Special Election to Fill Rosalyn Dance’s Seat Set for January 6th

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has reported Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, announced that January 6th will be the date for the special election to replace the House of Delegates seat vacated by Del. Rosalyn R. Dance, D-Petersburg.

Dance has represented Virginia’s 63rd District for nearly a decade and last month she won the race for former Sen. Henry L. Marsh III’s seat in the state Senate.

Brian Moore, the Petersburg Mayor, Atiba Muse, Petersburg School Board Member, Rev. Larry D. Brown Sr. and lawyer Joseph E. Preston have all announced their intentions to run to replace Dance.

The January 6th date will allow the district to have representation in time for the start of the 2015 legislative season that begins on January 14th.

Obama’s Executive Action Brings the Immigration Battle to Virginia

The legal status of tens of thousands undocumented immigrants currently living in Virginia could be changed as a result of President Barack Obama’s plans to halt the deportations of nearly 4 million immigrants, reports The Richmond Times-Dispatch. 

Virginia saw an increase of 25,000 undocumented immigrants living in the state between 2009 and 2012. The total number is 275,000, meaning undocumented immigrants are now comprising 3.5 percent of the state’s total population, according to the Pew Research Center.

“Virginia is one of only seven states where the number of unauthorized immigrants has grown in those three years. This took place at a time when nationally the number was stable,” commented D’vera Cohn, co-author of the study. “Virginia was an unusual exception to the national pattern.”

Despite the increase, Virginia’s average of undocumented immigrants is still in line with the national average of 3.5 percent of the U.S. population.

Between the same years the total population of 11.2 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. remained unchanged. The number peaked in 2007 at 12.2 million and experience a decline during the recession of the following two years.

“We can’t explain all the reasons why the numbers (in Virginia) went up, but we do know that in most states where the numbers rose it was of an increase of immigrants from nations other than Mexico, which is still the largest group of unauthorized immigrants,” said Cohn.

Webb Starts Fundraising for Potential Run in 2016

According to The Washington Post, former Virginia senator Jim Webb has begun his fundraising efforts after announcing an exploratory committee for a possible presidential bud in 2016.

Webb made the announcement of the exploratory committee via YouTube video. This makes him the first prominent Democrat to express intention to try to take down the supremacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton. The former senator has emphasized that he could shake up the partisan gridlock in Washington.

“Is it possible for us to return to a leadership environment where people from both political parties and from all philosophical points of view would feel compelled to work together for the common good and to sort out their disagreements in a way that moves our country forward rather than tearing the fabric of this nation apart?” he asked.

Webb, who has been spending a notable amount of time in early presidential caucus and primary states, announced in September that he was taking a “hard look” at  a run. The 14 minute video he released last week made it clear that he is taking the next step: seeking the large sums of money needed to pursue the Democratic nomination.

Puckett’s Resignation Foils McAuliffe’s Plans for Medicaid Expansion

Governor McAuliffe has appeared to run out of options to pull off his campaign promise to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, reports The Washington Post.

This defeat lead to the aggressive voicemail he left the man at the root of the problem, Southwest Virginia Democrat Phillip Puckett, who had quit the Senate just days prior to the vote leaving control of the Senate to the Republicans.

“Hey Phil? Terry McAuliffe,” started McAuliffe in his message. “I want you to know we lost the vote, 20 to 19, in the Senate. Medicaid is done. I hope you sleep easy tonight, buddy.”

Puckett’s resignation occurred after discussions of jobs for himself and his daughter with Republicans. Democrats had worked to convince him to stay with offers of making his daughter a state agency head or federal judge.

It is clearer than ever now that Puckett was vital to the passage of McAuliffe’s plan. It also clear that the situation, which spurred a criminal investigation has left lasting hard feelings between the parties. Puckett’s resignation further incubates the increasingly partisan atmosphere in Richmond, and will undoubtedly make it even more difficult for McAuliffe to work with the GOP-controlled legislature to accomplish anything during the remainder of his term.

Former State Sen. Joseph Benedetti Passes Away at 85

The Richmond Times-Dispatch is reporting that on Tuesday Joseph Benedetti, a Republican who represented Richmond and its surrounding suburbs for over a decade in the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate for more than decade, died in his residence at the age of 85.

Mr. Benedetti served as the Senate Republican minority leader before his resignation in 1998 to head the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.

Although Benedetti was always in the legislature’s minority party, his career tracked a steady growth for the Republicans in the General Assembly during a time when it was dominated by Democrats. Today, Republicans control both chambers.

He was an army combat veteran of the Korean War and was awarded the bronze star. He was also a member of the Army National Guard and Army Reserve and retired as a major.

Mr Benedetti served in a number of important roles in Virginia in addition to his positions in the House of Delegates and State Senate. His service is greatly appreciated and his memory will be honored.

Evandra Thompson Feels Party Cast Her Aside

Despite almost outsting Del. Rosalyn R. Dance in a Democratic primary last year, Evandra Thompson said she is not seeking her part’s nomination to run in the race for the now vacant 63rd House District seat as she claims she lacks support of key party officials, reports The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

In a telephone interview on Thursday Thompson said ” For me to be respected as a delegate, I need to have the support of the local party,” continuing that fellow Democrats in her district had failed to “try to cultivate some form of relationship” with her.

“I wanted to stay involved after my campaign, but they did not welcome me at all,” she commented.

The 63rd District encompasses Petersburg and parts of Hopewell, along with the counties of Chesterfield, Dinwiddie and Prince George. Thompson’s chances to win the support of Brian Moore, the Democratic chairman in Petersburg and the city’s mayor, will be almost impossible as he has announced plans to also run for the position.


Plans to Halt Streetcar Project Leaves Business Owners Uneasy

According to The Washington Post, Arlington County’s decision to abruptly cancel it’s plans for the Colombia Pike and Crystal City streetcar projects creates new uncertainty for people who were interested in transforming the surrounding, aging neighborhoods, say business and civic leaders.

Now property owners along the strip are reevaluating prices at which they think they may be able to sell, as they now predict less demand from developers who were once interested in the prospect of creating a trendy streetcar line. Some, however, are relieved that the plans have been scraped as they feared that streetcars would subsequently bring gentrification that could force them out.

Advocates of the revitalization say county leaders must quickly commit to investing in other transportation improvement projects if they wish to maintain the potential of the area-a commitment which Jay Fisette (D), the Arlington County Board Chairman promised to make.

“The risks have risen significantly for those who want to invest,” said executive director of the Colombia Pike Revitalization Organization Takis Karantonis. “There is no credible transportation proposal in the works. So we find ourselves in limbo.”

McAuliffe Announces Nutritional Panel

On Thursday, Governor McAuliffe announced his plan to create the Commonwealth Council on Bridging the Nutritional Divide to tackle hunger in the state, reports The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

McAuliffe called hunger in a state where agriculture is a big business “totally unacceptable”. He signed Executive Order No. 34 at a ceremony held at Richmond’s Little House Green Grocery. His wife, Dorothy McAuliffe will head the new council.

“Virginia has a $52 billion agricultural industry, and we have 300,000 children a day go to school hungry,” said Mrs. McAuliffe. “We need to do a better job of connecting the dots.”

The governor also highlighted the the disparity calling it an embarrassment that the state had so many hungry children.

“We should not tolerate one child going to school hungry,” he stated.

The first lady has worked on a variety of food initiatives since her husband took office in January, which include a federally funded program that offers students in participating school districts free breakfast and lunch.

“Hunger is real, and hunger is here,” she commented, continuing “Too many hard-working Virginia families are choosing between paying their bills and buying groceries.”

Access to”proper nutrition” she said, “isn’t a privilege, it’s a basic human right.”


New Plan from U.S. Forest Service Will Allow Fracking in Virginia

According to The Washington Post, the U.S. Forest Service has backed away from a proposal that would ban fracking in the George Washington National Forest, a decision which undoubtedly  likely to upset conservationists opposed to the controversial practice.

The new plan will allow drilling on certain areas of land. The original plan proposed three years ago would have prohibited fracking for oil and gas inside of the national forest which encompassed 1.1 million acres in Virginia and West Virginia.

Tom Tidwell, chief of the Forest Service said, “The initial draft was one way to go at it, but our policy is we deal with surface issues and we do not get involved in how and what methodology is used to extract oil and gas.”

While the Forest service has not taken a position on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, they have decided to stop leasing additional land for energy extration. About 10,000 acres within the forest are already leaded to oil and gas companies who own underground mineral rights for an additional 167,000 acres according to the Forest Service.

Arlington Officials Pull the Plug on Streetcar Project

The Washington Post is reporting that on Tuesday Arlington County officials voted to shelve plans for the Colombia Pike and Crystal City streetcar projects after vocal opposition from county residents.

The $333 million Colombia Pike and $217 million Crystal City projects had been celebrated by advocates as the hinge of redevelopment efforts alongside the busy pike and Bailey’s Crossroads in Fairfax county.

State funding to cover up to half of the cost had been secured by Northern Virginia officials and Arlington and Fairfax counties had spent years preparing ways to attract housing, retail, and businesses along the served areas. Both the Arlington Board and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors had approved the project multiple times.

However, when residents became increasingly skeptical of the county spending on what they viewed as exorbitant municipal projects, it created a political firestorm. Ultimately county official stated that the disagreement over the proposed plans became an obstacle to getting anything else accomplished.