McDonnell proposal unfair to the poor
Could Gov. Bob McDonnell have come up with a worse idea for raising the funds Virginia needs for transportation — eliminating the gas tax and raising sales taxes by almost a full percent instead?
The obvious reason to fund transportation costs through a gasoline tax is that the people who use our roads and bridges the most are the ones who should pay for that infrastructure. In addition, a significant portion of that tax is paid by citizens of other states as they visit or pass through the commonwealth. A gasoline tax also raises the cost of fuel per gallon, encouraging us all to drive more fuel-efficient vehicles and to take other actions that conserve our limited fossil fuel reserves and reduce carbon emissions.
Meanwhile, raising the sales tax would have the greatest impact on low-income Virginians, who can least afford to have their purchasing power reduced. Further, the governor’s proposal would have those Virginians who don’t drive bearing the cost of road building and bridge repair for those of us who do.
The General Assembly should reject the governor’s transportation funding proposal, instead consider raising gasoline taxes to a level similar to those in surrounding states, and pair that with a long overdue reform of Virginia’s income tax rates to shift some of that tax burden more fairly onto the commonwealth’s more affluent citizens.
Paul Fleisher. Richmond.
Provide trained teachers the option to carry
Adam Lanza shot 26 people in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut. James Holmes is charged with shooting 70 people in a movie theater in Colorado. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot 34 people at Columbine High School. Jared Loughner shot 19 people including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona. And Seung-Hui Cho shot 49 people at Virginia Tech.
During 2012, there were more than 2,600 shootings in Chicago (where handguns are mostly banned). It is safe to say that most, if not all, of these killers did not attend gun-safety courses or were otherwise trained professionals. Yet, they all successfully shot lots of people.
Nevertheless, a common argument from those opposed to arming teachers or letting the general public carry firearms is that they are not trained and may miss their target during a defensive shooting.
How is it that thugs, gang members, individuals high on drugs and those with mental illnesses all manage to shoot their victims but responsible gun-owners who undergo criminal background checks, attend gun-safety courses, obtain concealed handgun permits, and commonly practice at shooting ranges are expected to have a zero-accuracy rate? Why are those who take seriously their own self-defense treated as if they are incapable of actually hitting a target while lunatics have no problem shooting their victims?
We must recognize that murderers are targeting victims where guns are banned. During the Sandy Hook Elementary murders, it took police 20 minutes to arrive at the school after the first calls for help. It is time we provide the option for those individuals holding a Virginia concealed handgun permit (employees and visitors) to carry firearms onto school grounds to help defend themselves and our children. To do otherwise is unconscionable.
Clayton W. Rhoades. Midlothian.
Senate panel rejects ultrasound repeal
On Jan. 17, 2013, the Virginia State Senate Committee on Education and Health met to consider the adoption or repeal of various bills. If you want an exercise in futility, go to one of these meetings. Senators make up their minds beforehand and facts rarely sway them. They listen courteously and then one of them moves to postpone indefinitely (pass by indefinitely — PBI). What a waste of time and taxpayer money.
People for and against certain bills make an effort to show up and testify and the majority of a Senate committee does not have the guts to vote so they just postpone indefinitely. This committee PBI’d the bills that would repeal a mandatory ultrasound for women seeking abortions and another that would repeal the onerous abortion clinic regulations signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Last year the Board of Health voted to reject these regulations, but Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (the presumptive Republican candidate for governor) coerced the Board of Health into changing its votes. A conservative Republican majority of white men made decisions that affect all women in the commonwealth. These men — including Cuccinelli — want government to intrude on health care decisions made by women in consultations with their doctors.
There is no evidence that an ultrasound before an abortion is good medicine. There is no evidence that women’s health centers (that provide abortions) are unsafe or dangerous. The only evidence displayed that day was that white male Republican senators do not care about evidence.
Ike Koziol. Manakin-Sabot.
Why is coal legal but uranium banned?
Pound for pound, uranium contains 10 million times more energy than coal. Thus, the amount of uranium needed to generate a given quantity of electricity is tiny compared to the huge amount of coal needed for that same amount of electricity.
This means that coal mining is infinitely more damaging to the environment and to human health than uranium mining. The state delegates and senators who are opposed to uranium mining should explain to all why it is right that coal mining is legal in Virginia and uranium mining is banned.
Craig Hove. Lynchburg.
Va. Farm Bureau supports uranium moratorium
Before they can support lifting the state moratorium on mining uranium, Virginia’s farmers need some assurance that agriculture and uranium mining can coexist.
Two months ago, delegates from 88 county Farm Bureaus statewide — farmers and owners of farmland — determined by a vote that the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation would continue to support the moratorium. While individual members and county Farm Bureaus have varying positions on the issue, the consensus they reached was that production agriculture should be protected from any adverse effects uranium mining might have.
In general, the Farm Bureau supports the safe and responsible exploration and extraction of natural resources when steps are taken to protect personal property rights, environmentally sensitive areas and groundwater supplies. Farmers’ livelihoods are tied to their land and the products it can produce. For that reason, Farm Bureau has actively followed the study of uranium mining’s potential effects. Our members believe there are significant issues that still need to be addressed.
Any business decision about resources warrants careful deliberation. A decision that will affect many different businesses and many families merits more careful deliberation still.
At the end of the day, Virginia’s farmers simply want to live and work on their land and raise marketable products. A conversation about how uranium mining stands to affect the state’s farm communities is appropriate.
The uranium under the commonwealth, while valuable, isn’t going anywhere. We hope state legislators and others will remember that our other natural resources — and our communities — are valuable as well.
Wayne Pryor, President, Virginia Farm Bureau. Richmond.
Majority of electorate rejects uranium mining
In response to the Op/Ed column by Coy Harville, “Let the localities decide”: As an attorney who has practiced in the Pittsylvania County for 20 years, and having observed the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors at board and committee meetings and in work sessions, I speak with some authority in finding that the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors has been a pervasively dysfunctional, self-serving political body.
More than two years ago, one of Virginia Uranium Inc.’s principals, who understood my very public concerns regarding our supervisors, assured me that VUI would secure in a trust any taxable income from uranium mining, unavailable for discretionary spending by the Board of Supervisors.
Sure enough, VUI’s lobbyists proposed, through two legislators from Powhatan County, that any tax proceeds from VUI’s uranium mining/milling activities would go into a trust, not into the hands of Pittsylvania’s supervisors.
Harville may still think uranium money will be coming his way, but if he truly believes that citizens of Pittsylvania must answer the “important questions” regarding whether or not to allow uranium mining, he would be asking the Virginia legislature to enact Local Option legislation similar to that in Code of Virginia 4.1-121 et seq., (allowing citizens to vote by referendum).
“Local Option” legislation takes uranium mining out of the hands of local politicians and their political cronies appointed to planning commissions, and allows the electorate directly to decide the question of whether to not it wants uranium mining and milling in their locality.
I’m fairly certain that the Danville-Pittsylvania Chamber of Commerce, in expressing its opposition to uranium mining, reflects the majority of the electorate in my locality, and in doing so has rejected Harville’s assertion that uranium mining and milling is a perfectly safe activity.
Barbara Hudson. Chatham.
Medical geology plays a growing role
As Virginia considers lifting the moratorium on uranium mining, a newly identified field of study may provide some helpful answers. “Medical geology,” a term coined in 1997 during a workgroup meeting at the Fourth International Symposium on Environmental Geochemistry, actually has its roots in the commonwealth extending back centuries.
Medical geology joins together geologists, physicians, engineers, geographers, public health professionals and other scientists in examining geologic materials and processes that impact human and animal health.
Back in 1792, John Rouelle, MD, wrote “A Complete Treatise on the Mineral Waters of Virginia: Containing a Description of their Situation, their Natural History, their Analysis, Contents, and their Use in Medicine.” It provides a look at the curative properties of Virginia’s waters. Today, medical geology examines how certain earth clays may heal infected human skin; how arsenic may be captured in drinking water; and even the possible association between uranium mining and lung cancer in predominantly non-smoking populations.
Medical geology is a burgeoning field that may provide important information on how geologic materials affect our health — both positively and negatively.
Robin Stombler. Arlington.