Sunday, January 11, 2004

A Virginia gun lobbyist is seeking the repeal of a law that forbids a person with a concealed-carry permit from carrying a gun into a restaurant.

“A person with a permit to carry a concealed weapon should be able to walk into a Red Lobster,” said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun-rights group. “You don’t want to leave your gun in the car for it to be stolen.”

The law allows a person with a permit to openly carry a weapon, but it bans everyone from carrying a concealed weapon into a restaurant that serves alcohol, even someone with a concealed-carry permit.

Mr. Van Cleave’s group wants the law to allow people with a permit to carry a concealed weapon as long as they don’t drink. If people want to drink wine with their meal, they would have to carry the gun openly, Mr. Van Cleave said.

A bill advocating such action failed during the 2001 General Assembly session, defeated in the House by a 58-41 vote. It’s not clear if the move to repeal the ban will have more support when the General Assembly convenes Wednesday.

State Delegate Vincent F. Callahan Jr., Fairfax Republican, said he thinks a repeal would fail. The restaurant lobby also has vowed to fight a repeal of the ban.

But state Sen. Jay O’Brien, Fairfax Republican, said as long as the law forbids people from carrying concealed guns from drinking, he would support a repeal.

Mr. Van Cleave also said the law discriminates against women who prefer to carry their guns discreetly inside their purses.

• Suit over

A lawsuit filed by Virginia Delegate Winsome E. Sears against her one-time political rival, former Delegate William P. Robinson Jr., and a private investigator has ended in an out-of-court settlement.

Two months ago, Mr. Robinson was dropped from the $1 million lawsuit filed last year in federal court. The lawsuit contended Mr. Robinson and Brian F. Melchor of Portsmouth had obtained Mrs. Sears’ credit report without her permission in an effort to discredit her during her political campaign.

Mrs. Sears, a Republican, successfully challenged Mr. Robinson, a Democrat, for his House of Delegates seat in 2001. The district includes parts of Norfolk, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach.

Brad Marrs, Mrs. Sears’ attorney, said an agreement was reached with Mr. Melchor and signed last week by a U.S. District judge in Richmond.

Mr. Melchor said he obtained Mrs. Sears’ credit report for an anonymous person, Mr. Marrs said. The investigator has also said he destroyed the report, Mr. Marrs said. Mrs. Sears was awarded $35,000 for attorney fees and $10,000 in damages.

• Picking his man

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has erased any doubt that he supports Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett in the March 2 6th District congressional primary.

Mr. Ehrlich said at a fund-raiser Tuesday that Mr. Bartlett’s Republican challenger, Frederick County State’s Attorney Scott Rolle, is in “the wrong race at the wrong time.”

Mr. Ehrlich said Mr. Rolle has a bright future in the Republican Party and he considers both men friends, but he supports Mr. Bartlett’s bid for a seventh term.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Rolle’s campaign cited 84 votes in Congress during Mr. Ehrlich’s congressional tenure in which Mr. Bartlett had taken a different position. Rolle spokesman George Rasley said the record was “startling” proof that Mr. Bartlett “consistently voted against Governor Ehrlich’s position.”

Mr. Ehrlich said his and Mr. Bartlett’s voting records had “strikingly similarities” in the areas of economy and defense, but “with social issues, you’ll probably find a difference.”

Money, money, money

Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell is ordering Republican delegates to contribute money to a new central campaign fund aimed at expanding the Republican majority in the 2005 elections.

The Washington Post reported that Mr. Howell wrote a letter to members outlining fund-raising goals, along with deadlines for donating the money.

Those in leadership should raise $40,000, committee chairs should raise $30,000; members who have served more than eight years are expected to raise $20,000; and those who have served less will owe $5,000 to $10,000.

At least 25 percent of the total must be donated to Mr. Howell’s political action committee, while the rest may be donated to candidates of the members’ choosing who are in competitive races.

Donations are due no later than Dec. 31.

Mr. Howell downplayed the “mandatory” nature of the program in an interview with The Post, calling the demands “more like guidelines.”

• No nude teens

A summer camp for teens at a nudist park in southeastern Virginia last year won’t be repeated if the General Assembly enacts a Republican-authored bill this winter.

Delegate John S. “Jack” Reid prefiled a bill last Monday that would outlaw camps such as the one at White Tail Park, a nudist resort in Isle of Wight County, held last June.

“We’re going to put an end to kids running around naked without their parents there,” said Mr. Reid, Henrico County Republican.

White Tail’s weeklong summer camp for the 11-to-18 age group in June was the first in Virginia and only the third such au naturel camp for juveniles in the nation, according to the American Association of Nude Recreation.

Such gatherings are legal in Virginia, even for children, as long as lewd activity is not involved.

White Tail officials say strict bans on sexual or lascivious conduct at the camp are enforced by peer pressure from other campers and by a ratio of 1 counselors for every child.

Mr. Reid’s bill would forbid the state from licensing “any hotel, summer camp or campground … that maintains, or conducts as any part of its activities, a nudist camp for juveniles.”

• Southside U.

Virginia Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine wants the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia to plan for a new four-year public university in Southside Virginia.

Mr. Kaine said the college would help accommodate the additional 61,000 students SCHEV projects will attend Virginia colleges by the end of the decade.

“A state university in Southside Virginia is long overdue,” Mr. Kaine said Tuesday after a tour of the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville.

He noted that the closest state college is Longwood University in Farmville, a two-hour drive from Danville. Three North Carolina colleges are closer, he noted.

“Sadly, once those children leave, the jobs just are not there to lure them back,” he said.

• More trouble

Federal authorities have added one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud to charges against Richmond City Council member Gwendolyn C. Hedgepeth.

A superseding indictment returned in U.S. District Court says Miss Hedgepeth conspired with Robert Evans, who has since been fired as assistant to the city manager, to fraudulently expend money from her “Paygo” account, a city spending account for council members’ expenses.

Evans has pleaded guilty to mail fraud and lying to a federal agent.

Miss Hedgepeth is now charged with bribery conspiracy, bribery, attempted bribery, lying to a federal agent and mail-fraud conspiracy.

• Recount up by 2

Virginia Delegate William B. “Benny” Keister, Pulaski County Democrat, will return to Richmond this week as the 6th District’s representative, after a recount last Monday that officially named him the winner of the Nov. 4 election.

Mr. Keister gained two votes in the recount, which was sought by his Republican challenger, Morgan Morris.

The initial 49-vote difference increased to 51 votes. The new totals showed 8,142 votes for Mr. Keister, one more than the official canvass had shown, and 8,091 for Mr. Morris, one less than the original count.

• Christina Bellantoni contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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