July 1st Marks the Start to a Heap of New Legislation in Virginia

Hundreds of new laws are set to become effective in Virginia on July 1, 2014. From holiday festivities to bicycle lanes, the start of July signifies many important legislative changes. The Richmond Times Dispatch outlines some of these changes today. Listen up, some of these adjustments might be pertinent to you!

Just in time for Fourth of July, “Brendan’s Law,” will become active tomorrow. A tragic happening that occurred nearly a year ago, when 7-year-old Brendan Mackey was killed by a falling bullet from a celebratory gunshot inspired this law. Brendan’s Law makes a celebratory gunshot where someone is wounded a class 6 felony. Maybe Virginia’s 4th of July partiers will think twice before carelessly firing into the air this year.

Also starting tomorrow, voters will be required to present a photo ID if they wish to vote. Acceptable IDs are varied. Driver’s Licenses, passports, student IDs are all adequate and people without a photo ID can apply for a free, state-issued ID card with any local registrars.

New regulations regarding hunting on Sunday are to take place as well. Now, any landowner, his immediate family or a person with the landowner’s permission is allowed to hunt and kill any wild animals on the landowner’s property on Sunday. However, hunting within 200 yards of a house of worship is forbidden, as is using a dog for hunting purposes on Sunday.

Finally, a law that may be relief to many bike riders goes into effect tomorrow, too. Under Virginia law, motorists will be required to leave three feet, as opposed to two, of clearance between a car and a bicyclist for passing purposes.

Six White House Summer Interns Come From Virginia

Six of the 140 candidates selected to be a part of The White House summer internship program are from Virginia, according to The Washington Post.

The interns will work in various departments, including the Offices of Cabinet Affairs, Chief of Staff, Offices of the First Lady and the Vice President.

White House officials say their internship program allows students to work on leadership skills and professional growth.

The six interns selected from the commonwealth are: Manmeet Dhindsa of Poquoson; Yoon Dunham and Kevin Zeithaml of Charlottesville; Lisa Marrone of Centreville; Ibraheem Mehmood of Blacksburg; and Anna Stapleton of Fairfax.

Democratic State Senator Retires After 38 Years of Service

According to an ABC7 News Report, 87-year-old State Senator Charles J. Colgan (D- Prince William County) announced his plans to retire next year, after his current term is complete.

Colgan is the longest-serving legislator in the General Assembly, and has been serving the Senate since 1976.

Despite Governor McAuliffe’s many attempts to keep him in office, Colgan has rejected the offers.

This leaves Republicans with a one-seat advantage in the Senate, but Democratic Chairman Sen. A. Donald McEachin is confident in his party’s preparation for Colgan’s retirement.

Virginia Enforces Uber and Lyft Ban, Drivers Still Operate

Since the taxi-like services Uber and Lyft were issued a cease and desist by the state earlier this month, drivers have been operating under the radar, and Virginia policemen have been writing tickets.

Photo courtesy of watchdog.org

Photo courtesy of watchdog.org

Dustin Sternbeck, spokesman for the Arlington County police, said five citations have been given out to Uber and Lyft drivers, for picking up customers in the commonwealth.  Sternback also stated the cars were primarily stopped for traffic violations.

“Our police are not going to look for a problem, but if they run into it, they will ticket,” Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette said. The County Board isn’t taking a side, he said, but officers “have to enforce law.”

Alexandria police have not written any tickets yet, according spokesperson, Crystal Nosal, but says, “it’s hard to enforce.”

Uber and Lyft refuse to let the law terminate their services. An Uber spokesperson said the company “will pay any unjust citations” and keep on driving.

Virginia’s First Lady Visits Danville Farm to Talk Nutrition

Virginia’s First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe promoted her new childhood nutrition and food safety initiative on Wednesday at a White Flint Farm event in Danville, as a part the Get Fit Dan River challenge.

Photo courtesy of godanriver.com

Photo courtesy of godanriver.com

McAuliffe joined farm owners, Bill and Cherie Guerrant, as they gave children of the Big Brothers Big Sisters, Cardinal Village Children and Cedar Terrace Youth programs a tour of the land and its all-organic produce.

“This is a great farm that’s doing a lot of great things around chemical-free farming,” McAuliffe said. “I think it’s promoting and connecting kids with farm and food education. [It] is just really an important thing, especially here in Virginia.”

As she enjoyed learning the ins and outs of the White Flint Farm, McAuliffe made sure to answer the kids’ questions and even sign a few autographs.

According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, McAuliffe is pushing for families to eat more local grown foods. She says the closer the food is to home, the more nutrients it offers.

“I do think it’s a growing movement in this country and in Virginia and I’m just happy to be here to highlight that,” she said.

Stephanie Ferrugia, of Get Fit Dan River, recognized McAuliffe’s similar nutritional values, and she too supports local grown produce.

“This just fell all in line with the challenge, raising awareness about local food,” Ferrugia said.

UVA Student Seeks To Broaden Health Care Coverage For Same-Sex Partners

On Tuesday, a University of Virginia (UVA) student sent a letter to Attorney General Mark Herring, asking him to extend employee health care coverage to same-sex partners.

Brendan Maupin Wynn, the UVA graduate student, wrote to Herring urging him to amend UVA and other state organizations’ policies, to provide health care coverage for partners of gay and lesbian employees, who do not qualify for federally funded insurance or already have coverage through another employer.

Currently, Virginia entities are bound by a 2006 constitution amendment, that states marriage is between  a man and woman. Though the amendment was ruled unconstitutional in February, it is still pending appeal and affects Virginians like Wynn.

“Ultimately, the constitutional ban is an unfair and discriminatory law, which is why it was struck down by the court,” Wynn said in an interview Tuesday. “While we await that appeal, there has to be something we can do to provide benefits for our employees today,” Wynn said in an interview earlier this week.

Governor Terry McAuliffe recently joined in on this issue. His spokesperson, Rachel Thomas, states, “The governor is committed to ensuring that Virginia is open and welcoming to all and believes that LGBT Virginians deserve the same rights and privileges as everyone else.”

Three Virginia Legislators Form Group Against Redskins’ Re-Branding

Photo courtesy of cbssports.com

Photo courtesy of cbssports.com

As the Redskins’ renaming controversy continues, three Northern Virginia legislators, Del. David Ramadan (R-Loudoun), state Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) and Del. Jackson Miller (R-Manassas), have organized a group in opposition of renaming the team.

According to The Washington Post, a major founding principle of the “Redskins Pride Caucus” is to provide “a voice for Redskins fans and season tickets holders.”

Other principles include challenging what they call, “inappropriate involvement of the United States Congress” and supporting branding rights for businesses.

The Redskins Pride Caucus describes the Redskins football franchise as one that “generates hundreds of millions of dollars in taxable revenue for schools, roads, public safety and other important public services in the commonwealth.”

The group will likely gain support of Redskins owner, Daniel Snyder, who is also combatting the name change.

Snyder has recruited his own PR staff, including Bill Clinton’s former representative, Lanny Davis.

Former VA Resident and Women’s Activist Faces Ousting From LDS Church

Kate Kelly, a lifelong Mormon and former Northern Virginia resident, awaits the ruling of her religious future, as the disciplinary council of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints met Sunday to discuss exiling her from the church.

Photo by mormonstories.org

Photo by mormonstories.org

After organizing a women’s equality group called “Ordain Women,” Kelly is being criticized for turning away from the principals of the gospel.

Ordain Women encourages females to address “issues of gender inequality” within the church.

Kelly, a lawyer now living in Provo, Utah, says, “I don’t think they can take away that identity.”

In a recent interview, Kelly explained she has been on informal probation with the church for about a month, meaning she could still attend services and give her tithe.

“If we’re guilty of apostasy for having questions and doubts, then every single person is guilty,” Kelly said. “There’s no person that doesn’t have doubts; we’re just speaking them out loud.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will finalize Kelly’s outcome early this week.

Corruption Case Against Puckett and Kilgore Will Be Difficult

According to the Washington Post, federal investigators that are looking to build a corruption case again state senator Phillip P. Puckett or Del. Terry G. Kilgore will face an uphill battle.

In a 2010 ruling by the Supreme Court, it was decided that you cannot prosecute legislators or government officials because they engaged in self-dealing or conflict of interest arrangement.

The prosecutors in this case would have to show that there was a quid pro quo situation and that the two men accepted some form of bribe.

After Talks with GOP lawmakers Puckett, a Democrat from Russell County resigned amidst the budget deadlock giving the Republican’s the upper hand. Puckett then took a job at the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification, while securing a judgeship position for his daughter. Kilgore, was a chairman on the tobacco commission and has confirmed that he spoken with Puckett regarding the position prior to Puckett announcing his resignation.

McAuliffe Brings Paper Plant to Richmond

On Wednesday, Gov. McAuliffe announced plans for a Chinese paper manufacturing plant that will be built in Richmond suburbs, reports The Washington Post.

The deal with Shandong Tranlin Paper Co. will create almost 2,000 jobs with the $2 billion plant that makes paper from corn stalks and other agricultural field waste. The article states that McAuliffe used a $5 million dollar grant from the Governor’s Opportunity fund to entice the company, showcasing his effort to expand and diversify the state’s defense-heavy economic portfolio.

This is only one of many recent economic deals between China and Virginia, cementing the country’s importance in the state’s economy.

Last week, the first shipment of Virginia chicken was sent to China after a seven-year ban was put in place because of the avian flu outbreak at a Virginia farm. Additionally, Dulles International Airport celebrated the beginning of non-stop Air China flights to Beijing. Last year, Virginia welcomed 22,000 Chinese visitors, a 69% increase from previous years.