Transparency News, 1/18/2023


January 18, 2023

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state & local news stories


VCOG's annual legislative chart of FOIA and access-related bills

Shortly after a Virginia Senate committee voted Tuesday to defeat a bill creating an across-the-board $20,000 cap on donations to political candidates running for the General Assembly and executive branch offices, the same panel took up another bill that would have only banned political donations from publicly regulated utilities like Dominion Energy. The votes to kill the bills were bipartisan and not particularly close, with the broader bill setting a $20,000 cap failing 5-10 and the utility-focused bill dying 3-12. Members of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committees warned of unintended consequences if Virginia were to move away from its unlimited, transparency-based campaign finance system and joined numerous states and the federal government in setting caps on how much money candidates can accept from one source. To dedicate more time to the issue, the General Assembly set up a special joint subcommittee in 2021 that was supposed to study various campaign finance reform proposals and make recommendations on what the legislature should do. But that body only met a few times in 2021. It didn’t meet at all in 2022, and didn’t produce a report that was supposed to inform legislators on the topic for the 2023 session.
Virginia Mercury

Isle of Wight County’s School Board declined to approve a code of ethics or board protocols for 2023 at its Jan. 12 reorganizational meeting.  According to former chairwoman Denise Tynes, the votes mark the first time since the code of ethics was drafted in 2009 that the document hasn’t been readopted annually.  Chairman John Collick then made a motion to replace 22 existing board policies with a series of bylaws he’d drafted, and board member Jason Maresh seconded it, but Collick later rescinded his motion pending further discussion of the bylaws document at a later meeting. According to board member Michael Cunningham, board members received Collick’s 14-page document just two days prior, on Jan. 10.  The draft bylaws document wasn’t included as an attachment to the meeting’s agenda, but The Smithfield Times obtained a copy from school officials.  One change Collick’s draft bylaws propose states “neither the superintendent nor his staff is authorized to hold any meeting for the general public, without the express, prior approval of the School Board.”  
The Smithfield Times

A Nottoway School Board member, who was criticized last month for recent comments he made about why the founding fathers didn’t let women vote, came under more fire Thursday night over various political ‘memes’ he’s shared on his Facebook page. District One rep Bill Outlaw was told by Christine Collazo of Blacksone that she understands and respects his right to free speech, but that it comes with responsibility and consequences. “I’m fully aware you have every right to be openly hateful, racist, sexist, homophobic, and bigoted. Even though I do not agree with what you have to say, I’m not challenging your right to say it.” Outlaw took the unusual step of a school board member directly addressing a speaker. “I don’t typically respond to these outrageous accusations. Few, if any, have any basis in fact. What I find disturbing is that you use the term ‘respect’ yet you have none. You expect me to have respect for your feelings, your thoughts, your beliefs, and you have not one ounce of respect for mine.”
Blackstone Courier-Record

Dozens of teachers and parents unleashed fury, fear and frustration on the Newport News school board Tuesday evening, saying systemic problems throughout the district created the climate in which, police said, a 6-year-old boy shot his teacher earlier this month. In something of a mass catharsis, speakers called for the superintendent to be fired, and many said his plan to install metal detectors at schools in response to the recent shooting was entirely inadequate. Some practically screamed their comments at the lectern, and others were in tears. The crowd of at least a couple hundred people overflowed into three additional rooms for a session that stretched past three hours. School board members listened without responding to the substance of any of the public comments.
The Washington Post