Virginia Republican House caucus names leadership team

Kirk Cox

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – The Virginia GOP House caucus has named its leadership team in an important election year.The Republicans officially named House Majority Leader Kirk Cox as speaker designee, the de facto replacement for retiring Speaker William J. Howell. Cox would be named speaker in January if Republicans hold on to a majority.Del. Todd Gilbert was named as the majority leader in waiting. Republicans will be looking to maintain or even grow their 66 to 34 majority in the lower chamber. The GOP will be defending several districts where Hillary Clinton won in last year’s presidential contest.Howell announced his retirement Monday. Cox said the caucus wanted to announce its leadership team early so it could show a unified front heading into the election dance.

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Virginia Senate passes anti-sanctuary cities bill

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly have approved legislation banning localities from restricting the enforcement of federal immigration laws.The Senate voted along party lines Wednesday to approve the measure after a contentious debate about what kind of message it would send.Republicans said the bill is needed to show that Virginia respects the rule of law and undocumented immigrants are not entitled to special privileges in sanctuary cities. Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has promised to veto the bill, saying it stokes fear among the state’s immigrant communities.Since President Donald Trump signed an executive order last month to strip funding from sanctuary cities, states across the country have taken action, with some moving to limit such communities and others adding protections for immigrants.

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Appeals court upholds law barring party ID for local races

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – A federal appeals court has upheld a Virginia law allowing only federal, statewide and General Assembly candidates to be identified by party affiliation on the ballot.The Powhatan County Republican Committee sued the Virginia State board of Elections over the law in 2015, arguing that it was unfair that candidates for local offices can’t be identified on the ballot as Republicans, Democrats or other parties.But a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on yesterday  unanimously upheld a decision from a lower court, which found the state’s law to be constitutional.The appeals court said Virginia officials have important reasons for keeping  political affiliation off local ballots, including “minimizing partisanship at the local government level.”

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Regulators seek citizen input on Atlantic Coast Pipeline

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) – Federal regulators are seeking input from people in central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley about the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.A Charlottesville TV  station reports the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has the final say on interstate pipelines, is holding a public hearing tonight in Nelson County and tomorrow night in Staunton.The proposed 600-mile pipeline would carry natural gas and serve public utilities in Virginia and North Carolina, including Dominion and Duke Energy.Proponents say the pipeline will generate thousands of jobs, enrich local tax collections and attract businesses seeking relatively cheap natural gas. Opponents worry it will harm the environment and say the companies behind it haven’t done enough to show the project is necessary.

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Supreme Court rejects William Morva appeal for murders in Montgomery Co. hospital escape

William Morva

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a Virginia death row inmate who killed two people during an escape in 2006. William Morva argued that he should have been allowed to present evidence that he wouldn’t pose a risk of future violence if he was spared the death penalty. But the justices on Tuesday left in place an appeals court ruling that rejected those claims. Morva was in jail awaiting trial on attempted robbery charges in 2006 when he overpowered a deputy sheriff during a trip to the hospital. He used the deputy’s pistol to fatally shoot security guard Derrick McFarland and Deputy Eric Sutphin during a manhunt the next day.

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McAuliffe vetoes weapons legislation, ‘Tebow bill’

Governor Terry McAuliffe

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vetoed legislation that would allow people to carry concealed switchblades and a bill that would allow home-schooled students to participate in public-school sports.The governor announced the vetoes Monday. He also vetoed a bill that would lower the allowable age of conceal handgun permit holders from 21 to 18 for active duty military members and veterans.McAuliffe vetoed a similar school sports bill last year, saying it would create an uneven playing field. The so-called “Tebow bill” is named for Tim Tebow, the former NFL quarterback who was home-schooled and allowed to play football for his local high school.Though Republicans control both chambers of the General Assembly, they do not have enough votes to overturn McAuliffe’s vetoes.

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Virginia GOP House Speaker announces retirement

William Howell

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – One of Virginia’s most powerful politicians is stepping down.Republican House Speaker William J. Howell said yesterday he is retiring and will not seek re-election when his term ends in January.House Majority Leader Kirk Cox is expected to be Howell’s successor, though other Republicans may try to challenge him.Elected as speaker in 2003, Howell helped grow a near GOP supermajority in the House thanks in part to the favorable legislative boundaries drawn during the last redistricting.The 73-year-old has promoted conservative, business-friendly policies while helping thwart parts of three Democratic governors’ agendas, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s push to expand Medicaid.The quick-witted speaker has not been ideologically inflexible. He helped former GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell pass tax increases to pay for a transportation-funding overhaul.

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Former WDBJ7 news anchor raises $30,000 early in campaign

Chris Hurst

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) – A former Virginia news anchor whose girlfriend was fatally shot during a live broadcast in 2015 says he’s raised more than $30,000 during the first week of his campaign for the House of Delegates.The Roanoke Times reports that Chris Hurst announced the fundraising total during a campaign kickoff event on Saturday. He has yet to file a campaign finance report.Hurst quit his job as an anchor at WDBJ-TV to run as a Democrat in Virginia’s 12th District, which is currently represented by Republican Del. Joseph Yost.Hurst’s girlfriend and colleague, Allison Parker, was fatally shot while reporting for the station. Hurst said he considered running for office as he struggled emotionally to report on gun violence.Republicans have criticized him for his pro-gun control stance.

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GOP gubernatorial hopefuls play nice at first debate

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) – Virginia Republican hopefuls for governor have played nice during their first debate.The candidates avoided attacking each other Saturday at an event in Charlottesville and instead stuck largely to GOP talking points.Corey Stewart, a one-time chairman of President Donald Trump’s campaign in Virginia, has blasted former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie several times in interviews and social media accounts.But Stewart ignored Gillespie during the debate, which only featured a handful of questions and speaking opportunities.State Sen. Frank Wagner and distillery owner Denver Riggleman are also running.Virginia’s widely watched contest for governor is seen by many as a potential referendum on Trump’s first year in office and an early test of opposition groups aligned against him.

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4th Circuit ruling affirms Virginia uranium mining ban

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A federal appeals court has rejected a Virginia company’s bid to end the state’s decades-long ban on uranium mining. A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond on Friday upheld the ruling of a district judge who threw out a lawsuit from Virginia Uranium Inc. challenging the ban. The Pittsylvania County company wants to mine a 119-million-pound deposit of the radioactive ore beneath the rolling hills of Southside Virginia. It argued that a federal law should pre-empt state regulations, but the courts disagreed. Attorney General Mark Herring hailed the ruling. Neither an attorney nor a representative for the company immediately responded to requests for comment. Virginia Uranium has also filed a separate lawsuit in a state court. A trial date in that case hasn’t been set.

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