Richard Martin Reporting

House Speaker William J. Howell announced Monday that he will block the confirmation of three former legislators’ nominations to state employment until the U.S. Justice Department assures him that the appointments are legal.

In a letter to top Justice Department officials, Howell (R) said he did not actually think the three latest appointments were improper — but was prompted to pose the question because the FBI is investigating another ex-legislator who resigned amid job talks.

Howell made clear how he feels about that case, involving former state senator Phillip P. Puckett (D). The speaker said Puckett did nothing unusual in June when he stepped down while discussing a job for himself on the Republican-controlled state tobacco commission and a judgeship for his daughter.

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~ The Washington Post

It’s hard to pin the Nats’ recent success on one thing. Between the pitching staff’s Majors-leading 3.03 ERA (which includes a top-ranking rotation ERA of 3.09) and the offense’s 269 second-half runs entering Sunday’s finale vs. the Marlins, a lot has come together for the club to win 90 games for the second time since moving to Washington before the 2005 season.

"We didn’t play horribly in the first half, but we knew that we didn’t play to our capabilities," Nationals outfielder Denard Span said. "I just think the second half, collectively as a team, everybody’s pitched in. You don’t have any one guy that is carrying a load. As a team, we pulled together."

From post-win raves — after each win this season, the Nats set up strobe lights and a fog machine to turn their clubhouse into something resembling a club more than a locker room — to pregame poker sessions, it’s obvious that Washington’s players have come together off the field, too.

That camaraderie is part of the reason why reaching the 90-win mark didn’t seem like much of an improbability to starter Tanner Roark.

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Everyone knew Del. Tom Rust’s bill was going to die, just as they knew the House of Delegates debate on Medicaid expansion last week wasn’t going to convince a staunchly opposed Republican majority to change its mind.

But they went through the exercise anyway. At a cost of a bit more than $40,000.


"I think the Republicans are trying to say, ‘we promised a debate and we’ve had a debate and now it is time to move on,’" said Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, which released a poll showing six in 10 Virginia voters like the idea of expanding Medicaid to cover more of their low-income neighbors.

The political stakes remain high in the battle over using Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — money to cover some of the more than 350,000 low-income Virginians who have no health insurance now.

Rust’s bill tested how solid his fellow Republicans’ opposition to variations on the expansion theme might be. Pretty solid, as it turned out.

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~ Newport News Daily Press

Virginia’s political scandals come at longer intervals than do corruption busts in other states.

Perhaps our politics are cleaner than most, and — just as true — perhaps ethics laws are harder to break when the sky is the limit for many gifts and the self-reporting process is a bit vague and infrequent.

It should not take a federal prosecutor, judge and jury to define corruption in Virginia, but recently that has been the case, which may prompt state lawmakers to pass some new ethics laws with teeth.

Clearly the gap between national anti-corruption laws and Virginia’s laissez-faire standards of “let them police themselves, self-report a little once in a while, and hope for the best” needs to be closed.

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~ The Charlottesville Daily Progress


IN THE course of Virginia’s long debate over expanding Medicaid to extend health coverage to hundreds of thousands of poor people, Republicans in Richmond have budged not an inch from their blanket opposition. They have been unmoved by logic, by public opinion and by economics. They have ignored the shifting attitudes of GOP governors and lawmakers in other states. They have disregarded the pleas of Virginia business leaders and hospital executives. They have even thumbed their noses at the handful of moderates in their own ranks who have suggested compromises.

The opposition of Virginia’s GOP lawmakers to any form of Medicaid expansion — under any conditions or timetable or permutation — has assumed its own convoluted logic. They are against using federal funds to insure poor Virginians mainly because the other side — namely, President Obama — is for it.

The blatant bankruptcy of the Republican position was on display in Richmond this week, where legislators met in special session to debate the Medicaid expansion — despite the fact that the GOP-controlled House of Delegates had dug in its heels, making a charade of the entire exercise.

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~ The Washington Post

Public comments ran overwhelmingly in favor of rolling back various abortion facility rules during a regulatory review that is fast approaching some key decision points.

The state’s review is on track to wrap up by Oct. 1, Department of Health staff said Thursday. Then it will be up to the state health commissioner to recommend a course of action to the state Board of Health.

She can suggest that the rules stay as they are, that they be amended or that they be repealed and replaced in full. The issue would likely be before the full board in December for an up or down vote.

More than 10,600 of the nearly 14,300 comments collected during the public comment period of this process favored repeal, according to an update provided to Board of Health members this week. About 2,700 comments supported the regulations. Nearly 5,500 of the comments came in from out of state, according to the update.

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~ Newport News Daily Press

Half of all children given up for adoption will search for their birth parents at some point in their lives. Those adopted as infants are the most common group of people searching, and most often they start looking for the mother first, according to data collected by the government’s Child Welfare Information Gateway.

In Virginia, the Department of Social Services is the agency of record and adoption oversight, with individual localities operating within its framework. Last year almost 700 adoptions were finalized in the state, and more than 1,000 adoption matches were made. Approximately 1,500 people each year contact DSS to search for family members, according to spokeswoman Patrice Hagan.

Typical triggers for adult searches are a marriage, the birth of a child or the death of a parent, according to adoption experts.

Inquiries are handled by the Adoption Disclosure Unit, which filters requests to the responsible child-placing agency. In the past two years, the Newport News Department of Social Services has finalized adoptions for a dozen children each year. It completes about six adult adoptee searches a year, according to spokeswoman Anita Walters.

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~ Newport News Daily Press

1. Ronald D. Schmitz - Chief investment officer - Virginia Retirement System - Base salary: $382,500 - Total salary: $787,096

2. Charles W. Grant - Managing director, internal assets - Virginia Retirement System - Base salary: $317,370 - Total salary: $671,181

3. Paul Hewitt - Men’s basketball coach - George Mason University - Base salary: $666,348 - Total salary: $666,348

4. Irving L. Kron - Professor - University of Virginia Health Systems - Base salary: $91,123 - Total salary: $561,100

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~ Richmond Times-Dispatch

Lost in the partisan debates in Richmond over issues including Medicaid expansion and programs for the commonwealth’s less fortunate is a disturbing fact about Virginia’s working poor.

Thousands of them are state employees.

The number of full-time state employees receiving federal assistance has increased more than 150 percent — from 892 in 2011 to 2,287 in 2013, according to statistics compiled by the state Department of Human Resources Management.

The difference is even more pronounced going back six years earlier. Only 12 state employees received assistance in 2007.

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~ Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Virginia Retirement System’s chief investment officer and its former chief, who is now second in command, were the state’s highest-paid employees last year, according to a list of salaries compiled by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

VRS Chief Investment Officer Ronald D. Schmitz tops the list, with $786,596 in cash compensation thanks to a hefty bonus. And former CIO Charles W. Grant, now director of internal asset management, earned $670,811.

The state salary list, which details the compensation of 104,722 state employees, doesn’t account for the often-seven-figure sums paid to high-profile college coaches from sources other than state coffers.

As in past years, VRS and university leaders dominate the top positions, with everyone in the top 25 working in academia or for the retirement system.

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~ Richmond Times-Dispatch

Former Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr., R-Fairfax, has died, according to several officials, who spoke highly of his character and longtime service as a Virginia legislator.

Callahan, 82, was a former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

“A gentleman and statesman, Vince dedicated his life to serving the Commonwealth,” House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, wrote in a statement today. “Vince’s great sense of humor and legislative independence earned him friends on both sides of the aisle.”

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat, wrote in a statement that he’s saddened by the death of his friend.

Callahan served more than 40 years in the House of Delegates.

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~ Richmond Times-Dispatch

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.
Margaret Mead
He who is threatened by another’s faith, is not secure in his own.
Sheila Matechuk

Weekly Address: The World is United in the Fight Against ISIL

In this week’s address, the President thanked Congress for its strong bipartisan support for efforts to train and equip Syrian opposition forces to fight ISIL.

~ The White House

Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., and GOP challenger Ed Gillespie wrangled over what may be the biggest issue of this campaign — the Affordable Care Act — at a candidates forum in Herndon on Friday.

The Republican wants to repeal the law, but Warner once again urged lawmakers in Washington to come together and fix it.

“Congress passed Medicare 49 years ago, and Congress didn’t get Medicare right the first time. You’ve got to have people who are bipartisan and willing to come back and fix this,” Warner said at the “Battleground U.S. Senate Forum,” hosted by the Greater Reston, Fredericksburg Regional, Prince William County and Loudoun County chambers of commerce.

The two major-party candidates did not debate each other, but answered several questions from a panel. Robert C. Sarvis, the Libertarian nominee, was not invited.

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~ Richmond Times-Dispatch