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VA Week in Review: Wedding crashers and missing microscopes

By   /   May 1, 2014  /   News  /   No Comments

By Bre Payton | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau

WEDDING CRASHERS: Counties are imposing restrictions that “defy logic” on private businesses, while VSU is missing a $200,000 microscope.

Virginia counties are crashing future weddings by imposing restrictions on privately owned wedding venues, and Virginia State University is missing a microscope worth nearly $200,000.

Attorney General Mark Herring announced that illegal immigrants should attend public universities at in-state tuition costs, but will his opinion actually make a difference?

This is your week-in-review.

Wedding crasher: County curbs private business

Call off the wedding. Spotsylvania County has imposed “special use permit” restrictions on a couple who has been hosting marriages for years — effectively nullifying future nuptials at a once-thriving business.

Gary Gratopp, co-owner of Eden Try, said the county crackdown “defies logic.”

Yet the move resembles actions in nearby Fauquier County, where officials are employing permitting requirements to harass and intimidate private-property owners.

Spotsylvania supervisors unanimously approved a proposal that says county staff can issue no more than six “temporary event permits” per year at any one location, according to news reports last week.

Where is Virginia State University’s $186,224 microscope?

When a professor at Virginia State University in Petersburg left her job in August 2010, she managed to take a microscope worth $186,224 with her, a recent state audit found.

Nearly four years later, university officials haven’t recovered the costly assets bought with a grant from the National Science Foundation — worth the equivalent to 24 years of VSU tuition at 2013 rates.

‘Unsustainable’ corporate giveaways bloat VA budget

Gov. Terry McAuliffe wants to boost corporate-welfare handouts to $136 million over the next two years – a 24 percent increase.

McAuliffe also seeks to subsidize technology companies with another $22 million.

The Democrat isn’t the only corporatist in Richmond. Lawmakers from both parties propose quintupling state giveaways to the movie industry via $11.3 million in tax breaks.

Matt Mitchell, senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, calls such endeavors “unsustainable.”

“These are artificial privileges, built on political patronage,” he told Watchdog.org.

Special deals for private companies goose state spending. The current biennial budget is $86 billion; the new plan weighs in at a record $96 billion.

AG’s take on in-state tuition for illegal immigrant children just an opinion

Attorney General Mark Herring said all public colleges and universities must now grant in-state tuition status to eligible students who immigrated to the U.S. illegally as children with their parents.

But even the interpretation of the highest constitutional officer in the state is merely a legal opinion. Opinions of the attorney general aren’t legally binding, as when former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli told Virginia police departments they couldn’t randomly collect and store license plate data.

Many local police departments still do.

Virginians with drug convictions regain voting rights

People with prior drug convictions will regain the right to vote after Gov. Terry McAuliffe changed the rules on who is eligible to automatically get his voting rights back.

Most drug-related offenses were scrubbed from the violent category, making offenders eligible for automatic restoration. In addition, those with violent felony convictions will now only have to wait three years instead of five.

This answer has simplified the process for people working to help ex-felons get their voting rights back and has added a bit of transparency to the discretionary policy.

Virginia fails to police voter rolls, critics charge

Election officials say they will send letters to Virginians who have moved out of state, asking that they remove themselves from voter-registration lists here.

Vote-integrity groups say that’s too little, and far too late. “Election legitimacy is being sacrificed on the altar of convenience,” said Reagan George, president of the Virginia Voters Alliance.

Responding to reports of tens of thousands of duplicate voter registrations in Virginia and Maryland, state Board of Elections Secretary Don Palmer promised a “full report” in August.

But with primary elections upcoming in swing-state Virginia, at least one local official said the state board should be more proactive in policing voter lists.

Contact Bre Payton at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Bre_payton.


Bre formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.og.org