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State and National Government

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Governor Northam is proposing about $22 million in new state spending for efforts to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies — and reduce the racial disparity in the state’s maternal mortality rate. He unveiled his proposal yesterday, one that includes funding to expand Medicaid coverage for new moms and increase home visits from care providers. More from WLNI’s Evan Jones:

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is proposing about $22 million for efforts to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies and reduce the racial disparity in the state’s maternal mortality rate.

Northam announced Monday that his budget proposal for the upcoming legislative session includes funding to expand Medicaid coverage for new moms and increase home visits from care providers. Funding is also included to study the possibility of Medicaid reimbursement for doula services and to increase access to long-acting contraception.

Northam, a Democrat, established a new initiative in June intended to reduce the maternal mortality rate for black women, which his administration says is more than twice as high as it is for black women.

Passing a two-year state spending plan will be a top priority for the General Assembly during the 2020 session. During last month’s legislative elections, voters gave Democrats full control of the General Assembly for the first time in a generation.

The governor is expected to share full details of his budget plan next week.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — More than 200 gun rights activists wearing “Guns SAVE Lives” stickers rallied Monday in Virginia, vowing to fight any attempt by the new Democratic majority in the state legislature to pass new restrictions on gun ownership.

The “God. Family. Guns” rally was held just a month before the General Assembly is set to begin a session that is almost certain to include a variety of gun control proposals, including requiring universal background checks for gun buyers, prohibiting the sale of assault weapons and a ’“red flag” law allowing police or family members to petition a court to temporarily take away guns from people who may present a danger to themselves or others.

Those who attended the rally said such gun-control measures would do little to reduce mass shootings and other crimes, but instead would punish responsible gun owners.

“Hands off our guns, hands off our rights, and hands off our guns,” said Bob Good, a member of the Campbell County Board of Supervisors.

Good said he hoped the rally would send a message to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and state lawmakers to stop them from passing laws with “unconstitutional gun restrictions.”

The rally was held at the State Capitol as officials in dozens of Virginia counties pass resolutions declaring themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries.” Good said Campbell County was the second county in the state to pass such a resolution. Since Democrats won majorities in the state Senate and House of Delegates in November, more than 40 localities have voted for sanctuary status, which they say amounts to a pledge to refuse to enforce any unconstitutional gun laws.

Bob Sadtler, 51, of Richmond, said he attended the rally because he treasures the Second Amendment and is concerned that the laws proposed by Democratic lawmakers will hurt legitimate gun owners but do nothing to stop violent crime.

“In America, you do not punish everyone for the acts of the individual,” he said. “These bills don’t affect criminals. Criminals ignore the law.”

Gun-control proposals in Virginia have failed in the past under the Republican-controlled legislature.

Democrats revived their call for gun restrictions in May, after a city employee shot and killed 12 of his co-workers at a municipal building in Virginia Beach. After the shooting, Northam scheduled a special legislative session on gun control measures. Republicans quickly ended the session and accused the governor of trying to use the tragedy for political gain.

MGN

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is proposing about $22 million for efforts to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies and reduce the racial disparity in the state’s maternal mortality rate.

Northam announced Monday that his budget proposal for the upcoming legislative session includes funding to expand Medicaid coverage for new moms and increase home visits from care providers. Funding is also included to study the possibility of Medicaid reimbursement for doula services and to increase access to long-acting contraception.

Northam, a Democrat, established a new initiative in June intended to reduce the maternal mortality rate for black women, which his administration says is more than twice as high as it is for black women.

Passing a two-year state spending plan will be a top priority for the General Assembly during the 2020 session. During last month’s legislative elections, voters gave Democrats full control of the General Assembly for the first time in a generation.

The governor is expected to share full details of his budget plan next week.

Photo: Justin Fairfax Facebook

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax says he’s done everything he can to clear his name after two women accused him of sexual assault: he’s requested police investigations, taken a lie-detector test and begged the media to report on evidence he says exonerates him.

On Friday, he tried another approach as he went to federal court in Alexandria to pursue a libel lawsuit against CBS Corp. for airing interviews of the two women who accused him in a way that he says insinuated his guilt.

CBS’ lawyers on Friday asked the judge to toss out the lawsuit — they say they reported the accusations fairly and allowed Fairfax to respond with written statements after he declined a live interview. They also argue that Fairfax can’t meet the high legal standard for proving libel against a public figure, and that his real goal in filing the lawsuit is to give him a forum to attack his accusers.

U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga heard arguments but made no ruling, promising to issue a decision on the motion to dismiss “shortly.” If he allows the suit to go forward, Fairfax’s lawyers can begin taking depositions of people connected to the case who they say will further prove his innocence.

After Friday’s hearing, Fairfax said in a lengthy interview that the evidence already exists to prove he was wrongfully accused. While he’s particularly angered by CBS News’ reporting, he said media outlets across the board have been afraid to acknowledge they engaged in a rush to judgment when two women came forward with accusations earlier this year at a time when Fairfax was poised to rise to the governor’s post as Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam faced intense calls to resign over a blackface photo that appeared in Northam’s medical school yearbook.

In particular, he says he has offered compelling evidence to prove that his second accuser, Meredith Watson, lied when she claimed Fairfax raped her in 2001 when both attended Duke University.

“It’s so obvious to people who are paying attention. … The inconvenient truth is Meredith Watson fabricated her story,” said Fairfax, who was not required to attend Friday’s hearing but did so voluntarily.

He points to a variety of evidence, but the most compelling piece, he says, came in July when he told law enforcement that there was an eyewitness to the sexual encounter he had with Watson who can verify it was consensual. Fairfax has declined to say publicly who that individual is, and he did not disclose the existence of an eyewitness until several months after CBS aired its interviews with Watson and the other accuser, Vanessa Tyson.

But Fairfax says CBS has known about the eyewitness since at least July and refused to update its reporting. Moreover, he says Watson and her attorney have refused to comment on whose dorm room the alleged assault occurred in and whether there was indeed an eyewitness.

“Because the media won’t ask these questions, we have to file this federal civil lawsuit” to get to the truth, Fairfax said.

A spokesman for Watson and her attorney, Nancy E. Smith, declined to comment on whether Watson can confirm the existence of an eyewitness, referring instead to an earlier statement from Smith in which she said, “We look forward to everyone testifying under oath, now that this matter is in court.”

Fairfax said there is also evidence that Tyson lied about her accusation that Fairfax assaulted her during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Fairfax says Tyson claims to have first met him on a day when Fairfax wasn’t even in Boston. He also questioned why Tyson didn’t feel empowered to tell people she was assaulted at the time, given that she volunteered for a rape crisis center.

Lee Levine, the lawyer for CBS, defended the network’s reporting.

“All CBS was doing was providing both sides of the story, and letting viewers make their own decision,” he said.

Fairfax’s lawyer, Sara Kropf, said the broadcasts went beyond neutral reporting, and included sympathetic comments from newscasters after the interviews aired, including one who commented, “It feels like she was forced.”

The allegations against Fairfax, a Democrat, came in February when Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam faced calls to resign after the blackface photo emerged on his yearbook page. But the allegations against Fairfax blunted the momentum for Northam’s resignation. Both Northam and Fairfax have remained in office, as has Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring, who admitted around the same time that he had worn blackface in college.

Rep. Ben Cline

The House Judiciary Committee began its role today in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump, and 6th District Republican Congressman Ben Cline is right in the middle of it as a committee member.  The Judiciary Committee is the second House body to consider Presidential impeachment matters; the Intelligence Committee did so first, and Cline syz that’s not a good way to deal with such an important matter WLNI’s Evan Jones has more:

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia is moving toward dropping work requirements for Medicaid enrollees after Democrats won full control of the state legislature for the first time in a generation.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday that his administration is hitting “pause” on its request for federal approval to requires some Medicaid recipients to have a job or participate in some form of approved community engagement and pay part of the premiums.

The provisions were key parts of a bi-partisan compromise nearly two years ago that saw Virginia expand Medicaid to low-income, able-bodied adults after years of steadfast GOP opposition. But Northam said Democratic victories in last month’s legislative elections, which gave his party total control of the General Assembly for the first time in a generation, made it unlikely that the work-requirements and other provisions would ever be implemented.

“Virginians made it clear they want more access to health care, not less,” Northam said in a statement.

Republicans, who had previously expressed frustration with the lengthy projected timetable for implementation of the work requirements, said Northam was acting in bad faith.

“He gave his personal assurance that the long-term policy of the commonwealth would be Medicaid expansion with a work requirement. Broken promises like this are the reason so many people hate politics,” said Republican Del. Todd Gilbert, the incoming House minority leader.

Medicaid is a publicly funded health care program whose costs are split by the federal and state governments. Expanding Medicaid to low-income, able-bodied adults was a key part of former President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul.

Virginia was one of several states that initially rejected expansion. But after Democrats made huge gains in 2017 after campaigning heavily on the issue, several Republicans agreed to back expansion if it had the work requirement provision.

So far, more than 300,000 Virginians have enrolled in Medicaid after lawmakers approved expansion.

Republicans in other states that have expanded Medicaid followed a similar course in requiring that new enrollees either be employed or actively searching for jobs.

But Northam also cited the numerous legal challenges in those states as reason not to move forward.

Indiana is the only state where Medicaid work requirements are in effect, though officials said recently they would temporarily suspend enforcement until a lawsuit is resolved.

A federal judge has blocked Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas, Kentucky and New Hampshire. And a federal lawsuit challenging Michigan’s plan to implement work requirements was filed last month.

Rep. Ben Cline

NEWS RELEASE: Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) released the following statement regarding the Virginia State Parole Board’s decision to parole Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom. These two individuals were convicted for their roles in the 1985 double murder of Derek and Nancy Haysom in Bedford County.

“I am shocked and appalled by the Virginia State Parole Board’s decision to grant parole to Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom, who are imprisoned for their roles in the gruesome 1985 double murder of Derek and Nancy Haysom in Bedford County,” Cline said.  “The impact of the Haysoms’ murder is still felt by the Bedford community today. This decision, based not on any remorse by the murderers for their crimes, but instead on some supposed cost-benefit to Virginia, is an insult to the families of the victims and to the principles of justice and the rule of law.”

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ The daughter of a Virginia sheriff’s official whose killer was executed appeared before lawmakers urging them to end the state’s death penalty.The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Rachel Sutphin spoke Thursday at an event arranged by Virginians For Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Rachel was 9 in 2006, when her father, Montgomery County Cpl. Eric Sutphin, was shot to death along with a hospital guard by William Morva.Sutphin said Morva’s execution more than a decade later brought her no solace. She called the death penalty ineffective and outdated.The group’s director, Michael Stone, said Sutphin is one of 13 survivors of murder victims endorsing a letter asking lawmakers to end the death penalty. He said there are potential sponsors for an abolition bill in the upcoming General Assembly session.

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