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U.S. Senate honors 'Big E'

The U.S. Senate passed a resolution sponsored by Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb Thursday honoring the service of the Norfolk-based U.S.S. Enterprise, which was decommissioned last month after 51 years of service.

More than 100,000 sailors served on U.S.S. Enterprise, the Navy's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, during its years of service.

“I am proud to salute the officers and crew who served on U.S.S. Enterprise since her commissioning more than five decades ago,” Webb said. “As a result of their dedication and sacrifice during peace and war, the 'Big E' answered all bells and sustained the rich legacy forged since the Revolutionary War by the seven namesake ships that preceded her. Bravo Zulu.”

“I am proud to help commemorate more than fifty years of service to the nation by the Enterprise and its sailors,” Warner said. “Enterprise provided our military with unmatched combat capability during conflicts from the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War to Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.  Norfolk and our country will sorely miss 'Big E’, and we salute the thousands of military men and women and their families who served aboard and supported her mission."

The resolution passed on the last day of Webb's tenure in the Senate. Webb is also a former Secretary of the Navy.

McDonnell declares 2013 'Year of the Teacher'

In conjunction with his education reform agenda Gov. Bob McDonnell proclaimed 2013 as the "Year of the Teacher" Thursday.

“Virginia’s teachers demonstrate selfless leadership day after day in classrooms across the Commonwealth,” McDonnell said in a press release. “Everyone knows a teacher who's stayed after school to support students; who's buying their own supplies; who's grading homework until 10, 11, or 12 at night then getting up early to put together the next day’s lesson plan. This is amazing dedication. We must do more to recognize and appreciate these professionals. Teachers are charged with the responsibility of passing on traditions, knowledge and character to the next generation. They instill a love for learning, a respect for fellow mankind and a belief that the American dream is achievable by all, regardless of ZIP code or station in life. Today, I am pleased to announce that we will recognize teachers throughout the year for their commitment to excellence in education.”

In addition to proposing a 2 percent raise for the state's public school teachers as part of his legislative agenda, McDonnell plans to honor teachers throughout the year.

First on the agenda to honor teachers McDonnell is asking Virginians to send in stories about their favorite teachers.

“I remember my third grade teacher, Mrs. Gikas,”McDonnell said. “She was a stickler for making sure that work was done on time without excuses, but she did it in a way that was encouraging and uplifting. She truly believed that her students could do anything if they put their mind to it. Mrs. Gikas was a teacher and mentor who both inspired and demanded excellence.”

The "My Favorite Teacher" contest runs through Jan. 30. Email essays of 100 words or less about your favorite educator to to K12Education@governor.virginia.gov. Submissions will be posted throughout the month at http://www.facebook.com/AllStudentsVirginia.

Video: Kaine thanks supporters ahead of swearing in

Soon to be U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine released the following video thanking supporters just two hours before his swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. Thursday:


Virginia joins nation in moment of silence for Sandy Hook victims

Flags flew at half mast on state buildings and the bell in the bell tower on the Capitol grounds tolled twenty-six times at 9:30 a.m. Friday as Virginians joined people across the nation in a moment of silence to remember the victims of last week’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Gov. Bob McDonnell – like many in the gathered crowd – was teary-eyed as he reflected on the tragedy that took the lives of 20 young children.

"I ask you to gather here this morning to stand in solidarity with the people of Connecticut, particularly the heartbroken town of Newtown," McDonnell said. "What happened last Friday at just about this time was something that was unfathomable I think in most of our minds.

"I know as a parent with five children I know to think of someone going into a school and slaughtering 20 innocent, beautiful children – six and seven years old – along with six of their teachers and administrators is just something as human beings we have a real hard time even getting our hands around how something that evil and that violent can take place in our great country, the United States of America...

"I ask all of you as we listen to the bells to reflect in our daily lives what can we do to bring about a more just society – a more fair and equitable world in which we live and in which we’re raising this next generation of young children. Find ways to reduce our focus on violence; to increase understanding between peoples of all races, faiths and national origin.

"We all have this basic human dignity that God has planted in our hearts, that’s what the scriptures say. So what can we do as individuals, as Virginians, to be able to bring about a fair, more just, less violent state, nation and world? All us have the unique God given talents in that respect and I think all of us can do some things that will make a difference."

House GOP looks to expand school resource officer grant program

In light of last week's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. members of the House of Delegates Republican Caucus said Thursday it would seek to add more money to the state budget during the upcoming General Assembly session to add police officers to elementary school in the commonwealth through the school resource officer grant program.

"Today, we are announcing our intent to expand funding for a school resource officer grant program to encourage the creation of school resource officer positions in Virginia elementary schools," said House Speaker William J. Howell of Stafford in a press release. "This is a critical step toward making sure all of our schools are as safe as possible."

The GOP caucus has not yet proposed a specific amount to add to the budget to expand the program into elementary schools, but hopes to do so by the time General Assembly session starts Jan 9.

Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Public Safety Subcommittee Beverly Sherwood of WInchester said the expansion of the grant program should build on the success of school resource officers already in roughly 80 percent of the state's public middle and high schools.

"Unfortunately, only about 25 percent of elementary schools have assigned school resource officers, many of which serve multiple schools," she said. "The expansion of this program will encourage the hiring of full-time school resource officers in Virginia elementary schools."

Sen. Dems start anti-arming school officials petition

In repsonse to Gov. McDonnell's comments on Washington D.C.'s WTOP 93.5 FM Monday that it is time to have a discussion about allowing pu lic school officials to carry guns on campus, the state Senate Democratic Caucus began an online petition Thursday opposing the idea.

"Governor Bob McDonnell says we should consider arming educators to defend our schools against gun violence," Senate Democratic Caucus chairman DOn McEachin wrote to supporters in an email. "You and I know that's the wrong answer. Giving teachers weapons and turning schools into armed camps is not the solution."

Click here to view the Senate Democrats petition.

House Dems to push for Medicaid expansion, state-run health care exchange

Members of the House of Delegates Democratic Caucus said they plan to push for Medicaid expansion and a state-run health care exchange in the upcoming General Assembly session despite Gov. Bob McDonnell's reluctance.

House Democratic Caucus chairman Mark Sickles of Fairfax said at a press conference Thursday complying with these two provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act "should be at the top of the agenda" during the upcoming session.

Last week McDonnell opted to go with a federal-based rather than a state-based health care exchange saying their were two many unanswered questions for the state to go it alone.

The governor has also said he does not want to go with an optional expansion of Medicaid to 138 percent of thepoverty level because he isn't sure the cash-strapped federal government will meet its agreements under the ACA to fully fund the expansion until 2017.

"It reckless and irresponsible for Gov. McDonnell to turn his back on over 400,000 of Virginia's poorest citizens - 84,000 of which are our children," Said Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington. "The fact is Virginia's hospitals and clinics are already providing care and treating the uninsured. Tax payers are already paying the bill."

Hope said data shows that by expanding Medicaid the state would save $1 billion over 10 years in the cost of treating the uninsured. This he said would cover the state's share of Medicaid expansion.

Hope also asserted that the move could create more than 30,000 jobs in the commonwealth.

Del. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said she was puzzled that McDonnell would opt out of a state-run health care exchange when a commission he created advised creating one. She also noted that the idea of state health care exchanges came from Republicans in other states.

"It is time to put policy and the best interest Virginians and our current uninsured ahead of politics," She said. "It is time to move forward and implement the recommendations of the governor's own advisory commission to implement a state run exchange in Virginia as quickly as possible."

McClellan said at this point the state has until mid-February to decide to go with an exchange run fully by the federal government or enter into a federal-state partnership.

She said she hopes McDonnell will choose the later with an eye toward creating a state-run health care exchange in the future.

Hope said the House Democratic Caucus will be putting forth a resolution supporting the expansion of Medicaid and submitting a budgte amendment to allow Virginia the federal funds for the expansion.


Kaine sees fiscal cliff discussions moving his direction

U.S. Sen.-elect Tim Kaine saw the fiscal cliff negotiations between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, move his way Tuesday as Obama put forward his first serious compromise position.

Obama campaigned on and has long insisted that the President George W. Bush-era tax cuts expire on yearly incomes over $250,000. It was widely reported Tuesday that the resident has softened his position and put forward a plan that would allow the tax cuts to expire for incomes over $400,000.

Kaine, who campaigned on letting the cuts expire for annual incomes over $500,000, saw that as a victory for compromise.

"For more than a year I have called on Congress to find a balanced approach of cuts and revenues to help get our fiscal house in order," Kaine said ina press release Tuesday. "I am encouraged to see signs of progress in the negotiations between President Obama and Speaker Boehner, and while much work remains, I am glad to see the sides moving towards the compromise I have promoted on the Bush tax cuts. Neither side will get everything they want, but if Washington can put the country’s best interest first, they can pass a deal by year-end that will give the markets confidence, give our small businesses certainty, and provide a springboard for a long term solution."

Audio: McDonnell calls for discussions on arming school officials

On Tuesday Gov. Bob McDonnell said there should be discussions on arming school officials in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. during his weekly chat on Washington, D.C.'s WTOP 93.5 FM's weekly "Ask the Governor" radio show.

To hear the WTOP audio click here.

To read the whole story visit www.dailypress.com.


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