Transparency News 1/29/19



January 29, 2019


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


state & local news stories




"All this bill does is protect against what we call the 'making the school look bad censorship,' the image-motivated censorship."

Yesterday was a busy day at the General Assembly's committees. With a week left before all bills having to be dealt with in the chamber they started in (known as Crossover Day), the dockets are jam-packed and the testimony is often abbreviated by time-clocks or calls for only opposing voices.

The Senate General Laws & Technology Committee advanced several FOIA bills, some that add an entity to an existing exemption (e.g., the Fort Monroe Authority), one that would require bi-annual FOIA training for elected officials, and another that would impose penalties for intentionally deleting records to avoid a FOIA request. The same committee also advanced a bill to require the Library of Virginia to produce the records of the previous governor within a year after the end of their term. Both that bill and the FOIA training bill now have to go to the Senate Finance Committee to see if there is money to execute them.

A House Courts of Justice subcommittee defeated on a tie vote a journalists' shield law, while a House Education subcommittee killed a bill to ensure student journalists' rights to a free press (see below).

A tuition-decision public comment bill will be heard today in Senate Finance. Another 10 bills on VCOG's bill chart will also be heard at some point during the day. Follow along by checking on the meeting schedule for the day and by watching Senate and House committees. Go to to follow some of the subcommittees.

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A legislative panel rejected a bill protecting student journalists from administrative censorship on a tie vote Monday. House Bill 2382, sponsored by Del. Chris Hurst, D-Montgomery, would have protected free speech for student journalists in public elementary, middle and high schools, as well as public institutions of higher education. A subcommittee of the House Education Committee deadlocked 3-3 on the bill after hearing testimony from students and faculty advisers from high schools and colleges across the commonwealth. "All this bill does is protect against what we call the 'making the school look bad censorship,' the image-motivated censorship," said Frank LoMonte, former executive director of the Student Press Law Center and head of the New Voice Initiative, a campaign network for anti-censorship laws. "Anything a school can stop you from saying on a T-shirt or ball cap, they can stop you from saying in a newspaper."
The Martinsville Bulletin

The Virginia House spent just nine minutes in debate Monday before voting overwhelmingly to give Amazon up to $750 million in subsidies over 15 years for the company's planned headquarters facility in Arlington, Virginia.
The Daily Progress

The city of Danville Transit System held public information meetings at the Recreation Center of the Ballou Park Senior Citizens Center on Monday regarding the possible bus service. Just three residents attended the meeting Monday afternoon. The meeting’s purpose was to get public input concerning the proposed regional bus service.
Register & Bee

When Sharyl Attkisson first began hearing clicking sounds on her phone and her computers started turning on and off in the middle of the night, she thought it was a technical glitch that could be easily fixed. Attkisson, then a longtime investigative reporter for CBS News, didn't suspect anything more until her sources in the intelligence community suggested that the government might be spying on her because of critical stories she had done. Attkisson alleged in a 2015 lawsuit that former Attorney General Eric Holder, former Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, and unnamed federal agents conducted unauthorized surveillance of her home and electronic devices in an attempt to determine who was leaking confidential information to her. A federal judge dismissed Attkisson's lawsuit, finding that resolving the allegations would overstep the court's authority because it "would require inquiry into sensitive Executive Branch discussions and decisions." Attkisson's appeal will be heard Tuesday by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

During the election season, several commercials surfaced accusing Virginia Beach City Councilman John Moss of saying "No" to new schools and stormwater funding. At the time, the public only knew that political action committees for the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Beach Education Association funded the videos, including one that says if he had his way, there would be no sand in Sandbridge and that he "voted against Town Center every step of the way." The commercial also shows him shaking his head. But new campaign finance reports released this month reveal the people writing the checks included prominent businessmen, some of whom Moss has openly criticized or whose projects he's opposed.
The Virginian-Pilot