THE BULLETIN — News to know

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

Northam asks federal government to shut down Virginia’s menhaden fishery

In an unusual step by a state executive, Gov. Ralph Northam has asked the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to shut down Virginia’s menhaden fishery after its main participant, Omega Protein, announced that it would exceed the federal cap limiting the taking of the small oily fish in the Chesapeake Bay.“Given these actions by an international company, imposing a moratorium on the menhaden harvest is the most appropriate way to bring about a shift to responsible management of menhaden,” Northam wrote in a Nov. 20 letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.The closure of the fishery, he also noted, “will also...

Virginia’s psych hospitals are close to full; UVA-Wise will offer free tuition to some students and more headlines

NEWS TO KNOW Our daily roundup of headlines from Virginia and elsewhere.• A district court judge accused of sexually harassing courthouse staff with crude remarks and emailed pictures withdrew his application for reappointment after a group of clerks told lawmakers they would refuse to work in his courtroom. His judicial district stretched from Powhatan to Petersburg.—Richmond Times-Dispatch• “Senate Democrats, who will hold a slim majority in the General Assembly’s upper chamber when the 2020 session begins in January, on Wednesday elected Sen. Dick Saslaw of Fairfax County as the next majority leader and re-elected Sen. Mamie Locke of Hampton as the caucus...

Study: Virginia workers’ health insurance premiums are among the highest in the country

A national study of health care costs released Thursday confirmed what many workers already know from looking at their pay stubs: Premiums and deductibles for employer-sponsored healthcare plans are rising faster than wages.The average Virginia worker’s out of pocket cost amounted to nearly 11 percent of the state’s median income in 2018, up from just under 7 percent in 2008, according to the analysis of federal data The Commonwealth Fund released Thursday.The authors note that lower-income people with employer-sponsored coverage face an even higher burden.“The question is, if people are facing premium costs that high, at which point do...

What’s the average teacher salary in Virginia? Depends who does the math, lawmakers find.

NORFOLK — To help lawmakers tackle a bipartisan goal of raising teacher pay, state budget staff tried to untangle for them exactly what the average teacher's pay is in the state.The takeaway: There are different ways to calculate that number, but it’s clear some districts fall far below any of those averages while others easily exceed those estimations.Lawmakers realized reaching a uniform average likely can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. “I think to look at an average for the state is going to be very misleading,” Del. Joe McNamara, R-Roanoke County, said at the House Appropriations Committee retreat Wednesday."In concept, as...
Virginia Mercury

Democrats weigh Dillon Rule; Virginia Beach approves surf park and more headlines

NEWS TO KNOW Our daily roundup of headlines from Virginia and elsewhere.• A gynecologist in Chesapeake accused of performing unwanted surgeries to rack up bills on Medicaid patients faced similar accusations 35 years ago but was let off by the Virginia Board of Medicine with a slap on the wrist.—The Virginian-Pilot• Outgoing House Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, warned the incoming Democratic majority to “beware” pressure from the governor. “They want to get things done,” he said. “It’s important they understand our job is to protect the pocketbook.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch• Virginia Beach is one of a small but growing number of localities saying...
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Attorney General Mark Herring to host ‘Cannabis Summit’ ahead of 2020 session

Attorney General Mark Herring has invited state lawmakers to a "Cannabis Summit" next month that will feature policymakers from states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana and academics who study cannabis-related issues.The Dec. 11 event hosted by a top Democratic official suggests cannabis reform will be a more serious topic in the 2020 legislative session than in years past. Virginia has authorized a limited medical cannabis program, but legislation to decriminalize or or legalize cannabis has gained no traction in Republican-controlled committees. In elections earlier this month, Democrats won enough seats to take control of the General Assembly for...
Virginia Mercury

Another ‘second amendment sanctuary’, poor oversight of social services, a panhandling dog and more headlines

NEWS TO KNOW Our daily roundup of headlines from Virginia and elsewhere.• A grand jury in Virginia Beach indicted the city’s former economic development director on 14 counts of felony embezzlement. He had been accused of using “city funds totaling up to at least $57,162.56 over a four-year period to pay for personal expenses and entertainment.”—The Virginian Pilot• Virginia’s decentralized social services departments fail to meet standards year after year but the state has “no formal process to ensure they come into compliance.” It’s a problem state auditors first recommended correcting 40 years ago.—The Roanoke Times• Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s campaign is...

Buttigieg leading in donations from Virginia

By Adam Hamza/ Capital News Service Pete Buttigieg has raised more money in individual donations from the commonwealth than any other candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has received nearly $950,000 from Virginians, according to data from the Federal Election Commission. That puts him ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden (about $750,000) and U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont (less than $400,000). The money certainly helps Buttigieg’s campaign, but it may not affect his chances much in Virginia, said Miles Coleman, the associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a blog published...

A kinder, gentler Todd Gilbert? ‘It depends on the day and the issue.’

Over the weekend, deposed Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates chose Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, to lead them through their next two years in the minority.Of the two leaders reportedly under consideration (Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott, also made a bid), Gilbert was the more conservative choice. He continued to oppose Medicaid expansion last year and is known for combative debate on the House floor and in committee meetings. It was his persistent questioning of Del. Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax, which yielded the infamous video that ignited a furor over her failed bill on late-term abortion restrictions.Perhaps somewhat incongruously, it will...

Report: As admissions surge, some state mental hospitals are understaffed, lack overtime policies

At a time when involuntary admissions to state mental hospitals are spiking, a review by state inspectors found that nearly half of the state's 13 facilities do not have an approved policy that limits hours or consecutive days of overtime for increasingly overworked nurses and other staff. The report also says more than half of the hospitals were not properly staffed, among other findings.“With the increase in certain patient populations and patient turnover at the facilities, more medical personnel are being asked to provide patient services for which they have not received direct training,” said state Inspector General Michael...