RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Legislation advancing in the Virginia Senate would prohibit releasing lighter-than-air balloons into the atmosphere.
The measure's sponsor, Republican Sen. Jeff McWaters of Virginia Beach, says balloons are fouling the state's beaches and can be deadly to wildlife.
His bill would ban the intentional release of balloons that are inflated with helium or another lighter-than-air gas and require more than five minutes' contact with air or water to degrade.
Violations would carry a civil penalty of $5 per balloon, with proceeds going into the Litter Control and Recycling Fund.
The measure would supersede an existing law that bans release of 50 or more balloons in a one-hour period.
McWaters' bill cleared the Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee on a 9-6 vote Thursday and is headed to the full Senate.
Welcome to winter. Finally it has arrived and finally we have something to talk about. A conveyor belt of systems are moving this way from different directions. Let’s take one at a time and first concentrate on the one Friday night into Saturday.
Most of the day Friday will turn out just fine. With a chilly start in store for Friday morning, we will start off with sunshine before clouds increase through the day. Temperatures on Friday will top out in the lower to mid 40s. All while we are experiencing this in the D.C. region, a storm is getting organized moving through the Deep South.
Thursday, a developing system moving out of the four corners and into the southern Plains is bringing lots of rain to Texas and eventually the Deep South. On Friday, an area of low pressure will form along the northern portion of the Gulf of Mexico, eventually traveling north and east headed towards the Mid Atlantic.
Above Image Credit (Blacksburg NWS)
Caption: Rain through the Deep South will eventually spawn a low off the VA coast as it moves towards the Mid Atlantic Friday.
As this low travels to the Mid Atlantic, it will eventually transfer its energy off the coast of Virginia Beach Saturday morning. In addition to that, there is a weak area of high pressure across the Mid Atlantic as well; therefore, we will have a feed of some relatively cold air filtering into the region but not arctic air and not a lot.
As this low travels to the Mid Atlantic, it will eventually transfer its energy off the coast of Virginia Beach Saturday morning. In addition to that, there is a weak area of high pressure across the Mid Atlantic as well; therefore, we will have a feed of relatively cold air filtering into the region but not arctic air.Caption: Area of low pressure off the coast of Virginia Saturday morning.
With all that being said, we can expect precipitation to move into the region late Friday evening moving from the south west to the north and east and moving out by Saturday afternoon. There are still some inconsistencies in models but the spread is decreasing with each run. We are still concerned about timing, track and the depth of cold air across the region.
It does look like we could see a mixed bag of precip ranging from snow, rain, freezing rain and sleet. We are not talking about big totals, but we are talking about enough precip to disrupt traffic through the area and areas north. This storm will eventually become a nor’easter as it travels up the eastern seaboard. Any bigger snow totals would of course be north and west of D.C. with more of a rain event for areas to the south, through central Virginia and southern Maryland. There is going to be a fine line with temperatures and the type of precipitation that will fall across any area. Just know to plan ahead and keep it here! We will continue to keep you updated.
After we get through this storm, we will have to watch for another clipper type system on Sunday night into Monday. Just fasten your seat belt, it could be a bumpy ride as we continue through the 2nd half of January.
RICHMOND, Va. (WJLA) &ndash: Virginia is facing an epidemic in the form of heroin and prescription drug addiction, and state leaders are fighting back.
Tuesday morning in Richmond, Attorney General Mark Herring held a press conference to unveil new proposed legislation to battle the issue. He is proposing four new bills to the General Assembly, including measures that encourage reporting of overdoses in progress, offer tougher penalties against drug dealers, and expand the use of Naloxone, a prescription drug that counteracts overdoses. Between 2011 and 2013, heroin overdose deaths increased in every region of Virginia, including a 164 percent increase in Northern Virginia.
Herring was joined by members of law enforcement, political leaders, and those impacted by the problem.
Don Flattery of Alexandria spoke about the death of his son Kevin, a graduate of Gonzaga College High School and the University of Virginia, who died last September of an opioid prescription overdose. Flattery says this is why he is talking about Kevin, &ldquo:It&rsquo:s critically important to personalize these stories, because these are real people. These are tragic lost lives that can never be recovered&rdquo:.
Carolyn Weems is from Virginia Beach. Her 21-year-old daughter Caitlyn died of a heroin overdose in 2013.
&ldquo:I do not want to have another family to have to go through this,&rdquo: said Weems.
Despite the deep divide in Richmond this session between Democrats and Republicans, supporters of this legislation believe it will move forward, not only because the bills have bi-partisan support, but also, advocates say, because action is so desperately needed.
RICHMOND, Va. (WJLA) &ndash: In his vow to appeal his could-have-been-much-worse two-year prison sentence imposed Tuesday here in federal court for felony corruption convictions, former Virginia Gov. McDonnell is doing what few could begrudge him for doing.
Never mind that he fared far better than a 10-year-or-so sentence recommended by prosecutors and the federal probation office.
No matter the length of the sentence, the guy doesn&rsquo:t want to go to jail. He also asked U.S. District Judge James Spencer to be lenient with his wife, the also-convicted Maureen McDonnell, scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 20.
But here&rsquo:s the thing: A majority of Virginians think Bob McDonnell should, in fact, go to jail.
To Virginia Tech senior political scientist Charles Walcott, that&rsquo:s a demand for accountability.
&ldquo:It is telling that the public seems OK with both the verdicts and the possibility that one or both McDonnells might go to jail,&rdquo: Walcott said. &ldquo:There's a message in that.&rdquo:
He&rsquo:s referring to a survey conducted in October by the University of Mary Washington that showed just 28 percent of the respondents believed McDonnell should not go to prison despite the 11 felony convictions. Of those who favored jail time, 46 percent said the sentence should be between one and five years.
When the survey was released, Mary Washington politics professor Stephen Farnsworth echoed Walcott&rsquo:s later sentiments.
&ldquo:The strong public support for prison time demonstrates the extent to which the public is furious with ethical misconduct in Richmond,&rdquo: he said. &ldquo:These results demonstrate the depth of voter anger with politicians who are thought to take better care of the well-connected than of ordinary citizens.
"Lawmakers ignore this resentment at their peril.&rdquo:
During his sentencing statement, Spencer mentioned taking into account &ldquo:acceptance of responsibility, deterrence general and specific, the public good, protection, and retribution.&rdquo:
Bruce Smith, the NFL Hall of Fame defensive end who lives in McDonnell&rsquo:s former home base of Virginia Beach, attended the sentencing &ldquo:to support a dear friend,&rdquo: he said while standing alone in a courthouse hallway.
&ldquo:But I&rsquo:m certainly not here to judge one way or the other,&rdquo: he said. Smith acknowledged that the jury had spoken.
&ldquo:The whole thing,&rdquo: he said, &ldquo:is just so sad. . .A lot of it appears to be technicalities (but) maybe that&rsquo:s something that needs to be looked at (regarding gift) rules.&rdquo:
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is in firm agreement, and already has squashed one ethics-reform proposal because he thinks it didn&rsquo:t go far enough.
&ldquo:Like many Virginians, I am saddened by the effect this trial has had on our Commonwealth&rsquo:s reputation for clean, effective government,&rdquo: he said in a statement after the sentencing. &ldquo:As we put this period behind us, I look forward to working with Virginia leaders on both sides of the aisle to restore public trust in our government."
That, and throwing a bucket of cold water on lawmakers to pass an ethics bill with teeth.
&ldquo:The whole affair,&rdquo: Walcott said, &ldquo:regardless of the sentences, puts politicians on notice that they are potentially vulnerable, under the right circumstances, for things that in other times and places have been considered business as usual.
&ldquo:After all, what the McDonnells did would hardly be noticed in a genuinely corrupt political culture.&rdquo:
But the fact that a majority of Virginians believe McDonnell should serve at least a year adds to the narrative that ethics laws in the state, and even on a national level, need to be thoroughly re-examined.
&ldquo:Whether state laws will actually do much isn't entirely clear, Walcott said. &ldquo:. . .At the federal level, Congress might want to see whether the law could be sharpened by clearer definitions of what constitutes, e.g., "quid pro quo" or "official acts."
&ldquo:Should Bob McDonnell win on appeal, the need for that would become even more apparent.&rdquo:
Virginia State Police recorded background checks for 405,838 gun transactions in 2014, a 15 percent decline from 479,253 transactions in 2013.
The decline followed three years' of growth. Gun sales logged by state police increased by 16 percent in 2011, 35 percent in 2012 and 11 percent in 2013.
The checks provide a rough estimate of the number of guns sold because some customers buy multiple firearms.
"It's not surprising," said Thomas R. Baker, a criminologist and assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University's L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. "There have been no highly sensationalized public events of firearm violence and no knee-jerk reactionary calls for increased gun control as a response. The drop in sales should be considered in that context."
The spike in sales in 2013 followed the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, and politicians' subsequent calls for increased gun control, Baker said.
Most of the 2013 sales occurred in the first six months of the year. Sales during the same period in 2014 dropped by more than 25 percent, while there was a 3 percent decline in the second half of the year, compared to 2013, he said.
"So it seems that after the rush on guns following fears over (gun) control died down, gun sales normalized," Baker said.
State police began doing criminal background checks in late 1989.
Mark Tosh, president of Town Gun Shop Inc., said 2013 was "an extreme - it was off the grid."
"Everybody could have sold more if they had more. The sky was the limit," he said.
Tosh said people ran out of money" after panic-buying multiple firearms in 2013 due to fears of increased government restrictions after Sandy Hook.
"It's definitely a case of having future demand accelerated," said Steve Satterwhite, chief executive officer of Colonial Shooting Academy in Henrico County and Virginia Beach. "In 2013, what people normally would have bought in future years, they bought in 2013."
State police began doing criminal background checks in late 1989.
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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Former Gov. Bob McDonnell's lawyers asked a judge Tuesday to order three years of community service for his federal corruption convictions while prosecutors recommended a prison term of at least 10 years.
McDonnell, a Republican who was once on the short list to be Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate, will be sentenced Jan. 6 for promoting a dietary supplement in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans. His wife, Maureen, also was convicted and will be sentenced Feb. 20.
":This offense is a total aberration in what was by all accounts a successful and honorable career,": McDonnell's lawyers wrote. ":Moreover, the conduct that led to this conviction is far outside the 'heartland' of public corruption cases. No public official has ever before been convicted of federal or state corruption charges on the basis of similar conduct.":
The attorneys said a sentence of ":6,000 hours of full-time, rigorous, unpaid community service at a remote location served over three years": would be appropriate. That amount of hours would be about three years of working 40-hour weeks.
Prosecutors argued McDonnell's offense ":was neither isolated nor the product of a single criminal choice. Rather, the defendant has been convicted of a bribery conspiracy that lasted nearly two full years, and the defendant repeatedly made conscious decisions to continue that conspiracy time and again.":
McDonnell's attorneys provided a detailed account of his life and career sprinkled with laudatory quotes from many of the hundreds of friends and associates who wrote letters urging leniency.
The government asked U.S. District Judge James Spencer to impose a sentence within a guideline range of just over 10 years to a little less than 13 years. That range was calculated by the U.S. Probation Office based on a number of factors, including McDonnell's background and the seriousness of the offense. It includes an obstruction of justice enhancement based on what prosecutors say are lies in McDonnell's testimony.
McDonnell's lawyers are challenging the guideline calculations, arguing that the range should be 33 months to 41 months. They wrote that a prison term of any length, ":much less one of ten years or more,": would be too harsh.
Judges usually issue a sentence within the guideline range, but they are not bound by it.
Jeff Bellin, a professor at the College of William and Mary Law School and a former federal prosecutor, said McDonnell is looking at many years in prison.
":The judge would have to have a pretty good explanation why the former governor is getting such favorable treatment,": Bellin said.
Defense lawyers said several charitable and religious organizations have offered a volunteer position to McDonnell. They specifically mentioned two: Operation Blessing International and the Catholic Diocese of Richmond.
Operation Blessing offered McDonnell jobs heading its hunger relief program in Appalachia or working at its orphanage and fish farm in Haiti.
":As with his volunteering during Hurricane Katrina, Bob has shown an authentic willingness to serve others no matter how difficult the task,": group president Bill Horan said in a statement.
Virginia Beach-based Operation Blessing was founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson. McDonnell is a graduate of Robertson's Regent University law school. Robertson is one of 440 people who wrote letters supporting McDonnell and filed with the court as an appendix to the sentencing brief.
The Catholic Diocese offered to make McDonnell its regional coordinator in southwest Virginia, where he would coordinate prison ministry workshops and migrant worker outreach, defense attorneys said.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) - Virginia Beach police say one of former Gov. Bob McDonnell's sons has been arrested for driving under the influence.
Police say 23-year-old Robert Ryan McDonnell was arrested in the Sandbridge section of Virginia Beach early Thursday morning. Police say he refused a breath test and is not currently in custody.
Police say Ryan McDonnell lives in Glen Allen, a suburb of Richmond.
Last year, McDonnell's other son, Sean McDonnell, was found guilty of public intoxication in Charlottesville near the University of Virginia.
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