familar faces have joined Gov. Bob McDonnell's administration as deputy secretaries. Carrie Cantrell, who worked for Republicans George Allen and Jerry Kilgore, is now working for Commerce and Trade Secretary Jim Cheng. She most recently was employed by the Republican State Leadership Committee, a Washington group that helps elect GOP legislators nationwide. Keith Hare, a lobbyist for Medical Society of Virginia, was named deputy secretary of Health and Human Resources, working for Secretary Bill Hazel. McDonnell's office has not officially released these appointments for some reason -- even though we hear Cantrell and Hare have been on the job since last week. Have you heard about any other assistant or deputy secretary appointments that the McDonnell administration has yet to announce? Email me at kumaranita@washpost.com....

By Anita Kumar  |  February 16, 2010; 12:35 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Sissy Spacek claims Virginia as home, pushes film industry

There's nothing a legislative body likes more than celebrities, particularly hometown stars who step forward to state their affiliation with their states. So lawmakers, who were already wowed once by Wayne Newton this year, went fairly gaga over Oscar-winning actress Sissy Spacek, who visited the Capitol today along with her husband, production designer Jack Fisk. to push new incentives for filmmaking in Virginia. She lives in central Virginia. Spacek attended a mid-morning press conference with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) and legislators who have sponsored the tax credit bills. Dressed in a crushed black velvet skirt, a deep grey tweed jacket and a red plaid scarf--looking a bit like a horsewoman--the Texas native took the microphone in front of a crush of television cameras. "As my mother always reminded me, Virginians settled Texas," she began....

By Anne Bartlett  |  February 16, 2010; 12:23 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  2010 legislative session , General Assembly , General Assembly 2010 , Rosalind Helderman  
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Romney, McDonnell call into Bolling's radio show

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling played radio host this morning on WRVA in Richmond and welcomed fellow Republicans, possible presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, onto the program. Romney, former Massachusetts governor and a 2008 presidential candidate, talked about the man currently occupying the White House. "I don't think an unbiased observer would give Obama a passing grade in his first year,'' Romney said. "It was a lost year unfortunately. The first rule of any kind of a turnaround is to focus your efforts and unfortunately instead of focusing his efforts on the economy and creating jobs the president used his political capital and his energy to go and sell a healthcare plan and the more he sold it the less attractive it was and the American people ultimately rejected that plan and, as a result, we really lost a year." Bolling served as chairman of Romney's presidential...

By Anita Kumar  |  February 16, 2010; 9:31 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Bill Bolling , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Duck! Sissy Spacek visits the Virginia Capitol

First, Wayne Newton. Now, Sissy Spacek. Spacek, an Oscar-winning actress best known for appearances in "Carrie" and "Coal Miner's Daughter", will make a trip to Capitol Square to talk about film production in Virginia. Spacek, who lives on a 300-acre farm in central Virginia, will appear with her husband, production designer Jack Fisk. She will hold a press conference with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) and the sponsors of a bill that would provide income tax credits to a company that spends at least $250,000 making a film in the state. Spacek is a longtime friend and supporter of the Virginia Film Office, which asked her to come to Richmond for the event. She currently is appearing as a Washington lobbyist representing Indian casinos in the HBO series "Big Love," but we best remember her from that bloody scene from 1976......

By Anita Kumar  |  February 16, 2010; 7:30 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Bill Bolling , Robert F. McDonnell  
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House tentatively approves a ban on Virginia governor serving as national party chairman

No one in the Republican-run House of Delegates mentioned former Democratic governor Tim Kaine's name tonight, but no one needed to. The House tentatively approved a bill that would prohibit Virginia governors from serving as the chairman of a national party. Republicans criticized Kaine during his last year in office for serving as chairman of the Democratic National Commitee. "When we elect a governor in Virginia -- whether they be Democrat or Republican -- we need him in Virginia, addressing Virginia's needs,'' said Del. Bob Purkey (R-Virginia Beach), who introduced the bill. Former governor Jim Gilmore served as chairman of the Republican National Committee. House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong (D-Henry) voted against the bill. "Quite often on this floor we argue about nannyism. Well, I don't think we ought to be a nanny with the governor either. He's a big boy ... I don't think we ought to tell them...

By Anita Kumar  |  February 15, 2010; 7:00 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
Categories:  Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , State Senate , Timothy M. Kaine  
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Virginia House gives preliminary approval to repeal of 17-year old gun-a-month law

The House of Delegates on Monday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would repeal Virginia's 17-year-old ban on buying more than one handgun per month. Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, the bill's sponsor, argued that the law is ineffective and unnecessary. The Prince William Republican said the General Assembly has carved out many exceptions to it already, including a provision that exempts more than 214,000 people who hold concealed weapons permits. He also argued that instant electronic background checks have become so advanced since the law was enacted in 1993 that the law is no longer necessary. Besides, other laws already prohibit gun-running handguns between states, Lingamfelter said. Anyone who buys more than five handguns within a week would also be reported to the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, he said....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  February 15, 2010; 5:25 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Fredrick Kunkle , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates  
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Senate passes increase in court fees as legislators struggle for funding alternatives

As the General Assembly moves inexorably toward the severe budget cuts that will be necessary to fill Virginia's two-year $4 billion shortfall, there are likely to be a lot more debates like the one that took place on the floor of the senate this afternoon on SB329. On the face of it, the debate was whether Virginia should raise the fees paid when civil court cases are filed, in some cases dramatically, using the revenue generated to fund local sheriff's offices. But really the debate was about nothing less than how to go about funding the basics of government in a recession....

By Rosalind Helderman  |  February 15, 2010; 3:32 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (20)
Categories:  Abusive Driver Fees , General Assembly 2010 , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate  
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Senate committee rejects death penalty expansion

The Senate Courts of Justice committee this morning voted against expanding the use of the death penalty to accomplices of those involved with first degree murder. Those who pull the trigger are already subject to the death penalty in Virginia, but not those indirectly involved with murder. Last year, a veto by former Gov. Tim Kaine (D) was all that kept the same measure from becoming law, after it passed the Democratic-led senate. It was widely thought that the senate would likely approve the bill again this year and it would be signed into law by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), who has voiced his approval. But, it appears the so-called "triggerman" bill will die this year, after a slight change to the courts committee membership resulted in a 6 to 9 vote. The House of Delegates has passed the same bill already, but it is likely the Senate courts committee...

By Anita Kumar  |  February 15, 2010; 12:59 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (17)
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate  
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Budget problems prompt Fairfax to charge for info

It's not surprising that cash-strapped localities are looking for ways to save. What is surprising is that only one Washington-area jurisdiction is changing its policy regarding charging for public information requests from news organizations while others are not. Last week The Washington Post inquired about getting a list of salaries of public employees from Fairfax County, an almost annual tradition. For many years The Post, in its weekly Extra print editions, published a county-by-county look at each local government's payroll figures. In recent years those stories have become less frequent, but the information still is used in the reporting and writing of other stories on the local government beat, namely stories that deal with county budgets. But this year, The Post was told that the information, which had been provided free of charge through a waiver granted to most media organizations, would come at a price. The Fairfax County salary...

By Derek Kravitz  |  February 15, 2010; 10:56 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Fairfax County  
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