Delegates Approve Cellphone Ban
The Virginia House of Delegates approved a bill to prohibit teenagers from using their cellphones while driving, a restriction intended to reduce accidents.
The Senate has approved a nearly identical measure, meaning that the proposal is probably headed to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), who is expected to sign it, aides said. If approved by Kaine, Virginia would join the District, Maryland and 11 other states in barring teens from using a phone while driving.
Drivers 15 to 17 years old would not be allowed to talk, send text messages or snap photos with a phone while on Virginia roads. The ban would also apply to hands-free devices but would allow teens to use a phone during an emergency.
Red-Light Cameras Get a Green Light
The Virginia General Assembly will allow local governments to set up cameras to catch drivers who run red lights, renewing a program that safety advocates say reduces accidents and aggressive driving.
The Senate voted 30 to 10 to approve a bill that would let jurisdictions with 10,000 or more residents install photo-monitoring systems at intersections with traffic signals. The House has approved the measure, and the governor has said he will sign it.
Fairfax Schools Could Lose Federal Funds
The U.S. Education Department threatened to withhold more than $17 million from Fairfax County schools if the system continues to defy a mandate to give federally approved reading tests to thousands of immigrant children.
Other Virginia school systems would also be in jeopardy if they refuse to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act, and the state could lose $2 million in administrative funds.
The dispute started last summer when federal officials rejected the test Virginia uses to measure the progress of many immigrant children. The exam shows how well students learn to read, write and speak English. But it doesn't, as the No Child law requires, test students on their understanding of grade-level reading material, which can include comprehension and such concepts as similes and metaphors.
Woman Who Tossed Ice Into Car Is Freed
A woman who threw a McDonald's cup of ice into a car that cut her off on Interstate 95 was released from jail a day after being spared a two-year prison term.
A judge suspended Jessica Hall's sentence on the condition of five years' good behavior, and she was to go home that afternoon. But as she was about to be released, an out-of-state warrant for her arrest was discovered during a criminal record check.
Hall, 25, of Jacksonville, N.C., remained jailed for an additional day on an outstanding warrant from Mississippi for writing bad checks. She was released after the costs involved in that case were covered.
Assembly Changes Power Company Rules
The Virginia General Assembly enacted sweeping changes to the way the state's power companies are regulated.
Company officials said the new rules would give them the financial stability to build a generation of coal and nuclear power plants to meet the growing demand for power, especially in Northern Virginia. Critics said the legislation would undermine the authority of the State Corporation Commission to hold down rates and require environmental improvements.
The measure now goes to the governor, who has said he will review it to make sure it includes appropriate consumer and environmental protections.
Across the Region
· After a significant decline in infant mortality in the District, the number of babies who died in the city jumped 19 percent in 2005, according to a report released by the District's chief medical examiner. More than 70 percent of the deaths that year were attributed to premature births and complications such as low birth weight, according to the report.
· Three members of the D.C. Council introduced a bill to provide $50 million in public funding for improvements at Verizon Center. As part of the deal, the city would take over ownership of the building in 2047 from Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin.