Chamber of Commerce Recognizes local students

The Greater Augusta Chamber of Commerce recognized 28 students from Waynesboro, Augusta County and Staunton this month. These 28 students are ranked in the top 5 percent of their respective schools and worked this year in multiple activities like marching band, their respective school’s newspaper, yearbook, governor’s school, the foreign language club, drama club, soccer, work study, student government, volleyball or football.

Schools represented this month include Fort Defiance High, Stuarts Draft High, Riverheads High, Fishburne Military School, Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, Robert E. Lee High, Ridgeview Christian School, Buffalo Gap High, Stuart Hall School, Waynesboro High and Wilson Memorial High.

 

Read More: Chamber of Commerce Recognizes Local Students - The News Virginian

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Local Lawmakers say Virginia faces Ticking Clock

STAUNTON -- Del. Steve Landes made it clear to area business leaders Wednesday that state government will mostly shut down if there is no budget agreement by June 30.

"Only the General Assembly can appropriate funds, the governor has some discretion,'' said Landes. The Augusta County delegate said only top state officeholders such as Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring would continue to be paid if no budget is hammered out by the Virginia Senate and House.

"He can't operate a state government with these limited powers,'' said Landes of McAuliffe. The delegate spoke at the spring legislative breakfast at The Club at Ironwood sponsored by the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Read More: Local Lawmakers Say Virginia Faces Ticking Clock - The News Virginian

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Model General Assembly Helps Students Learn

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Local Lawmakers Urge Movement on Budget Deal

There seems to be consensus among Shenandoah Valley legislators that it’s time for action on the Virginia state budget. While there are no announced developments on the budget impasse and Medicaid expansion, there is a perception that something needs to be done soon. “We’ve consistently said there is an urgency to do it. House members have heard from local governments and folks,’’ said Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave.

Landes said the ball is in the court of the Virginia Senate, which must act on the House budget and return it before a conference committee can be chosen. Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, agrees that it’s a time for leadership. “Those of us in leadership positions must meet in small groups and make concessions,’’ Hanger said. The senator said it would “totally inappropriate” not to have a budget by the start of the next fiscal year on July 1. Landes said local governments in his district are frustrated by the inaction.

 

Read More: Local Lawmakers Urge Movement on Budget Deal - The News Virginian

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Bell Steps into the Lion's Den on Medicaid Expansion

It was billed as a town hall regarding Medicaid expansion, but Del. Dickie Bell found himself squarely in the arena Monday night fending off questions of why Virginia can’t expand the healthcare program.

During a two-hour town hall meeting co-sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, Bell, who represents Staunton and Waynesboro, received skepticism from much of the audience. He especially drew the ire of members of Virginia Organizing, a grassroots group that wants to expand Medicaid.

Read More: Bell Steps into the Lion's Den on Medicaid Expansion - The News Virginian

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Delegates as county, schools for Medicaid resolution

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Bell Critical of Medicaid Expansion

STAUNTON -- Del. Dickie Bell told a lunch meeting of constituents Saturday that he is tired of distorted facts on the expansion of the Medicaid program in Virginia and is uncertain about what the real costs would be if the program was expanded.

"No one really knows how much an expansion costs,'' Bell, R-Staunton, said. "I don't believe it (expanding the program) will save money. Medicaid is the fastest growing entitlement program in the country. It is 22 percent of our (Virginia's) budget."

Read More - Bell Critical of Medicaid Expansion - The News Virginian

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Area Legislators Divided on Special Session Goals

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Locals Voice Opposition to Medicaid Expansion

Opponents to Medicaid expansion just want certainty. That was the message delivered by multiple people Saturday afternoon at a press conference in Fishersville. While Gov. McAuliffe toured the Augusta Free Clinic nearby, delegates Steve Landes, Dickie Bell and Ben Cline, along with several local business owners and members of local Republican committees met at Eavers Tire Pros to explain why they oppose the program.

The government does have a role to play in caring for those who can’t care for themselves,” Del. Bell said. “The problem is we have a system that’s broken. My biggest concern is about the overall healthcare program that we have in this country and the cost of it. The fact [is] we have a promise from the federal government [to cover the expansion cost], from a government that, by all indications is broke, that has $17 trillion in debt.”

Read More: Locals Voice Opposition to Medicaid Expansion - The News Virginian

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2014 Legislative Survey Results

                                   

  

1. From the following list of    issues, which issue do you believe should be the top priority of the    Virginia House of Delegates?
  
  

  
  

 

  
  

Please rank your responses 1 =    Highest priority, 8 = Lowest priority.

  
  

 

  
  

1

  
  

2

  
  

3

  
  

4

  
  

5

  
  

6

  
  

7

  
  

8

  
  

Average Rating

  

Creating jobs and improving the economy.


  23.87%


  19.35%


  10.97%


  21.94%


  10.32%


  6.45%


  3.87%


  3.23%

3.3  

Making higher education more affordable and accessible.


  3.23%


  4.52%


  12.26%


  7.74%


  15.48%


  16.77%


  20.65%


  19.35%

5.6  

Improving transportation.


  1.95%


  7.14%


  3.90%


  11.69%


  16.23%


  22.08%


  12.99%


  24.03%

5.7  

Improving health care.


  8.39%


  8.39%


  8.39%


  9.03%


  21.94%


  16.13%


  14.84%


  12.90%

5  

Improving K-12 education.


  6.58%


  8.55%


  9.21%


  17.11%


  18.42%


  12.50%


  15.13%


  12.50%

4.9  

Cutting wasteful government spending.


  24.03%


  21.43%


  16.88%


  8.44%


  6.49%


  15.58%


  5.84%


  1.30%

3.3  

Holding the line against higher taxes.


  5.84%


  20.13%


  21.43%


  12.99%


  7.79%


  7.14%


  20.78%


  3.90%

4.2  

Fighting against federal mandates like ObamaCare.


  28.21%


  10.90%


  17.31%


  10.26%


  3.21%


  3.21%


  5.77%


  21.15%

3.9  

 

                          


     

 

  

2. Virginia continues to face    budget constraints due to the lingering effects of the nationwide recession.    How do you believe the General Assembly should address such budgetary    constraints?
  
  

  
  

 

  
  

Please rank your responses. 1 =    First course of action, and 4 = Last resort.

  
  

 

  
  

1

  
  

2

  
  

3

  
  

4

  
  

Average Rating

  

Raise general or statewide taxes (sales, income, gas,   and/or personal property).


  8.39%


  5.16%


  9.68%


  76.77%

3.5  

Increase certain fees to cover the actual cost of   providing certain government services.


  11.61%


  16.77%


  58.71%


  12.90%

2.7  

Cut government spending.


  63.29%


  18.99%


  10.13%


  7.59%

1.6  

Streamline government programs and services.


  40.76%


  44.59%


  7.01%


  7.64%

1.8  

 3. Virginia is a “right to work” state which means that no employee can be forced to join a union or pay union dues in order to get or keep a job. Do you support or oppose “right to work” laws in order to keep union bosses in check?

Answer

Percent

Support

91.72%

Oppose

8.28%

 

4. Currently, Virginia public school students take 34 Standards of Learning (SOL) tests between third grade and graduation. Many teachers, parents, and educators believe students take too many tests and this forces teachers “teach to the test” rather than do what is best for the student. Do you support or oppose these efforts to reduce the number of SOL tests?

Answer

Percent

Support

85.26%

Oppose

14.74%

  

5. School choice refers to the idea that parents and children should have a variety of traditional and non-traditional educational options available to ensure that each student’s experience fits their needs. Which of the following school choice options do you support?

Answer

Percent

Full-time virtual schools.

13.13%

Virtual classrooms, integrated into traditional school   setting.

29.33%

Home-schooling.

27.93%

Charter schools.

29.61%

  

6. Virginia does not allow local school boards to start school before Labor Day, with exceptions in certain localities. Some contend this helps accommodate business hire students as summer employees and increases late-summer tourism – the so-called King’s Dominion law. Do you support giving school boards the ability to begin classes before Labor Day and set their own academic calendars?

Answer

Percent

Yes

75.64%

No

24.36%

 

7. Do you support or oppose efforts to allow home-school children to participate in public school sports programs? 
 

Answer

Percent

Support

70.97%

Oppose

29.03%

 

 8. Should the children of illegal immigrants who have been here for more than 5 years, graduated from high school, been accepted to a state university and plan to apply for permanent residency be allowed to receive in-state tuition? 
 

Answer

Percent

Yes

39.87%

No

60.13%

 

9. Do you support or oppose ObamaCare’s Medicaid Expansion in Virginia? While expansion could provide coverage for 400,000 currently uninsured Virginians, it could cost the Commonwealth of Virginia over $1 billion per year, forcing cuts to other key services like education, mental health and public safety. 
 

Answer

Percent

Yes, ObamaCare should be expanded in Virginia.

21.38%

No, ObamaCare should not be expanded in Virginia.

78.62%

 

10. Some have proposed an alternative to Medicaid Expansion that would take the federal money that would be used for Medicaid and use it to purchase private insurance. Should Virginia examine an alternative approach similar to this in order to provide coverage to uninsured Virginians? 
 

Answer

Percent

Yes, Virginia should explore alternative coverage models.

66.23%

No, Virginia should not explore alternative coverage   models.

33.77%

 

11. What reforms do you think Virginia should make to its Transparency and Ethics laws?

Answer

Percent

Increase the frequency of disclosure filings and reports.

8.63%

Establish a cap on the value of gifts elected officials   can accept.

16.75%

Establish a “State Ethics Commission”.

6.83%

Require spouses of elected officials to report finances   and disclose gifts.

14.30%

Eliminate disclosure loopholes and require filings to be   more accurately completed.

17.78%

Increase fines and penalties for failing to comply.

12.24%

Implement mandatory training requirements for elected   officials.

9.66%

Post all financial forms and disclosures online.

12.76%

Other

1.03%

 

  12. During the 2012 General Assembly Session comprehensive reforms to the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) were enacted into law. These reforms protect the long-term solvency of VRS by requiring new state employees to contribute 5% of their salary to VRS, requiring preexisting employees to contribute 5% to their retirement with a 5% salary raise to offset the impact of reforms and by creating a hybrid benefits system similar to a 401(k) for future state employees. Do you believe:

Answer

Percent

These reforms do not do enough to protect the long-term   viability of the VRS.

20.57%

These reforms balance necessary changes with the interests   of public sector employees.

58.16%

These reforms go too far at the expense of Virginia’s   public sector employees.

21.28%

 

13. Do you believe that all state agencies and programs should be periodically reviewed to determine their performance and usefulness?

Answer

Percent

Yes

97.47%

No

2.53%

 

14. Currently, Virginia does not allow early voting but does have absentee voting, both in-person and by mail. Early voting does not require a reason, but absentee voting does. Some have proposed early voting as a way to ease lines at the polls on Election Day and increase voter participation. Opponents argue that there is no indication early voting increase participation and that the costs of early voting, plus the challenges of keeping the votes secure for a long period of time do not make it worthwhile. Do you support or oppose early voting in Virginia?

Answer

Percent

Support

28.21%

Oppose

71.79%

 

15. Should voters have the option to register by political party (Republican, Democrat, Independent, etc)?

Answer

Percent

Yes

59.60%

No

40.40%

 

16. Do you support the exploration of natural gas and oil off the coastal water areas of Virginia?

Answer

Percent

Yes

84.62%

No

15.38%

 

17. Do you support mining for and using coal to provide affordable and reliable electricity?

Answer

Percent

Yes

88.96%

No

11.04%

 

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