McDonnell’s Fate May Lay in His Own Hands

After 14 days of trials and 45 witnesses, prosecutors have worked hard to show that former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell abused his power and credibility for loans, vacations, and luxury goods. Now the decision of the jury may rest in what McDonnell has to stay when he takes the stand, reports The Washington Post.

 

The former governor is expected to take the stand in his corruption trial this week to convince jurors that he did not take bribes from Virginia businessman, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., and to represent himself as a public servant with the best interest of Virginia companies in mind.

 

For the past three weeks McDonnell’s former staffers have testified that they had no idea about the alleged cash, gifts and trips that were given by Williams. They did however, admit that McDonnell did favor Williams’ dietary supplement company, Star Scientific.

 

Federal Prosecutors hit hard showing pictures of McDonnell taking a ride in Williams’ Ferrari and a Rolex purchased at the request of former first lady Maureen McDonnell.

 

The defense team holds that McDonnell is an innocent man, and that this will be apparent to jurors as the former governor takes the stand. Experts say that the fate of the McDonnell’s, and their potential future in federal prison, will come down to McDonnell’s testimony.

Chaffin Wins Puckett’s Seat in State Senate

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Del. Ben Chaffin Jr. R-Russell has won th election to fill the seat in the state Senate left by Sen. Phillip Puckett. This victory means that the GOP will remain in control of the state Senate.

 

With a 21-18 lead in the state Senate the Republicans will maintain control even if a Democrats wins the seat to replace the retiring Henry L. Marsh November 4. Chaffin easily beat out his opponents, Democrats Mike Hymes and independent Rick Mullins.

 

Chaffin’s win could also mean Gov. Terry McAuliffe will face even more legislative challenges in both chambers as Republicans will hold almost two-thirds of the seats in the House of Delegates.

 

Speaker of the House William J. Howell, R-Stafford said of Chaffin, “During his short time in House of Delegates, Ben has proven to be a thoughtful and capable legislator who can solve problems for the people of Southwest Virginia.”

Southwestern Virginia Offers New Program to Help Children of Jailed Parents

 

Nine-year-old Dowda Copeland is receiving much a much needed female role model thanks to a new mentoring program offered by Big Brothers Big Sisters, reports The Richmond Times-Dispatch .

 

This new program focuses on providing mentors to children with one or more parents serving time in jail. Many experts report that children with parents in jail face multiple struggles ranging from mental and physical health problems to education struggles and participation in delinquent behavior.

 

“When you’re a child, carrying burdens on your shoulders and a fear that is very real can be hard. Throwing a Frisbee or baking cookies with a mentor can sometimes be just enough for them to think that life’s not so bad or there is hope for the future” says June House, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Virginia.

 

With a focus on providing support to these children this new program provides role models who make a positive difference and work to prevent some of the common issues they face from manifesting. The added support of the mentors helps the children stay on track and focused.

GOP Member of House of Delegates Offers Solution to Medicaid Expansion

Del. Thomas Rust, a Senior member of Virginia’s House of Delegates is working a proposal that is unique to the state and would bring the standoff over Medicaid to an end, reports The Daily Press.

 

The new plan would utilize funds from the Affordable Care Act to expand coverage for low-income Virginians. Rust’s plan will use these funds to help working Virginians who fall beneath the poverty line pay their share of employer-provided health insurance. At 70%, most of Virginia’s low wage workers are unable to pay their part of the employer-provided plans.

 

Rust plans on addressing the concerns raised by fellow Republicans over the expansion of Medicaid. The plan uses language that makes it very clear that if folks in Washington break their promise of funding expansion, the additional coverage would end.

 

Cost of expansions being shifted to the states can be attributed to Washington’s concerns over the federal debt, which is now over $17.7 trillion. The Affordable Care Act says that the federal government has the responsibility of paying the entire cost of the expansion until 2017. Then, the states will pick up the responsibility gradually and will be capped at 10 percent by 2022.

McAuliffe Unveils New Economic Plan

According to The Washington Post, Governor McAuliffe unveiled a plan to better train workers for skilled jobs and speed up the employment of military veterans on Wednesday. In a rare show of bipartisanship, this is a policy that Republican leaders say they can get behind.

The program, the “New Virginia Economy Workforce Initiative,” focuses on developing “middle-skill” jobs that are in high demand and do not require a 4-year degree. McAuliffe announced the program to a group of community college educators but did not mention how the program would be funded or where it would be housed.

Former Sen. John Warner Will Back Barbara Comstock

According to the Loudon Times, former Sen. John Warner will back Del. Barbara Comstock in this year’s race to represent Virginia’s 10th District.

The former senator, who retired in 2009 after 30 years of serving in the Senate, will appear at a September fundraiser for Comstock. Comstock also has the support of the man she hopes to replace, U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf. Wolf has held the 10th District seat for 30 years.

“We have no doubt that she is the strongest, most qualified candidate by far and deserves our support,” Warner and Wolf note. “She will continue in the Warner/Wolf tradition of fighting for the people of this culturally rich and diverse district.”

Warner and Wolf will appear at Comstock’s September 10 fundraiser.

Credit Union League Endorses Warner

Surprisingly early in the election cycle, the Virginia Credit Union League announced their endorsement of Sen. Mark Warner for reelection yesterday.

“Senator Warner is a longtime advocate and friend of our member-owned credit unions,” said league president Rick Pillow, praising Warner for what he described as “result-oriented government that transcends partisan politics.”

The league represents 164 credit unions across the state. Business endorsements usually come later in the election cycle, so this is a big win for Warner.

McDonnell Trial Continues

Today is day 12 of former governor Bob McDonnell’s corruption trial. In case you’ve missed out, the Virginian-Pilot has a great recap.

Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms is expected to testify today. Sessoms’s bank, Townebank, previously loaned the McDonnells money. Sessoms is called as a witness of the prosecutors, but doesn’t know what questions will be asked. Prosecutors also warned Sessoms that he may not be returning to Virginia Beach tonight due to the amount of questioning the prosecution will conduct.

Virginia GOP Treasurer Will Resign After Social Media Backlash

Bob FitzSimmonds received harsh criticism after posting a Facebook status questioning whether or not Muslims had made a positive contribution to American society. After many members of his own party called for his resignation, FitzSimmonds distributed a letter of resignation Wednesday night, reports The Washington Post.

 

In his one page letter to members of the Republican State Central Committee FitzSimmonds wrote “It seems that no matter how careful I might be, I will periodically give occasion for others to portray the party in a bad light, so long as I am a party official. After discussion with several party leaders it seems clear that I will either need to stop posting on social media or step down from my party office.”

 

In his letter FitzSimmonds was rather unapologetic about his comments and said that his resignation will not take place until his position is filled, which will most likely be after the state GOP meeting on August 16.

 

The post in question was a response to President Obama’s message marking the end of Ramadan and commending Muslims for helping to build “the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy”

 

FitzSimmonds then took to Facebook and responded with a post saying “Exactly what part of our nation’s fabric was woven by Muslims? What about Sikhs Animists and Jainists? Should we be thanking them too?”

 

Pat Mullins and Michael E. Thomas, the chairman and vice chairman of the state GOP were driving causes in calling for FitzSimmonds resignation.

Uber and Lyft to Return to Virginia

Two months after Virginia banned ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft from operating in the state, an agreement was reached Wednesday which grants temporary state approval for the companies to operate, reports The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

 

Uber and Lyft are both smartphone apps that allow the user to see where their driver is, how long it will be before they are picked up, estimate the cost of their trip and pay for their ride via the credit card number they entered into the app. The operation of these companies was suspended due to concern for the safety of the passengers and lack of regulations for drivers.

 

The temporary agreement came after intense negotiations between the two companies, the Department of Motor Vehicles as well as the offices of the governor and attorney general. The agreement assures the safety of the customers and works to put the companies in compliance with Virginia law, as well as ensure a level playing field for all transportation providers.

 

Governor Terry McAuliffe said of the deal “In order for Virginia to remain economically competitive, it is important that we welcome innovative companies like Uber and Lyft and provide them with the resources they need to safely and effectively operate in the commonwealth.