RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The General Assembly is taking no action to expand Virginia’s Medicaid program. Lawmakers reconvened Thursday at the Capitol for a special session to debate expanding Medicaid to about 400,000 low-income adults. The GOP-controlled House voted 64-33 against a modified expansion bill. Several Democrats panned the special session as a waste of time, and mocked Republicans for not having any alternative proposals. Top Republican lawmakers defended the special session, saying they were fulfilling their promise to hold one made earlier in the year. The Senate and the House also voted to approve spending cuts for the state’s two-year budget to help close a $2.4 billion revenue shortfall.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Six museum projects in Virginia are sharing $1 million in grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The funding is intended to support learning experiences, engage the community and make collections more accessible. Another goal is to safeguard the state’s cultural and scientific heritage. The recipients of the grants are Richmond’s Maymont Foundation and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Sweet Briar College art gallery, George Mason University and the association of Children’s Museums, the recipient of two grants.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A Virginia Department of Corrections program is training nonviolent offenders for a career in wastewater treatment. Eleven apprentices have completed the year-long program and 10 have passed the Class 4 wastewater certification and received an operator’s license. At least one former offender now works at a wastewater treatment plant. Only inmates deemed low security risks can apply for the program. Besides violent offenders, inmates with a history of sexual offenses are also ineligible for the program. The apprenticeship program is offered at several prison sites around the state. They include St. Brides, Haynesville, Deerfield, James River, Nottoway, Baskerville, Buckingham, Rustburg and Powhatan. The program is also offered at Virginia Correctional Center for Women.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ More than $850,000 in matching grant money is headed to 46 local tourism initiatives to help regional tourism officials attract more visitors. Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the funding as part of Virginia Tourism Corp.’s marketing leverage program. Under the program, local organizations match the state grant funds by a minimum of a 2-1 ratio. That adds up to more than $3 million in new marketing for Virginia attractions. The recipients of the grants reflect the diverse tourism landscape of Virginia. They include $50,000 grants each for the Shenandoah Valley Kids Trail, historic downtown Wytheville, the Virginia Opera and the Castleton Festival. Smaller grants are also headed to the town of Big Stone Gap, the Science Museum of Western Virginia, Robert E. Lee’s Stafford Hall and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
ALBANY, Ga. (AP) _ Jurors are breaking for the night without a verdict in the trial of a Georgia peanut plant owner charged in a salmonella outbreak that sickened hundreds five years ago. The federal jury in Albany met for about eight hours Thursday before its foreman told the judge members wished to stop for the evening. The jury is scheduled to return Friday morning. Thursday was the first full day of jury deliberations in the trial of former Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell and two others. Parnell ran the company from his home just outside of Lynchburg, Va., in Bedford Co. He and his brother, food broker Michael Parnell, are charged with knowingly shipping tainted peanut butter to customers and faking results of lab tests intended to screen for salmonella. The plant’s former quality control manager, Mary Wilkerson, and Stewart Parnell are charged with obstruction.
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Busch Gardens theme parks removed some props from their Halloween attractions after people in Virginia complained about decapitated heads. This came in the wake of the beheadings of three westerners by Islamic state militants in the Middle East. Spokesmen for both parks said Thursday that in light of recent events, some props would have had the unintended consequence of appearing insensitive and won’t be part of this year’s Howl-O-Scream attraction. They wouldn’t say exactly which props were removed. Complaints cropped up recently in Williamsburg when the Virginia Gazette newspaper ran a photo of five severed head props that were part of the attraction. The spokesmen for the parks said the props for the Howl-O-Scream attractions were designed and bought months ago.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia is the latest state to detect a respiratory illness caused by an uncommon virus similar to the germ that causes the common cold. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that Virginia is among 16 states where the infection enterovirus 68 has been confirmed. State public health officials say seven of 10 children have tested positive for the virus. Dr. Laurie Forlana is the state epidemiologist. She said Wednesday all seven children are within Richmond and the surrounding region. Forlano said the median age of the children is 6. The suspected germ is an uncommon strain of a very common family of viruses that typically hit from summertime through autumn. The virus can cause including runny noses, coughing and wheezing.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The $90 million in cuts the McAuliffe administration is seeking from Virginia’s public colleges and universities this fiscal year and next are likely to spare students. Instead, the savings will be achieved by keeping vacant unfilled positions, through energy conservation, deferred maintenance and other measures. While no layoffs are expected in the first round of cuts, higher education officials say they can’t be ruled out next year when $45 million will be trimmed anew. Cuts in financial aid are off the table, and Gov. Terry McAuliffe is discouraging tuition increases. The cuts are aimed at filling an $882 million budget shortfall. Other measures include dipping into the state’s so-called rainy day fund and making cuts to various agencies and local governments. The higher ed cuts are due in Richmond Friday.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The Virginia attorney general’s office is creating the position of a statewide coordinator to prepare local inmates for their return to society. Attorney General Mark R. Herring also announced Monday the creation of a re-entry portal to assist in that effort. While the state has worked in recent years to assist the re-entry of state prison inmates, local correctional centers have had little guidance or resources to help the men and women held in their lockups. The re-entry coordinator will identify and address service gaps and help coordinate communications between sheriffs’ departments and government agencies. They include workforce development programs and mental health services. Herring said re-entry programs have been proven to reduce recidivism and save taxpayers’ dollars. An estimated 29,000 people are held in jails statewide.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe and state lawmakers are announcing cuts to state agencies, universities, and local governments to help fill a projected budget gap and preserve Virginia’s AAA bond rating. The governor and Republican lawmakers said at a Capitol news conference Monday that they have agreed to cuts of $192 million to state agencies, $90 million for higher education, and $60 million for aide to local governments over the next two years. The budget plan won’t affect K-12 spending and will not include any increase in fees or taxes. McAuliffe praised GOP lawmakers for their willingness to work with him to address a projected $882 million shortfall over the biennium, saying the bipartisan approach was needed “to send a signal to Wall Street” and preserve the state’s sterling bond rating.