Passenger rail expansion measures likely to pass, good news for NRV rail proponents
CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. – While state leaders are working on some other projects for our region, folks in the New River Valley have been asking for passenger rail expansion and they are one step closer to getting it. As the trains continue rolling across the Commonwealth, the focus on passenger rail continues to grow. And Larry Hincker with the New River Valley Passenger Rail group is pleased with what he sees. Bills by Delegate Chris Hurst and Senator John Edwards to create a New River Valley Passenger Rail Authority have been received favorably. AdOn Wednesday, state lawmakers elected to keep $50 million in their budget earmarked for passenger rail expansion statewide.
Senators from southwest Virginia push for criminal justice reform at General Assembly
RICHMOND, Va – As the General Assembly session enters its second full week, Senators from southwest Virginia are pushing for sweeping changes in the criminal justice system. This week Senator John Edwards of Roanoke sponsored a bill that would abolish minimum sentencing standards for low-level offenders. Republican Bill Stanley of Franklin County has been working for changes of his own. We’ve now have tailored other options for punishment for those driving offenses,” Republican Senator Bill Stanley said. Stanley says the stigma that comes with the title habitual offenders can impact people’s chances of getting a job.
Bill for vehicle registration fee to support Virginia State Police passes state senate
RICHMOND, Va. – Virginians could pay a little bit more in vehicle fees every year to support law enforcement if a bill from a Roanoke state senator becomes law. Sen. John Edwards’ bill proposed a $4 vehicle registration fee to create a fund for Virginia State Police. Edwards estimates the bill could raise more than $28 million for state police if it becomes law. He believes state troopers are underpaid compared to other law enforcement agencies, and that this is the best way to ensure their pay keeps up with inflation. Everybody should be paying to support the State Police, especially if you drive on the highways.”
General Assembly wraps day two with focus on coronavirus, classroom safety
RICHMOND, Va. – Day two of the regular session for the General Assembly wrapped up on Thursday, and lawmakers are already hitting some hot-button issues in committees. As 10 News has reported, the house is meeting virtually while the senate is in-person with strict social distancing measures in place. Make sure there’s adequate funding for the schools, to make sure￼ the roofs are well taken care of,” said Edwards. Sen. Steve Newman, R, Lynchburg said the need for in-person learning is great. The session is set to last 30 days but may be extended to 45 days to allow more time to deal with the budget.
General Assembly reconvenes on somber note after losing senator to COVID-19 complications
RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia lawmakers are back at work, as the General Assembly reconvened Wednesday afternoon amid threats of violence in the coming days at the state capitol in Richmond. As with the special session last fall, the House is meeting virtually, while the Senate is meeting at the Science Museum of Virginia. It was a somber start to the regular session Wednesday morning, as lawmakers honored the life of senator Ben Chafin, who died earlier this month after contracting COVID-19. [Date set for special election to fill seat of late Virginia Senator Ben Chafin]Each senator laid a rose on a desk draped in black to honor the late senator from southwest Virginia. Losing a colleague to COVID-19 added importance to the issue that’s top of mind for lawmakers right now.
What’s News Today: future of education, Roanoke River search
Local legislators will join the Kiwanis Club of Roanoke today. The Zoom meeting begins at 12:30. The Task Force on the Future of Education and leaders from Lynchburg City Schools will meet virtually today. The virtual meeting begins at 5 p.m. The search is expected to continue today for a person, swept away by the Roanoke River over the weekend.
‘It feels like a holiday’: Roanoke reacts to president-elect Joe Biden’s victory
ROANOKE, Va. – When NBC News determined Joe Biden would win the presidential election Saturday morning, it was the moment Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea had waited four years to experience. “I was following this all week, even in the midst of my own election,” said Lea, who was elected for a second term as Roanoke’s mayor this week. Roanoke teenagers Jasmine Rosser and Morgan Fletchall said this was the first election they have ever voted in. Although Biden won the election, Virginia Tech politics professor Karen Hult said Republicans still have a lot to celebrate. Lea said he is looking forward to how the next four years will be under President-elect Biden.
State lawmakers urge Northam to halt work on Mountain Valley Pipeline amid pandemic
ROANOKE, Va Some state lawmakers are calling on Governor Ralph Northam to put a halt on work scheduled to take place on the Mountain Valley Pipeline. More than 20 legislators signed a letter urging work stop as pipeline officials recently announced 4,000 workers will be brought into Virginia and West Virginia to continue work on the project. Roanoke Senator John Edwards signed the letter and said bringing in these workers could potentially cause a spike in coronavirus cases in the area. Pittsylvania county has no ICU beds, so we have inadequate facilities to take care of this problem, Virginia Senator John Edwards said. Edwards said the letter could come up during the general assemblys special session set to begin August 18.
Virginia Republicans call for five day, in-person school week
ROANOKE, Va. A group of Virginia Republican legislators is calling on Governor Ralph Northam to prioritize in-person classes five days a week this upcoming school year. Virginia Republicans want Northam to lay out a road map of what the 2021 school year will look like for grades K-12, adding that they feel students would succeed further with in-person learning. Democratic Senator John Edwards is not fully convinced a five-day school week is the best choice. The number one priority should be the health and safety of our children and not just five day school. For a full list of school reopening guidelines set by the state, click here.
Virginia House passes bill heavily regulating assault weapons
Richmond, Va. – A version of the controversial assault weapons ban passed one house in the Virginia legislature Tuesday. In another sign of the heated gun rights debate, the Democratic-backed House Bill 961 narrowly passed the House of Delegates by a 51-48 vote, which came on Crossover Day -- the final day for each house to pass or reject its own bills. Under the bill: “It is unlawful for any person to import, sell, transfer, manufacture, or purchase an assault firearm.” The legislation would make a violation a Class 6 felony. “'Large-capacity firearm magazine’ means any firearm magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device that has the capacity of, or can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 12 rounds of ammunition." Under the bill, before Jan. 1, 2021, anyone with an illegal magazine must do one of the following.
"Finally, we're in a position to do things": Roanoke's state lawmakers react to Democratic sweep
State Sen. John Edwards (D), who represents Roanoke, Roanoke County, and Giles County, says the answer is to get to work. Edwards has held his Senate seat since 1995, but he has never been in the position where his party controlled the Senate, House and the governorship. "This was the most important election because finally, we're in a position to do things," Edwards said. "It's a challenging endeavor, but fortunately, we've got some great talent and good people that want to get things done," Rasoul said. Edwards and Rasoul said many things could end up on the new General Assembly's agenda, including gun control, criminal justice reform and transportation funding.
Both parties confident ahead of Virginia election results
People around the nation kept an eye on elections results in Virginia on Tuesday night. Republicans are trying to keep their narrow majorities in both houses of the legislature, while Democrats are trying to flip both chambers. Leaders of both the Republican and Democratic parties in Virginia told 10 News on Tuesday afternoon that they were optimistic that their party will come out on top. This would probably be the most important election in Virginia in many, many years," said Sen. John Edwards, (D) Roanoke. Many ads run outside of southwest Virginia and Southside have shown how heated the races have become particularly in northern Virginia, Richmond and the Tidewater region.
I-81 committee holds first meeting to address changes to 'killer' highway
Ive lived here for 43 years, and during that period of time, I-81 has gone from a safe and pleasant highway to one that I consider a killer. You're talking about project readiness. You're talking about project efficacy, project safety, environmental concerns," said Virginia Del. I think theres a lot of excitement.It won't just be this committee deciding the future of I-81. Not all the I-81 improvement projects fall under this committee, as some have other funding sources, and some of those projects will start as early as this fall.
Republicans execute secret plan to end gun control special session
RICHMOND, Va. - Gun law discussions in Virginia are now on hold after Republicans called off Tuesday's special legislative session, which Democrats scheduled to respond to May's Virginia Beach shooting. Republicans used their power in the General Assembly to put the discussions on hold until at least November. What was expected to be a showdown in Richmond between Democrats pushing for gun control and Republicans fighting back ended after less than two hours. Republicans have the majority in the General Assembly and they voted to send the bills to the Virginia State Crime Commission, which has six Republican members and only three Democrats. Sen. Steve Newman, a Republican leader representing the Lynchburg area, said ending the discussion was their plan all along, but they kept it a secret until now.
Community remembers Dr. Gary Swank after double murder in Belize
ROANOKE, Va. - Family, friends and coworkers gathered to honor the life of Dr. Gary Swank Tuesday night. The Roanoke man was murdered in Belize last week while on a fishing expedition. In Belize on Tuesday, the prime suspect in this double murder was released by police, according to local media. Prior to that, inside the church they celebrated the life of Swank, an innocent victim of alleged gang violence in Belize. "I did not know him, but I learned so many wonderful things about him, and I'm so sorry for his family."