By Desiree ParkerThursday, February 16, 2012
The judges of the Williamsburg James City County circuit court are set to decide who the fifth member of the James City County Board of Supervisors will be, and the judges options are wide open regarding the process and the possible candidates.
County Attorney Leo Rogers said the decision now rests with 9th Judicial Circuit Judges Bruce Long, Richard Atlee, Thomas Hoover, and possibly retired Judge Samuel Powell. The county is waiting for an order signed by these men handing down the decision on who will become the temporary Jamestown District supervisor, but how the men will go about the process is up to them, according to Rogers.There is no time limit on when the decision will be made and no limit on which candidate they might select, as long as the person resides in the district.
The judges can work together to make the decision or not, and whether they hold hearings, decide privately or otherwise is anyone’s guess.
“It’s up to them, whatever they want to do,” according to Rogers.
Senate panel guts key provisions of McDonnell’s transportation plan
Committee adds ‘indexing’ gas tax to match inflation
By Todd Allen Wilson, email@example.com | 804-643-00567:14 p.m. EST, February 9, 2012
RICHMOND – Tolls and sales tax revenue are off the table as ways to help fund maintenance of the state’s deteriorating transportation infrastructure in the version of Gov. Bob McDonnell‘s omnibus transportation package approved Thursday by the Senate Finance Committee.
In their place, the committee called for “indexing” the gasoline tax so that it rises along with inflation.
McDonnell wants to fund construction and maintenance for the state’s shoddy transportation system by creating a statewide the Virginia Toll Authority, which would have the power to impose tolls on bridges, tunnels and highways. The money collected would be used to pay for transportation needs around the state, rather than being dedicated to upgrades, repairs or maintenance of the roadway, bridge or tunnel being tolled.
The governor also wants to increase the amount of the sales tax dedicated to transportation from .5 percent to .75 percent over the next eight years. That has been abandoned in the Senate plan.
All references to tolling, which is especially unpopular in Hampton Roads, have been stripped from both the Senate and House rewrites of McDonnell’s plan. The Senate Finance Committee sent its proposal sponsored by Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, to the full chamber on a vote of 11-2. The House Appropriations Committee is expected to vote on its version Friday.
McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell said Thursday the administration is disappointed that the toll authority, which he said mirrors those in other states, has been eliminated as a funding option at this point.
“It is intended to be another tool to get Virginia moving while keeping toll rates down,” Caldwell said. “We are disappointed in the action, but are hopeful the authority will be included in future iterations of the legislation as it moves forward.”
While the Senate and House committees agree that tolling is not an option this year, a showdown between the two chambers is being set up over other funding mechanisms.
The Senate transportation package includes provisions to index the state’s 17.5-cent-a-gallon gas tax for inflation. Adjusting the gas tax, which has not changed since 1986, for inflation is expected to bring in an additional $123.6 million annually by 2018.
The sponsor of a separate stand alone gas tax indexing measure passed by the committee on Wednesday, Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, told the committee that indexing the gas tax is “not a tax increase,” but an attempt to “stop the bleeding.”
But the House seems unwilling to consider indexing. A House subcommittee on Wednesday shot down a plan to do just that sponsored by David Albo, R-Fairfax, on a party line vote.
Del. Brenda Pogge, R-James City County, who voted against Albo’s measure, said indexing would be raising taxes – something she’s said the House is unwilling to do in tough economic times.
Pogge said she wants the General Assembly to stick to McDonnell’s original transportation plan.
“I don’t want to make any decisions that would veer from his plan until we watch that unfold in the General Assembly this year,” Pogge said. “His plan is different from what was given to us yesterday in the finance subcommittee.”
No tie-breaker on the budget
Caldwell was noncommittal as to the administration’s stance on indexing the gas tax.
“A broad array of transportation financing mechanisms are always being discussed and put forward by various legislators and groups,” he said. “We will review any specific proposals if they pass the General Assembly.”
The House version of the package retains McDonnell’s proposal to increase the amount of sales tax revenue dedicated to transportation funding.
Democrats in both chambers oppose the shift because they see it as diverting General Fund dollars from programs like education and law enforcement.
Democrats don’t have the numbers to stop that proposal in the House of Delegates, but in the evenly divided Senate, Democrats vow to block any budget proposal that includes a sales tax revenue shift.
Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, said the proposal “would definitely sink the budget.”
Because Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling cannot break tie votes on budget and fiscal issues, budget proposals in the chamber must have Democratic support.
Caldwell said the administration hopes the sales tax provision also finds its way into the final version of the bill passed by both chambers.
‘Indexing’ Virginia’s gas tax for inflation
Virginia’s 17.5 cents-per-gallon gas tax has not changed since 1986. Adjusting it for inflation could bring in an additional $123.6 million annually by 2018.
Republicans seek Icenhour records
Norment aide put in an FOIA request
By Cortney Langley
and Steve Vaughan
Sunday, February 12, 2012 7:39 PM EST
Originally Published: Sunday, February 12, 2012
JAMES CITY — An aide to Sen. Tommy Norment (R-3rd) filed a Freedom of Information Act request this week seeking call records and text messages made since November on Jim Icenhour’s cell phone, which was issued by the county.
The idea seeks to undermine Icenhour in advance of the fall election cycle.
It turns out the James City County Republicans tapped Kathleen Robeson, a William & Mary grad who has also done work for Norment and the Senate Republican Caucus, to file the request.
Jeff Ryer, a political consultant who works both for the Senate Republican Caucus and for the county Republicans, said, “She did it on my say-so.” Norment was unaware Robeson had filed the request.
In a follow-up interview, Ryer explained why. “What we find of particular interest are Mr. Icenhour’s conversations with Robert Richardson,” he said. “We believe they have been coordinating a campaign of harassment against the Republican members of the board in general, and Mary Jones in particular.”
Richardson has relentlessly criticized Jones, especially her personal finances, after it became public her home was in foreclosure.
Icenhour responded, “I have received phone calls from him (Richardson). If I’ve made a phone call to him, it’s only in response to a message left by him. I will answer the phone for any constituent in the county.”
Icenhour added, “Have I encouraged him or been behind anything he has to say? The answer is no. Bob Richardson speaks for himself.”
Ryer accused Icenhour of hypocrisy. “Mr. Icenhour’s allies in the Democratic Committee and in J4C have repeatedly FOIAed the Republican members of the board,” he said. “Mr. Icenhour is using the tactics of a bully. The first time the tactics he espouses are used on him he goes whining to the media for relief.”
Icenhour said Ryer is probably referring to FOIA requests logged by Debbie Kratter, whom he appointed to the Planning Commission.
“I’ve never found through FOIA that there’s any smoking gun,” Icenhour said. “I don’t coordinate with her, I didn’t ask her to do it and I probably would have advised against it.
“I’m not out on a witch hunt or a vendetta for them. I don’t seem to have to do anything. They seem to do it to themselves with regularity.”
When he found out about the FOIA, Icenhour contacted Robeson by e-mail and offered to sit down with her to talk about anything she wanted to know.
“I will be in Richmond all day tomorrow and would be happy to stop by Senator Norment’s office and answer your questions in person,” he wrote. Icenhour drove to Richmond to attend a hearing on HB 316, the controversial cemetery bill.
“I don’t have anything to hide on it,” Icenhour said in an interview, extending the offer to any other Republicans.
Robeson declined. “There’s really nothing to discuss, and I do not see any need for contact since I submitted a simple FOIA request,” she replied to Icenhour in an e-mail Thursday morning. A couple of hours later she withdrew the request.
According to Ryer, Robeson felt “threatened” by Icenhour’s response.
Ryer said that wasn’t the end of the issue.
“We will have someone re-file it whom Mr. Icenhour can’t locate so easily,” he said.
Senate votes to repeal one-gun-a-month, approves voter ID measure
Lt. Gov. Bolling breaks tie on voter ID bill
By Todd Allen Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org | 804-643-00565:22 p.m. EST, February 6, 2012
RICHMOND – Two pieces of controversial legislation passed the Senate Monday — one that would require voters to present identification at their polling place or cast a provisional ballot, and another that would repeal the state’s one-handgun-a-month restriction.
Breaking on a party line vote in the evenly split chamber, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling used his tie-breaking vote to pass a measure that would require voters to present valid identification at the polls or vote using a provisional ballot.
Under the bill, a voter would have six days following the election to present valid identification in order to have the provisional ballot counted. The bill expands the list of acceptable ID to include a utility bill, a government or employer-issued check or a student photo ID from one of the state’s four-year universities.
Opponents such as Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, say the bill is intended to suppress and discourage voting among minority groups, the elderly, the poor and students in a state that actively worked to stop blacks from voting during the Jim Crow era.
She said given that less than 50 percent of the state’s electorate turns out to vote in any given election, the state should focus on encouraging voting rather than discouraging it with the bill that just passed.
“This bill and others like it is so 1866,” Locke said.
The measure’s sponsor — Sen. Stephen Martin, R-Chesterfield — said the bill is not designed to suppress voting, rather it is meant to insure the integrity of the process. He believes the system is too loose under the current process, in which voters without ID simply sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury saying they are who they say they are and then vote using a regular ballot.
Bolling said he broke the tie on the voter ID measure in favor of theRepublicans because this is a measure he supported when he served in the Senate.
“If someone shows up without some form of identification, I think it’s appropriate to let them vote,” Bolling said. “But I think it makes sense to have that vote cast as a provisional ballot until we can confirm whether or not that person was who they claimed to be.”
Because of the state’s history of using criteria such as the poll tax and literacy tests to keep blacks from voting, the U.S. Justice Department, under the federal 1965 Voting Rights Act, must approve any changes to Virginia’s voting laws.
In December, the Justice Department rejected a voter ID law from South Carolina, although that law did not allow voters without identification to cast a provisional ballot, because it said such laws suppress voting among minorities and there is no wide-spread evidence of voter fraud.
In other actions Monday, the chamber also voted to repeal the state’s restriction on buying more than one handgun a month on a 21-19 vote.
The bill’s sponsor Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson, said the restriction, which was put in place nearly 20 years ago in an effort stop illegal gun running out of Virginia, is no longer necessary given the advancement in background check technology at the federal level.
He also said the number of exemptions to the prohibition for law enforcement, a seven-day exemption that can be obtained from the state police and for the roughly 287,000 Virginians with a conceal carry permit make the law meaningless.
Opponents worry that repealing the restriction will lead Virginia to once again be known as the gun-running capital of the East Coast.
Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, said he doesn’t understand why people need to buy more than one gun a month to protect themselves — noting that since the restriction was put in place someone could have stockpiled nearly 240 handguns just buying one a month.
“If you need more than 240 handguns, I submit, something’s wrong with you or something’s gone terribly wrong with your life,” Saslaw said during floor debate.
Both measures now go to the House of Delegates, which passed its own versions of these proposals last week, for that chamber’s approval.