THE BULLETIN — News to know

Quick hits on the news of the day, odds and ends and commentary.

House committee schedules Friday hearing on redistricting reform amendment

A constitutional amendment to create a bipartisan redistricting commission will be heard Friday morning in a House of Delegates committee, a sign of movement for a proposal that's divided the House's Democratic majority. The proposed amendment — which passed the General Assembly last year by a wide margin and easily cleared the state Senate again this year — will be heard by the House Privileges and Elections Committee at 9:30 a.m. Friday, according to a newly posted meeting docket. That will be the committee's last regularly scheduled before lawmakers are scheduled to leave town next Saturday. Redistricting reform has become a...
Virginia Mercury

Needle exchanges, Hanover’s fight with the NAACP over Confederate-named schools, Asha the elephant, and more headlines

NEWS TO KNOW Our daily roundup of headlines from Virginia and elsewhere. • “Virginia lawmakers gave final passage Wednesday to a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill that advocates said will make the state the first in the South to enact such protections for LGBTQ people.”—Associated Press • Lawmakers passed legislation making it easier for local governments to open needle exchange programs, eliminating a requirement that local police officials sign off on them.—WVTF • The Senate passed pared-down versions of two firearm bills it had previously rejected. One bill would require gun owners to report lost or stolen weapons. Another would increase the penalty for recklessly leaving a gun...
Virginia Mercury

Another wrongful death suit at Hampton Roads jail, offshore drilling ban, presidential primaries and Virginia, and more headlines

NEWS TO KNOW Our daily roundup of headlines from Virginia and elsewhere. • Yet another lawsuit alleges staff at Hampton Roads Regional Jail ignored an inmate’s medical distress before he died. At least 22 inmates have died at the facility since 2015, and seven wrongful death lawsuits have been filed.—The Virginian-Pilot • For the umpteenth time, lawmakers put off a decision on competing redistricting proposals, this time in the Senate committee on elections.—Richmond Times-Dispatch • “Virginia is moving to block drilling for oil off the state’s coast under legislation that passed through both the House of Delegates and state Senate this week.”—The Virginian-Pilot • Lawmakers are advancing legislation...

Augusta farmers want to implement conservation practices

By Bradley Dunsmore As the second largest agricultural county in Virginia, our farmers' livelihoods are dependent on the land. They want to do everything in their power to implement conservation practices that protect their land and the Chesapeake Bay. For years, our farmers have voluntarily installed conservation practices that are making a difference in meeting the state’s water quality goals. In a Feb. 11 guest column, “Support excluding cattle from streams,” the author said he supported SB 704 and HB 1422. Both bills in their original forms would have mandated stream exclusion fencing and nutrient management plans for livestock farmers with...

Coal units to be retired in King George, Chesterfield, as pressure to transition from fossil fuels grows

Even before major legislation that would set a timeline for the closure of all of Virginia’s coal plants clears the General Assembly, two coal-burning facilities in Chesterfield and King George have announced retirements. On Feb. 20, Dominion Energy notified PJM, the regional electric grid operator from which Virginia gets its energy, that it plans to deactivate its two remaining coal units at the Chesterfield Power Station, once the largest fossil-fuel fired power plant in Virginia. The same week, as first reported by the Free Lance-Star, Birchwood Power Partners also announced plans to close its King George facility, which has been producing...
The State Corporation Commission

Regulators approve Dominion battery pilots as interest in energy storage grows

As the General Assembly shows an increasing interest in bulking up Virginia’s energy storage capacity, the State Corporation Commission has signed off on three pilot projects proposed by Dominion Energy to explore the potential batteries have to transform the electric grid. In an order dated Feb. 14, the SCC approved all three pilots and found that their costs were reasonable and prudent, although it cautioned that its approval “does not guarantee approval of any future” battery energy storage system.  “Any future application must be found reasonable under the particular statutory requirements relevant to such request,” the commission wrote. The largest of the...
Virginia Mercury

No more Lee-Jackson Day, narrowed collective bargaining rights, judgeship fights, and more headlines

NEWS TO KNOW Our daily roundup of headlines from Virginia and elsewhere. • State lawmakers finalized passage of a bill eliminating a state holiday honoring Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and designating Election Day as a state holiday instead.—Associated Press • A Senate committee advanced scaled-back versions of legislation allowing localities to enact local gun restrictions and governing access to guns by children. “They are a result of negotiation and what could pass,” said Brian Moran, the state’s secretary of public safety and homeland security. “The other side was vehemently opposed, so that makes me comfortable that we did the...

Virginia lawmakers say smoking hemp is fine if you’re 21

Virginia lawmakers cleared residents to smoke industrial hemp Monday, though they say they didn’t really understand why anyone would want to. Technically, the fibrous plant is already legal under federal law, but Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, said he wanted to clear up any confusion about the smokable version, which looks and smells exactly like marijuana but contains only trace amounts of the THC that gets people high. So Marshall, who represents a district where farmers have embraced the sudden cash crop, introduced a bill to make it a little clearer. “This just adds that to the code – that hemp cigarettes are...

General Assembly passes bill relaxing sunscreen restrictions in schools

Lawmakers have argued on guns, gambling and gerrymandering over the first few weeks of this year’s legislative session. But there’s at least one area where they all agree: sunscreen. Both chambers of the General Assembly unanimously passed a bill to allow any public elementary or secondary schoolers to carry — and apply — their own sunscreen. It’s an allowance so basic, it was met with incredulity by the senators who discussed the bill during a January committee meeting. “It’s shocking that we have to have a state statute telling people they can use sunscreen at schools,” said Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg....

As Northam signs bill extending parole eligibility for juveniles, convicted D.C. sniper drops resentencing request

Virginia will extend parole eligibility to people convicted of felonies they committed when they were under the age of 18, prompting convicted sniper Lee Boyd Malvo to drop a resentencing request that had been pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. The bill is the second to be signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam since Democrats won control of the General Assembly in November. (The first was a routine tax conformity bill.) Under the new law, anyone who has served at least 20 years for a crime they committed as a juvenile is eligible to petition the state’s parole board for...