Capital briefs

Governor vetoes redistricting bills

Gov. Terry McAuliffe last week vetoed six redistricting bills, saying they would weaken citizens’ trust in government.

Speaking on 1140AM WRVA, McAuliffe questioned the constitutionality of the bills, which sought to adjust the lines for about 20 legislative districts in seven counties.

The six vetoed bills are: SB 1237, affecting Senate Districts 17 and 25 in Albemarle County; SB 1084, affecting Senate Districts 13 and 33 and House Districts 10, 32, 33, 67 and 87 in Loudoun County; SB 986, affecting Senate Districts 17 and 22 in Louisa County; HB 1699, affecting House Districts 25 and 26 in Rockingham County; HB 1417, affecting House Districts 7, 8 and 12 in Montgomery County; HB 1332, affecting House Districts 5 and 6 in Smyth County and House Districts 42 and 43 in Fairfax County.

McAuliffe said that under the Virginia Constitution, the General Assembly is supposed to redraw electoral districts once every 10 years – after the decennial census. A recent Richmond Circuit Court decision “raises serious concerns” about whether the redistricting bills are constitutional, he said.

The legislation “sets a terrible precedent,” the Democratic governor said.

“Allowing the legislature to make substantive changes to electoral districts more frequently than once a decade injects further partisanship into a process that I regard as already too partisan. Annual legislative arguments over redistricting and gerrymandering distract the Commonwealth from the serious challenges we face, as well as undermine the trust of our citizens in their government.”

Capital News Service

Fredericksburg: state’s fastest-growing locality

Fredericksburg has been the fastest-growing locality this decade in the commonwealth of Virginia and in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

According to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau today, Fredericksburg had an estimated population of 28,350 on July 1, 2014. The new data represents a growth of 16.7 percent since 2010.

Fredericksburg’s neighboring counties have seen an increase as well. The Census Bureau estimates that Stafford has grown by 8.6 percent since 2010; King George, by 7.6 percent; Spotsylvania, by 5.5 percent; and Culpeper, by 5.3 percent.

From 2013 to 2014, Fredericksburg grew by 1.8 percent while Stafford grew by 2.2 percent. During that one-year period, the population increased by 1.2 percent in Spotsylvania, 1.4 percent in Culpeper and 1.7 percent in King George.

Bill Freehling, the assistant director of the Fredericksburg Economic Development and Tourism Department, said people are attracted to Fredericksburg by its high quality of life and the proximity to Interstate 95, which makes it easy to commute north or south.

“It’s a good startup community. It’s a nice pace of life. It’s a very walkable downtown community,” Freehling said.

The second fastest-growing locality from 2010 to 2014 was Loudoun County. Its population jumped 16.2 percent, to 363,050. For the one-year period, from 2013 to 2014, Loudoun County grew 3.4 percent — more than any other locality in Virginia or in the Washington metro area. (The metro area covers Washington, D.C., and 22 cities and counties in Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia.)

From 2010 to 2014, Fauquier County’s population rose 4.7 percent to 68,248. During the same period, Rappahannock County’s population dropped -0.2 percent to 7,361.

Virginia’s total population was estimated at 8,326,289 in 2014. That was an increase of 4.1 percent since 2010, including a 0.7 percent increase from 2013 to 2014.


New law takes aim at puppy mills

In a crackdown on puppy mills, it will soon be illegal to sell dogs and cats on the side of the road in Virginia.

That’s the effect of legislation that Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed into law on Friday. Senate Bill 1001, which will take effect July 1, prohibits the sale of dogs and cats “on or in any roadside, public right-of-way, parkway, median, park, or recreation area; flea market or other outdoor market; or commercial parking lot.”

Sen. William Stanley Jr., R-Moneta, spearheaded the bill in the General Assembly. It passed unanimously in the Senate and was approved 82-15 in the House.

Matt Gray, state director for the Humane Society of the United States, fought for the bill, saying it was aimed at people who operate puppy mills or use other inhumane practices.

“Selling animals on the roadside or in front of stores is a method used by inhumane breeders and puppy mills to get rid of their animals,” Gray said. “They are able to circumvent the laws that are in place to protect animals.”

Gray said roadside displays fool customers into buying pets that may have been mistreated by the breeder. The breeders then reap profits that help fund their operations, he said.

The prohibition against displaying pets for sale in a parking lot, park or other outdoor public place will not apply to animal welfare groups, animal shelters, state or county fairs, 4-H or other educational programs. Nor will it apply to hunting dogs or livestock.


Hemp research authorized in Virginia

A crop that was grown in the early years of the Virginia colony could be returning to farm fields in a few years.

On March 16 Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a bill that authorizes Virginia Tech and Virginia State University to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will issue the growing licenses. The law goes into effect July 1.

Hemp was once so valuable a crop that it was one of 100 plants members of the Virginia Company were ordered to grow in 1619. It also was one of three principal crops at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Hemp was used to make rope, fabric and paper.

In 1937 Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, which imposed an excise tax on all sales of hemp and was a major barrier to hemp production. Industrial hemp was grown in the United States until 1945. In 1970 all forms of the cannabis plant were banned under the Controlled Substances Act.

“We support the research of any new crops for our farmers, including industrial hemp,” said Lindsay Reames, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation assistant director of governmental relations. “The growth of industrial hemp for research was permitted by the 2014 Farm Bill. Legislation needed to be passed in Virginia to allow for its growth within the state.” Sen. Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg, and Del. Joe Yost, R-Pearisburg, were patrons of the successful legislation.

The universities’ research will be conducted in conjunction with the network of Virginia Cooperative Extension agricultural research centers.

Hemp seed oil has the potential to be an alternative energy source and an ingredient in pharmaceuticals, as well as a cooking oil. Hemp fiber is used in clothing, rope, construction materials and carpet and in the automobile industry.

“VDACS will continue to support industrial hemp in Virginia and looks forward to working with our state research partners to seek the best production practices and potential markets for the crop in the near future,” said Sarah Pennington, VDACS public relations specialist.

She said there has been interest among farmers and farm industries, and that VDACS has begun reaching out to supporters of the industrial hemp legislation and to industries interested in using Virginia-grown hemp.

— Virginia Farm Bureau

Capital News Service
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Capital News Service is a student news-gathering program sponsored by the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University.