THE BULLETIN — News to know

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

The Virginia House of Delegates met Thursday to discuss redistricting, but didn't get far. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury - Aug. 30, 2018)

#@$&! Virginia House to vote on bills repealing crimes of spitting and swearing in public

It was a big day for Virginians prone to bouts of cussing and spitting.A House of Delegates committee advanced legislation repealing the crimes of swearing and “expectorating” in public to a vote before the full chamber.Both are currently Class 4 misdemeanors punishable by a fine of not more than $250.The spitting-ban repeal cleared the House’s Courts of Justice committee unanimously and heads to the full House for consideration. The ban on swearing, which Del. Mike Mullin, D-Newport News, called “blatantly unconstitutional,” passed over opposition from five GOP lawmakers.

Virginia prisons budget $2.10 per inmate per day for food (and more notes from the DOC’s proposed spending plan)

It was an offhand question, for sure. But during an early morning briefing by the Virginia Department of Corrections, Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, recalled eating the food served to inmates at Red Onion State Prison during a site visit to the Southwestern Virginia supermax facility several years ago.How much, he asked, does the department spend feeding the men and women under its care?The answer: $2.10 per day.“Just as a comment,” he said, “we are thrifty with what we fund this agency, but for $2.10 a day, the food is not close to gourmet. It’s quite far.”It is a serious...
Virginia Mercury

Distracted driving, rural broadband funding fight, Brunswick Stew Day, and more headlines

NEWS TO KNOW Our daily roundup of headlines from Virginia and elsewhere.• Three of the white supremacists authorities accused of planning violence at Monday’s gun rally in hopes of sparking a civil war had packed containers with food and supplies for the event, according to court records. “We could essentially like be literally hunting people,” one of the men said, according to prosecutors. “You could provide overwatch while I get close to do what needs to be done to certain things.”—Associated Press• “A Virginia Senate committee on Tuesday advanced measures that would ban offshore drilling as well as hydraulic fracturing in much of...
Dominion Energy's downtown Richmond building. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Bill that would ban Dominion donations dies in Democratic-led Senate committee

A Democratic-controlled Virginia Senate committee on Tuesday voted down a proposal to ban political donations from state-regulated utility monopolies like Dominion Energy.The legislation died in the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee on a 5-10 vote as four Democrats joined six Republicans in opposition.The vote was the first test of how the General Assembly's new Democratic majorities will handle Dominion's campaign contributions, an issue that has divided the party's progressive wing and its moderates.Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, has been pushing for years to restrict donations from public service corporations like Dominion, contending they have amassed too much political influence at...
A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville that white supremacist protesters rallied around on Aug. 12 last year.

Virginia Senate votes to scrap Lee-Jackson Day and make Election Day a state holiday

Virginia may have just had its last Lee-Jackson day.On Tuesday, the state Senate voted 22-18 to pass a bill getting rid of the holiday honoring two Confederate generals and replacing it with a new state holiday on Election Day.The Democratic-sponsored legislation had dual aims: Getting rid of an official nod to to the state's slavery-defending past and making it easier for Virginia voters to go to the polls.Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, the bill's sponsor, framed the proposal mainly as a voting-access measure. Making Election Day a holiday, she said, could cut back on the morning and evening rushes that...

Legislation specifying that birth control is not abortion advances over Republican opposition

Legislation explicitly stating that the use of FDA approved birth control will not be considered abortion under state code cleared a House of Delegates committee on health care for the first time on a party-line vote, with Republican members opposing.Del. Vivian Watts, D-Fairfax, said she’d proposed the legislation for the past four years and that other women in the General Assembly had carried it before her.“The very fact that it has never passed underscores the need for this clarity,” she said.The legislation is a response to “personhood” legislation pursued by some anti-abortion groups that aims to define conception as...
Virginia Mercury

Virginia Beach mass shooting report, funding school repairs, transparency bills, and more headlines

NEWS TO KNOW Our daily roundup of headlines from Virginia and elsewhere.• Faith leaders from around the region gathered a few blocks from the Capitol at Centenary United Methodist Church to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “Ultimately, we felt called to be as close to the Capitol as we could safely get. There’s always risk involved in a climate like this. But we’re here despite those risks and despite that fear to confront and challenge that narrative. That culture of hate.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch• "A group of about 15 college students and one high schooler came to Richmond on Sunday and slept...

Police arrest 21-year-old Richmond woman for wearing bandanna near pro-gun rally

Despite the presence of numerous armed men who were covering their faces, the only person arrested near Monday's pro-gun rally was a 21-year-old Richmond woman who police said refused repeated instructions to take a bandanna off her face.Police said Mikaela E. Beschler was arrested around 1:30 p.m. in the 800 block of East Broad Street near Capitol Square, where thousands of gun-rights activists had gathered. Law enforcement initially said no arrests had been made, then issued a statement saying Beschler had been arrested by an officer "who was working Lobby Day." The police statement said the officer had given...

Who’s coming to Richmond gun rally; Antifa says it won’t mount counter protest; Gun sales surge and more headlines

NEWS TO KNOW Our daily roundup of headlines from Virginia and elsewhere.GUN RALLY:• Meet Phil Van Cleave, the computer programmer and ex-rock guitarist who heads the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which is organizing today's massive gun rally in Richmond. — The Chesterfield Observer• Virginia antifascist activists say they will not mount a counter demonstration in Richmond today. — The Guardian• "By banning weapons and closing entrances, state and local officials in Richmond are trying to avoid a repeat of the deadly clash in Charlottesville." — The New York Times• Gun sales in Virginia hit their second-highest monthly total on record in...

The Weekender: Gun rally, firearms debate dominate opinion pages

Programming note: The Weekender is moving. Starting this coming week, this newsletter will go out on Saturdays. Mercury commentary ICYMI: In a guest piece, Alexa Capeloto, an associate professor of journalism at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, explores how schools like George Mason University get to keep secret donors who can influence instruction. Mercury columnist Bob Lewis took a look at Virginia legislation that would let college athletes profit off their names and likenesses, another nail in the coffin for the "myth" of college athletic amateurism.Our Ivy Main also broke down two big omnibus energy bills in the works...