Archive for: March 6th, 2018

Legislative Update
Goodlatte & Gowdy call for Special Counsel to investigate crimes involving Bias & FISA Abuse at DOJ
March 6, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy today called for the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate potential bias and potential conflicts of interest and decisions made or not made by the Department of Justice in 2016 and 2017.

In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Chairmen Goodlatte and Gowdy request the appointment of a Special Counsel to review evidence of bias by any employee or agent of the DOJ, FBI, or other agencies; the decisions to charge or not charge and whether those decisions were made consistent with the applicable facts, the applicable law, and traditional investigative and prosecutorial policies and procedures; and whether the FISA process employed in the fall of 2016 and continuing into 2017 was lawful and pursuant to all relevant policies and procedures.

The text of the letter is below and the signed copy can be found here.

March 6, 2018

Dear Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein:

Matters have arisen – both recently and otherwise – which necessitate the appointment of a Special Counsel.  We do not make this observation and attendant request lightly.  We have tremendous respect for the women and men of federal law enforcement and federal prosecution.  In the vast majority of fact patterns, the Department of Justice, the career prosecutors and law enforcement professionals who serve there, and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices throughout the country are fully capable of investigating, evaluating, charging where appropriate, and prosecuting matters for which there is federal jurisdiction.

Nevertheless, there are instances in which an actual or potential conflict of interest exists or appears to exist, or there are matters in which the public good would be furthered, and an independent Special Counsel is warranted as the relevant Federal regulations provide.

We believe that, in the case of certain decisions made and not made by the Department of Justice and FBI in 2016 and 2017, both an actual conflict of interest exists and separately, but equally significantly, the public interest requires the appointment of a Special Counsel.

With respect to potential and actual conflicts of interest, decisions made and not made by both former and current Department of Justice and FBI officials have led to legitimate questions and concerns from the people whom we all serve.  There is evidence of bias, trending toward animus, among those charged with investigating serious cases. There is evidence political opposition research was used in court filings.  There is evidence this political opposition research was neither vetted before it was used nor fully revealed to the relevant tribunal.  Questions have arisen with the FISA process and these questions and concerns threaten to impugn both public and congressional confidence in significant counterintelligence program processes and those charged with overseeing and implementing these counterintelligence processes.

Because the decisions of both former and current Department of Justice and FBI officials are at issue, we do not believe the Department of Justice is capable of investigating and evaluating these fact patterns in a fashion likely to garner public confidence.  In addition, while we have confidence in the Inspector General for the Department of Justice, the DOJ IG does not have the authority to investigate other governmental entities or former employees of the Department, the Bureau, or other agencies.

Some have been reluctant to call for the appointment of a Special Counsel because such an appointment should be reserved for those unusual cases where existing investigative and prosecutorial entities cannot adequately discharge those duties.  We believe this is just such a case.

Accordingly, we request that you appoint a Special Counsel to review decisions made and not made by the Department of Justice and the FBI in 2016 and 2017, including but not limited to evidence of bias by any employee or agent of the DOJ, FBI, or other agencies involved in the investigation; the decisions to charge or not charge and whether those decisions were made consistent with the applicable facts, the applicable law, and traditional investigative and prosecutorial policies and procedures; and whether the FISA process employed in the fall of 2016 was appropriate and devoid of extraneous influence.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important request.


Bob Goodlatte
House Judiciary Committee

Trey Gowdy
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Local Government
Council has concerns over Valley Health contributions to new hospital infrastructure
March 6, 2018

Valley Health VP of Facilities Management Mark Baker, who is also a Warren County EDA Board member, addresses council concerns over infrastructure proffers tied to new hospital project. Photo/Roger Bianchini

FRONT ROYAL – At least one member of the Front Royal Town Council expressed a desire for more clarification from Valley Health on its willingness to pay for infrastructure improvements prior to a vote on a rezoning to enable construction of a new hospital off Leach Run Parkway.

At a Monday, March 5 work session Councilman Eugene Tewalt asked for a commitment on some necessary road and utility improvements before voting to approve a change from current RS (Residential Suburban) and A-1 (Agricultural) zoning to MCD (Mixed Commercial Development) for Valley Health’s 147-acre parcel.

According to the staff summary, Valley Health has amended its original financial proffer on design and construction of signalization at the hospital’s main entrance from $175,000 to up to $300,000. However, Tewalt appeared concerned that a timeframe for that construction was noted on a condition that it be requested by the town government within five years “from the date an occupancy permit is issued.”

And while the wording seems to put the Town in control of the timing of the request, were it decided not to be necessary immediately, Tewalt may have been troubled by the potential once on the shelf that the request might slip between the cracks amidst future council and staff turnover.

Staff noted that $300,000 might not cover the total cost of the project dependent upon when it occurred, as well as other variables including design parameters and right-of-way acquisitions.

Traffic concerns revolve at least in part around the planned hospital’s proximity adjacent to Warren County Middle School and the planned HEPTAD Swan Estates residential property.

Another concern was the cost of extending a “redundant underground electrical transmission line” to the new hospital, estimated at a cost of $731,282. While staff noted the utility issue wasn’t directly related to the rezoning application,  the fact that the Town does not currently have the funding in place for that project needed to be addressed.

Staff also noted the absence of any commitment to fund a future traffic signal at Oden Street, where a second entrance to the hospital would be located; or at the nearby entrance to the Swan Estates residential project. Staff observed that while Valley Health should not be expected to fund 100-percent of those projects, that the hospital’s proximity was “a significant contributing factor” in expediting the need for signalization at both locations.

Valley Health Vice President for Facilities Management Mark Baker was present and said while some of the concerns, like the electrical utility costs came as a surprise, that Valley Health was “open to discussion” on those and other concerns.

Town Manager Joe Waltz noted that there was one more council work session available for further discussion before a scheduled public hearing on the rezoning request scheduled for the March 26 council meeting.

Councilman Jacob Meza recused himself from the discussion due to his position with Valley Health.

Legislative Update
Senate considers Warner-backed regulatory relief package to grow economy and protect consumers
March 6, 2018

WASHINGTON – March 6th, the Senate voted 67-32 in favor of starting debate on S. 2155, theEconomic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, bipartisan legislation to grow the economy and protect consumers that was negotiated in part by Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA). Today Sen. Warner called for swift passage of the legislation, which will provide targeted relief for community banks and credit unions so they can improve access to capital and increase economic prosperity in the Commonwealth.

The legislation addresses some of the unintended consequences of the Dodd-Frank Act in order to make it easier for smaller community banks and credit unions to lend to Virginia businesses and families, which is good for households and the economy.

“The Senate is on the verge of passing major bipartisan legislation aimed at providing relief for small community banks, credit unions, and the customers they serve. As someone who helped put together the Dodd-Frank legislation, I know there are areas where we can help improve access to capital for consumers, farmers, and small businesses so they can grow the economy and create jobs,” said Sen. Warner.

“Virginia’s community banks and credit unions did not cause the financial crisis, and they should not be held back by regulations intended for the big banks. I look forward to seeing the Senate pass this package of bipartisan measures that will provide relief for Main Street, strengthen consumer protections, and keep Wall Street accountable.”

Following the 2008 financial meltdown, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to crack down on the worst Wall Street abuses and institute strict regulations to prevent another crisis. Sen. Warner played an important role in negotiating and drafting major portions of this legislation, which created new safeguards to protect our financial system and hold Wall Street accountable.

However, as with any major reform, the law also had some unintended consequences. Virginia has lost over a quarter of its community banks and nearly a third of its credit unions since Dodd-Frank was passed. In some cases, the law resulted in unnecessary and burdensome regulations on credit unions and small community banks that made it harder for them to lend money to help local businesses grow and create jobs.

“As a credit union, we have to adhere to the same regulations as large banks do.  But we have to do it with a much smaller base – we only have 10,000 members and 20 employees – adhering to the same regulations that a behemoth like Bank of America has to adhere to,”said Lisa Lambrecht, President & CEO of Entrust Financial Credit Union in Henrico County. “I wish the federal government would understand that these one-size-fits-all regulations don’t work for credit unions. You have to remember; credit unions were formed to fill that gap that the larger established financial system was not serving.”

“In the rural areas, the larger institutions across the whole country have reduced their branches. The smaller banks have held their own, but we’re operating with 2000 less community banks a day than we were 12, 15 years ago. That’s over one fourth of community banks are gone — and I think a primary reason for that is regulatory fatigue,” said Lyn Hayth, President & CEO of the Bank of Botetourt.

 “Every dollar we spend on increased compliance really doesn’t go to our capital. And if we could put that extra dollar into our capital, we could lend it back out into the community on a tenfold basis. So, our hope is that regulation can be decreased, and that we are able to take that capital that we save and invest it back into our communities,” said Alice Frazier, President & CEO of Bank of Charles Town in Middleburg.

 “I think that community banks are the backbone of our country, and many of our rural markets. And not just our rural markets – but I think we serve a vital role to the growth of the economy,” said Mark Hanna, President of Farmers & Merchants Bank in Timberville.

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act (S.2155) ensures that small lenders can provide mortgage and other credit to hardworking Americans, helping them and their families grow and start businesses. The bill also institutes several important consumer protections:

• Allows consumers to get one free year of fraud alerts, which will help consumers who have been impacted by situations like the Wells Fargo scandal or whose identities or personal information has been stolen.

• Unlimited free credit freezes and unfreezes, which helps consumers impacted by data breaches like the Equifax hack that compromised the personal information of approximately 145 million Americans.

• Provides free credit monitoring for all active-duty servicemembers.

• Protects the credit ratings of veterans wrongly penalized by medical bill payment delays by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This measure would prohibit medical debt from services received through the Choice Program and other VA community care programs from being reported to credit reporting agencies for one year. In addition, it would establish a dispute process for veterans seeking to remove adverse actions already on their report.

• Prevents mortgage companies from immediately kicking tenants out of their rentals if the landlord is foreclosed upon.

• Encourages banks to report suspicious behavior if seniors could be getting financially scammed.

• Allows seriously delinquent private student loan borrowers a one-time offer to remove negative reporting from their credit reports after making a series of on-time payments.

The legislation was introduced in November after years of bipartisan negotiations among Sen. Warner, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Banking Committee members Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Jon Tester (D-MT). It is also co-sponsored by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).

Town Notices
NOTICE: Special brush clean up schedule
March 6, 2018

Due to the recent winds and damages, The Town of Front Royal will be conducting a special brush clean-up on Wednesdays, March 7 and March 14, 2018.

The Town asks that residents please remember the following restrictions. For chipper: Notify Public Works Brush must be cut in lengths longer than 5 feet and less than 8 inches in diameter Weigh less than 50 pounds and stacked in same direction Brush needs to be placed out along property line for Town to access Branches shorter than 5 feet: Shall be bundled with rope or heavy twine or placed separately in non-Town provided trash can or container-not to exceed 32 gallons and weigh no more than 50 pounds.

Vines, Weeping Willow branches and Bamboo WILL NOT be accepted. Regular Yard Waste will resume Wednesday, March 28, 2018. If any questions, please contact Public Works, 540-635-7819.

Legislative Update
Senator Warner sponsors legislation to help curb gun violence
March 6, 2018

WASHINGTON – March 6th, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sponsored a set of bipartisan bills to help curb gun violence, including the Fix NICS Act, legislation which would ensure federal and state authorities comply with existing law and accurately report relevant criminal history records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This bill penalizes federal agencies who fail to properly report relevant records and incentivizes states to improve their overall reporting. In addition, it directs more federal funding to the accurate reporting of domestic violence records.

“Throughout my career, I’ve been a proud supporter of the Second Amendment and have always advocated for responsible gun ownership. My commitment to those principles remains, but it is also past time to put an end to these mass shootings,” said Sen. Warner.

“While these commonsense reforms are not themselves enough, they will strengthen our background checks system and keep deadly weapons out of the hands of violent individuals and terrorists. No single law will end all gun violence, but we must begin attempting to address this crisis.”

The Fix NICS Act:

  • Requires federal agencies and states to produce NICS implementation plans focused on uploading all information to the background check system showing that a person is prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms under current law—including measures to verify the accuracy of records.
  • Holds federal agencies accountable if they fail to upload relevant records to the background check system through public reporting and prohibiting bonus pay for political appointees.
  • Rewards states who comply with their NICS implementation plans through federal grant preferences and incentives, while increasing accountability through public reporting for those who do not comply with their plans.
  • Reauthorizes and improves important law enforcement programs to help state governments share relevant criminal record information with NICS.
  • Creates a Domestic Abuse and Violence Prevention Initiative to ensure that states have adequate resources and incentives to share all relevant information with NICS showing that a felon or domestic abuser is excluded from purchasing firearms under current law.

Sen. Warner is also a cosponsor of the Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act, bipartisan legislation to help keep guns from terrorist by preventing people who are on the “No Fly List” or the “Selectee List” from purchasing firearms.

L.F.K. Elementary Fifth Grade graduates D.A.R.E. program
March 6, 2018

Awardees at the D.A.R.E. graduation held at L.F.K. Elementary Monday are flanked by Assistant Principal Shamika Caison (left) and Principal Danelle Sperling, along with Warren County Sheriff’s Deputy Jennifer Kirkland/ Photo by Marcia Payne

FRONT ROYAL –Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School‘s 5th grade class graduated from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or D.A.R.E. program.

During the ceremony, winners of the essay contest were announced, poster contest winners were reintroduced and the overall winners for both the poster and essay contests were revealed. Congratulations to all!

Essay Winners: Gracie Blodgett, Toby Tennant, Abbey Knesh, Breanna Taylor overall

Poster Winners: Kaitlyn Breeden, Kayla Haase, Kylie Strosnider, Shiloh Avery overall

When to give a child a smartphone
March 6, 2018

Parents in modern society are struggling with the answer to when or if they should let their children have a smartphone, but recent research from Influence Central shows that the average age in the U.S. is now only 10 years old. This age is down from age 12 just five years ago. A prevailing theory for this trend is the fact that parents are already letting children play with their smartphones and are getting tired of sharing, which suggests that the kids have access at an even earlier age.

Despite this alarming trend, other research from Common Sense Media has shown that 50 percent of children with smartphones admitted they might be addicted to them, and more than half agreed with their parents that they used the devices for too long. In these cases, it is clear that having a smartphone is creating problems among children and The New York Times explains that they often lead to distractions from schoolwork, family time, and other face-to-face social interactions.

Problems stemming from smartphone use do not take long to rise to the surface, and many parents have decided that it is better to wait as long as possible before handing the devices over so that kids can learn self-control and responsibility before opening the door to an always-on society. It should be noted that the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, the area that controls impulses, doesn’t finish developing until the mid-20’s and exposure to these devices could lead to issues with impulse control later on.

Still, the pull of smartphones is relentless, and their saturation in society means that those left without can suffer from a severe fear of missing out on what is going on with their friends. A recent report from the Pew Research Institute has shown that nearly three-quarters of teens have access to a smartphone as of the year 2015 and many parents likely have a difficult time keeping their children away from their social circles that have since moved into the online space.
Parents that want to delay giving children smartphones do have some options such as giving them ‘dumb’ phones that have only talk and text capabilities. This allows them to connect with their friends while avoiding the games, internet access, and other distractions that come with smartphones. If that’s going too far, there are also smartwatches that allow kids to make calls to a few select people along with messaging.