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Dumfries Mayor Swear-In Set for Tuesday

DUMFRIES, Va. — Virginia’s first town is ready to induct it’s new mayor.

On Tuesday, Mayor-elect Gerald “Jerry” Foreman will be sworn in as mayor of the small town. Interim Mayor Nancy West, who has served as interim mayor since the death of Mayor Fred Yohey in November, is expected to step down from the Town Council.

Other seats on the council are expected to change hands after July 1, when Dorothea Barr and Gwen P. Washington are expected to step down from the council. Washington did not seek reelection, but newcomer Helen Reynolds will take her seat on the council for the first time, and past council member Charles Brewer has once again been voted to the Council.

The swearing in ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday at town hall.

News
Dudenhefer Earns Top Marks from Chambers

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. — Delegate Mark Dudenhefer, R-Stafford, Woodbridge, has received “A” ratings from both the Virginia and Prince William chambers of commerce for the 2012 Legislative Session. Grades are issued to recognize legislators for their support on initiatives that will help move Virginia forward, and provides analysis of the legislators’ support for the business community’s priorities.

“I am honored to have received such high marks from Virginia businesses, especially at a time when job creation is so important,” said Dudenhefer, who represents the 2nd House of Delegates District, covering North Stafford and eastern Prince William County.

This isn’t the first time that Dudenhefer has received accolades from the business community. During his campaign last year, he received the endorsement from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), commonly referred to as ‘The Voice of Small Business’.

The respective reports cards are available at vachamber.com and pwchamber.org.

-Press release

News
Foreman Wins in Dumfries Election Upset

By URIAH KISER

DUMFRIES, Va. — Gerald Foreman has been chosen Mayor of Dumfries during a town election that saw heavy voter turnout.

Foreman won with 57 percent of the vote and faced Interim Mayor Nancy West who has served as interim mayor since November following the death of Mayor Fred Yohey. West also served on the Town Council since 2008 and has lived in the town since 1963.

Foreman, who currently serves as a Town Council member, ran on a platform of lower taxes, abolishing the Business and Professional Licensing Tax, or BPOL – a tax on business gross receipts – as well as placing the town’s needs in the forefront, and in some cases, on the same level as the needs of the county it sits in, Prince William. He could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday night.

More to the Story: See election results from the Town from the Virginia State Board of Elections.

Three Town Council seats were also up for grabs on Tuesday. The only incumbent council member that will return to the governing body is Vice Mayor Willie J. Toney.

“This is a diverse community, and each one of these diverse neighborhoods all need certain things, like sidewalks and a sound wall, and you have to listen to them. Because if you’re talking too much they won’t know you’re listening to them,” said Toney.

A former Dumfries Town Council member, Charles C. Brewer, and newcomer Helen Reynolds will fill seats that will be vacated by current council members Dorothea Barr, and Gwen P. Washington who did not seek reelection.

During the last hour of voting on Tuesday, crowds gathered outside town hall which served as a polling place. As police officers directed in and out of the tiny establishment, election officials inside reported 400 people had come to cast their ballots by 6 p.m. – which is an unusually large amount of ballots cast during town elections normally held in May.

Many of the late voters said they cast their ballots for Nancy West, a retired school system employee who they hoped would be able to do more for children in the town.

“We need more activities for children,” said Dumfries resident David Miles. “We don’t vote straight Republican or Democrat, we look at the person and then make a decision.”

Other residents said they cast their vote in hopes elected leaders would conduct themselves more professionally during meetings.

“I think it would be wonder to have a Town Council that could just work together on the issues facing Dumfries, without all of the infighting and squabbling,” said Dumfries resident Michelle Wheeler.

The newly elected mayor and council members will be seated July 1.

News
Dumfries 2012 Voter Guide

DUMFRIES, Va. — Dumfries residents will head to the polls Tuesday to elect new Town Council members as well as a new mayor. PotomacLocal.com has compiled our Dumfries’ voters guide to help you understand who are the candidates and link you to their respective webpages.

Mayoral candidates
Nancy West – (Interim mayor)
Age 74
Married, four children (1 deceased)
Retired school employee
Why she’s running: “Our 2020 Vision Statement talks about developing our old port area with restaurants, shopping and parks. The town is in negotiations to make that happen and, I hope that it isn’t too many years down the road before we see a wonderful development there.”

Gerald Foreman (Incumbent Councilman)
Age: 50
Married, one daughter
Aviation logistics consultant
Why he’s running: “The Mayor performing as a Leader, serving ‘all’ the Town citizens, Business Owners, Town Government and fellow Councilmembers. The number one issue is the way Council works with each other, communicates, and exchanges ideas.  We need to do a better job.” 

Council candidates
Dorothea Barr (Incumbent)
Realtor
Age: Not provided
Why she’s running: Diversify town revenue streams, promote a better image of the town and ensure equal treatment of property owners and businesses regarding the application and enforcement of ordinances.

Willie J. Toney – (Incumbent, vice mayor)
Age: 61
Married, one stepson
Retired from Washington, D.C. government and youth services
Why he’s running: “I advocate for people too often overlooked and try to be a strong voice for baby boomers because this is an aging community.

Charles Brewer (former Dumfries Councilman)
Age: Not provided
Fire sprinkler services manager
Three children
Why he’s running: “I want to get the tax rate down, start a street light program and try to get the legislature to fund the Route 1 project.”

Helen Reynolds
Age: 53
Principal Systems Administrator BAE Systems
Married, two sons
Why she’s running: To bring integrity back to the council, and prosperity (bringing businesses to the town of Dumfries).

Derrick Wood
Age: 34
Married, three children
Personal chef
Why he’s running: Improve community involvement, use technology to promote the town

News
Torian Recognized by Chamber

On Wednesday, April 18, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce recognized Delegate Luke Torian with The Economic Competitiveness Award, which recognizes legislators who worked to improve Virginia’s business climate during the 2012 legislative session. Delegate Torian sponsored legislation that gives local governments regulatory flexibility needed to attract and retain businesses engaged in providing services in support of national defense.

After the press conference when asked to comment Torian said “I am honored to be receiving the Economic Competitiveness award from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. It is my hope that we see many positive developments from the passage of HB 406”. Torian said, HB406 will “allow companies to know that we are serious about them being a part of our community.”

Also on Wednesday, The Virginia Chamber of Commerce released its 2012 Legislative Report Card. In addition to grading legislators based on their pro-business voting record, the Legislative Award recognizes legislators for their support of initiatives that enable Virginia to maintain its distinction as one of the best states in the nation for business.

“The Legislative Report Card allows us to recognize and honor legislators who uphold free market principles and support the interests of the business community,” said Barry DuVal, President and CEO of the Virginia Chamber.

-Press release 

News
Va. Chamber Recognizes Lingamfelter

The Virginia Chamber of Commerce recently released its 2012 General Assembly Report Card. Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William, Fauquier) was pleased to receive a score of 98 percent on the legislative report which informs citizens on key business related votes taken by the General Assembly during the 2012 Legislative Session. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce compiles annual voting records of all General Assembly members on important legislation affecting business and industry in the Commonwealth.

“One of my top priorities in Richmond is to make sure that our business community has the resources that they need to grow, expand, and prosper. This means creating a favorable business environment which gets rid of burdensome regulations and red tape and allows start-ups and small businesses to do what they do best- innovate. I am honored to receive this high rating from the Chamber for the work that my colleagues and I did this Session to help boost Virginia’s standing as the best state in the nation to do business and earn a living. Really, it’s about jobs”, said Lingamfelter.

According to their website, the mission of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce is to be a non-partisan, business advocacy organization that works in the legislative, regulatory and political arenas to act as the catalyst for positive change in all areas of economic development and competitiveness for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter is a retired U.S. Army Colonel who was first elected to represent the 31st District in 2001. He recently won reelection to the House of Delegates in November, 2011. The 31st District includes parts of Prince William County and Fauquier County.

Press release 

News
Kaine in Triangle, Woodbridge Today

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Timothy Kaine will be in Triangle and Woodbridge today taking about the economy.

The former Democratic Virginia governor turned U.S. Senate candidate will stop at Group W, Inc. at 10:30 a.m. to speak with employees about their experience with the federal procurement process.

At 12:30 p.m., Kaine will head north on U.S. 1 to The Palace Bar and Grill for a roundtable discussion with Latino bossiness owners in Woodbridge. That discussion will include workforce development and immigration reform issues, according to Kaine campaign staffers.

Kaine faces Republican George Allen and TEA Party candidate Jamie Radke in the General Election this fall.

 

News
Candland: Back Room Dealings Lead to Budget Increase

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Prince William’s new kid on the political block has done more to distance himself from this fellow Board members.

Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland is serving his first term on the Board of County Supervisors and cast the lone vote against raising the county’s average tax bill about $110 per year. The six seven other members of the Board voted to increase taxes for the Fiscal Year 2013 budget, adopting a tax rate of $1.209 per assessed property value. The new budget includes monies for a new police station, new school funding, and raises for county staff for the first time in four years.

Candland, in a statement released late Tuesday night, accused fellow Board members of back room dealings and threats. According to Candland, he was told if he didn’t go along with the budget increase his district would lose out on construction funding for a new Catharpin Park. That park, one of nine that was to be funded in this year’s budget, is no longer funded, he said.

“I stood up in the face of backroom deals and political retributions to fight for a park that’s critical to the families of the Gainesville District, and I’ll continue to push to find ways to get Catharpin Park funded and built as soon as possible. I’m saddened that petty politics won the day, but it’s the taxpayers of Prince William County who will suffer the brunt of these tax increases,” said Candland in his statement.

County officials stated Tuesday that real estate taxes in Prince William County are 28 percent lower than they are in similar counties in Northern Virginia. When adjusted for inflation, the average tax bill is lower than it was in 2009, according to officials.

News
‘Solar Freedom’ Law Won’t See Light of Day

By Ashley McLeod
Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – The General Assembly has upheld Gov. Bob McDonnell’s veto of legislation preventing community associations from prohibiting the installation of solar panels on homes.

The Senate could not muster the votes to override the veto of Senate Bill 627, which had been sponsored by Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax.

Petersen expressed disappointment that his “solar freedom” bill will not become law. He said the bill would have allowed all Virginians who live in homeowners associations to lower their electricity bills and qualify for federal tax credits by installing solar panels on their houses.

Some community associations traditionally have prohibited or restricted solar panels for aesthetic and property-value reasons. In 2008, the General Assembly passed a bill proposed by Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, to address that situation.

Wagner’s measure said that after July 1, 2008, community associations could not impose rules to “prohibit an owner from installing or using a solar energy collection device on that owner’s property. However, a community association may establish reasonable restrictions concerning the size, place, and manner of placement of such solar energy collection devices.”

Because of a grandfather clause, that law did not affect solar-panel prohibitions that had been in place before July 1, 2008. That’s why Petersen introduced SB 627 this legislative session.

“Ninety-nine percent of the homeowner associations’ covenants were unaffected by the law in 2008 because the restrictions already existed,” Petersen said. “My bill struck out the grandfather clause and said this will be the state law across the board and prohibitions on solar panels are not enforceable in Virginia.”

During the General Assembly’s regular session, the Senate passed SB 627 on a 31-8 vote, and the House approved it 74-24.

But on April 9, McDonnell vetoed the bill.

The governor said the 2008 law provided community associations with more than enough opportunities to change previous covenants regarding solar panels. SB 627 was an attempt to retroactively enforce that law, McDonnell said. He said it would have violated both Virginia and United States laws.

“Senate Bill 627 appears to contradict the general legislative rule that statutory enactments are applied prospectively,” McDonnell said. “In addition to the problem of retroactive application, the legislation potentially violates both the United States Constitution (Article I, Section 10) and the Virginia Constitution (Article I, Section 11) by ‘impairing the obligation of contracts.’ ”

Overturning a veto requires a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and the Senate. That means getting 27 senators to vote in favor of overriding the vote.

Last Wednesday, the Senate voted 21-18 in favor of overturning McDonnell’s veto – and so the vote failed.

Solar installation has become increasingly popular around the country, creating new jobs and a new way to power homes and businesses, Petersen noted.

“There are a lot of new technologies out there in residential improvement industry which we need to encourage. Solar installation is certainly one of them,” he said. “The businesses that install solar panels are small businesses, and I want to make sure that they can sell their products and not go up against a lot of red tape and legal prohibitions.”

In an interview, Petersen said he probably will reintroduce the legislation in the future.

News
EpiPen Law May Save Kids with Allergies

By Amir Vera
Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – When Tiffany Glass Ferreira’s son Charlie was 3, she offered him a treat that nearly killed him.

“I gave him cashews. He took one bite and started to have a severe reaction, where he was crying, grabbing his tongue – his face started to swell,” Ferreira said. “He looked like a Klingon, like a science-fiction character.”

Charlie, now 5, ultimately recovered. To save other children from potentially fatal reactions to food allergies, Virginia last week adopted a law requiring schools to carry epinephrine auto-injectors, such as EpiPens.

These devices deliver a single dose of epinephrine, or adrenaline, into the thigh of someone suffering a life-threatening allergic reaction.

After talking with other mothers in support groups, Ferreira, who supports the EpiPen legislation, said she realized she can’t stop Charlie from having another reaction, but she can be prepared for it.

“I said, ‘How can I prevent this from happening again?’ Another mom said to me, ‘You can’t. It’s going to happen again. You can’t think if they have a reaction. You have to think when,’ ” Ferreira said.

The “when” factor is exactly what Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Richmond, had in mind when he introduced Senate Bill 656. SB 656 will require schools to carry epinephrine auto-injectors in case a child has a severe allergic reaction.

“The EpiPen bill does two things. For those jurisdictions that already had … the EpiPens in the schools, it allows them to have enough flexibility to continue handling the EpiPen issue the way they’ve been handling it,” McEachin said.

“For everybody else, it writes a protocol as to the need to have the EpiPen in the school, who can administer it and who can write prescriptions for it, because at the end of the day, it’s a medicine and it has to be prescribed.”

The bill also requires school nurses and other employees to be trained before injecting students with EpiPens.

During its regular session, the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed SB 656 and an identical House bill, HB 1107, sponsored by Delegate Thomas “Tag” Greason, R-Lansdowne.

Gov. Bob McDonnell recommended that the legislation be amended to make it clear that school boards must implement the EpiPen law by the start of the 2012-13 school year. On Wednesday, the House and Senate unanimously approved McDonnell’s recommendations. The governor plans to sign the law this Thursday.

John Rokenbrod, a spokesman for the Amelia County public school system west of Richmond, said current laws require students to bring their own medications, such as EpiPens, to school.

“In the past, you had to have specific permission for that student. You had to have a prescription and permission to administer the medication,” Rokenbrod said.

The new legislation is intended to ensure that children without an EpiPen are not out of luck when they have an allergic reaction. Also, school officials will be trained to recognize signs of a severe reaction and to administer epinephrine.

McEachin’s bill was introduced shortly after 7-year-old Ammaria Johnson, a first-grader at Hopkins Elementary School in Chesterfield County, died in January from an allergic reaction to peanuts.

Ammaria’s death prompted groups such as the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network in Fairfax to call for laws allowing schools to stock EpiPens for use in emergencies.

“Absolutely, this one was inspired by the death of that little girl,” McEachin said.

McEachin said he hopes the law will help avoid tragedies like Ammaria’s death.

“Maybe some little girl or some little boy won’t die from an allergy when that’s absolutely preventable,” McEachin said.

News
Fairfax Delegate: ‘HOAs Wield Enormous Amounts of Power’

By Charles Couch
Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – The General Assembly last week upheld all six of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s vetoed bills, including one that would have increased fines on Virginia residents with out-of-state license plates.

The assembly reconvened for a one-day session to consider the governor’s vetoes and recommendations regarding legislation passed during the 2012 regular session.

Overriding a veto requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate. Legislators’ votes Wednesday fell short of that threshold. As a result, lawmakers sustained all of McDonnell’s vetoes.

The House debated two vetoes in particular: HB 423, requiring the state’s Common Interest Community Board to develop model “declarations,” or regulations, for homeowners associations; and HB 878, increasing the fines on Virginia drivers with out-of-state license plates.

Homeowners Association’s Rules

Delegate David Bulova, D-Fairfax Station, had sponsored HB 423. He said the legislation was needed because homeowners associations have a significant bearing on Virginians’ day-to-day lives.

“I don’t know that you could move anywhere in my district without being a member of a homeowners association and being subject to the declarations and instruments that come with that HOA membership,” Bulova said.

“They’re quasi-governmental units, and they wield enormous amounts of power.” That power can range from regulating paint colors and home additions to imposing fines and liens on residents.

When you buy a house in a neighborhood regulated by a homeowners association, you must join the group and adhere to its declarations, Bulova said. “Declarations are usually put in place long before a homeowner ever moves into a development. When you purchase a new home, the declaration is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.”

Bulova said his bill would not dictate rules for homeowners associations.

“It does not create mandatory regulations,” he said. “But it does require the Common Interest Community Board to establish a best practice and a model declaration that can be used as a gold standard.”

In vetoing HB 423, McDonnell said state law already outlines the minimum components for homeowners associations’ declarations. “While perhaps well intentioned, this bill increases the Common Interest Community Board’s workload without any discernible benefit,” the governor said.

Delegate David Albo, R-Springfield, said he supported the governor’s veto.

“It’s just impossible to come up with model policies when every single homeowners association is different,” Albo said. “So, again it’s a good idea, but it’s unworkable.”

After the debate, the House voted 36-59 against overriding McDonnell’s veto.

Out-of-State License Plates

Delegates later debated the veto of HB 878, proposed by Delegate Mark Sickles, D-Franconia. It targeted Virginians who try to avoid the state law requiring them to obtain Virginia license plates. For instance, many Virginians register their vehicles in Maryland, which doesn’t have a property tax on cars, Sickles said.

The fine for failing to register a vehicle in Virginia is $100, he noted. “It has been $100 since 1988, and it’s not much of an incentive. It is the cost of doing business.”

Sickles’ bill would have increased the fine to $250.

Delegate Benjamin Cline, R-Amherst, urged House members to uphold McDonnell’s veto of HB 878. He said the penalty contained in the bill wasn’t a fine but a tax.

“Make no bones about it – this is a tax,” Cline said. “This is a tax on individuals who do not register their cars in Virginia but who live in Virginia.” Cline said no law in Virginia prevents residents from having out-of-state license plates.

Sickles said that was incorrect. “This is not a new law,” he said. HB 878 simply increases a fine on “tax cheaters” that has not been adjusted since 1988, he said.

The House voted to override McDonnell’s veto, 64-31. But the override motion failed in the Senate. (The Senate vote was 21-16 in favor of overriding the veto. The motion needed 27 votes to pass.)

Voter Identification Recommendations

Besides sustaining the vetoes, the General Assembly reviewed McDonnell’s proposed amendments to more than 100 pieces of legislation.

For example, the governor recommended 10 changes to HB 9 and SB 1, which would require Virginians to show an approved form of identification to cast an official ballot on Election Day. (Currently, people without ID can vote if they sign an affidavit swearing they are registered. Under the legislation, such people would cast a provisional ballot, which would be counted only if they present proper ID by the day after the election.)

McDonnell proposed relaxing parts of the legislation. For instance, he recommended that officials compare the signature on a voter’s provisional ballot with the signature on file with the State Board of Elections. This would negate the need for provisional voters to present an ID to election officials after the election.

Delegate Joseph Morrissey, D-Highland Springs, questioned the feasible of signature comparison. He said that handwriting comparison requires expertise and that signatures change as people age.

“Handwriting identification analysis is a specific discipline that is taught and requires years of training before one can be deemed a handwriting expert,” Morrissey said.

McDonnell also recommended that provisional voters have three days after an election, instead of just one, to submit proper identification so that their ballots would be counted.

Delegate Gregory Habeeb, R-Salem, said he was concerned about the ramifications this extension could have on special elections.

“For those of us who are elected the day before the session began, this three-day window would delay seating a member of this body,” Habeeb said. “I think that creates a situation where voters aren’t represented where they need to do.”

Ultimately, all 10 of the governor’s recommendations to the voter-ID bills failed – half in the House, the others in the Senate. McDonnell now must decide whether to sign the legislation into law or to veto it outright.

Democrats, who have criticized the legislation as an unconstitutional attempt to suppress the votes of minority and elderly Virginians, called on McDonnell to reject the bills.

“Frankly, I can tell that the governor tried to fix the bill and make it better, but actually it does not,” said Delegate Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria. “His amendments don’t make it better, and the only appropriate action on this bill is to veto it.”

News
Colgan Votes with GOP, Va. Budget Passes

By Alex Morton
Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – On the fourth try, the Senate joined the House on Wednesday in approving an $85 billion state budget for the next two years.

One Democrat, Sen. Charles Colgan of Manassas, joined all 20 Senate Republicans in voting for the budget bill, HB 1301. The House had approved the measure, 77-19, on Tuesday.

A day earlier, Colgan and all other Democrats present voted against HB 1301, complaining that it lacked funding for the second phase of the Dulles Rail extension to Loudoun County. That prevented the budget from getting the 21 Senate votes it needed to pass.

Republicans applauded Colgan for his change of heart, and they criticized Democrats for their budget tactics.

“After two months of obstructionism punctuated by one last-ditch attempt by the leaders of the Senate Democratic Caucus to derail the budget process, the General Assembly has fulfilled its constitutional duty to pass a budget,” said Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment of Williamsburg.

Norment said the budget wouldn’t have passed “without the statesmanship of Sen. Chuck Colgan. He demonstrated again today why he is one of Virginia’s most respected leaders.”

Sen. Walter Stosch, R-Henrico, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said Wednesday “was a good day for the Senate and a great day for Virginians.”

“The budget we approved provides much needed funding increases for K-12 public education and for our state-supported colleges and universities,” Stosch said. “It also provides critical funding for transportation needs across the state, our local governments, health-care services, our state parks and all operations of state government.”

Democrats said that by blocking the budget, the party forced Republicans to restore cuts in government services.

“The governor proposed taking $100 million from public education and public safety to finance transportation, slashed the health-care safety net and cut millions from the cost of competing funding for hard-to-staff positions in public school,” said Delegate Mark Sickles of Franconia, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus.

“While this is not the budget that we would have crafted, it is a vast improvement over the original proposal.”

The budget will take effect July 1. Republican officials warned that by holding up the budget process, Democrats were risking a state government shutdown and preventing local governments from preparing their own spending plans.

“We said on several occasions that this budget would come in due course,” said the Democratic leader in the House, Delegate David Toscano of Charlottesville. “With a budget in place, our schools and local governments will be able to adopt their own budgets well in advance of the close of the fiscal year.”

Sickles said Democrats “remain hopeful that we can find a solution to the funding dilemma on the Dulles Toll Road and provide toll relief to the families who will face high skyrocketing tolls without additional assistance from the commonwealth.”

On Tuesday, citing a recent study, Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw of Fairfax said the Dulles Metrorail project was vital to his region.

“In the ‘Top Five Public Works in America,’ the No. 1 project was the Metrorail to Dulles. It has already caused major things to happen such as job creation, which totals about 300,000 jobs in the Arlington and Clarendon area,” Saslaw said.

Without funding for the Metrorail extension, Saslaw said, Loudoun County residents eventually would be paying almost $12 each way to commute to work in the Washington, D.C., area.

Because of the dispute, the General Assembly failed to pass a budget during its regular legislative session, which ended March 10. Since then, a conference committee of House members and senators has been trying to hammer out a compromise.

News
Dumfries ‘Jesus Ordinance’ to be Reviewed

By URIAH KISER

DUMFRIES, Va. — The Dumfries Town Council sparred Tuesday night over putting Jesus Christ back into their meetings.

Councilman Jerry Foreman wants to amend a resolution passed in 2010 that bars anyone from stating Jesus Christ, or “in Jesus name we pray” during the invocations prior to each public council meeting. Foreman asked the council to review the language in the resolution, and asked both the town attorney and manager to review the legality of an ordinance that also states any “recognizably Christian” prayer is not allowed. The terms God, providence, heaven, and creator have always been permitted by the nearly two-year-old resolution.

“By amending this language the resolution stays non-denominational. It’s doesn’t specifically call one religious leader or one religion out,” said Foreman.

He added the 2010 resolution was passed after the U.S. Supreme Court addressed prayers said during public meetings.

But with some members of the town council — including Foreman and the mayor — up for reelection on May 1, some called Foreman’s request politically motivated.

“This is a very difficult thing. Nobody wants to go to hell over this. I mean, you deny Christ you go to hell if you’re a Christian. It’s a personal conflict as well as a governmental issue…I’m not sure it needs to be addressed tonight when we have an election coming up in two weeks,” said Councilwoman Dorothea Barr.

Councilwoman Michele Jurgensen asked the council to delay voting on the item until after the election.

“When I was elected I put my hand on the bible to uphold the constitution, I did not put my hand on the constitution to uphold the bible,” said Jurgensen.

Foreman countered, saying local religious leaders have asked to be involved in invocations delivered at town council meetings and said that work should begin now to review the resolution prior to the seating of the new town council on July 1.

In the end, the council voted unanimously to create a committee to review the ordinance and make needed changes as needed. Interim Mayor Nancy West, Foreman, Town Manager Daniel Taber, and Town Attorney Christine Sanders are all slated to serve on the committee.

 

News
Virginia’s Economy Ranks 3rd in the U.S.

By Charles Couch
Capital News Service

RICHMOND. Va. – Despite a long recession, Virginia ranks among the top five states with the best economic climates, according to a national lobbying organization.

Virginia placed third in the 2012 “Rich States, Poor States” report – a survey conducted annually by the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC lobbies for free market and limited government policies at the state and national level.

“Too many times we talk about how states are on a decline and how states are suffering since the Great Recession hit,” said Jonathan Williams, ALEC’s director of tax and fiscal policy and co-author of the report. “But I think states like Virginia provide states across the country with a great example that states can do great even in the midst of an economic downturn.”

The report ranked Utah first, South Dakota second and Virginia third. Williams said the “Rich States, Poor States” rankings were based 15 equally weighted factors including:

? Individual and corporate income tax rates

? Property and sales tax burdens

? Whether the state has an estate or inheritance tax

? The government’s debt service as a share of tax revenue

? Public employees per 1,000 residents

? Workers’ compensation costs

? The state’s minimum wage

? Whether the state is a “right to work” state

“It’s because of Virginia’s tried and true approach to fiscal, conservative ideals of low taxes, limited government and individual liberty that has kept Virginia in the top tier of states,” Williams said during a press conference last week at the Virginia Capitol.

Barry DuVal, president of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, said four major factors in have helped Virginia maintain economic stability.

First, he said, Virginia’s transportation system extends both nationally and internationally thanks to the Richmond International Airport and the Hampton Roads harbor. “Both assets allow us to move products and people very efficiently around the world,” DuVal said.

The second factor is the state’s workforce, which DuVal said “is second to none, and it can compete at manufacturing. It can compete with service and financial industry. It can compete in any industry, and it’s recognized around the world.”

The third factor is Virginia’s “intellectual capacity,” which allows the state to compete in a “knowledge-based economy,” DuVal said.

The fourth factor, he said, is public officials who support the business environment.

DuVal said other states may invest in education or transportation. “But those states don’t compete with Virginia because they don’t have what we’re being recognized for here today, and that is pro-business legislators and pro-business governors that actually impact the climate in which business is done.”

Not everyone agrees.

A liberal citizens’ group, ProgressVA, has blasted the partnership between ALEC and state legislators, saying the council promotes tax breaks for the wealthiest citizens and cuts to high-paying middle class jobs.

During the “Rich States, Poor States” press conference, ProgressVA Executive Director Anna Scholl distributed a news release saying that seven major entities – Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Intuit, McDonald’s, Wendy’s and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – recently terminated their ALEC memberships.

The corporations did so because of ALEC’s support of “ ‘Kill at Will’ laws like the one at the center of the Trayvon Martin shooting,” the press release said.

“These rankings are nothing more than a report card for ALEC’s anti-middle-class agenda,” Scholl said. “Now even corporate members are backing away from ALEC’s agenda of low minimum wages, fewer high-paying jobs and millionaires not paying their fair share.”

Virginia House Speaker William Howell, a member of ALEC’s board of directors, criticized ProgressVA and similar groups, such as the Occupy Movement. He said they have been making attacks on ALEC for the past six months.

“I think that’s just a reflection of the fact that ALEC has been quite successful,” Howell said at the news conference. “ALEC does a good job of promoting free market exchange all throughout the country.”

In contrast to ALEC’s ideology, Howell said, ProgressVA and other critics want a government-monitored economy. According to Howell, these groups’ threat of boycotts has led some corporations to drop their ALEC memberships.

“ALEC is going to continue to survive,” Howell said. “The charges that are being made against the organization, I think, are completely frivolous.”

News
Motorcycles Can Now Ride Side by Side

By Brian Hill
Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – Motorcyclists are eager to legally burn rubber side by side now that Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed legislation permitting them to ride two abreast in a single driving lane in Virginia.

House Bill 97, sponsored by Delegate Tony Wilt of Harrisonburg, allows two-wheeled motorcycles to drive alongside each other in one lane. Current state law prohibits motorcyclists from doing that; violators may be charged with reckless driving.

HB 97, which McDonnell signed into law on Feb. 28, will take effect July 1.

More to the story: Two motorcyclists were killed this weekend on Joplin Road in Prince William County.

“The bill allows riders to use their own judgment in determining when it is appropriate to ride beside someone, but does not require them to do so,” said Wilt, a Republican who has served in the House since 2010.

“One goal is to eliminate the harsh punishment placed on riders for doing something as innocent as pulling aside another rider while stopped or taking off together after being stopped.”

The American Motorcycle Association frequently hears complaints from out-of-state riders about Virginia’s prohibition against two-abreast riding.

“When our members and even non-members have ridden in Virginia, some of them have received citations for riding side by side at some of the major events that occur in Virginia,” said Imre Szauter, the association’s government relations manager.

“Where they come from, it is perfectly legal to do so.”

It’s perfectly legal almost everywhere. Virginia will become the 49th state to accommodate two-abreast riding. Vermont remains the only state to prohibit the practice.

“Riding two abreast is already allowed in 48 of the 50 states,” Wilt noted. “In 2010, the Virginia General Assembly extended this privilege to law enforcement officers on duty. I saw no reason why it should not be extended to everyone.”

HB 97 was approved 87-10 in the House of Delegates and 38-2 in the Senate in mid-February.

Safety was a concern. Opponents believe side by side riding is dangerous, especially if riders must suddenly swerve to avoid a road hazard.

However, no one has come up with data to prove that two-abreast riding causes an increase in traffic accidents or injuries, Szauter said.

“In the absence of statistics that indicate this is blatantly unsafe, it’s just another reason to somehow harass motorcyclists for something they don’t believe is an issue,” Szauter said.

“If there are circumstances where riding side by side is appropriate, and it can be done in a safe manner, we believe that the code should be modified. And that’s exactly what happened with this legislation.”

When riding side by side, it’s vital for motorcycle operators to communicate. Some riders use predetermined hand signals. Motorcyclists may need to speak to each other in advance to determine their plan of action.

A benefit of riding side by side is that motorcyclists also can signal each other on the road.

“It is often helpful for riders to be able to pull beside each other to communicate information – for instance, if they need to stop,” Wilt said. “This legislation allows them to do so.”

News
Eyeing Richmond, Stewart Would Prioritize Road Money

By URIAH KISER

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Prince William’s Corey Stewart now wants to be Virginia’s Corey Stewart.

The Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman threw his hat into the ring to become the 40th Lt. Governor of the commonwealth and will seek the office during the 2013 Gubernatorial Election.

Against a backdrop of construction at Woodbridge’s Potomac Town Center, Stewart gathered supporters who applauded as the Republican read aloud his accomplishments.

“Prince William was one of the few localities that was truly hard hit in by the decline in home values and foreclosures. At one point, 80 percent of the sales in Prince William County were bank sales, they were disclosure sales… we knew we had to take the steps necessary to prepare for the economic growth we knew would come,” said Stewart.

The foreclosure crisis strapped Prince William with the highest rate of foreclosed homes in the nation, and Stewart said he worked with other officials to improve efficiency in local government.

He also touted the county’s AAA bond rating during his speech, and said more mixed-use commercial and residential development like Potomac Town Center is needed to bring jobs to the county and keep commuters working close to home.

Statewide, Stewart said the commonwealth continues to be business friendly but needs to do more with public infrastructure.

“The one thing it has not done right, the one thing it needs to do right if economic growth and prosperity will continue, is to build adequate public infrastructure and that especially means roads,” said Stewart.

Touting methods used in Prince William to build $300 million in road projects through voter-approved bonds, Stewart said state monies need to be prioritized to transportation infrastructure without raising taxes.

In 2007, Stewart led a widely debated charge against illegal immigrants in Prince William County that gained national attention. The original resolution passed allowed police to check the legal presence of anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. The policy was later amended and persons arrested now have their legal presence checked in jail.

In addition to his top donors, the Republican Party of Virginia and Potomac Nationals Baseball, many of Stewart’s top donors to his campaign are property developers. Stewart landed in hot water last fall when he took a sizeable donation from a developer just weeks before voting to – along with the rest of the Board of County Supervisors – to approve the development in western Prince William.

Since Virginia governors are limited to serving just one consecutive four-year term, current Lt. Governor Bill Bolling is automatically next in line to be the Republican nominee to replace Gov. Robert F. McDonnell. But Attorney General and Prince William resident Ken Cuccinelli has expressed interest in the governor’s mansion.

News
Nohe: Fair Process Led to Voting Exemption

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — During the decennial political redistricting process in 2011, no Prince William politician’s district changed as much as Marty Nohe’s.

He’s the Supervisor for the county’s Coles District, which now spans the western portion of Dale City west to the Manassas area. Increasing from 57,000 to 62,000 residents in his district last year, Nohe now represents about 30,000 more residents that he did previously, he said.

Magisterial districts like Coles, as well as state and congressional election districts are redrawn every 10 years by politicians  to account for population changes, and, some argue, to ensure the greatest possible reelection outcome for the current political party occupying a particular district.

Once approved by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, the new magisterial maps were sent to the federal government for preclearance — a review under the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

They were approved, but on Wednesday officials announced Prince William was given a pass under section five of the act governing preclearance, making it the largest jurisdiction in Virginia to receive such a bailout.

“Having had a very fair and non-partisan redistricting process that was widely adopted by the community was really the lynchpin that made it possible for us to get bailed out that preclearance [requirement],” said Nohe.

Virginia is one of nine states primarily in the southeast, and various jurisdictions in New York City, North Carolina, California, Michigan and others, that must submit to the preclearance process. In Virginia, 14 jurisdictions have been given a pass including Fairfax City, Roanoke, and Winchester.

“I think it speaks very well with the redistricting process we went through. We applied for a bailout of preclearance prior to that redistricting process, and we had looked into it in previous years but we had not pursued it because, for whatever reason, it was not the right time,” said Nohe.

Now, Prince William County can be looked to as example in the redistricting process, he said. He added, other jurisdictions should make sure they meet preclearance requirements if considering applying for a bailout.

Jurisdictions are provided an opportunity to be exempted from the requirement of preclearance, known as “bailout” if they can demonstrate ten years of unbiased voting regulation practices. This requires:

• Evidence that no test or device has been used to determine voter eligibility

• No federal examiners were assigned

• All voting changes were submitted in a timely manner

• No objections by DOJ or denials by D.C. Court were levied against the jurisdiction

• Elimination of dilutive voting procedures

• Constructive efforts made to eliminate harassment and intimidation of voters

• Opportunities for convenient registration and voting expanded

• Minority persons have been appointed as election officials throughout all stages of registration/electoral process

Source: Prince William County

 

News
Prince William Given Voting ‘Bailout’

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — The federal government has given a pass to Prince William County when it comes to officials deciding where voters will go to the polls.

Since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted, Prince William and jurisdictions in nine other states had to report changes in voting districts, as well as changes in the hours polling places would be open, even changes in the names of polling places to the federal government, under section five of the Voting Rights Act. The requirement known as “preclearance,” was adhered to as recently as last year during the decennial political redistricting process, when changes to local magisterial districts voted upon by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors was submitted to the federal government for approval.

This action was taken to help prevent racially motivated disenfranchisement of voters by providing federal oversight of such matters as redistricting and the conduct of elections

The waiver, known as a bailout, is the largest such exemption granted to any jurisdiction in the U.S. forced to comply with rules put forth in the Voting Rights Act, stated Prince William County officials.

This is a developing story and we’ll have more on this soon.

News
Beekeepers Buzzing About New Grant Program

By Ashley McLeod
Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – Beekeepers across Virginia soon will be able to get government money for creating new beehives – a move legislators hope will resurrect the state’s dying bee population.

During this year’s regular session, the General Assembly passed legislation to establish a $175,000 fund and award beekeepers as much as $200 for every new beehive, up to $2,400. Gov. Bob McDonnell recently signed the two bills, SB 354 and HB 300, into law.

Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Charlottesville, sponsored the Senate bill. He hopes the money will encourage beekeepers to create more beehives.

“We’ve seen declining bee populations throughout Virginia, and they are the foundation of agriculture,” Deeds said. “If they’re not pollinating flowers and plants, crop production begins to lag.”

State apiarist Keith Tignor is responsible for educating and training beekeepers in Virginia. Tignor said his office has received numerous phone calls from Virginia beekeepers interested in the grant program.

“We estimate that there are between 20,000 and 30,000 beehives in Virginia, around 2,000 to 3,000 beekeepers, and most maintain an average of between 10 and 12 hives,” Tignor said. “Beekeeping is a very important part of Virginia, in many different aspects.”

Delegate Ed Scott, R-Culpeper, agreed. He proposed the House bill creating the grant program.

“There are a wide range of benefits to having a healthy bee population – not just for honey production,” Scott said.

“When bees pollinate other crops, they are stimulating agricultural production in a wide range of areas, anywhere from apple and peach orchards, to grapes and alfalfa hay crops. If we didn’t have beekeeping, we wouldn’t have other crops being as successful as they are.”

Deeds and Scott introduced their bills after judging a student competition conducted last summer at the Sorensen Institute’s College Leaders Program at the University of Virginia. The lawmakers were inspired by a group of college students who had drafted mock legislation aimed at addressing the state’s declining bee population.

Similar bills failed in previous years. The legislation, which will go into effect July 1, was initially introduced as a tax credit but was changed to a grant program by a legislative committee.

Beekeepers must apply for the grants, which will be administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

 

News
Stafford Dems to Meet Prior to State Convention

STAFFORD, Va. — Stafford Democrats have an opportunity to help nominate a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from the 1st Congressional District and President Barack Obama for re-election..

The filing deadline is approaching for those seeking election as a delegate to the First Congressional District Convention in Fredericksburg on Saturday, May 12 and to the State Democratic Convention on Sat., June 2 in Fairfax.

The filing deadline to apply to run as a delegate is 5 p.m. Monday, April 16.

Stafford delegates to the conventions will be elected at a caucus Saturday, April 21 at noon at the George L. Gordon, Jr. Government Center, 1300 Courthouse Road, in Stafford. Doors open at 11 a.m. Participants, who sign a Democratic Party pledge, must arrive prior to noon at which time the caucus begins.

Information on how to file as a delegate is available at stafforddemocrats.org. Also, Democrats are invited to a meeting of the Stafford Democratic Committee this Saturday, April 14 at 9:30 a.m. at the government center. The delegate selection process will be explained in detail and applications will be available there.

-Submitted by Stafford County Democratic Chair Alane Callander

News
Prince William’s Stewart Running for Lt. Governor

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Once the Prince William Supervisor representing the Occoquan District turned County Board Chairman, Corey Stewart will announce Wednesday his run for Virginia Lt. Governor.

Stewart’s announcement will take place at 11 a.m. Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center in Woodbridge, according to an email from the Stewart campaign The announcement comes after Stewart told a Charlottesville radio station in February he would run for the office.

Stewart, a Republican, has become well-known locally in political circles after the 2007 illegal immigration debate in Prince William County that saw the eventual passage of an ordinance that allowed police to check the legal presence of anyone they suspected of being the county illegally. The ordinance was later amended and legal presence is checked at the time a suspect is arrested.

Stewart lives on Omisol Road in Woodbridge, and will join another Prince William County resident who is seeking higher office: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli of Nokesville is running for Governor.

 

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