Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009

Virginia Politics: Bowerbank critical of Bolling on roads funding, Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.
Virginia Politics: Perriello staff adds stimulus liaison, Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.
Virginia Politics: Chamber of Commerce praises Perriello for work on stimulus, Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.
Sports: Evans named to Lieberman finalists list, Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.
Virginia Politics: Senate committee kills chaplain bill, Tuesday, 10 a.m.
U.S. Politics: Obama announces Medicare assistance to states, Tuesday, 10 a.m.
Virginia Politics: Update to Stimulus.Virginia.Gov, Tuesday, 10 a.m.
Local News: Harrisonburg City Council agenda, Tuesday, 10 a.m.
Local News: Two firms sign on as JMU Sustainable Business Plan Competition sponsors, Tuesday, 10 a.m.
Local News: Eastern Mennonite Seminary faculty member named interim president of biblical seminary, Tuesday, 10 a.m.
Virginia Politics: Wagner wins straw poll, Tuesday, 10 a.m.

***

    

Virginia Politics: Bowerbank critical of Bolling on roads funding, Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.

Democratic lieutenant governor candidate and Virginia Association of Counties Transportation Committee member Jon Bowerbank today criticized the partisan bickering that has stalled transportation reform in Richmond. Bowerbank’s statement follows last week’s announced budget reductions by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

“VDOT’s cuts are the inevitable result of partisan obstructionists in Richmond led by Bill Bolling. Their failure to cooperate on finding common sense transportation solutions has led to the regretful cuts VDOT was forced to make. Bolling has had numerous opportunities to support bipartisan transportation reform. Now Virginians will pay the price for his obstruction as we remain gridlocked. As a member of the VACo Transportation Committee I am working with people on both sides of the aisle to get the resources we need to fix this problem, and I will continue this work as Lieutenant Governor,” Bowerbank said.

The announced plan to address a $2.6 billion budgetary shortfall includes calls to layoff 1,000 full-time employees and 450 hourly workers over the next 18 months. This reduction in force will be the largest involuntary layoff in the department’s more-than-a-century history. Additionally, VDOT will close more than half of the state’s highway rest stops; reduce the operating hours of its river ferries; slash spending by up to half for the safety service patrols, cut roadside mowing almost in half; lower standards for keeping drainage ditches clear and picking up litter; and they will close 15 local residency offices and 36 equipment shops statewide. Two weeks ago, VDOT also delayed or cut funding for 808 construction projects from the state’s Six Year Plan.

Bolling has a long history of opposing transportation initiatives. After 2007’s failed transportation reform effort Republican Senator Russ Potts told the Winchester Star that Bolling was an obstructionist who “killed all the hard work by Republicans and Democrats who had worked hard to bring it out on the floor.” This past summer Bolling flippantly dismissed the seriousness of Virginia’s transportation crisis, telling the Richmond Times Dispatch that the transportation special session was “a colossal waste of time and money.”

  

Virginia Politics: Perriello staff adds stimulus liaison, Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.

Congressman Tom Perriello announced that he has hired a staff member dedicated to assisting localities access federal government funds available to them through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Brennan Johnson has been named Grants Coordinator for the congressional office, and together with District Director Ridge Schuyler, they will hold workshops for each of the 22 localities in the district over the next two weeks to help local government offices learn how to receive funds.

“Brennan Johnson and Ridge Schuyler will be my Economic Recovery Team, working closely with local officials to make this recovery bill produce results for families and small businesses of the Fifth District,” Perriello said. “Through investments in transportation, infrastructure, education, local law enforcement, and more, the recovery bill will be a much-needed lifeline to our localities. The Economic Recovery Team’s goal is to help localities reap the benefits of the package quickly and transparently, and they will be working tirelessly over the coming months to do so.”

The Economic Recovery Team will help localities understand which funds will be distributed via formula and which by competitive process, and which state and federal agencies will be distributing the funds. They will continue working with localities throughout the application and competition process to ensure the Fifth District has the best possible representation.

Ms. Johnson previously launched and directed the activities of the Ron Brown Scholar Community Service Foundation, in which she oversaw grants coordination. She also worked as a quality assurance technician for a manufacturing plant in Iowa. Mr. Schuyler previously served as chief-of-staff for U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher in Virginia’s 9th District and then as legislative director for U.S. Senator Charles S. Robb of Virginia. Ms. Johnson and Mr. Schuyler will be based out of the congressman’s Charlottesville office and can be reached at 434-293-9631.

 

Virginia Politics: Chamber of Commerce praises Perriello for work on stimulus, Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA) for backing the recently-passed economic recovery plan, a major first step toward igniting consumption and investment, creating jobs and jumpstarting Virginia’s economy.

“Since the elections, we’ve worked with the president and Congressman Perriello to quickly pass a bill that would apply a defibrillator to the economy and shock it back to life,” said Bruce Josten, the U.S. Chamber’s executive vice president of government affairs.

“While not everyone in Washington or Virginia agrees on every item in this package, the whole is more important than the individual parts,” Josten said. “Our economy is in uncharted and dangerous waters and inaction from Washington is not an option.”

According to the Obama administration, Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District is set to gain 7,800 jobs over the next two years, thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“Now that this bill is a law, the real work must begin,” Josten said. “To quickly put Americans back to work and stimulate long term growth, the spending from this bill must be allocated quickly but responsibility”

The U.S. Chamber is the world’s largest business federation representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.

 

Sports: Evans named to Lieberman finalists list, Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.

James Madison sophomore guard Dawn Evans (Clarksville, Tenn./Northeast) is among 13 finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award.

The prestigious award honors the nation’s top collegiate point guard in Division I women’s basketball. The honor, which will be awarded for the 10th year in 2009, is presented by the Rotary Club of Detroit,

Criteria for the award are the floor leadership and play-making and ball-handling skills that personified Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman during her career.

The finalists include six seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and one freshman.

“This is a tremendous honor for Dawn and JMU to be nominated for this award,” said JMU head coach Kenny Brooks. “Dawn is one of the hardest working players that I’ve had, and she deserves this recognition. We are really proud of her.”

Evans, the only nominee from a non-BCS school, is the second leading scorer (24.3 avg.) in NCAA Division I and a leading candidate for Player of the Year in the Colonial Athletic Association.

She has set 13 school records this season, including sophomore season records for points (560) and three-pointers (64) as well as career (8) and season (7) games scoring 30 or more points. Her career total of 965 points is also a team record for career points by a sophomore.

Earlier this season Evans was among 50 players named to the early-season watch list for the Naismith Trophy, which recognizes the top player in the country.

Sportswriters from across the country determined the Lieberman Awards finalists and will select three finalists and one winner in April 2009.

The announcement of the three finalists and one winner will be made during the NCAA Final Four weekend (April 5-7), and the winner will be invited to attend the April 22 award luncheon at The Detroit Athletic Club.

  

Virginia Politics: Senate committee kills chaplain bill, Tuesday, 10 a.m.

The Courts of Justice Committee of the Virginia Senate on Monday voted down a House bill that would have allowed police chaplains to offer sectarian prayers at police-sanctioned events, effectively killing the bill for the 2009 legislative session.

The ACLU of Virginia had threatened to file a lawsuit had the bill become law and led to employees of the State Police delivering sectarian prayers at public events.

“The Supreme Court addressed this issue in 1982,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis, “ruling that in the few instances where the government itself is allowed to offer a prayer, that prayer must not show a religious preference. The high court clearly understood that our most fundamental notions of religious freedom and equality hinge on the government not using its enormous power to promote any one religion at the expense of others. This bill was a direct, frontal attack on this constitutional principle.”

HB 2314 was a reaction to a policy adopted last summer by the Superintendent of State Police, who ordered his chaplains to offer only nonsectarian prayers at police-sponsored events. Introduced by Delegate Charles W. Carricco Jr., it had passed the House of Delegates on a 66-30 vote earlier in the legislative session.

A similar but somewhat broader bill, introduced by Senator Stephen H. Martin, never made it out of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. SB 1072, voted down on February 9, would have prohibited any government agency from regulating the religious content of prayers offered by government officials at its events, unless the prayer advanced or disparaged a particular religion.

It was a recent Virginia case that caused the Superintendent of State Police to order chaplains to deliver only nonsectarian prayers. Last year, in Turner v. Fredericksburg, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held that that Fredericksburg City Council had the authority to prevent one of its members from opening council meetings with a sectarian prayer. The Fourth Circuit based its decision on Marsh v. Chambers, the 1982 Supreme Court case upholding the right to open legislative meetings with prayer but only if the prayers are nonsectarian. In early January 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Turner to stand.

 

U.S. Politics: Obama announces Medicare assistance to states, Tuesday, 10 a.m.

Moving swiftly to bring real relief to Americans hit hard by the economic crisis, President Barack Obama announced on Monday that states will be able to access the first two quarters of Federal Medical Assistance Percentage funding starting this Wednesday, February 25. FMAP – the federal match for Medicare – helps pay for health care for the families struggling during the economic crisis and some of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens. More than 20 million Americans rely on Medicaid for health care coverage. The president made the announcement at a meeting of the nation’s governors at the White House.

“This plan will also help ensure that you don’t need to make cuts to essential services Americans rely on now more than ever,” the president told the nation’s governors in a meeting at the White House Monday morning. “To show you we’re serious about putting this recovery plan into action swiftly, I am announcing today that this Wednesday, our administration will begin distributing more than $15 billion in federal assistance under the Recovery Act to help you cover the costs of your Medicaid programs.”

“That means that by the time most of you get home; money will be waiting to help 20 million vulnerable Americans in your states keep their health coverage. Children with asthma will be able to breathe easier, seniors won’t need to fear losing their doctors, and pregnant women with limited means won’t need to worry about the health of their babies.”

Beginning Wednesday, the first installment of more than $15 billion included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be available to states.

The first two quarters of FY 2009 funding for states has been set up in special Treasury accounts so that states, the District of Columbia, and the territories can start drawing down on those funds. This special, temporary increase in funding will be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

States will need to meet Medicaid eligibility requirements outlined in the law to receive the new funding. CMS will be working with the states to ensure they meet the requirements as long as they wish to access the increased in Medicaid funding.

 

Virginia Politics: Update to Stimulus.Virginia.Gov, Tuesday, 10 a.m.

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine today announced an updated Stimulus.Virginia.Gov with new interactive features and capabilities allowing users to view submitted projects by location or category. He also announced that the evaluation of submitted projects will begin on Friday, March 6, 2009.

“The new additions to Stimulus.Virginia.Gov will make the site even more useful to citizens, localities, and organizations across the Commonwealth as they can now monitor and obtain information for project ideas based on their specific interests,” Gov. Kaine said. “As we all begin the stimulus decision-making process, this information will help us better understand the needs of our citizens.”

Since its launch on February 10, citizens, local governments, and other groups have submitted more than 3,300 project ideas for potential funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Visitors to Stimulus.Virginia.Gov can now view all of the submitted project ideas in a number of interactive graphical formats under the new “Reports” tab and “Maps, Charts, and Graphs” link.

The new reporting page offers 4 new presentations of the information including:

· An interactive map of Virginia that breaks down the projects by county

· A project breakdown by category (infrastructure, education, etc.)

· A cost breakdown of submitted projects by category

· A daily tally of projects submitted

Each graph allows users to drill-down for greater detail depending on their locality or category of interest.

All website submissions received by Friday, March 6, 2009 will be categorized and reviewed by the appropriate Cabinet Secretaries, the Governor’s policy office, and the Department of Planning and Budget. The project reviews and recommendations will be completed in time for the Governor to work with the General Assembly to allocate funding and make any required policy or program changes in advance of the Reconvened Session of the General Assembly.

Because some program areas of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have different deadlines, citizens and groups can continue to submit requests. The website will be updated regularly with information on each program as it becomes available.

 

Local News: Harrisonburg City Council agenda, Tuesday, 10 a.m.

Harrisonburg City Council will meet tonight at 7 p.m. in the council chambers next to the Community Development office at 409 S. Main St.

The agenda for the meeting includes …

– Comments from the public, limited to five minutes, on matters not on the regular agenda.

– Consent Agenda (any item placed on the consent agenda shall be removed and taken up as a separate matter, if so requested by any member of Council, otherwise all items will be voted on with one (1) motion).

a. Approval of minutes of the previous meeting and dispensing with reading of minutes.

b. Consideration Supplemental Appropriation for the Police Department in the amount of $619.89 – Second Reading.

c. Consider amending and re-enacting Section 14-1-65 of the Harrisonburg City Code – Second Reading.

d. Consider the Mixed Use Planned Community District Ordinance Amendments – Second Reading.

– Presentation by Blue Ridge Community College

– Director of Social Services Update.

– Consider Supplemental Appropriation to the school operating budget – First Reading.

– Consider Street Closure for Harrisonburg Education Foundation 5K Walk/Run Event.

– Consider a request to amend the City Sign Ordinance.

– Consider request to write off delinquent utility accounts.

– Staff report regarding PPEA proposals for parking structure and School Board administrative offices.

– Consider amendments to the City’s financial policies.

– Consider Supplemental Appropriation for the Police Department in the amount of $3,472.61.

 

Local News: Two firms sign on as JMU Sustainable Business Plan Competition sponsors, Tuesday, 10 a.m.

The pot has just gotten a little sweeter for James Madison University’s Sustainable Business Plan competition.

Aerospace and technology giant Lockheed Martin and top law firm Kelley Drye have signed on as major sponsors of the competition, which in April will award up to $100,000 in cash and in-kind services to a new venture whose business model includes a strong sustainability component.

Lockheed Martin has pledged $25,000 to support the contest, and Kelley Drye will provide free legal corporate representation for the winning plan.

“The additional support from these two prestigious firms helps position the winning plan for incredible success in the future,” said Dennis Tracz, Director of the JMU Center for Entrepreneurship, housed in JMU’s College of Business. “This is an unprecedented opportunity for entrepreneurs from the greater JMU community looking to make a difference in both business and sustainability.”

The deadline to register an entry, including a brief business concept, team members and executive summary, is March 2. Semifinalists will be announced March 9. Finalists will be announced April 10. Final presentations will be made at the competition April 20.

Announced in October 2008, the JMU Sustainable Business Plan Competition offers up to $100,000 in capital and in-kind services to a new, independent business venture in seed, start-up or early-growth stages whose business plan demonstrates a strong sustainability component. A judging panel comprised of business leaders from several different sectors of the economy will select a winner and runner-up based on the viability of the venture and the strength of the sustainability component.

Each venture team must include at least one person associated with JMU as an enrolled student, an alumnus/alumna or a current employee. A JMU team member must play a major role and must own or be eligible to own equity in the venture. Complete competition rules and to registration information are available at the contest website at www.jmu.edu/cob/cfe/business_plan.shtml.

 

Local News: Eastern Mennonite Seminary faculty member named interim president of biblical seminary, Tuesday, 10 a.m.

A long-time faculty member at Eastern Mennonite Seminary has been named interim president of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS), Elkhart, Ind.

George R. Brunk, III, professor of New Testament at EMS, will begin his assignment on July 19, 2009 and serve until a new president begins, a tenure expected to be six to 12 months.

Dr. Brunk served as vice president and academic dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary from 1979 to 1999. He joined the faculty of EMS in 1974, serving as professor of New Testament in addition to the administrative roles. He also has taught occasional courses at AMBS.

In addition, he has served in numerous leadership positions in the Mennonite Church over the last 30 years. He holds a doctor of theology degree from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia and a bachelor of divinity degree from EMS. He was ordained to Christian ministry in the Virginia Mennonite Conference in 1964.

“The board is pleased to have George Brunk join the administrative team at AMBS,” said Ray Friesen, chairperson of the AMBS board. “We believe this early announcement and the unique gifts Brunk has will bring a sense of stability for the seminary community, donors and constituency through this time of transition while we also manage the effects of the economic downturn. We ask the church to pray for the seminary and its leadership team during this time.”

“I am honored by this appointment as interim president of AMBS,” Brunk said. The seminary is a leading educational institution for church leadership formation in the Mennonite tradition. My hope is that my acceptance of this role will symbolize the common mission we share between our Mennonite Church USA seminaries as well as among all Mennonite educational institutions. AMBS is on a good course, and I am committed to hold and strengthen that course during this transitional time.”

Brunk is married to Ruthann Miller Brunk and has two adult children.

J. Nelson Kraybill, president of AMBS since 1997, announced his resignation in September, 2008. He will end his assignment at AMBS in July and will pursue other ministry opportunities.

A search committee is seeking a new long-term president for AMBS, to begin sometime in early 2010.

 

Virginia Politics: Wagner wins straw poll, Tuesday, 10 a.m.

Former Virginia Treasurer and Secretary of Finance Jody Wagner won a resounding victory in the Mount Vernon Democrats’ Straw Poll on Saturday night, another sign of her growing statewide support and momentum. The second annual Mardi Gras Party & Straw Poll, sponsored by the Mount Vernon Democratic Committee, is a key test of grassroots support in Fairfax County. Wagner emerged as the winner, securing 62 votes, or nearly 42 percent of the total votes in a field of five.

“I’m honored by the grassroots activists, volunteers, and local party leaders who chose to support me on Saturday,” said Wagner. “I’m fortunate to have grassroots supporters throughout the state, and this is another sign that our campaign is growing in Northern Virginia. Along with the support I’ve received from a majority of the members of the Arlington and Fairfax Boards of Supervisors and the Alexandria City Council, it shows our campaign’s strong standing in this critical area.”

“In this time of fiscal uncertainty, Jody Wager is just the type of lieutenant governor that the Commonwealth needs. I’m confident that she has the right experience and background to partner with the next Governor to help maintain fiscal balance to the state, grow our economy, create new jobs, and keep Virginia as a great place to do business and raise a family,” said Del. Mark Sickles, a Mount Vernon resident and Wagner supporter.

Wagner’s Straw Poll victory follows her announcement last week of having earned the support of a majority of the members on the Arlington and Fairfax Boards of Supervisors, as well as the Alexandria City Council.

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