Week in Review: Whistle-blowers, farms and bikes


By Bre Payton | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau

WEEK IN REVIEW: Skeptics aren’t so sure about Arlington’s bike expansion plan; transparency advocates want rewards for all whistle-blowers.

Transparency, bikes and farms lead the headlines this week in the Old Dominion.

While a local farmer fought to save her farm, Gov. Terry McAuliffe decided to go forward with the Medicaid expansion himself if a decision isn’t made by the end of the year.

Arlington, meanwhile, is pushing forward with a bike plan that some say isn’t safe, and transparency advocates want whistle-blower protections expanded to contractors and private citizens.

This is your week in review.

‘Whistle-blower’ Virginians could save taxpayer dollars, get a reward

How would you like to report government fraud, waste or abuse, protect more of your hard-earned taxpayer dollars and, on top of that, earn a reward?

Well, it could happen, if a bill by Republican Delegate James LeMunyon from Chantilly passes to expand whistle-blower protections and privileges to all Virginia citizens.

Arlington peddles bikes at expense of cars, taxpayers

The Northern Virginia county of Arlington wants to get people out of their cars and onto bicycles, but the swap is costing millions of dollars — and making traffic more dangerous.

Via a “Complete Streets” initiative, local planners are instituting “sharrows” for cyclists to share roads with motorists.

“The county sees itself as a model for ‘livability and sustainability’. In reality, it’s creating unsafe situations,” said Joe Warren, a member of Arlington’s Transportation Advisory Committee.

He charges that the county is pressing ahead without proper traffic studies.

Down on the farm, property-rights fight gains ground in VA

Fauquier County farmer Martha Boneta is hailing a bill that would give property owners a legal club to pummel overreaching government officials.

Boneta knows the stakes. In a widely reported showdown that sparked pitchfork protests in the community, Fauquier officials cited Boneta for selling homemade products on her farm. The county threatened her with $5,000-per-day fines for hosting a birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls and for advertising pumpkin carvings.

“This could be the difference between keeping small family farmers on the farm, or being forced off the land,” Boneta told Watchdog.org Tuesday.

McAuliffe threatens to force Medicaid expansion, despite public opinion poll

Gov. Terry McAuliffe is trying to expand Medicaid any way he can — even though a new poll shows most Virginians would rather wait to reform the system or to not expand it all.

Essentially, it’s a message to the Republicans — and Democrats — on the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, which was established last year: Expand Medicaid soon or I’ll do it for you.

VA lawmaker says it’s time to scrutinize state’s 100-plus FOIA exemptions

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act has more than 100 exemptions, with more piling up each legislative session.

It’s time to scrutinize them all, one lawmaker says, and he’s filed three proposals to work on changes.

It’s really a “checkup” to keep FOIA laws “nice and healthy,” Delegate Jim LeMunyon said.

That isn’t the only bill LeMunyon has filed to open up more records to the public.

He’s also filed legislation that would subject the State Corporation Commission, which oversees business activity in Virginia, to FOIA for administrative records. As an independent state agency, the SCC hasn’t been required to release much information to the public.

Contact Bre Payton at bpayton@watchdog.org or follow her on Twitter@Bre_payton.

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