Shenandoah Valley legislators say governor's proposal good starting place

“This is a very good start for the budget process,’’ said Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave. “Now it (the budget) moves to the legislature, and we’ll see what the priorities are.”

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Jobs, Economy, Dominate Form

Jobs and the economy dominated the minds of area state legislators at a forum Wednesday sponsored by the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce. “How do we in government help you in the private sector create jobs, hire more and improve the economy locally?’’ Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, asked the audience of business leaders at The Legacy of North Augusta.

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Legislature Confronts Familiar Problems

The membership of the General Assembly has changed, and with it the party alignment, which now favors the Republicans. But schools, economic development and the budgeting process are still among familiar targets of legislative proposals for the session scheduled to start Wednesday.

Some of the all-GOP local delegation will be refiling changes to the law that were unsuccessful before while introducing new bills they think will help Virginians.

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Whats Going On in Richmond

Repealing Virginia's ban on Sunday hunting has been discussed in the Virginia General Assembly for decades without success, but this year may be different.Hunters are using social media to organize, forming a Facebook group, posting videos to YouTube and hosting web forums for supporters.

The lobbying firm Reed Smith LLP, which has an office in Richmond, has been retained by the Sunday Hunting Coalition and, for the first time, a national hunting and conservation group, Delta Fowl, has joined with groups like the National Rifle Association to support a repeal of the ban.

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Funding Sought for Kids' Mental Health

LEXINGTON — Parents, advocates and mental health professionals urged state legislators Friday to fund crisis stabilization programs and additional psychiatrists to meet the needs of children with mental illness across Virginia.

"There is a huge need in this state for crisis stabilization for children," said Staunton resident Macy Fox, whose grown son, a graduate student, received state mental health services as a child.

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Area Legislators' Bills Trickling In

Valley legislators want to make sure people defending their homes against intruders aren't sued, seek a fresh look at local business tax rates and propose writing Virginia's "right to work" policy into the state constitution.

The first trickle of legislative proposals for the next session of the state legislature, which convenes Jan. 11, includes a proposal by Del. Richard P. "Dickie" Bell, R-Staunton, to write the "man's home is his castle' doctrine into state law.

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Dickie Bell Points to Deficiency in Tech Education After Firm Leaves Staunton

STAUNTON — The planned departure of Staunton biotechnology company Atlantic Research Group is an example of why technical education in the area could be improved, a state legislator said Wednesday at a breakfast for business leaders.

The company, founded in Staunton in 2004, announced this week its intention to move to Charlottesville next year because company officials think it will be easier to find workers with the highly specialized technical skills ARG needs for its contract research.

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A Troubling Gap in Mental Health Care

Just off Interstate 81 in Staunton stands Virginia's last remaining state-run children's mental health hospital.

The Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents helps heal children with varying levels of mental illness, including children who have been deemed a danger to themselves and others.

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Dickie Bell Goes to Ware Elementary for Take Your Legislator to School Day

As fifth-grader Kyle Merrigan held Ware Elementary School's side door open Tuesday morning, someone stepped through whom he did not expect.

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Virtual Schools in Virginia Seek Funding Formula

When House District 20 Del. Dickie Bell successfully sponsored state legislation nearly two years ago that allowed virtual schools in Virginia, it was hailed as an online option that would offer courses for students in the commonwealth’s most rural outposts.

After all, virtual schools for students in grades K-12 were already offered in 27 other states and Gov. Robert F. McDonnell embraced the idea in 2009 as part of his education plan.

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