Richard Martin Reporting

Gov. Terry McAuliffe says the site’s data can help people make informed decisions.

Here’s delicious news for data connoisseurs: The state has launched a new site as a repository of data compiled by state agencies and available for public consumption.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office announced the launch of Data.Virginia.gov on Friday. There were links to several Department of Education compilations, including school report cards, the dangerous dog registry, fire incident reporting system data and the charitable solicitors registry.

“Virginia is generating more data on a daily basis than ever before. Much of that information is intended for public access, but is often buried and hard to find,” McAuliffe said in the announcement. “With this new initiative, Virginians will have a one stop shop to get access to data from a variety of sources.

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~ Richmond Times-Dispatch

The excited calls from felons started coming in on Friday. There was a 54-year-old construction worker from Richmond who was convicted on a drug charge decades ago and had never voted. There was a young father, busted for dealing years ago, now trying to bounce back.

“He wanted to be an example for his children — that it’s their constitutional right to vote, and it’s their responsibility to vote,” said Richard Walker, founder of Bridging the Gap in Virginia, a group working to help restore felons’ voting rights. “I’m going to be swamped.”

Walker is on the leading edge of far-reaching change, set to take effect Monday, in how Virginia treats its felons.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), moving to deepen reforms that were a key priority of his predecessor, Robert F. McDonnell (R), has reclassified a series of serious drug crimes to make it dramatically easier for tens of thousands of former prisoners to have their voting rights restored.

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~ The Washington Post

A memo released today by the National Republican Senatorial Committee political director suggests optimism about the party’s chances against Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner in November.

The memo from Ward Baker says that likely Republican challenger Ed Gillespie raised $2.2 million in his first quarter in the race, and has nearly $2 million on hand. It says Warner has $8.8 million on hand.

Baker’s memo also says a majority of Virginia’s voters disapprove of President Barack Obama and the Affordable Care Act, which Warner backed. It suggests those factors could work to Gillespie’s advantage.

The memo also cites a recent Quinnipiac University poll in which 21 percent of independents had a favorable impression of Gillespie, compared to 10 percent who viewed him unfavorably. The rest didn’t know enough about him.

Virginia is one of more than a dozen states Republicans have their eyes on this year as they try to take control of the Senate.

~ The Virginian-Pilot

As Virginia legislators continue to debate whether to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in the state’s two-year budget, some Medicaid expansion supporters claim more than 25,000 Virginia veterans and their spouses could receive health care coverage if the General Assembly allows expansion.

Mercedies Harris, a former Marine from Waynesboro, is one of those veterans.

Harris, who does not have health care coverage and would benefit from Medicaid expansion, told a crowd in Richmond in March that he has glaucoma and struggles to pay more than $400 a month for his medication.

“Like all veterans, I was proud to serve our country,” Harris said. “So I’m asking you to please don’t turn your backs on us now. We have a shared responsibility to protect and expand opportunity for this generation and for the future generations. The time is now to close the coverage gap.”

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~ The Staunton News Leader

The Nationals recalled left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno and optioned rookie Blake Treinen back to Class AAA Syracuse, giving them an extra, fresh relief arm after Treinen threw 60 pitches over 2 2/3 innings Thursday night. Treinen joined the Nationals on Saturday in place of Aaron Barrett and, over three appearances, threw 123 pitches in 6 2/3 innings.

Cedeno likely will hold a place until the Nationals can recall Barrett, whom they optioned in order to add Treinen as a fresh arm. Barrett was optioned Saturday and, by rule, must spend 10 days in the minors before the Nationals can recall him. So Barrett, who excelled in his first big league work, will be eligible to return Tuesday.

The Nationals will try to rebound from the 8-0 trouncing they suffered last night against the Cardinals. For the first time all season, Manager Matt Williams will use the same lineup in consecutive games.

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~ The Washington Post

Three constitutional scholars, including the principal architect of Virginia’s current constitution, have filed court papers supporting Attorney General Mark Herring’s decision not to defend the state’s prohibition on same-sex marriage.

Virginia’s gay-marriage ban is the target of what could become a landmark legal case working its way through the federal courts. A Norfolk district judge struck the ban down in February, but delayed implementation of her decision pending an appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a “friend of the court” brief filed with the appeals court Thursday, the three scholars say Herring had not only the authority but the obligation to abandon the defense of Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban once he determined that it violates the U.S. Constitution.

Herring, a Democrat elected in November, announced in January that he would not defend the ban, reversing the position of his Republican predecessor Ken Cuccinelli, who had mounted a vigorous defense of the law.

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~ The Virginian-Pilot

Dispassionate analysis on health care for the uninsured is always interesting to read — consider, for instance, this from one of the experts summoned to Richmond this month by the legislative panel charged with recommending whether the state should expand coverage for low income Virginians.

The title:

"50 VETOES" (the letters 2 inches high), then "How states can stop the Obama Health Care law."

In this report, Michael Cannon, of the Cato Institute, advises that states can force repeal of the Affordable Care Act by refusing to expand Medicaid and by refusing to set up a state insurance exchange as an alternative to the Healthcare.gov.

Virginia is one of 34 states that haven’t set up state exchanges, and the current impasse over a state budget is over a state Senate proposal that House of Delegates Republicans say is Medicaid expansion by another name.

"A critical mass of states exercising their vetoes over Exchanges and the Medicaid expansion can force Congress to reconsider, and hopefully repeal, the rest of this counterproductive law," Cannon advises.

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~ Newport News Daily Press

Matt Williams knew there would come a time when he would be tested as a big-league manager for the first time. Not for anything he did or said in the dugout during a game. But for what he did or said in the Nationals’ clubhouse after a game.

That test came Thursday night when, after a trainwreck of an 8-0 loss to the Cardinals, Williams for the first time had stern words for his players.

Williams had no intention of sharing the contents of his message with the public — “That’s for me and my team, and nobody else’s business,” he said — but the actual contents probably are less important than the rookie manager’s tone. So, how upset was he?

“A lot,” catcher Jose Lobaton said. “I think not only him. I think everybody. I saw everybody’s face. It was kind of a little down, because we know we played really bad.”

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~ Comcast SportsNet

Ed Gillespie’s Senate campaign announced it’s finance committee members today. UVA Vice-Rector Bill Goodwin, long-time GOP operative Fred Malek, state Sen. Jeff McWaters and K-Va.-T Food Stores CEO Steve Smith will serve as co-chairs, the campaign said.

Other members pasted below from a campaign email:

The Honorable and Mrs. Spencer Abraham
Stan F. Baldwin
Charlie & Mari Ann Banks
Honorable and Mrs. William P. Barr
Kirk & Kristen Blalock
Tom and Carol Boyd
Reg Brown
Jim Carter
Hon. Thelma Drake
John and Anne Hazel, Jr.
Everett and Robin Hellmuth
William B. Holtzman
Marc and Emily Lampkin
Leonard Leo
Marlene Malek
Steve McMillin
Dan and Ellen Meyer
David & Laurie Norcross
Jon Peterson
Dan & Sonia Runde
Juan Pablo Segura
Tom Snead
Pete Snyder
John Tickle
John D. Whitlock
Wyatt Winslow

~ Newport News Daily Press

Jeff’s Notes: McAuliffe winning friends, influencing people — in Hampton Roads.

Richmond Times-Dispatch’s political reporter Jeff Schapiro talks about McAuliffe’s latest plan.

~ Richmond Times-Dispatch

For a minute Thursday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe sounded like a parent admonishing a den full of children.

Seated before him was a collection of mayors, city officials and county supervisors from southeast Virginia. His topic: The nearly $200 million a year the region now has at its disposal to build the mega-road projects it has long sought.

"So," McAuliffe said, "no more blaming Richmond."

Some in the suited crowd chuckled.

The governor continued:

"No more complaining, whining, bickering. You all need to get together. This is your decision now. Make the decisions. And make them smart, make them quickly, and do it in a manner that, number one, opens up the area for economic development and, number two, eases congestion. That is now the mission."

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~ The Virginian-Pilot

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced today that he will shrink the time violent felons must wait to seek reinstatement of their voting rights and will remove some offenses from that list.

The policy slated to take effect April 21 comes on top of years of work to streamline the process, and aims to make the system easier to understand and to allow more felons to petition the state more quickly.

In a series of changes to the state’s restoration of rights process, McAuliffe wants to collapse the application waiting period from five to three years for people convicted of violent felonies and others that require a waiting period, and to remove drug offenses from that list.

In Virginia, only the governor can restore civil rights to felons, and attempts over the years to change the Virginia Constitution to allow for automatic restoration have failed.

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~ Richmond Times-Dispatch

The chatter continues today about GOP Rep. Eric Cantor’s harsh attack on Obama, in which he alleged the President has failed to cooperate with Republicans on immigration, throwing reform’s prospects into doubt. Cantor’s comments tell us a great deal about today’s GOP — especially when placed in the context of Jeb Bush’s controversial suggestion that illegal immigration is an “act of love.”

Short version: Jeb Bush called on Republicans to find a way to accept integration of the 11 million into American society as a morally tolerable and practically desirable outcome. Cantor declared, in effect, that this isn’t going to happen, because #Obummer.

Cantor, responding to Obama’s accusation that House Republicans had failed to move on reform, insisted the president will not railroad them into passing the Senate bill. As conservative news outlets were quick to point out, Cantor had a reason for this: He is under fire from the right for pushing legislation that would legalize just the DREAMers. Seen this way, Cantor’s move was about deflecting scrutiny from conservatives by appearing to take a tough posture with Obama for trying to shove amnesty down Republicans’ throats.

Cantor has gotten attention for wanting to soften the GOP’s image and make the party look more tolerant, an effort that includes this push for a vote on the DREAMers. But what that push really shows is how limited efforts to make the GOP appear more inclusive really are. Only legalizing the DREAMers falls dramatically short of addressing the 11 million, yet even this gets Cantor hit from the right.

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~ The Washington Post

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, a group tasked with getting Republicans elected to the Senate, believes Republicans have expanded the 2014 playing field with five more contested races as the GOP seeks to retake control of the chamber.

In a memo released to consultants Friday morning, NRSC political director Ward Baker writes that Republicans have become competitive in Colorado, New Hampshire, Virginia, Oregon and Minnesota since the start of the year.

That’s in addition to nearly 10 Senate seats the NRSC has been aggressively targeting.

In Virginia, the NRSC acknowledges that incumbent Sen. Mark Warner leads in the polls, but the group points to Republican challenger Ed Gillespie’s $2.2 million cash haul in the first quarter, about half a million behind Warner’s.

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~ CNN