Archive for: January 9th, 2018

State News
Governor McAuliffe and Governor-Elect Ralph Northam Propose Joint Legislative Priorities
January 9, 2018

RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe and Governor-elect Ralph Northam today proposed their joint legislative agenda for the 2018 General Assembly session. The legislative package includes proposals to expand Medicaid, implement universal background checks in order to purchase a gun, reform the absentee voting process, formally join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), prevent the personal use of campaign contributions, raise the felony larceny threshold, institute a Borrower’s Bill of Rights creating an ombudsman who can help borrowers understand their payments, and support for the Whole Women’s Health Act.

“I am proud to be here today with Governor-Elect Northam as we propose policy steps that will build on the progress we have made over the past four years and create real opportunity for the families we serve,” said Governor McAuliffe. “During my time in office, we have taken steps to build a Virginia where everyone can live, work and lead successful a successful life. I am hopeful that each of these proposals can start a positive conversation and finally move solutions forward on these issues ensuring Virginia remains the open and welcoming place it has become. Together with my budget proposal, these policy ideas build on the vision we share for a prosperous Commonwealth.”

Governor Northam continued, “I want to thank Governor McAuliffe for his outstanding leadership and for working with my team and me on this legislative agenda. This session is our opportunity to do the job voters sent us to do by making their lives better for everyone, no matter who they are or where they are from. I look forward to advocating for this agenda and working with both parties in the General Assembly to pass legislation that makes Virginia safer, healthier and more prosperous for every family.”

The details of the proposed joint legislative agenda are below:

Expanding Medicaid:

The Governor and Governor-Elect offered their support for language in the proposed budget that would expand access to healthcare for nearly 400,000 low-income Virginians, create 30,000 new jobs and save Virginia taxpayers more than $400 million over the next two years. This expanded access would help working Virginians who make too much to qualify for the Commonwealth’s current Medicaid program but too little to afford coverage on their own.

Universal Background Checks for Gun Purchases:

The Governor and Governor-Elect proposed legislation which would keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them by implementing universal background checks for all gun purchases in the Commonwealth. Currently, only federally licensed firearms dealers are required to obtain the results of a background check when selling or transferring a firearm. In 2017, the Virginia State Police reported a total of 3,584 denied firearms purchases through federally licensed firearms dealers.

No-excuse Absentee Voting:

The Governor and Governor-Elect proposed legislation which would simplify the absentee voting process in the Commonwealth. Under the proposed legislation, any registered voter would be allowed to cast an absentee ballot in-person within 21 days of Election Day. The bill would also keep current requirements for absentee voting by mail or absentee voting more than 21 days before Election Day. These reforms will not only expand voting opportunities for every registered voter but will also decrease lines at the polls on Election Day for those who choose to vote in person.

Formally Joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI):

The Governor and Governor-Elect proposed legislation to make Virginia the first Southern State to cap carbon and formally join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Earlier this year, Governor McAuliffe signed Executive Directive 11, which directed the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to draft regulations enabling Virginia to develop a carbon reduction program for power plants under DEQ’s existing authority. That program will link to the broader carbon market established through RGGI, but Virginia cannot formally join RGGI or spend the revenues the new regulations generate without the approval of the General Assembly.

This legislation would enable the Commonwealth to directly auction the allowances, and invest the revenues in programs that benefit the public. Virginia will move forward with a carbon reduction program that links to the broader RGGI market regardless of what occurs this session. But, this legislation would give the General Assembly an opportunity to weigh in on how the revenue is allocated. Participation in a broader market will allow Virginia to reduce costs and drive more investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, while also decreasing our carbon emissions and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Personal Use of Campaign Funds:

The Governor and Governor-Elect proposed legislation that would ensure that campaign contributions cannot be used by political candidates and elected officials for personal use. When Governor McAuliffe took office he issued Executive Order 2 which strengthened the ethics rules for himself and his administration. Additionally, he created the Commission on Integrity and Public Confidence in State Government and charged them with producing a series of substantive recommendations to reform Virginia’s ethics system. The reforms passed – including a cap on gifts that can be accepted from lobbyists – have contributed to a new culture of accountability in Richmond. The proposed bill would ensure that campaign contributions cannot be used by political candidates and elected officials for personal use. This was one of several reforms recommended by the bipartisan Integrity Commission.

Raising the Felony Threshold in Virginia:

The Governor and Governor-Elect proposed legislation that would raise the threshold for felony larceny from $200 to $1,000. The $200 figure has not been changed since 1980 and currently, Virginia and New Jersey are tied for having the lowest rate in the country. Fifteen other states have thresholds of $500 to $950 and thirty more states have thresholds of at least $1,000. Raising the felony larceny threshold will ensure that fewer people will be ensnared in this life-long punishment for making a small mistake.

Borrower’s Bill of Rights:

The Governor and Governor-Elect proposed legislation implementing a Borrower’s Bill of Rights and creating a state ombudsman for student debt. Today, over one million Virginians owe over $30 billion in student loan, which threatens families’ financial security, and holds back our economy because people delay their decisions to buy homes and cars, save for retirement, and start their own businesses. The Borrower’s Bill of Rights will require student loan servicers in Virginia to follow commonsense rules and obtain a license from the Bureau of Financial Institutions. Additionally, the establishment of an ombudsman within the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) would help borrowers understand their payment options and keep them on track, protecting their financial futures.

Study: Dishwashers save money
January 9, 2018

A lot of people who have automatic dishwashers don’t use them, but they might save money on water and electricity if they did.

Even though 68 percent of Americans own dishwashers, about 20 percent use them less than once a week, suggesting people are hand washing dishes.

Many reasons could account for this, but one of them should not be cost. Dishwashing by hand uses 3.5 times more water than a modern dishwasher and three times as much electricity, according to a 2011 study by the University of Bonn.

Loading the dishwasher: What is the right way?

Dishwasher manufacturers and home style maven Martha Stewart agree on some basics for the right way to load a dishwasher:
1.  If the washer has a third, shallow rack on top, load flatware and large utensils there to free up space below.
2.  Put glass and plastic on the top rack where water pressure and heat are less intense.
3.  Point knives down for safety. Mix utensils in the basket so spoons and forks don’t nest together.
4.  Martha Stewart advises never to wash nonstick or cast iron pans in the dishwasher but stainless steel pans get cleaner in the dishwasher.
5.  Read the manual to find out about specialized settings. Nearly 70 percent of user just press ‘normal.’

Don’t put these items in the dishwasher

According to home expert Martha Stewart, the following items should never be put in the dishwasher: Acrylics and plastics, aluminum, antiques, blown glass, bronze, cast iron, china with metallic decoration, crystal, any item with bone or wood inlays, gold-plated flatware, iron, knives (they get dull), nonstick pans, milk glass, pewter, rubber tools, tins, wooden spoons.

Is pre-rinsing really necessary?

Doesn’t everyone pre-rinse dishes?

Maybe they do, but they don’t have to, according to soap and dishwasher manufacturers.
Except for removing large particles of food, pre-rinsing can actually hinder dishwasher cleaning, says the makers of Cascade. Enzymes in Cascade are designed to attach to food particles. Without particles, they have nothing to attach to, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Dishwashers made by Whirlpool have ‘TargetClean’ options in which sensors detect soil on dishes. Jet sprays focus on those casserole dishes and power off baked on food.

The Samsung Zone Booster setting puts more water pressure on one side where especially dirty dishes are stacked.

The great dishwasher fight

Appliance maker Bosch says more than 40 percent of families argue about the proper way to load a dishwasher.
About 60 percent agree about whether to pre-rinse. Nearly 39 percent of the arguers say they disagree on whether knives should point up or down, while 30 percent argue about where plastic containers should go.

General Electric Co. has defined three main types of dishwasher loaders:
– Protectors, who are concerned that utensils are loaded handle up so the eating end isn’t touched when unloading.
– Organizers want to get everything in and out as quickly as possible.
– Curators are the artists, particular about how the result looks, with similar items placed together, including directing pan handles in the same direction. The curators are also the culprits who rearrange the load.

Local Government Local News
Front Royal benefits from additional CDBG funding found by State
January 9, 2018

Looking west and east on Front Royal’s East Main St. – things are looking up with the influx of an unexpected $700,000 in state community development grant funding to Front Royal. Photos/Roger Bianchini


FRONT ROYAL – Sometimes it pays to be Number 2, well actually Number 16, just one position out of the money among applicants for State economic development grant money. As Front Royal’s Community Development Director Felicia Hart explained to council following the September 19 announcement of over $9-million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding announced for distribution to 15 Virginia municipalities, Front Royal was Number One out of the second group of municipal applicants – the group not getting money.

But being Number One out of the Number Two group paid off on January 5, when the office of Governor Terry McAuliffe announced the awarding of another $2,149,346 in CDBG funding to four more municipalities. Consequently Front Royal will receive $700,000 to foster economic revitalization to its business district.

Having faced the disappointment of being so close, yet out of the money less than four months ago, Royal Examiner asked town Community Development Director Hart about the unexpected good news to start the new year.

“We, as a town and community, feel very fortunate that additional State funds were found to help us secure this grant towards the economic revitalization of our area. In addition to all the volunteers who put all their time and effort into making this a success, Town Council should be acknowledged for their work in understanding the need for this grant and finding the funds to match the requested State funds.
“This grant provides us two years to implement, so our committee will be putting together an overall timeline – to-do’s, projects, fund allocations, etc. – as part of our entire game plan. I’m excited to see all the hard work of our volunteers rewarded. Now, we’ll be rolling up our sleeves and getting back to work – again.
“What a great problem to have!”

Now the positive movement on downtown Front Royal re-development from the private sector will get a boost from the federal government, by way of state government administration. Above, the Barnhart properties on the 100 block of East Main Street are undergoing external and internal overhauls; as is the Weaver building across the street – brew pubs, Thai restaurants, and more are coming.

In the governor’s Friday, January 5 press release, McAuliffe said, “This program has long been providing funding for projects that improve the quality of life for thousands of Virginians every year. Through Community Development Block Grants, we are able to address needs across the Commonwealth including critical infrastructure, such as water and sewer service, as well as improve economic development opportunities, ensuring job creation in rural areas. I congratulate the four grantees and look forward to the success of these projects in Virginia.”

The governor’s office release also traced the history of the program: “Since 1982, the federally-funded CDBG program has been administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Nearly three hundred non-metropolitan cities, counties, and towns are eligible for this program in the Commonwealth. Most of the approximately $16.5 million Virginia receives annually is allocated among local government applicants through a competitive process using objective scoring criteria developed in consultation with eligible localities.”

Receiving the additional CDBG funds in addition to Front Royal ($700,000) were the Town of Narrows ($699,346) and the Counties of Scott ($250,000) and Amherst ($500,000). Awarding of the State CDBG funds mandates a matching investment, if not precisely 50/50 close to it, by the municipality to achieve its redevelopment proposal.

The Town’s original application sought one-million dollars from the State under a special exception of need. The projects cited in that application included six focused on downtown. The first of those sought exterior improvements to privately owned business properties in the Downtown Historic Business District:
· Façade improvements, $365,000 State/$350,000 Town;
The other five downtown projects cited physical improvements to publicly owned Town property, including:
· Physical improvements, public restrooms and drinking fountains, to the Town Gazebo area, $125,000 State/$26,180 Town;
· Multi-purpose Open Air Gathering Space, Gazebo area, $137,500 State/$114,500 Town;
· Sidewalk and streetlight upgrades on East Main Street, $25,000 State/$13,500 Town;
· Improvement to Jackson Street parking and side street and alley enhancements, $40,000 State/$16,500 Town.
· A sixth project, the Royal Shenandoah Greenway tied to the Criser Road Trail Link, was proposed at no cost to the State, with all $400,000 funded by the Town.
So, including the Greenway project funded in total by the Town ($400,000) and the façade improvements for private businesses ($735,000 total State and Town), the total amount of funding proposed for Public Improvements in the original million-dollar funding application was $898,180, with $327,500 from the State and $570,680 funded by the Town.

Other costs included:
· Administrative ($87,350 total – $79,800 State/$7,550 Town);
· Signage ($190,500 total – $156,000 State/$34,500 Town);
· and Branding & Marketing ($74,900 total – $51,700 State/$23,200 town.

If you glazed over by ALL those NUMBERS, the grand total of the originally-submitted Town of Front Royal CDBG application was $1,985,930, with $1,000,000 even coming from the State and remaining $985,930 funded by the Town.

Hart told Royal Examiner on Monday, January 8, that the Towns’ Project Management Team for the grant will have to reappraise its priorities to determine how the $300,000 reduction in State funding will impact the revitalization plan.

As stated by Town Planning Director Jeremy Camp during a Monday night council meeting power point presentation on the CDBG program and the Town’s most recent visioning statement related to the grant application, communities receiving CDBG funds have two years to complete their redevelopment project utilizing the State money. As for potential cuts to the plan, Camp pointed to a pavilion included as part of the Gazebo
area public improvements as a “large-ticket” item cost-wise that might be a prime candidate to be deferred five or so years into the future.

Then there are old favorites like Royal Cinemas and not-quite-as-old Brooklyn’s Marketplace under the tree next door. Will there be façade improvement money coming all these new and old business’s way?