Difference between revisions of "Virginia political news"

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Revision as of 22:08, 25 January 2010

Ballotpedia News
Ballot news headlines from Virginia


States to begin legislative sessions in 2011

SLP badge.png

MADISON, Wisconsin: On January 3, 2011, Montana and Ohio will begin their legislative sessions, the first of 48 states to begin sessions in 2011.

Two states have already begun their legislative sessions. Maine's legislature met on December 1, and California's commenced on December 6.

All 50 states will have sessions in 2011, contrasted with 2010, where only 46 states conducted regular sessions. Texas, North Dakota, and Montana were three of the four states in which the legislatures did not hold regular sessions. The fourth state, Nevada, held a special session from February 23 to March 1 dealing with the budget and education.[1]

Month States
January Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
February Oregon, Nevada, Oklahoma
March Alabama, Florida
April Louisiana

A detailed breakdown of legislative start dates, end dates and special election dates may be viewed on Ballotpedia's 2011 state legislative calendar. For more information on session lengths and limits, see this page.

In 2011, state budgets and redistricting are expected to be some of the most controversial issues taken up by state legislatures.[2] With the federal stimulus dropping from state budgets, lawmakers are scrambling to fill the holes that have been created.[3]

Governors in the news: both incoming and outgoing governors are hardly taking a Christmas break

By Eileen McGuire-Mahony

Florida's Incoming Governor makes a move to cut the size of state government

One day after receiving extensive reports from his transition staffers that called for sweeping consolidation and trimming of state agencies, Rick Scott, a Republican set to take office next month, has taken action. The four full-time employees of the Governor's Office of Drug Control have been given notice that their positions will not exist after Scott's Inauguration.[4] Most likely, a scaled down version of the agency will be folded into the Health and Law Enforcement Departments.

Critics of Scott's move said the half million dollars Florida will save is not enough to justify cutting an agency that has focused on the state's prescription drug abuse problems. Created by former Governor Jeb Bush in 1999 and authorized under statute, the Office of Drug Control largely concerned itself with offering policy suggestions and coordinating the activities of various other groups. It has recently been credited with facilitating the passage of a law that gives Florida greater power to monitor prescription drug use in the state, something that is now likely among the Office's final actions.

Outgoing New Mexico Governor returns from private visit to North Korea

Winding down his tenure helming New Mexico, Democrat Bill Richardson recently completed a visit to North Korea, a nation under dictatorial Communist control and widely considered the most closed off state in the world. Richardson, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, has been to the country several times before but reported that conditions are now worse than he has ever seen them. Speaking of the tension between North and South Korea, Richardson called peninsula a “tinderbox”.[5]

Richardson acts as an unofficial diplomat for the U.S. in some situations and enjoys one of the best relationships with senior North Korean officials of any American. Following his visit, the state says it will allow international nuclear inspections and may be open to setting up a policy hotline with its southern neighbor. Speaking to the Associated Press, Richardson said he has some hope for relations between Pyongyang and Seoul but that both sides are very much on edge. Despite not being an official diplomat, he is expected to meet with the State Department and the White House to discuss his observations.


Governor McDonnell wants state employees to make pension contributions

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: Governor Bob McDonnell has proposed a plan that would require state employees to contribute to their pensions. The proposed plan in Virginia continues a growing trend of Governors nationwide asking state workers to contribute more to their benefits in order to stem budget problems.[6]

McDonnell's proposal calls for all state workers to contribute five percent to their pensions. The last time pension contributions were mandated for state workers was in 1983. Since then, the Commonwealth has picked up the pension contribution in lieu of a pay raise as part of a long-standing agreement. The Governor will ask both houses of the Virginia General Assembly to approve a 3 percent pay increase in order to minimize the pain. Virginia state employees have had their pay frozen for the last four years. Also, the Governor will not ask state employees to take any furlough days in 2011.[6]

The pension proposal is part of a overall proposal the Governor submitted to the financial committees in the General Assembly on December 17, 2010. The changes will affect most state employees and up to 130,000 teachers.[6]

Four down, thirty-four judicial confirmations to go

Washington, D.C.: The United States Senate has confirmed four judicial nominees to office:

Of all the federal district court nominees, these four had waited the longest to be confirmed since the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved their appointments. Thirty-four judicial nominations are still pending before the Senate. White House spokesman Josh Earnest stated, "We’re pleased that these four nominees have been confirmed, but urge the Senate to take action on the 34 nominees who remain on the calendar – particularly the 19 who would fill judicial emergencies."[7]

Obama names seven to U.S. District Courts

Washington, D.C.: President Barack Obama nominated seven judges to U.S. District Courts across the nation:

The President praised these judges, saying, "They all have long and distinguished records of service, and I am pleased to nominate them to continue serving the American people on the District Court bench.”[8]

Senate confirms four federal judgeships

Washington, D.C.: On December 16, 2010, the Senate unanimously confirmed four nominees to the federal district court system:

Eagles and Mueller had been awaiting confirmation since their nominations on March 10, 2010. Bredar and Gibney were nominated on April 21, 2010. They were all unanimously reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee; Eagles, Mueller and Gibney in May, and Bredar in June.[9]

BREAKING: Virginia federal judge rules federal health care reform unconstitutional

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: Federal judge Henry Hudson ruled that portions of the Affordable Patient Protection Act of 2009, also known as the federal health care reform law, were unconstitutional on Monday, December 13th, 2010.[10]

The judge struck down the individual mandate provision in the law that requires all individuals by 2014 to buy health insurance. In the ruling, Hudson said that the individual mandate “exceeds the constitutional boundaries of congressional power.” However, the judge did not rule on blocking implementation of the law until a higher court rules on it. Hudson also said in the ruling, "the final word will undoubtedly reside with a higher court." Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sued U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Seibelius after Governor Bob McDonnell signed a law that would bar Virginians from being forced to buy health insurance.[10]

Officials for President Barack Obama's Administration argued that cutting the individual mandate would increase the number of uninsured Americans along with preventing individuals with pre-existing conditions from getting insurance. Under the health care reform law, no person can be denied coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition. The Obama Administration is expected to appeal the ruling to the Richmond, Virginia-based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.[10]

Judge Hudson's ruling is the first ruling to strike down any provision of the health care reform law. Other cases pending against the health care reform law include one in Florida filed by 20 states in addition to 4 other cases filed in different federal courts.[10] A total of 20 cases have been filed in federal courts nationwide challenging health care reform.[10]

Creigh Deeds will run for another State Senate term in 2011

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: 2009 gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds has announced that he will plan to run for another term to the Virginia State Senate[11].

After suffering one of the worst defeats ever for a Virginia gubernatorial candidate to Bob McDonnell in 2009, many observers considered his political career to be over. In a email sent to his supporters, Deeds said: "no doubt many of my detractors consider me vulnerable and maybe even finished." In a phone interview with the Roanoke Times, Deeds told the newspaper that he contemplated about stepping away from politics after his Senate term expired[11].

In announcing his intent to run for another term in the State Senate, Deeds said: "I am running for re-election because I am not finished." The Senator said: "I am running for re-election because I know that to create opportunity in every corner of this Commonwealth, we have to invest in the necessary transportation and educational infrastructure to support economic growth." Deeds felt that he had the desire to continue serving as a State Senator and dedicated time to rebuilding his law practice after losing the 2009 Governor's race[11].

Deeds is considered to be a key voice on the issue of redistricting in Virginia. The Senator has supported legislation to establish an independent redistricting commission in Virginia. The legislation received approval from the State Senate during the past legislative session, but got defeated in the House of Delegates. Deeds declined to comment on possible redistricting scenarios citing that Census data would not be released until 2011[11].

Governor McDonnell elected Vice Chairman of the RGA

By Kyle Maichle

SAN DIEGO, California: Governor Bob McDonnell was elected Vice Chairman of the Republican Governors Association during its annual meeting on November 18, 2010 in San Diego.[12]

The first-term Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia was elected along with other Republican Governors to leadership positions in the party's organization representing Governors. McDonnell will serve alongside Governor of Texas Rick Perry who was elected Chairman.[12]

In a written statement, McDonnell said: "the solutions necessary to bring our nation out of this tough economy and into a new period of prosperity and achievement will be crafted, debated and implemented in our state capitols." The Governor also said: "good politics makes good policy, and the RGA combines effective practical politics with innovative and visionary policy development."[12]

Other Governors elected to the RGA leadership include Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal as Gala Chairman and Governor of South Carolina-Elect Nikki Haley as Candidate Recruitment Chairwoman. Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie along with Governor of New Mexico-Elect Susana Martinez will serve as at-large members on the RGA leadership.[12]

Rainy Day Fund measures get voter backing on Election Day

By Kyle Maichle

ARLINGTON, Virginia: Voters in four states were asked to approve or deny questions involving reserve or "Rainy Day" funds on November 2, 2010.

In Virginia, voters barely passed Question 3. The ballot question dealt with the state's Rainy Day Fund. Voters were asked if 15 percent instead of ten percent of the state's revenue must be kept in the Rainy Day Fund. The Amendment passed 51.21 to 48.78 percent[13].

Oklahoma voters had State Question 757 on the ballot. SQ 757 would have called for the state's rainy day fund to be increased from 10 percent to 15 percent. The measure was closely contested as the state had a near-empty rainy day fund after almost using all of it to fix the state's budget problems[14]. The measure passed 51.02 to 48.98 percent[15].

South Carolina voters had overwhelming support to increase its Rainy Day Fund on Election Day. Amendment 3 asked voters to approve increasing its Rainy Day Fund from three to five percent. The difference between Amendment 3 and those in Oklahoma and Virginia was that increases to the fund would be done incrementally instead of one-time. Amendment 3 passed 71 to 29 percent[16].

In Hawaii, voters were asked to whether give the Legislature more power on money from tax rebates can be directed. Question 2 would allow for Legislators to have the option to re-direct excess revenues into a Rainy Day Fund. The measure passed 59.3 to 31.7 percent[17].

Governor McDonnell would consider statewide referendum on alcohol privatization

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: Governor Bob McDonnell is open to having a statewide referendum on privatizing alcohol control in the Commonwealth of Virginia[11].

During an interview on WRVA radio, the Governor said: "I think the idea would be embraced publicly, but I want to get the savings now." McDonnell further stated that: "I've just got to convince the legislature to do that."[11].

McDonnell also said that a proposed referendum would be different from Washington Initiative 1100, which was on the November 2, 2010 ballot. McDonnell thinks a referendum would pass in Virginia because of an different electorate than in Washington State and only 1,000 retail units would be created upon voter approval. If I-1100 was approved by Washington voters, the plan would have called for 3,000 new retail stores to be created[11].

The Governor is planning to re-tool the proposal in time for January of 2011 when lawmakers return to Richmond to finish the remainder of the legislative session[11].

Virginia's electronic voter verficiation system may have glitches

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: Local election registrars in the Commonwealth of Virginia say that glitches effecting its electronic voter verification system may cause problems on election day[11].

Staff from the Virginia State Board of Elections sent out a memo to local election registrars on October 26, 2010 warning them of possible slowdowns Election Day. Local elections registrars have told the Richmond Times Dispatch that the biggest issue they face would be that provisional ballots may not be counted right away if the system goes down. This may effect some tightly contested races for U.S. Congress and along with three statewide ballot measures[11].

Virginia elections officials are blaming the slowdown on an August 2010 incident that caused a whole shutdown of the Commonwealth's computer system. The Commonwealth of Virginia has a $2.5 billion, 13 year contract with Northrop Grumman to manage the state's computer networks. Low turnout is expected of Election Day in the Commonwealth[11].

Ballotpedia's Regional Breakdown: Northeast ballot measures

Regional Breakdown of 2010 ballot measures: Northeast
Nevada 2010 ballot measuresUtah 2010 ballot measuresColorado 2010 ballot measuresNew Mexico 2010 ballot measuresArizona 2010 ballot measuresMontana 2010 ballot measuresCalifornia 2010 ballot measuresOregon 2010 ballot measuresWashington 2010 ballot measuresIdaho 2010 ballot measuresOklahoma 2010 ballot measuresKansas 2010 ballot measuresNebraska 2010 ballot measuresSouth Dakota 2010 ballot measuresNorth Dakota 2010 ballot measuresIowa 2010 ballot measuresMissouri 2010 ballot measuresArkansas 2010 ballot measuresLouisiana 2010 ballot measuresAlabama 2010 ballot measuresGeorgia 2010 ballot measuresFlorida 2010 ballot measuresSouth Carolina 2010 ballot measuresIllinois 2010 ballot measuresTennessee 2010 ballot measuresNorth Carolina 2010 ballot measuresIndiana 2010 ballot measuresOhio 2010 ballot measuresMaine 2010 ballot measuresVirginia 2010 ballot measuresMaryland 2010 ballot measuresMaryland 2010 ballot measuresRhode Island 2010 ballot measuresRhode Island 2010 ballot measuresMassachusetts 2010 ballot measuresMichigan 2010 ballot measuresMichigan 2010 ballot measuresAlaska 2010 ballot measuresHawaii 2010 ballot measuresNorth East Region.png

By Bailey Ludlam, Johanna Herman and Al Ortiz

NORTHEAST REGION, United States: November 2 is inching closer for voters across the country, and only two more regions are left in Ballotpedia's weekly regional breakdown of statewide ballot measures. The penultimate region Ballotpedia will look at is the Northeast Region of the country, which offers some controversial issues such as tax rollbacks, casino operation, and even changing the name of a state. Maine took first place for the most measures on the ballot, with a total of 8 proposals for voters to decide on. The state also had the biggest increase in ballot measures from 2008 to 2010, with 5 more measures on the ballot measures this year. Two states in the region, Vermont and Virginia, did not have any measures on the ballot in 2008, but do boast measures on the ballot this year. Included in this week's breakdown is a local measure in Maryland that is stirring up the political atmosphere in that state.

The states that Ballotpedia has included in the Northeast region are: Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia. Below is a breakdown of how many statewide measures are on the ballot in the Northeast and how that compares to 2008, followed by summaries of each state. Among the regional breakdowns so far, the Northeast region had the biggest difference of ballot measures from 2008 to 2010, with 11 more measures on the ballot this year. The following information was compiled by Ballotpedia's analysis of the 2010 ballot measures.

Virginia elections officials expect 40% turnout for November election

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: Officials from the Virginia State Board of Elections project a total turnout of 40 percent of the commonwealth's voters for the November 2, 2010 general elections[11].

This projection comes as October 12, 2010, is the voter registration deadline for all qualified persons in the Commonwealth of Virginia. All applications must be turned in by 5:00 PM local time in order to vote[11].

Virginians will be voting on three constitutional amendments on the November ballot in relation to elderly and veterans property tax exemptions along with increasing the rainy day fund. Also, all 11 of Virginia's seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be up for election[11].

Special session is on, McDonnell's ABC privatization plan approved

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: A special session of the Virginia General Assembly is more than likely to happen after a Governor's blue-ribbon commission adopted ohttp://www.ballotpedia.org/wiki/skins/common/images/button_bold.pngne of Governor Bob McDonnell's major privatization plans[18].

The Governor's Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring approved a proposal to privatize the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control on October 4, 2010. Three Democrat lawmakers on the Commission voted against the proposal. Those lawmakers were State Delegate Robert Brink along with State Senators Mary Whipple and Louise Lucas[18].

Despite some commission members raised concerns of possible revenue losses of $47 million dollars from privatizing the ABC, the McDonnell Administration assured commission members that other government reforms would mitigate revenue losses. The Commonwealth of Virginia has not allowed private liquor sales since 1934 when the ABC was first formed[18].

No date has been set on when the General Assembly is going to convene for special session[18].

Virginia uses electronic poll books for 2010 elections

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: Virginians will see electronic poll books at the polling place for the first time this year. The new technology will be used for elections involving Virginia's three statewide ballot measures and all 11 of Virginia's seats in the U.S. House of Representatives[11].

98 out of 134 localities conducting elections in Virginia will be using the new technology this year. A spokeswoman for the Virginia State Board of Elections said that the Commonwealth of Virginia may move up its voter registration deadline if all localities adopt electronic poll books[11].

Retiring Circuit Judge may not be replaced

Accomac, Virginia: Circuit Court Judge Glen A. Tyler is stepping down from the Accomack Circuit Court at the end of 2010. He will turn 70 on December 12th, which is the age of mandatory retirement for Virginia judges. He will retire on December 31, 2010.

Tyler's seat, which is located on the Eastern Shore, is likely to remain vacant. This is due to the General Assembly's decision to remove the budgets for 17 Circuit Court judgeships that are, or will soon be vacant. Delegate Lynwood Lewis thinks the positions should be restored. He pointed to the geographically "unique circumstances" of the Eastern Shore court. There are 9 other judges in the 2nd Judicial Circuit, but Tyler is the only one who lives on the Eastern Shore. A judge from another area would have to travel to the Shore daily if Tyler is not replaced. "Frankly, I don't know how the court on the Eastern Shore would function if we didn't have a circuit judge in residence," Tyler said.[19]

Governor McDonnell proposes 4 day work week for state employees

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: Governor Bob McDonnell is proposing a four day work week for most state employees as part of an effort to save the Commonwealth money[20].

The idea of a shorter work week won approval of the Governor's Commission on Reform and Restructuring by an unanimous vote. Virginia would become the second state in the nation to implement a four day work-week for state employees. Utah was the first state in the nation to adopt a four day work-week[20].

The Virginia Department of Planning and Budget estimates that the plan would save Virginia over $3 million dollars. The only agency that will exempted from the four-day work week plan is the Department of Motor Vehicles. The plan would apply to 25 state agencies[20].

Governor McDonnell announces ABC privatization plan

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: Governor Bob McDonnell is set to announce his plan to privatize the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) on September 8, 2010[21].

A total of $450 million dollars in revenue to the Commonwealth of Virginia could be generated from selling off liquor stores and licenses held by the ABC. A total of 1,000 licenses would be auctioned off, but no business can hold more than twenty-five percent of the total licenses in one class. To make up lost revenue from privatizing the ABC, McDonnell will propose a four percent tax on mixed drinks in addition to taxes on bulk liquor and gross receipts[11].

The Governor's Commission on Government Reform is scheduled to vote on the proposal on October 4, 2010. If approved, the General Assembly would be called into special session to approve the proposal. The special session could held anytime from November 3 to November 25, 2010 according to the Governor[11].

Kinser appointed chief justice

Virginia: Judge Cynthia Kinser was elected on August 31, 2010 to be the next chief justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia. She was elected by her fellow Supreme Court justices to a five-year term beginning in February of 2010. She will replace Chief Judge Leroy Hassell in February and is the first woman in the state to hold this position.

Kinser has served on the Supreme Court since 1997, when she was first appointed by Gov. Allen. Before joining the high court, she worked as a U.S. Magistrate Judge and Lee County Commonwealth Attorney.[22]

Liquor privatization battle brewing in Virginia

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: A special session of the Virginia General Assembly awaits as a battle is brewing over privatizing state run liquor stores[23].

Following through on a campaign promise, Governor Bob McDonnell wants to privatize liquor stores and licenses that are operated through the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in order to raise funds for transportation projects[23].

As the Governor is going to town hall meetings to sell the plan across the Commonwealth, Democrats leading the State Senate are skeptical of the plan. Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax County) doubted McDonnell's plan by stating: "right now that it would not pass...nor is it even close in the Senate, and I would doubt whether he could get it out of the House."

Saslaw opposes the plan by citing actual revenues from Ohio's recent liquor privatization efforts have fell short of its projections. J. Tucker Martin, a spokesman for the Governor, claimed that the Majority Leader's projections were flawed by citing that Ohio's efforts only involved liquor stores and not individual licenses[23].

The Governor's Reform Commission on ABC privatization meets on September 8, 2010. If the plan is approved by the Commission, lawmakers will return back to Richmond in October or November of 2010 to convene for a special session[23].

Arlington County Democrats unanimously endorse all of Virginia's referendums

By Kyle Maichle

ARLINGTON, Virginia: The Arlington County Democratic Committee announced their intent to support all three of Virginia's statewide referendums on the November 2, 2010 ballot[24].

Members in one of the largest county-level parties in Virginia approved a resolution to support referendums aimed at increasing the state's rainy day fund along with providing property tax exemptions to the elderly and disabled veterans[25].

All three of the amendments were approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Bob McDonnell in 2010[26][27][28].

Virginia still clings onto one-term limit policy for Governors

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: A term limits battle of a different kind is brewing in Virginia. The battle is over the current one-term limit imposed on the Governor[29].

Since 1851, the state constitution has banned Governors from serving consecutive terms in office. Virginia is the only state in the nation to limit Governors to one term[29]. Previous Governors and current Governor Bob McDonnell have asked the General Assembly to approve a constitutional amendment aimed at repealing term limits[29].

Delegate Bob Purkey (R-Virginia Beach) has introduced a constitutional amendment to end gubernatorial term limits in each session of the General Assembly since 1992. Purkey supports putting the issue of gubernatorial term limits on the ballot by stating: "let it go to referendum. Shouldn't the voters have a chance?"[29]

Other supporters including the Virginia Chamber of Commerce said that eliminating gubernatorial term limits would promote better continuity of state government. Opponents in the General Assembly feel that the one-term limit helps check and balance the Governor's power to appoint agency heads along with members to state boards and commissions[29].

There have been over 50 attempts since 1971 to get a constitutional amendment qualified on the ballot to end gubernatorial term limits. In order to qualify a constitutional amendment in Virginia, both houses of the General Assembly must approve the amendment for two consecutive sessions[29].

Last minute ballot challenge awaits Virginia lawsuit

By Kyle Maichle

HERNDON, Virginia: Election officials in Virginia's 8th Congressional District are awaiting the resolution of a lawsuit between the State Board of Elections and the Libertarian Party. After the ruling is released, election officials may have to scramble to deal with last minute signature challenges[30].

Matthew Mosley, the plaintiff in the case, is currently a resident of Virginia's 10th Congressional District. Mosley along with the state's Libertarians are accusing state election officials of violating The Civil Rights Act of 1983 over not being allowed to collect signatures as a candidate in the 8th Congressional District. Under current law, Mosley can run as a candidate in the 8th District, but he cannot collect signatures because of not being a resident of the district[30].

Elections officials in the 8th District face a September 17, 2010, deadline to send out absentee ballots for the general election. Even if federal judge Leonie Brinkema rules in Mosley's favor, elections officials will have to verify Mosley has the required 1,000 signatures before he is placed on the ballot. This can open the door for last minute signature challenges[30].

The 10th District is located in the Washington, DC suburbs of McClean and Great Falls along with other cities in Northwest Virginia[31]. The 8th District is located in Arlington and Alexandria in addition to where Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is located[32].

2012 NGA meeting to be held in Virginia

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: The National Governors Association (dead link) announced that the Commonwealth of Virginia won the rights to host their 2012 annual meeting[33].

The meeting will be held in Williamsburg from July 13 to July 15, 2012. The NGA selected Virginia to host the 2012 meeting because of adequate hotel and meeting facilities along with Williamsburg's appeal and rich history[33]. This will be only the fourth time ever that Virginia will host a meeting of the nation's Governors. The Commonwealth of Virginia previously hosted NGA annual meetings in 1912, 1932, and 1957[11].

Governor Bob McDonnell stated: "in 2012, America will meet in Virginia. There is no more fitting location for a meeting of America's governors than our nation's birthplace." The Governor also stated: "I look forward to hosting this great event, and the opportunity to continue to tell the story of Virginia, which is the story of America."[11]

Governor of Nebraska Dave Heineman who will lead the 2012 meeting said: "the meeting is a forum to share best practices and discuss ways to improve state government and strengthen the state-federal partnership. I look forward to working with Governor McDonnell to plan a productive meeting for our colleagues in 2012."[33]

The bi-partisan group of Governors held its 2010 annual meeting in Boston, Massachusetts[34]. The 2011 annual meeting will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah on July 15-17, 2011[33].

Virginia Secretary of Commonwealth throws out petition complaint

By Kyle Maichle

CHRISTIANBURG, Virginia: The Virginia Commonwealth Secretary's office tossed a complaint filed by a citizen over nominating petitions not properly notarized[11].

Terry Ellen Carter of Christianburg alleged that the Montgomery County Registrar's Office accepted petitions without notary seals. Carter filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections in April of 2010. The Board did not review the complaint until June of 2010 in which the matter was referred to the Commonwealth Secretary[11].

Carter's complaint also accused the county registrar of allowing petitions with forged signatures, incomplete redaction of social security numbers, and allowing signatures that were obtained before the nominating period started[11].

The Commonwealth Secretary refused to accept Terry's complaint because photocopied petitions were the only documents given. A spokeswoman for the Commonwealth Secretary said that a written statement along with the photocopied petitions are required to file any complaint[11].

The Board of Elections did refer portions of Carter's complaint which include signature forgery to the Montgomery County Commonwealth Attorney's Office. A spokesperson for the office did not comment on the complaint[11].

Governor McDonnell looks to sell off ABC stores to fix roads

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: Governor Bob McDonnell is planning to move forward on a campaign promise to sell off state-run liquor stores to fund transportation projects[35][36].

During an appearance on WTOP radio in Washington, D.C., the Governor said he would ask the General Assembly to consider legislation to privatize stores operated by the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The plan would raise an estimated $300 to $500 million to fund major road construction projects along with an extension of the Washington, D.C. Metrorail system to Dulles International Airport[35].

The plan calls for 332 stores run by the ABC to be sold in one of four ways. Those include selling all the stores to one company, auctioning off individual stores to the highest bidder, having firms take over stores, or let establishments that currently hold liquor licenses to purchase the stores. The Governor said: "I don't think selling alcohol is a core function of government." McDonnell also stated: "I don't think it's a core function of government to do it and I think the private sector can run the stores more efficiently."[37]

McDonnell's plan would be considered on August 26, 2010, when the Government Reform Commission is scheduled to meet. The Reform Commission is a task force created by the Governor[37]. There could be the possibility that the General Assembly may be called into special session during the Fall of 2010 to consider the plan along with other privatization proposals[37].

Governor McDonnell restores voting rights to 506 felons

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: Since Governor Bob McDonnell issued changes to the process of restoring civil rights to convicted felons, over 500 persons recently seen their civil rights restored[11].

Since announcing the changes in May of 2010 through an executive order, the McDonnell Administration received 1,080 applications from felons seeking to have their rights restored. Out of the 1,080 total applications received, 650 were also considered from Tim Kaine's tenure as Governor[11].

After reviewing the applications, only 574 out of the 1,080 applicants met the initial criteria set by the McDonnell Administration. 506 individuals had their civil rights restored by the Governor. McDonnell granted civil rights restoration to 373 individuals who waited two years after their release from prison and 133 of them to those who waited five years. All felons convicted of non-violent offenses must wait two years after their release to apply while felons convicted of violent offenses must wait five years[11].

Civil rights that are restored under state law include all voting and jury service rights along with running for public office[11].

Virginia mayor Holley achieves dubious distinction: Most recalled politician in the United States

PORTSMOUTH, Virginia: By a two-to-one margin, voters in Portsmouth, Virginia on Tuesday, July 13, 2010 gave soon-to-be-ex-mayor James Holley the dubious distinction of being the only politician in the United States currently known to have been recalled twice from office.[38]

The July 13 vote to remove Holley from his post as Mayor of Portsmouth was scheduled after over 9,000 signatures on recall petitions were submitted to election officials in early May 2010.[39][40] Holley had two years remaining on his current term as the city's mayor when the July 13 recall vote took place.[41] The term from which he has now been recalled was his fifth term as mayor.[40]

  • Votes to recall Holley: 10,721 (68%) Approveda
  • Votes to keep Holley: 5,154 (32%)

The recall campaign was motivated by the allegation that Mayor Holley used a city assistant for personal tasks.[42] Local resident Dolores Knight, who began the recall effort, said,"It’s been a lot of people calling me. I just knew something needed to be done."[40] The Virginian-Pilot also reported that the Portsmouth City Council fined Holley $2,500 for allegedly mistreating assistants and asking them to perform personal tasks for him. In one instance, the mayor's personal assistant Lorraine Stokes said that the mayor had a asked her to perform approximately 44 personal tasks - listed here. To the accusations Holley said it was "probably a bad, bad decision that I made. I've been forgiven before, so I look forward to your forgiveness again."[43]

Holley was first recalled from his position as mayor of Portsmouth in 1987. At that time, he achieved his first dubious distinction as the first mayor in Virginia to be recalled.[43]

Virginia ballot measures were consistent over the last decade

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: Despite the fact that Commonwealth of Virginia has one of the hardest to amend constitutions in the nation, the Commonwealth has had more than a fair number of statewide ballot measures in the last decade.

From 2000 to 2006, a total of 11 ballot measures were presented to the Commonwealth's citizens. The last time Virginians saw a ballot measure was in 2006. That year, there were three ballot measures dealing with a gay marriage, allowing incorporation for churches, and creating tax incremental financing districts for local governments. All three measures passed by comfortable margins.

During the 2004 election cycle, Virginians were presented two ballot measures aimed at improving state election laws. The first measure asked voters to approve a line of succession to the Governor if in the event he or she resigns, dies, or is removed from office. The other measure was to clarify state laws governing redistricting for seats in the General Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives. Both questions were approved by the voters with hardly any opposition.

2002 was the last time Virginians saw a bond measure presented on the statewide ballot. There were two bond proposals asking voters to approve bond issues for funding capital improvements at colleges and parks owned by the Commonwealth. Both bond measures were approved by the voters with a large margin of victory.

Also, two constitutional amendments were on the ballot in 2002. The first amendment would guarantee those convicted of a crime to prove their innocence by the basis of DNA or other forensic evidence. The other would clarify which types of property can be exempt from taxes. Both amendments were approved by the voters with minimal opposition.

Virginians began the decade with two constitutional amendments in 2000. The first amendment would create a proceeds fund for the Commonwealth's lottery along with stipulating how the Commonwealth can spend money received from lottery games. The other amendment would guarantee the Commonwealth's citizens the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wild game. Both constitutional amendments won large approval from the voters.

Virginia's new law to improve delivery of military and absentee ballots takes effect

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: On July 1, 2010, members of the armed forces and their families who call Virginia their home will see new changes aimed at improving the delivery of absentee ballots. The bill was signed into law earlier this year by Governor Bob McDonnell as part of a effort to improve the overall delivery of government services to members of the armed forces[11].

The new law on military and absentee ballots requires all election authorities to have the ballots fully prepared and available 45 days before any election. The old law required overseas and military ballots to be available 45 days before the general election and 30 days for all other elections including the statewide primary. Also, the 45 day deadline goes into effect for any special election for federal offices including the U.S. Congress and Senate. The new law was in response to concerns veterans and those living abroad had with their votes being uncounted[11].

Also, a new law goes into effect on July 1, 2010, which makes it a crime for any elections registrar to not mail out absentee ballots three days before any deadline for receiving absentee ballots[44].

Governor McDonnell earns 63 percent approval rating

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: Six months since taking office as the 71st Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Bob McDonnell has earned substanial approval from a wide majority of Virginians[45].

A poll commissioned by Public Opinion Strategies found McDonnell to have a 63 percent approval rating with Virginia citizens. The poll was conducted from June 13 to 15, 2010, with 600 likely voters participating. The margin of error in the poll was plus or minus four percentage points[45].

In other issues the poll measured, Virginians are split if the state is going in the right direction with the poll numbers tied at 43 percent apiece for right and wrong track. 44 percent of the poll's respondents say that jobs is the number one issue affecting Virginia. Budget and taxes was the second highest rated issue at 19 percent and education was the third highest at 14 percent[45].

Virginia Libertarians sue state over petition circulators

By Kyle Maichle

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia: The Libertarian Party of Virginia on June 3, 2010, filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of Virginia federal court against the Virginia State Board of Elections[46].

Virginia Libertarians are suing the State Board of Elections over what they feel are rigid residency rules on petition circulators. Attorneys for the Virginia Libertarians feel that it is unconstitutional for the state to require any circulator who distributes petitions for a district-level candidate to reside in the given district[46].

The Virginia case is the latest lawsuit filed against a state election authority over rules governing petition circulators. Other lawsuits are currently pending in California, Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska. On April 9, 2010, a judge ruled that Idaho's rules on circulators were unconstitutional. Idaho became the eleventh state in the last ten years to see some form of their laws on petition circulators struck down in a court of law[46].

Virginia sees increasing demand for voting rights restoration

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: Since first-year Governor Bob McDonnell has announced a new process to improve the process for individuals seeking to restore their voting rights on May 20, 2010, the McDonnell Administration has seen an increasing demand from individuals seeking to restore their rights[47].

Governor McDonnell announced new procedures for individuals who have been convicted of crimes to restore their voting rights[47]. The new changes ordered by the Governor include that an applicant must receive an response on application within 60 days of the Governor's office receiving an application. Also, the waiting period to apply was reduced from four years after being released from prison to three. Also, McDonnell changed a policy that if someone was given a traffic ticket while applying for civil rights restoration would not disqualify them from consideration. Former Governor Tim Kaine, had a policy that would disqualify someone from civil rights restoration even if a applicant was given a traffic ticket during the application process[47].

The new changes and the increased demand have resulted in the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office struggling to meet with the demand[47]. This comes from all persons who have applied during the McDonnell and Kaine administrations to be re-considered under the new policy. The Secretary of the Commonwealth has contacted all applicants to make sure that their applications are complete and asking for more information if necessary. Before the executive order was signed on May 20th, 404 applications for civil rights restoration were received. Since May 20th, an additional 134 applications have been received[47].

Despite the changes have been well-received by community leaders, one Virginian legislator is calling for more changes to the process. Delegate Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) would author a bill when the Virginia Legislature re-convenes in January of 2011 calling for automatic civil rights restoration. Despite Herring is pleased with the call to improve the civil rights restoration in Virginia, she feels "it's a waste of resources" for the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the Governor to have an application process to restore civil rights[47].

Mary Adams Honored for Her Work Protecting Maine's Initiative & Referendum Process


Lake Ridge, Virginia: Today, Citizens in Charge Foundation, a transpartisan national voter rights group focused on the ballot initiative and referendum process, presented Maine Citizen State Coordinator Mary Adams with the June 2010 John Lilburne Award. Adams is being honored this month for her work over the decades in not only utilizing, but defending and expanding the initiative & referendum process in the state of Maine.

Adams has helped organize grassroots support, tracked legislation, and testified before the state legislature in defense of the process many times over the last three decades. In February of this year, Adams testified before the Legal & Veterans Affairs Committee of the Maine Legislature in opposition to a number of bills that would restrict citizen initiative rights in the state. Mary’s most recent attempt to expand Mainer’s petition rights is acting as a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed on June 2, 2010 that seeks to prohibit the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) from interfering with citizen initiative campaigns in the state.

Mary Adams understands how important initiative rights are to the citizens of Maine,” said Citizens in Charge Foundation President Paul Jacob. “Initiative & referendum are the only ways citizens can directly petition their government, and Mary has not only worked to protect these rights, but utilized them extensively herself.”

Adams’ history with the initiative process dates back to 1977, when she led a successful signature gathering effort to put a state property tax repeal on the ballot, and in 2006 she succeeded in getting a Taxpayer Bill of Rights measure on the ballot. Adams has helped out on various other initiatives throughout the years as well.

“Mainers are lucky to have such a passionate and committed person protecting citizen Initiative rights in the state,” added Jacob. “Mary is being recognized this month for her great work this year, as well as in years past and her continued efforts in the future.”

Each month, Citizens in Charge Foundation presents the John Lilburne Award to a citizen, or citizens, working to protect and defend the First Amendment petition rights of Americans. John Lilburne was a 17th Century English pamphleteer, political activist, and champion of individual rights who advocated constitutional government and pioneered the use of petitioning and referenda for redress against government power and abuse. For a complete list of past Lilburne Award winners please click here.[48]

Congressional races more of the foucs of Virginia's June 8th primary

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: Virginia may be one of a handful of states to be part of the June 8th primary, but the main focus of the June 8th primary is on U.S. Congressional races throughout the state of Virginia.

There will be five contested congressional primaries in the state's eleven congressional districts[49]. There have been no special elections for local referendums that were reported by the Virginia Board of Elections. These elections usually take place during the November general election[50].

Virginia introduces re-vamped process for restoration of voting rights

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: Governor Bob McDonnell introduced a new process to revamp the process for convicted felons who seek to have their voting rights restored. The first-year Governor of Virginia announced the new procedures on May 20, 2010 as he followed through on a campaign promise to improve the process of civil rights restoral for those convicted of a felony[51].

In Virginia, the previous requirements asked persons who have been convicted of a non-violent offense to wait three years after serving their sentence to apply for civil rights restoration[51]. Under the new procedures, the wait is reduced to two years. Also, Governor McDonnell announced additional measures that are aimed to improve the process. This includes that all applications sent to the Governor must have a decision returned in 60 days, reducing the waiting period for re-applications from two years to one, allowing law enforcement to submit supporting documents electronically, and enlisting a public-private sector relationship to help gather ideas to improve the civil rights restoration process. Since his days as a state legislator, Governor McDonnell has sought to improve the process for individuals seeking to restore their voting rights after serving jail time[51].

Governor McDonnell stated: "there is no reason an individual should have to wait a year or more to get an answer on an application that comes to the Governor's office. This Administration will speed up the process dramatically."[51] King Salim Khalfani who leads the NAACP in Virginia commended the Governor by stating: "the Virginia State Conference NAACP is encouraged that Governor McDonnell has already made a decision on the majority of completed applications submitted during the first few months of his Administration. We look forward to working with the Governor, Secretary of the Commonwealth and those who desire to have their rights restored in Virginia."[51]

Virginia legislators block recall proposal

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: The Virginia General Assembly in its short session for 2010 took up three pieces of initiative and referendum related legislation in which one passed and two failed including a recall proposal.

House Bill 104, which was the only proposal that was approved, changed the minimum notice requirement for all referendums from 60 days to 81 days[52]. Also, a proposal that would have required voter information pamphlets for statewide referendums was defeated without seeing a floor vote in either house of the General Assembly[53].

The first consideration of a amendment of the Virginia Constitution that would allow citizens to recall the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and any member of the General Assembly was killed in committee[54].

Virginia legislators will resume its work on the second Wednesday of January 2011 with only 30 regular session days on the schedule. In even numbered years, legislators can extend the session an additional thirty days[55].

Virginia to have a referendum to exempt Veterans from property taxes

By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: Governor Bob McDonnell signed into law a constitutional amendment that will be placed on the November 2, 2010 ballot in the Commonwealth of Virginia to exempt veterans from property taxes[11].

House Bill 149 and Senate Bill 31 was signed into law on April 29, 2010. The amendment will ask the voters of Virginia if they will approve or reject a property tax exemption for a armed forces veteran or their surviving spouse if the veteran had a 100 percent permanent and total disability related to military service.

The House version of the bill passed unanimously on a 99-0 vote on February 15, 2010, and passed the Virginia State Senate on a 39-0 vote on February 26, 2010[56]. The constitutional amendment was signed as part of 27 total pieces of legislation the Governor approved to improve services to veterans and their families in Virginia[11].

The measure is one of two measures that will be considered this November on property tax relief. Governor McDonnell signed a constitutional amendment on April 11, 2010 to ask voters to approve or deny a measure providing property tax relief for seniors 65 or older[57].

National Voter Group Honors Missouri Lawmaker


Lake Ridge, Virginia: Today, Citizens in Charge Foundation, a national voter rights group dedicated to protecting the ballot initiative and referendum process, presented Missouri State Senator Jim Lembke with the April 2010 John Lilburne Award for sponsoring Senate Bill 818 and for all his work to make Missouri’s initiative process more open and accessible to the people.

“Senator Lembke is working to empower the people of Missouri, to give them more say-so, and his legislation is the best in the entire nation in protecting the rights of citizens to petition their government,” said Citizens in Charge Foundation President Paul Jacob. “Senator Lembke’s bill, SB 818, protects those proposing initiatives from being blocked by time-consuming lawsuits, protects those signing petitions from having their signatures thrown out over minor errors and protects the public against fraudulent actions or intimidation tactics.”

Lembke’s legislation, SB 818, makes it easier for citizens to use their constitutional right to initiative and referendum in three major ways: (1) SB 818 would prevent the current practice of tossing out otherwise valid petition signatures over minor technical errors made by the circulator of the petition, a notary public or others, (2) the bill makes it a crime both for a person circulating a petition to intentionally mislead a signer and for a person to purposely harass or intimidate someone circulating or signing a petition, and (3) SB 818 establishes time limits for courts to resolve legal challenges to a ballot measure’s title or fiscal impact statement, so that opponents can no longer run out the petition clock through litigation.

“In recent years, Missouri’s generally excellent process of initiative and referendum has run into problems – particularly the endless litigation over ballot titles that has unfairly blocked several petitions,” added Jacob. “Senator Lembke has put forward a common sense solution to this legal stalling as well as other problems voters face.”

Senate Bill 818 passed out of the Senate Elections Committee in February, but has not yet come to a vote on the floor. Senator Lembke has been a great advocate for the initiative process in the past, and we urge him to continue his great work by pushing for a vote on Senate Bill 818. A companion bill, HB 2180, has been filed in the Missouri House by Rep. Brian Nieves (R-Union).[58]

Gibney nominated U.S. District Judge in Virginia

Richmond, Virginia: John A. Gibney was nominated by President Obama to fill a vacancy on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. He has worked as a lawyer for the Thompson-McMullan Law Firm since 2003.[59][60]

U.S. district judge takes senior status, candidates sought to fill vacancy

Virginia: Judge Norman Moon of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia plans to assume senior status on July 1, 2010. Nine candidates are currently being considered to fill the position:

  • Virginia Senator John S. Edwards
  • Attorney William Gould
  • Professor Rachel Harmon of the University of Virginia
  • William Helsley
  • Attorney Frank Hilton
  • Attorney Krysia Nelson
  • Magistrate Judge Pamela Meade Sargent
  • Federal Public Defender Larry Shelton
  • Magistrate Judge Michael Urbanski[61]

Bill Mims elected to Virginia Supreme Court

Richmond, Virginia: Bill Mims was elected by the General Assembly to the Virginia Supreme Court on March 10, 2010. Mims, formerly the Virginia Attorney General, will serve a 12-year term on the court.[62]

Franklin County Judge reappointed

Virginia: Judge William Alexander was reappointed to the Franklin County Circuit Court (22nd Judicial Circuit). His reappointment was delayed due to a legislative hearing regarding Alexander's conduct in a grand jury hearing, but he was unanimously approved on March 10th.[63]

Keenan confirmed to Fourth District Court of Appeals

Virginia: Judge Barbara Keenan's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. She is a former justice of the Virginia Supreme Court.[64]

Budget woes halt judicial appointments

Richmond, Virginia: Two judgeships may remain vacant due to budget problems. Judge Westbrook J. Parker is planning to retire from the 5th Judicial Circuit in June and Judge Horace A. Revercomb, III is planning to retire from the 15th Judicial Circuit in March. Judge Sarah L. Deneke and Judge Julian W. Johnson were being considered to replace Revercomb. However, the House of Delegates is seeking to save money by delaying judicial appointments. In addition, the budget recently passed by the House of Delegates does not provide funding to replace Judge Parker. The courts are hoping that the final budget will provide for judicial appointments.[65][66]

Mandatory retirement age for Virginia judges could increase

Virginia: A bill to raise the mandatory age of retirement for judges from 70 to 73 is currently being considered by the Virginia Senate. The Virginia Supreme Court supports the bill, which has been assigned to the House Appropriations Compensation and Retirement Subcommittee.[67]

CICF releases scorecards for states' I & R processes


LAKE RIDGE, Virginia:

The Citizens in Charge Foundation has today released their report card for states' initiative and referendum processes. The states are judged by whether they offer initiatives and referendums and also by their restrictions.

Please click here to read the official report cards.

Virginia General Assembly re-elects 8 judges

Virginia: The Virginia General Assembly re-elected to following judges on January 27th:

Circuit judge Mosby retires

Virginia: J. Leyburn Mosby, Jr. retired from the Lynchburg Circuit Court on January 28, 2010. He had served full-time on this court since 2001. He plans to continue to serve as a fill-in judge when needed.[69]

Virginia federal judge to retire

Virginia: Judge Glen M. Williams announced that he will retire from the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia on February 1, 2010. He has served on senior status on this court since 1988. [70]

27th Judicial Circuit judge announces retirement

Virginia: Judge Ray Wilson Grubbs announced that he will not seek a second term on the Virginia 27th Judicial Circuit. He will retire when his current term ends in March of 2010.[71]

The Citizens Power Campaign honored with January John Lilburne Award


LAKE RIDGE, Virginia:

Today, Citizens in Charge Foundation, a transpartisan national voter rights group focused on the ballot initiative and referendum process, presented The Citizen Power Campaign with the January 2010 John Lilburne Award. The group is being recognized for making the initiative process open & accessible to citizens by utilizing new technology in signature gathering campaigns.

Silicon Valley technology company Verafirma recently debuted a new application for certain smartphones that allows citizens to sign an initiative petition electronically; much like signing the electronic box at a department store checkout. This new technology allows citizens to make their voices heard from anywhere, and currently works for iPhone, iPod Touch, and Verizon Droid phones.

“This type of forward thinking is a tremendous benefit to the initiative & referendum process around the country,” said Citizens in Charge Foundation President Paul Jacob. “There will be legal and security issues to work out, but new technology like this can create a better system for everyone in the end.”

Allowing petitions to be signed electronically will make the initiative process more open, accessible and less expensive. By using the technology in an official petition signature gathering drive, The Citizen Power Campaign is spearheading its development, helping to work out any technological and legal issues, and ultimately making it easier for citizens to effectively use their initiative rights.

The Citizen Power Campaign is currently the only initiative campaign that is utilizing the new phone technology, but other campaigns will soon follow. According to Verafirma, a progressive labor organization will be using the technology in the near future to place a measure on the ballot.

“We hope the use of this new technology is accepted and fully implemented by California authorities and eventually expands beyond California, helping to open up the process in other states as well,” added Jacob.

Each month, Citizens in Charge Foundation presents the John Lilburne Award to a citizen, or citizens, working to protect and defend the First Amendment petition rights of Americans. John Lilburne was a 17th Century English pamphleteer, political activist, and champion of individual rights who advocated constitutional government and pioneered the use of petitioning and referenda for redress against government power and abuse. For a complete list of past Lilburne Award winners please click here.

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