Sept. 23 to Sept. 29, 2019

September 23 thru 29, 2019 1
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Dominion Energy's Chesterfield Power Station is one of four sites across the state that is subject to new coal ash pond closure restrictions under compromise legislation that passed the General Assembly and was signed by the governor. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly)

Summary

Federal: Republican leaders accuse Northam of breaking deal on Medicaid work rules

State Legislature: Luria, McEachin and Spanberger join calls for impeachment inquiries

Higher Education: How Virginia’s new student loan ombudsman helps borrowers

Environment: Critics warn Trump EPA’s new coal-ash plan will let polluters off the hook

Abortion: Report: Abortion Rate Drops in Virginia, More than Almost Any Other State

Civil Rights: Same-sex unions make up 4 percent of Virginia marriages

Federal

Republican leaders accuse Northam of breaking deal on Medicaid work rules

By Michael Martz

Richmond Times-Dispatch- September 26, 2019

The political deal that allowed Virginia to expand its Medicaid program could be falling apart over a promised work requirement less than six weeks before voters decide control of the General Assembly.

While expansion of Medicaid is not imperiled, Republican legislative leaders said Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, is breaking faith with the political bargain they made with him last year by telling President Donald Trump’s administration that Virginia’s commitment to the work requirement depends on the federal government paying for services to help people find jobs.

State Legislature

Luria, McEachin and Spanberger join calls for impeachment inquiries

By Robin Bravender

Virginia Mercury-September 24, 2019

Virginia Reps. Elaine Luria, D-Virginia Beach, and Abigail Spanberger, D-Henrico, joined five other freshman House Democrats on Monday night saying that — if true — recent allegations leveled against President Trump “represent an impeachable offense.”

Rep. Don McEachin, D-Richmond, issued a separate statement joining calls for impeachment late Tuesday morning, leaving Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Newport News, as the only Democratic member of the Virginia delegation who has not voiced support for an inquiry.

Issues

Higher Education

How Virginia’s new student loan ombudsman helps borrowers

By Mechelle Hankerson

Virginia Mercury- September 23, 2019

Student loans: Just over a million Virginians have $38 billion worth of them and have made thousands of complaints about confusing rules, ballooning balances and misapplied payments to the federal government in the past three years.

Since January, students have been able to send concerns to Scott Kemp, the state’s first student loan ombudsman.

He’s worked on 107 cases in his first nine months.

Environment

Critics warn Trump EPA’s coal-ash plan will let polluters off the hook

By Allison Winter

Virginia Mercury-September 25, 2019

The Trump administration wants to give electric utilities a pass on proving they could finance a hazardous waste cleanup in the event of a Superfund disaster.

The proposed rule from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says electric utilities should not have to make “financial assurances” to cover the risk the industry will produce pollution it cannot afford to clean up. Virginia has more than 28 million tons of coal ash stored in pits in the state, according to the Virginia Conservation Network. Much of Virginia’s coal ash is part of a cleanup agreement the state legislature passed earlier this year, but some remains unaddressed. The state’s waterways can also be affected by coal ash in neighboring states.

Abortion

Report: Abortion Rate Drops in Virginia, More than Almost Any Other State

By Mallory Noe-Payne

WVTF Public Radio- September 23, 2019

A new report by the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that supports abortion rights, shows that between 2011 and 2017 the abortion rate in Virginia fell by 41.5 percent. Elizabeth Nash worked on the report.

“Compared to other states it was a very large drop,” says Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at Guttmacher.

During that same time period, the nationwide drop in abortion rates was 20.1 percent.

Civil Rights

Same-sex unions make up 4 percent of Virginia marriages

By Patricia Cason

Virginia Mercury-September 27, 2019

Same-sex couples have made up 1 of every 26 marriages in Virginia since such unions were legalized in the commonwealth in 2014. In a half-dozen localities — ranging from cities such as Richmond and Norfolk to rural communities like Buena Vista — same-sex couples represent approximately 1 of every 15 marriages.

Norfolk, for example, recorded about 12,400 marriages from 2014 through 2018, according to the Virginia Department of Health. About 850 of those weddings were same-sex marriages, the agency’s data showed.

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