Transparency News 1/15/19



January 16, 2019


Follow the bills that VCOG follows on our annual legislative bill chart.


state & local news stories




FEATURED BILL: This afternoon at 3:00, a subcommittee of the powerful House Appropriations Committee -- the committee that holds the purse strings -- will hear HB2237 from Del. Michael Webert (R-Marshall). It says that Virginia's economic development authority should have to disclose "essential terms" of an economic development deal at least 21 days prior to its approval. Among the "essential terms" would be job projections and "the recipient of the incentives regarding the Virginia Freedom of Information Act." The Amazon deal, as you'll recall, includes a provision requiring Amazon to be given a head's up on any FOIA request so they have an opportunity to seek a protective order against disclosure.

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As legislators gather in Richmond for the 2019 General Assembly session, citizens in the far corners of the commonwealth might feel distanced from their elected representatives. But any computer or cellphone user with internet access can watch live and recorded video of state lawmakers in action. The House and Senate each live-stream their committee meetings and floor sessions. And the advocacy group Progress Virginia broadcasts subcommittee meetings over the internet. The importance of public access to subcommittee meetings cannot be overstated, as many important pieces of legislation are often killed at that level. Anna Scholl, executive director at ProgressVA, said the results of subcommittee votes would often remain unknown to the public. “When we started Eyes on Richmond,” Scholl said, “it was standard for bills to pass or fail on unrecorded voice votes, and it was often impossible to know how a particular legislator voted on important bills unless you were in the room when it happened.”
The Virginia Gazette

It has been 10½ weeks since Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney publicly endorsed the $1.4 billion plan to redevelop 21 acres of city-owned downtown real estate around a new Richmond Coliseum. The proposal, however, still remains private 2½ months after the mayor’s announcement, and neither his administration nor the nonprofit entity that pitched the plans will say when it aims to unveil them, citing ongoing negotiations. A senior policy adviser in Stoney’s economic development department said “key components” of the deal are still under discussion. Neither side has said what remains at issue.
Richmond Times-Dispatch


editorials & columns



At many universities, student newspapers receive funding from their administrations, which gives those administrators control over the papers’ editorial content. This relationship often conflicts with papers’ responsibility to critically analyze all relevant aspects of their stories — a task that can reveal distasteful aspects of all universities involved. To preserve the historical record created through student journalism and in support of the continued wellbeing of higher education communities, the Virginia General Assembly must prohibit universities’ ability to censor student media. 
The Cavalier Daily