2015 Virginia legislative session wraps up with ethics rules

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s 2015 legislative session is in the books.

Lawmakers adjourned Friday after passing legislation at the last minute aimed at tightening the state’s ethics rules for public officials and curbing sexual assaults on Virginia’s college campuses.

The ethics-reform proposal puts a $100 cap on gifts lawmakers can accept — including meals, entertainment and travel — from lobbyists and their clients, or others seeking to do business with the state. Lawmakers were spurred to reform the state’s ethics rules following the conviction last year of former Gov. Bob McDonnell on corruption charges.

Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah County, said the legislation struck the right balance between restoring the public trust and not deterring honest people from seeking elected office. Gilbert said lawmakers must come to terms with the fact that public office now comes with more scrutiny.

“We are living in a brave new world,” Gilbert said.

Lawmakers spent much of Friday finalizing the ethics bill, with negotiations lasting into the evening.

The ethics overhaul would take effect on Jan. 1, 2016 — six months later than the standard July 1 date for new legislation and after the November election in which all 140 seats in the Assembly will be on the ballot.

“We wanted to be certain that all legislators and, frankly, candidates that may be running in the elections this fall have an opportunity to familiarize themselves with this,” said Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, a Republican from James City County and the Senate patron of the legislation.

Lawmakers also passed legislation Friday aimed at making sure allegations of sexual assault on university campuses are reported to local police and prosecutors. It requires that the information be reported to a campus review committee and, if it is found necessary to protect the health or safety of the victim or the public, passed on to the police immediately.

Some lawmakers wanted to go further and mandate that all assault allegations be reported directly to the police. But they stopped short of that because of constraints in federal law and concerns that a blanket mandate might discourage victims from coming forward.

“As we worked on this legislation, our two goals were to ensure that Virginia colleges protect victims of assault and that we prevent future victims. This bill does both,” said Del. Rob Bell, an Albemarle County Republican and the chief House patron of the measure.

The General Assembly also passed a related measure requiring that a notation be placed on the transcript of any student who is suspended, dismissed or withdraws from school because of violating the school’s code of conduct.

The measures came partly in response to the abduction and murder of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham last year.

This year’s two-month legislative session was probably most notable for what it lacked: a single high-profile, hot-button issue such as Medicaid expansion, transportation funding or any of the other contentious topics that have dominated lawmakers’ debates in past years.

Instead, Republican leaders in the GOP-Controlled General Assembly tried to focus on what they called “kitchen table” issues, such as trying to reduce fees for college students or increasing pay for state workers and teachers.

Second-year Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he was pleased that many of his top priorities on education and economic development were approved this session.

“We put Virginia in a great place to move forward,” McAuliffe said.

But the governor’s attempt to put new gun-control laws into place, including a one-handgun-a-month purchase limit, failed.

With support from lawmakers across the political spectrum, the General Assembly passed several measures aimed at reining in the power of police to carry out surveillance on citizens. The bills would prohibit police from keeping data collected by automatic license plate readers for more than seven days and require a warrant for the use of drones and devices called stingrays, which are used to track cellphone data.

And to replace “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,” which was retired in 1997 because of its nostalgic references to slavery, the Assembly adopted two new official state songs: “Our Great Virginia,” a version of the folk song “Oh Shenandoah” updated with new lyrics, as the traditional state song, and “Sweet Virginia Breeze” as the popular state song.

Key legislation passed in 2015 session

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Virginia General Assembly finished the 2015 legislative session Friday. Here are some highlights of what lawmakers approved:

ETHICS REFORM

— $100 gift cap on gifts they can receive that includes entertainment, meals and travel.

CAMPUS SEX ASSAULT

— Legislation aimed at making sure allegations of sexual assault on university campuses are reported to authorities.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

— Allows possession of two oils derived from the marijuana plant for treatment of intractable epilepsy.

TEBOW BILL

— Gives local school boards authority to let home-schooled students participate in public-school sports.

ELECTRIC REGULATION

— Freezes regular rate reviews for the state’s two largest electric utilities, locking base rates in place for several years.

BREASTFEEDING

— Breastfeeding: assures that a mother can breastfeed her baby in public.

POLICE POWERS

— Requires a warrant for the use of drones and devices to track cellphone data.

STATE SONGS

— Two new official state songs.

(webb) Deanie (afford leather after all) copy

Leonard Nimoy, famous as Mr. Spock on ‘Star Trek,’ dies

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Leonard Nimoy, the actor known and loved by generations of “Star Trek” fans as the pointy-eared, purely logical science officer Mr. Spock, has died.

Nimoy died Friday of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at his Los Angeles home, said his son, Adam Nimoy. He was 83.

Although Nimoy followed his 1966-69 “Star Trek” run with a notable career as both an actor and director, in the public’s mind he would always be Spock. His half-human, half-Vulcan character was the calm counterpoint to William Shatner’s often-emotional Captain Kirk on one of TV and film’s most revered cult series.

“He affected the lives of many,” Adam Nimoy said. “He was also a great guy and my best friend.”

Asked if his father chafed at his fans’ close identification of him with his character, Adam Nimoy said, “Not in the least. He loved Spock.”

However, Leonard Nimoy displayed ambivalence to the role in the titles of his two autobiographies, “I Am Not Spock” (1975) and “I Am Spock” (1995).

After “Star Trek” ended, the actor immediately joined the hit adventure series “Mission Impossible” as Paris, the mission team’s master of disguises.

From 1976 to 1982, he hosted the syndicated TV series “In Search of … ,” which attempted to probe such mysteries as the legend of the Loch Ness Monster and the disappearance of aviator Amelia Earhart.

He played Israeli leader Golda Meir’s husband opposite Ingrid Bergman in the TV drama “A Woman Called Golda” and Vincent van Gogh in “Vincent,” a one-man stage show on the life of the troubled painter. He continued to work well into his 70s, playing gazillionaire genius William Bell in the Fox series “Fringe.”

He also directed several films, including the hit comedy “Three Men and a Baby” and appeared in such plays as “A Streetcar Named Desire,” ”Cat on a Hot Tim Roof,” ”Fiddler on the Roof,” ”The King and I,” ”My Fair Lady” and “Equus.” He also published books of poems, children’s stories and his own photographs.

But he could never really escape the role that took him overnight from bit-part actor status to TV star, and in a 1995 interview he sought to analyze the popularity of Spock, the green-blooded space traveler who aspired to live a life based on pure logic.

People identified with Spock because they “recognize in themselves this wish that they could be logical and avoid the pain of anger and confrontation,” Nimoy concluded.

“How many times have we come away from an argument wishing we had said and done something different?” he asked.

In the years immediately after “Star Trek” left television, Nimoy tried to shun the role, but he eventually came to embrace it, lampooning himself on such TV shows as “Futurama,” ”Duckman” and “The Simpsons” and in commercials.

He became Spock after “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry was impressed by his work in guest appearances on the TV shows “The Lieutenant” and “Dr. Kildare.”

The space adventure set in the 23rd century had an unimpressive debut on NBC on Sept. 8, 1966, and it struggled during its three seasons to find an audience other than teenage boys. It seemed headed for oblivion after it was canceled in 1969, but its dedicated legion of fans, who called themselves Trekkies, kept its memory alive with conventions and fan clubs and constant demands that the cast be reassembled for a movie or another TV show.

Trekkies were particularly fond of Spock, often greeting one another with the Vulcan salute and the Vulcan motto, “Live Long and Prosper,” both of which Nimoy was credited with bringing to the character. He pointed out, however, that the hand gesture was actually derived from one used by rabbis during Hebraic benedictions.

When the cast finally was reassembled for “Star Trek — The Motion Picture,” in 1979, the film was a huge hit and five sequels followed. Nimoy appeared in all of them and directed two. He also guest starred as an older version of himself in some of the episodes of the show’s spinoff TV series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

“Of course the role changed my career— or rather, gave me one,” he once said. “It made me wealthy by most standards and opened up vast opportunities. It also affected me personally, socially, psychologically, emotionally. … What started out as a welcome job to a hungry actor has become a constant and ongoing influence in my thinking and lifestyle.”

In 2009, he was back in a new big-screen version of “Star Trek,” this time playing an older Spock who meets his younger self, played by Zachary Quinto. Critic Roger Ebert called the older Spock “the most human character in the film.”

Among those seeing the film was President Barack Obama, whose even manner was often likened to Spock’s.

“Everybody was saying I was Spock, so I figured I should check it out,” Obama said at the time.

Upon the movie’s debut, Nimoy told The Associated Press that in his late 70s he was probably closer than ever to being as comfortable with himself as the logical Spock always appeared to be.

“I know where I’m going, and I know where I’ve been,” he said. He reprised the role in the 2013 sequel “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

Born in Boston to Jewish immigrants from Russia, Nimoy was raised in an Italian section of the city where, although he counted many Italian-Americans as his friends, he said he also felt the sting of anti-Semitism growing up.

At age 17 he was cast in a local production of Clifford Odets’ “Awake and Sing” as the son in a Jewish family.

“This role, the young man surrounded by a hostile and repressive environment, so touched a responsive chord that I decided to make a career of acting,” he said later.

He won a drama scholarship to Boston College but eventually dropped out, moved to California and took acting lessons at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Soon he had lost his “Boston dead-end” accent, hired an agent and began getting small roles in TV series and movies. He played a baseball player in “Rhubarb” and an Indian in “Old Overland Trail.”

After service in the Army, he returned to Hollywood, working as taxi driver, vacuum cleaner salesman, movie theater usher and other jobs while looking for acting roles.

In 1954 he married Sandra Zober, a fellow student at the Pasadena Playhouse, and they had two children, Julie and Adam. The couple divorced, and in 1988 he married Susan Bay, a film production executive.

USGS confirms small earthquake overnight near Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The U.S. Geological Survey has confirmed a small earthquake overnight about 24 miles west of the capital of Virginia.

The USGS reported on its website that the quake happened around 3:50 a.m. Thursday and had a magnitude of 2.5. It was centered near Goochland, outside of Richmond.

Goochland County Sheriff James Agnew says there were no reports of damage or injuries in the county.

 

Road conditions improved today as VDOT crews prepare for re-freezing overnight

SALEM – Equipment operators and contractors with the Virginia Department of Transportation have been plowing roads throughout the day and with warmer temperatures, conditions have improved.

Interstates (I-77, I-81 and I-581) and most primary roads (those numbered 1-599) are in clear to minor condition. Drivers should watch for isolated slick spots on bridges and ramps.

Most secondary roads (those numbered 600 and above) are in clear to minor condition and crews are continuing to work on clearing secondary roads, neighborhood streets and subdivisions. Drivers should watch for slick spots, especially in shaded areas.

As temperatures drop this evening, drivers should expect refreezing on wet roadways from melting snow. Crews will continue to monitor and address road conditions overnight.

Travelers are reminded that they can get real-time information on road conditions and traffic incidents on Virginia roads by using VDOT’s 511 free mobile app or the www.511Virginia.org website and phone system.

The Salem District includes the counties of Bedford, Botetourt, Carroll, Craig, Floyd, Franklin, Giles, Henry, Montgomery, Patrick, Pulaski, and Roanoke.

Va. lawmakers approve budget with state pay raises

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia lawmakers approved a budget Thursday that includes pay increases for state employees, boosts benefits for welfare recipients and includes $1.5 million to buy new yurts for state parks.

The approved spending plan also doesn’t raise taxes, restores $30 million for local governments that had previously been cut and gives Gov. Terry McAuliffe new money to spend trying to lure companies to Virginia.

The budget now heads to McAuliffe’s desk, who said he was pleased that the budget includes his priorities of economic development, health care, and education. The Democratic governor did not say whether he’ll sign the budget or try to change it in some way.

Virginia’s budget situation has brightened in recent months due to higher-than-projected revenues and other factors, giving lawmakers more money to spend and creating largely drama-free negotiations between various stakeholders.

Republican House Appropriations Committee Chairman Del. S. Chris Jones called the spending plan a “conservative budget that invests in our future.”

The budget calls for a 1.5 percent pay increase in the state’s share of teacher pay, and a 2 percent increase in the salaries of state police, state employees and college faculty. There also funding for a number of construction projects at the state’s public universities, including nearly $11 million in new money to help renovate the University of Virginia’s Rotunda.

Low-income recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program will get a 2.5 percent boost in their cash benefits starting in 2016. There are currently 54,000 Virginians on TANF, according to the McAuliffe administration.

The budget also includes about $1.5 million to support the purchase and installation of yurts at multiple state parks. Yurts are tent-like structures traditionally used for shelter in places like Mongolia.

The GOP-controlled General Assembly did not include expanding Medicaid eligibility in the budget — a top priority for state Democrats — but does include new money for free health clinics and for programs aimed at helping those with severe mental illnesses.

The budget enjoyed broad bipartisan support, and several House delegates spoke glowingly of their ability to craft a balanced budget without partisan gridlock.

Fairfax County Republican Del. David Albo called the budget process a “great showing for Virginia.”

Last year’s budget was delayed for several months because of a deadlock over Medicaid expansion, with Republicans who oppose expansion eventually winning.

Fairfax County Democrat Del. Scott Surovell was one of a handful of lawmakers to vote against this year’s budget, saying that without including the largely federally funded Medicaid expansion the state’s spending plan was incomplete.

“We are not being responsible to our constituents, we are not being responsible to the state,” Surovell said. “We are leaving money on the table.”

Virginia state budget at a glance

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Virginia General Assembly approved a state budget Thursday. Here are some key elements:

— 2 percent pay increase for state employees.

— 2.5 percent increase in cash benefits for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families starting in 2016.

— $132 million for capital construction projects at various public universities.

— $27 million in funding for the Governor’s Opportunity Fund for economic development.

— No new taxes.

Obituary for Rev. Leslie E. Shelton

Reverend Leslie E. Shelton, age 67 of Pulaski passed away on Tuesday, February 24, 2015.

Born November 20, 1947 in Hiwassee he was the son of the late Rev. John Elmer Shelton & Lummie Largen Shelton. His sisters; Imogene Mabe, Pauline Landreth, Dorothy Louise Shelton, Jeannette  Geraldine Russell and brothers; Dwight L. “Moody” Shelton, Clyde Clifton Shelton and Hoover Shelton preceded him in death.

He is survived by his

Wife

Jeanie Denny Shelton-Pulaski

Children

Patrick N. Shelton – Hiwassee

Penny Shelton Taylor & Jimmy Taylor, Jr. – Mechanicsville

Pamela Shelton Lucas & Brian – Dublin

Grandchildren

Matthew Lucas

Kyla, James, Kalei and Kensi Taylor

Sister

Daphine & Mike McPeak – Hiwassee

Brother

Johnny Shelton, Jr. and Brenda-Pulaski

Rev. J.B. Shelton & Shirley – Christiansburg

Sister-in-law

Betty Shelton – Richmond

Funeral services will be held 11:00 AM – Friday, February 27, 2015 at the Draper Valley Pentecostal Holiness Church, Draper with Rev. Billy Akers, Bishop Preston Mathena &  Rev. J.B. Shelton officiating. Interment will follow in the Church Cemetery.

The family will receive friends Thursday from 5:00-7:00 PM – Thursday at The Draper Valley Pentecostal Holiness Church, Wythe County.

To send the family your online condolences, visit www.bowerfuneralhome.com

Bower Funeral Chapels, Pulaski is handling the arrangements for the Shelton family.

 

Pulaski County names two assistant county administrators

Pulaski County announces the appointment of two assistant county administrators effective Monday, March 2, 2015 through the hiring of Ms. Karen Thompson and the promotion of Mr. Anthony Akers.

Mr. Anthony Akers will be promoted from Community Activities Director to Assistant County Administrator for Human Services. Mr. Akers grew up in Pulaski County, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Elon College, North Carolina, in Sports Management, with a minor in business, and a Master’s certificate in local government administration from Virginia Tech.

He has faithfully served his home community of Pulaski County for the past 20 years, starting with the conversion of Central Gym from a warehouse for burned artifacts from the Courthouse fire into an active youth center. He organized after school programs in each of the County’s elementary schools, established a popular summer camp program and managed the development and growth of Randolph Park as one of the County’s most popular attractions.

This promotion will allow him to focus on addressing human service issues of growing concern to the community. In the 2001-02 fiscal year, Pulaski County spent approximately $2.5 million on four key human services: social services, regional jail, juvenile detention, and Comprehensive Services Act (a forced sharing of special treatment, foster care and other services to the youth of our community). Eight years later in 2009-10, these expenses had doubled to $4.5 million.

Ms. Karen Thompson, will be responsible for management services to include finance, insurance, personnel and other administrative matters. Ms. Thompson is a graduate of Shawsville High School and holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Radford University. She comes to Pulaski County with ten years of local government experience, eight years as Assistant County Administrator in Floyd County and two years as Floyd Town Manager. In addition, Ms. Thompson has 25 years of experience in managing nursing homes, the most recent of which, Blue Ridge Nursing home, is the second largest employer in Patrick County. Her experience in leading the resurgence of the Town of Floyd into the cultural center it is today will be well matched in assisting with similar changes in Pulaski County and the Town of Pulaski. Her background will allow her to focus on the growing administrative duties that Pulaski County and other local governments face under the Affordable Care Act, recent changes to the Virginia Retirement System and other management functions.

The hiring of two assistant administrators is an opportunity for the County to move forward by addressing longstanding problems of drug and alcohol abuse issues in Pulaski County. New and expanding employers are providing a variety of viable employment options for previously unemployed individuals; the recently established drug court provides affected citizens with a new hope; and leadership changes in Social Services and Community Corrections provide new alternatives in helping residents.

The Pulaski County Board of Supervisor and County look to new ways to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Pulaski County and welcome Ms. Thompson and Mr. Akers in their new roles in leading Pulaski County into a new era of economic growth and special care for employees and citizens.

VDOT prepares for another round of snow

SALEM – With snow forecasted tonight and throughout the day tomorrow in western Virginia, crews and contractors with the Virginia Department of Transportation are pre-treating roads and preparing equipment and chemicals needed to respond to the storm.

Salem District crews will be pre-treating interstate and primary roads (those numbered 1-599) with brine this afternoon ahead of the storm and will begin to mobilize this evening.

VDOT encourages drivers to monitor weather forecasts and plan travel around the upcoming event and avoid unnecessary travel until the storm passes. The expected winter storm has the potential to impact the morning and evening commutes on Thursday and affect travel throughout the day.

During a winter weather event, crews will work on the interstates and primary roads first (those numbered 1-599). When snow is falling, crews will make repeated passes on the interstate and primary roads.

Operators focus on the secondary roads (those numbered 600 and above) with the highest traffic volumes first before proceeding to routes with lower traffic volumes such as subdivision roads and neighborhood streets.

Travelers are reminded that they can get real-time information on road conditions, traffic incidents and congestion on Virginia roads by using VDOT’s 511 free mobile app or the www.511Virginia.org website and phone system, which can help motorists plan their routes accordingly.

The Salem District includes the counties of Bedford, Botetourt, Carroll, Craig, Floyd, Franklin, Giles, Henry, Montgomery, Patrick, Pulaski, and Roanoke.

Obituary for Taunya Marie Jones Martin

Taunya Marie Jones Martin, age 46 of Newport, died Monday, February 23, 2015 at her residence.  She was born on April 1, 1968 in Radford, and was the daughter of Mary Faye Ogle Jones and the late Orville Rudell Jones.  In addition to her father, she was preceded in death by a sister, Alice F. Whitaker.  She is survived by her husband, Todd Martin of Newport;  her mother, Mary Faye Ogle Jones of Dublin;  two daughters;  Jessica Steele of Dublin, and Shae Martin of Roanoke;  a son;  J.R. Steele and his wife Jessica of Radford;  a brother, Mike Jones and his wife Angel of Pulaski;  a sister, Cindy Baker of Pulaski;  four grandchildren, Justice Steele, Zaykie Wade, Manman Wade, and Carli Love, along with several nieces and nephews and a special nephew Jesse Jones.  A memorial service will be held Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. at the Peak Creek Mission of Prayer with the Rev. Dale Akers and the Rev. Randal Jones officiating.  Burial will follow in the church cemetery.  The family will receive friends Saturday at the church from 2:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m.    Online condolences may be sent to the family by visiting www.seaglefuneralhome.com  Arrangements by Seagle Funeral Home, Pulaski.  540-980-1700