Vehicle safety inspection fee likely to go up in Virginia

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia drivers are likely to pay more for vehicle safety inspections.

The General Assembly has given preliminary approval to legislation that will raise the price of a yearly car inspection from $16 to $20.

The House and Senate have both approved slightly different versions of the legislation with bipartisan support.

Advocates said the fee hasn’t gone up for more than a decade and the increase will help make sure mechanics are fairly compensated.

Opponents of the measure said the current fee is fair and a 25 percent increase is too much.

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West Virginia man sought in shooting of Virginia officer

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BLUEFIELD, Va. (AP) — Federal and state officials continue to search for a man wanted in the shooting of a police officer during a traffic stop in Virginia.

Virginia State Police said in a news release Monday that they and the U.S. Marshals Service are searching for 25-year-old Donquale M. Gray of Bluefield, West Virginia.

Police said in a news release that Gray is wanted for attempted capital murder of a police officer who was shot Saturday night in Bluefield, Virginia.

They say the 29-year-old officer who was shot is being treated for serious, but non-life-threatening injuries. Authorities haven’t released his name.

Authorities say Gray was the front-seat passenger in the car that was stopped for an equipment violation. The officer was shot as he was standing outside the vehicle on the driver’s side.

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Man arrested during Virginia Capitol protest over Northam

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A protester at the Virginia Capitol has been arrested during a protest against Gov. Ralph Northam.

Capitol Police said 23-year-old Patrick Talamantes of Sacramento, California, was charged with vandalism and littering after he tossed a container of red dye in a Capitol fountain.

Police said they stopped an unnamed woman who had a dye pack by another fountain, and she was issued a notice barring her from the Capitol for six months.

Police said Talamantes and the woman were part of a small group of protesters who called on Northam to resign. Northam’s been under fire since a racist picture surfaced in his medical school yearbook.

Police said 45-year-old Michelle Sutherland of Florida was charged with indecent exposure in a separate protest related to the Equal Rights Amendment.

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After 16 years, Loudoun Co. prosecutor Jim Plowman to become judge

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WASHINGTON — Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman has been the top prosecutor in Virginia’s fastest-growing jurisdiction since 2003 — and he’ll soon trade his spot at the prosecution table for a seat on the judge’s bench.

The Virginia General Assembly has selected Plowman to fill a vacancy that will be created in the Circuit Court of 20th Judicial District — which includes Loudoun, Fauquier, and Rappahannock counties.

Plowman’s appointment to an eight-year term on the bench will take place Nov. 1, with the retirement of Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Parker.

During Plowman’s time in office, he says the county population has grown from about 225,000 to just over 400,000.

Plowman says the growth has had an impact on his office’s ability to cover court dockets, answer public inquiries and provide community outreach.

“We’ve actually been able to stay ahead of the curve, and according to the latest reports in September, we’re the safest county in the national capital region, with crime dropping for the 5th straight year,” said Plowman. “Obviously it’s not just our office, but cooperative relationships with local law enforcement agencies are imperative.”

In a Feb. 3 letter to members of the general assembly, Plowman described why he wanted to become a judge.

“I think the position of Judge, in any court, is something that a person is called to do. Some may seek out these positions as a desire or culmination to cap off a career. I question whether those are the correct motivations, I see this as more of a duty to men and women, whose sense of obligation has called them.”

Plowman, as the prosecutor in the county with the highest median household income in the United States, said he “would also understand and know how to ensure that each person has equal access to the court system and is able to provide for the fair administration of justice.”

Plowman is a Republican. Currently, the only announced candidate in the commonwealth’s attorney race is Buta Biberaj, a Democrat.

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Lawmakers OK bill on religious leaders reporting child abuse

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WINCHESTER, Va. (AP) — A bill that requires religious leaders to report suspected child abuse or neglect is now before Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam for his signature.

The Winchester Star reports both the House and Senate have approved the bill, which requires ministers, priests, rabbis, imams and other religious leaders to report suspected abuse to law enforcement.

Church leaders who know of or suspect child abuse now are exempt from a law that requires it to be reported. Other professionals, including health-care workers, teachers and law enforcement personnel, are required to report.

Republican Sen. Jill Vogel says she’s “relieved and grateful” that religious institutions supported the bill, which Vogel sponsored.

The bill includes exemptions for information that a church’s doctrine requires be kept confidential, such as what a priest hears in confession.

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Information from: The Winchester Star, http://bit.ly/1GjThaT

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Usage drops, but more money collected in 1st month of Dulles Toll Road rate hike

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WASHINGTON — Many Dulles Toll Road users, particularly those paying with cash, appear to have noticed the toll increase that took effect Jan. 1.

The number of toll transactions dropped 7.5 percent this January compared to last. That is actually a somewhat smaller drop than the road’s owner, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, had forecast when tolls rose from $2.50 to $3.25 at the mainline plaza and $1 to $1.50 at ramps.

Still, the first toll increase since 2014 meant that even with fewer toll transactions, toll revenue rose 25.6 percent to $15.3 million for the month of January. That is roughly in line with the authority’s forecasts.

In a signal, toll payers using cash were more likely to change behavior based on the toll increase, the percentage of revenue collected through E-ZPass payments rose to 92 percent in January.

Over the course of 2018, 89.6 percent of toll revenue, excluding violations, was collected electronically.

In 2018, 96.3 million total toll transactions added up to $151.3 million in total revenue on the Dulles Toll Road.

After paying for operations of the road, the revenue is helping to pay for construction of the Silver Line to Dulles International Airport and Ashburn. Trains are expected to start running to Loudoun County sometime next year.

Since bond repayments will run for decades, the next Dulles Toll Road toll increase is scheduled for Jan. 1, 2023.

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Northern Va. Cox customers lose service

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WASHINGTON — An unknown number of Cox Communications customers in Northern Virginia are without service Monday.

The company hasn’t said yet how many people are affected or what has caused the outage, but said in a statement that “We understand that this is frustrating for our customers” and that they are “working quickly to get the service interruption … fixed.”

They added that customers can check their status on the Cox Connect app on any mobile device.

WTOP will provide more information as it comes in.

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Va. woman who lost gay rights custody battle to her mother dies

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WASHINGTON — Sharon Bottoms Mattes, who lost custody of her young son to her mother in 1993 after a Virginia court ruled her same-sex relationship made her “an unfit parent,” has died at age 48.

In 1991, Sharon Bottoms gave birth to a son, Tyler Doustou. She and the boy’s father divorced before the baby was born.

Soon after, Bottoms began dating April Wade and the two started living together near Richmond.

Bottoms’ mother, Kay Bottoms, sought custody of Tyler, saying it was in her grandson’s best interests.

A juvenile court judge ruled in Kay Bottoms’ favor.

During Sharon Bottoms’ appeal, Kay Bottoms testified Tyler called Wade “DaDa,” arguing the boy could grow up not knowing the difference between men and women if he were allowed to live with her daughter and Wade.

“I don’t care how my daughter lives. But Tyler will be mentally and physically harmed by this. We can take care of ourselves. He can’t,” Kay Bottoms said.

In trial, Sharon Bottoms had acknowledged kissing Wade in Tyler’s presence, and had engaged in sex in private.

In 1993, oral sex was considered sodomy in Virginia, when performed by anyone. It was decriminalized in 2014.

Tyler’s father, Dennis Doustou testified that his ex-wife should be granted custody of their son.

However, Circuit Court Judge Buford Parson ruled Sharon Bottoms’ “conduct is illegal and immoral” and “renders her an unfit parent.”

Bottoms was allowed to visit with her son from Monday morning to Tuesday evening, but was not allowed to bring him to her home.

In 1994, a Virginia Court of Appeals ruling determined Sharon Bottoms should have custody of her son, but her mother’s appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court was successful, and she was granted permanent custody of Tyler.

In 1996, Sharon Bottoms dropped her fight for custody.

According to Facebook posts, Sharon Bottoms married Bill Mattes, in 2012.

She died Jan. 21, 2019. Her obituary was posted in the Jacksonville Daily News, in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

Tyler Doustou posted a tribute to his mother on Facebook: “Yesterday I had to say goodbye to my very first best friend, Sharon Mattes. She always told me, ‘It’s okay to cry, baby boy.’ I just never realized how much I’d need that. I love you, Mom.”

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