In the News

State News: Commonwealth Transportation Board adopts six-year plan
Economy: Initial unemployment claims up slightly
State News: ACLU backs Gloucester residents in case involving attempted removal of supervisors 

 

State News: Commonwealth Transportation Board adopts six-year plan

The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) adopted the Six-Year Improvement Program for Fiscal Years 2010-2015 today at their meeting in Richmond. The $7.4 billion program is down from $8.9 billion in the revised FY 2009-2014 program approved in February.

The CTB also adopted the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) maintenance and operations budget for fiscal year 2010. This action finalizes VDOT’s reduction to services including:

– Reducing 42 rest areas and welcome centers to 23

– Reducing $20 million of mowing and roadside maintenance

– Reducing ferry services

– Scaling back interstate maintenance contracts

– Reducing Safety Service Patrols

– Closing VDOT residency offices and equipment shops

The FY 2010-2015 Six-Year Program reflects $650 million in cuts to the highways and $880 million in reductions to rail and transit. The highway declines are largely a result of continued state and federal revenue shortfalls, while the transit and rail declines are mainly attributed to the transfer of $776 million in Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project funding to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

“The commonwealth is facing a crisis in transportation funding,” said Pierce R. Homer, Virginia secretary of transportation. “These drastic reductions reflect our ongoing challenge to meet federal obligations and state maintenance needs while experiencing drastic declines in state and federal revenues. We are fortunate to have been able to maintain our rail and transit programs and services.”

Transportation revenue reductions have forced the CTB to repeatedly reduce the six-year program:

– FY 2010-2015 program—$7.4 billion ($5.4 billion for highways)

– Revised FY 2009-14 program adopted February 2009—$8.9 billion ($6.0 billion for highways)

– FY 2009-14 program adopted June 2008—$10.6 billion ($7.9 billion for highways)

– FY 2008-13 program adopted June 2007—$11 billion ($8.7 billion for highways)

The CTB applied previously allocated but unused dollars from interstate projects to fund two major ready-to-go projects in order to use federal funds for FY 2009. More than $97 million from projects with phases not currently under way was reallocated to fund the I-95 bridge rehabilitation and I-64 paving projects in the Richmond District.

“While the reduction in available state rail, transit and commuter service funding in the FY2010-2015 program is primarily due to the reassignment of the Dulles Metrorail Project, the transit and rail programs and services have been spared the drastic reductions of other areas of government,” said DRPT Director Charles M. Badger, P.E.

The six-year improvement program is available at http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/syp-default.asp. Details of the rail and transit program are available at www.drpt.virginia.gov.

 

Economy: Initial unemployment claims up slightly

In the week ending June 13, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 608,000, an increase of 3,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 605,000. The four-week moving average was 615,750, a decrease of 7,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 622,750.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 5.0 percent for the week ending June 6, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the prior week’s unrevised rate of 5.1 percent.

The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending June 6 was 6,687,000, a decrease of 148,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 6,835,000. The four-week moving average was 6,757,500, an increase of 2,250 from the preceding week’s revised average of 6,755,250.

The fiscal year-to-date average for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment for all programs is 5.286 million.

 

State News: ACLU backs Gloucester residents in case involving attempted removal of supervisors

A judge has ordered 40 Gloucester residents to pay a total of $80,000 in fines after they attempted to use an obscure Virginia law to remove four members of their Board of Supervisors from office. The 40 residents plan to appeal the ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court, and the ACLU of Virginia will support them with an amicus brief arguing that the fines chill the First Amendment right to petition the government.

Under Virginia law, citizens who have collected signatures from 10 percent of the voters in the relevant political jurisdiction may ask a court to remove elected officials who are misusing their office. After several Gloucester Supervisors were indicted on criminal charges last year, the 40 citizens began collecting signatures for a removal petition, which they presented to the court last fall. The Gloucester County Circuit Court Judge Westbrook Parker dismissed the case and fined the petitioners after ruling that the petitions were not properly designed and the petitioners were politically motivated.

“By levying these heavy fines, the judge sent a message to every citizen in the state that they could be severely punished for simply exercising their First Amendment right to petition the government,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis.

The judge’s initial ruling last fall so shocked state legislators that they quickly and nearly unanimously passed a new law in Virginia preventing courts from fining citizens who exercise their right to use Virginia’s “removal” law. Unfortunately, the new law will not take effect until July 1, meaning the Gloucester group may still be saddled with the sanctions.

“We are disappointed that the judge did not change his mind in light of the recent actions by the Virginia General Assembly,” said Willis. “By passing a law in direct response to Gloucester situation, state legislators made it clear that the state has no interest in punishing individuals who exercise their First Amendment rights by petitioning for the removal of elected officials.”

Under the new state law, removal petitions may not be thrown out of court because of minor technical flaws and persons who sign or circulate petitions cannot be liable for any costs associated with removal proceedings, including attorney fees and court costs, and may not have sanctions imposed against them (§ 24.2-235 and § 24.2-238).

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