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Saturday, February 9, 2013
RICHMOND — Six legislators who represent Southside Virginia are urging Gov. Bob McDonnell to resist pressure for his administration to develop regulations for uranium mining, citing the lack of support in the General Assembly for ending a state moratorium on the industry.
The Senate sponsor of legislation to lift Virginia’s 31-year-old moratorium on uranium mining withdrew his legislation last week, conceding that he could not convince enough lawmakers that mining can be done safely and economically in the state. But Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, said he would ask McDonnell to direct state agencies to draft regulations in order to address “unanswered questions” of skeptical legislators who oppose a planned mining and milling operation in Pittsylvania County.
In a Wednesday letter to McDonnell, six legislators who represent the region said “It was clear that the proponents of uranium mining were not able to make the case that the benefits outweigh the long-term risk of mining and milling of uranium in Virginia.”
The letter was signed by Republican Sens. Bill Stanley of Franklin County and Frank Ruff of Mecklenburg County and by Republican Dels. Don Merricks of Chatham, Danny Marshall of Danville, James Edmunds of South Boston and Tommy Wright of Lunenburg County. Stanley’s and Merricks’ districts include the Coles Hill site where mining and milling would occur.
“In the final analysis, the majority of our constituents — the people who are closest to the mine site itself — are deeply concerned about the effects this operation would have on our water, our environment, our agriculture and our long-term economic health,” the lawmakers wrote.
The lawmakers requested a meeting with McDonnell, who has not taken a position on whether uranium mining should be allowed in the state.
“To ignore the overwhelming opposition to uranium mining that has been expressed by citizens and organizations across the Commonwealth does not fit with representative government,” the legislators concluded. “An issue as divisive as this should be dealt with by the legislative process prior to expending more taxpayer funds.”
— Michael Sluss
Putney will switchif he seeks re-election
Del. Lacey Putney may finally make his association with the Republican Party official.
Putney, a Bedford independent and Virginia’s longest-serving legislator, said he will run as a GOP candidate if he seeks re-election this fall, according to an item posted on The Botetourt View, a Roanoke Times community publication. Botetourt Republicans have been urging Putney to seek the GOP nomination.
“I am pleased to receive so many calls and visits from a number of constituents and Republican Party leaders in my district, particularly Botetourt County, urging me to seek re-election and to run for the Republican nomination,” Putney said. “I am strongly leaning toward running, and if I do seek re-election, I will run as a Republican.”
Putney has been a member of the House Republican Caucus since 1998 and serves as chairman of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee. But he has run for election as an independent ever since he left the Democratic Party in the late 1960s. He was first elected to the House in 1961.
In 2011, Republicans nominated Jerry Johnson to run against Putney and Democratic challenger Lewis Medlin in the redrawn 19th District. Putney won the three-way race, but got just 41.6 percent of the vote. The 19th District covers the cities of Bedford and Covington, parts of Bedford and Botetourt counties and all of Alleghany County.
Putney, 84, is bouncing back from a minor stroke he suffered in early January while vacationing in Mexico. He said he will follow his customary practice of waiting until after the General Assembly adjourns to announce whether he will run for another term.
— Michael Sluss
Smoking with child in car won’t be outlawed
State Sen. Ralph Northam’s effort to outlaw smoking in a vehicle with a child present was decisively snuffed out Friday.
The Norfolk Democrat, a pediatric neurologist, wanted to protect children from the dangers of secondhand smoke, which he said increases the risk of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory ailments.
His bill (Senate Bill 975 ) would have made it a traffic offense, subject to a $100 civil penalty, to smoke in a vehicle with a child younger than 15 present. He said the idea for the measure came from a third-grader on the Eastern Shore who told him he worried about his health when a parent lit up a cigarette in the car.
The House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee tabled the Senate-passed bill on a 13-4 vote, meaning it won’t advance further. The similar House Bill 1366 got the same treatment last month.
Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge County, said he was uncomfortable with “regulating a legal activity in a private space,” suggesting the next step might be banning smoking in people’s homes.
— Bill Sizemore, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot
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