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Attorney General files price gouging lawsuit

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RICHMOND (August 13, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has filed suit against Springfield-based Tahir and Sons LLC d/b/a Interstate Fuel LLC for alleged violations of the Virginia Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act. Attorney General Herring’s lawsuit relates to allegations that the business charged unconscionable prices on gasoline, a necessary good after a state of emergency was declared in May, in response to the temporary shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies gasoline and other petroleum-based products to a significant part of the United States east coast. Attorney General Herring has taken two other enforcement actions against price gouging this year following the state of emergency declaration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The unfortunate reality is that bad actors will take advantage of times of crises to unreasonably increase prices for necessary goods, like gasoline,” said Attorney General Herring. “During a disaster or crisis, Virginians should never have to worry about whether they are paying a fair price for something they truly need. Price gouging will never be tolerated in the Commonwealth, and my Consumer Protection Section will take swift action whenever businesses are taking advantage of consumers.”

Attorney General Herring’s Complaint alleges that, during the period from May 1, 2021, to May 10, 2021, Interstate Fuel sold regular unleaded fuel at a steady average daily price of about $2.99 per gallon. On about May 11, 2021, Defendant’s average daily price of the same gasoline rose to $3.629, and then again rose to $3.670 during the period from May 12, 2021, to May 14, 2021, increases of 21.37% and 22.74% respectively. Attorney General Herring further alleges that the defendant’s actual prices rose at least as high as $3.989 on or around the morning of May 13, 2021, an increase of 33.4% above what the business was charging during the ten days before the emergency was declared. The suit claims that these price increases were not attributable to additional costs incurred by the business in connection with the sale of gasoline, nor was they due to increases in costs imposed by its source.

The Virginia Post-Disaster Anti Price Gouging Act prohibits businesses from charging unconscionable prices on necessary goods during a time of disaster. Among other factors that can be considered in determining whether a price is “unconscionable” is whether it grossly exceeds the price charged for the same or similar goods during the 10 days immediately prior to the time of disaster. A violation of Virginia’s price gouging law is also a violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.



The lawsuit, filed with the Fairfax County Circuit Court, requests that the court, among other things, enjoin the illegal practices, and award restitution to affected consumer victims.

During Governor Northam’s state of emergency that was issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Virginia Attorney General’s Office has received more than 500 complaints and e-mails alleging possible price gouging activity and has sent more than 150 investigative letters to businesses. Investigation of these complaints has largely revealed that many price increases occurred further up the supply chain with manufacturers or distributors that were beyond the reach of the state’s price gouging laws, and this prompted Attorney General Herring to successfully seek amendments to the state’s price gouging law during the 2020 General Assembly special session.

Additionally, in April 2020, Attorney General Herring led a national effort to address price gouging in the PPE supply chain, urging 3M as one of the largest manufacturers of PPE, particularly masks, to do more to address price gouging within its supply and distribution chains that were causing hospitals and healthcare providers to pay exorbitant prices for PPE.

If a Virginia consumer suspects they are a victim of price gouging, they can call the Consumer Protection Hotline or download a complaint form from the Attorney General’s website and submit it in-person, by mail, or by fax. Consumers are encouraged to keep any relevant documentation and submit copies with their complaint. If consumers believe they are a victim of price gouging specific to motor fuel, they should file complaints with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Consumers can contact Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section for information or file a complaint:
• By phone: (800) 552-9963

• By email: consumer@oag.state.va.us

Online Contact Form

Online Complaint Form

 

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Virginia Department of Education Board Brief – October 21, 2021 Business Meeting

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October 21, 2021 Business Meeting

The Board approved the minutes of their meetings on September 22-23, 2021.

The Board adopted a resolution of recognition of the 2021 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching State Finalists. They are:

  • Raymond Cotter, an engineering teacher William Fleming High in Roanoke;
  • Stephanie Harry, a chemistry teacher at Tabb High in York County;
  • Yvette Lee, a mathematics and computer science teacher at John Randolph Tucker High in Henrico County;
  • Melinda Liebau, a mathematics teacher at Green Run Collegiate in Virginia Beach; and
  • Geraldine Maskelony, a mathematics teacher at the Arlington Career Center in Arlington County.

The Board also adopted a resolution of recognition to commemorate November 2021 as Family Engagement in Education Month.


Consent Agenda:

The Board approved four consent items:

Action Items:

The Board approved the 2021 Prescriptions to the Standards of Quality (SOQ), which describe the foundational instructional programs and support services all schools must provide and drive approximately 85% of state funding for local school divisions. The Constitution of Virginia requires the Virginia Board of Education to prescribe SOQs for the public schools of Virginia, subject to revision only by the General Assembly. During odd-numbered years, the Board reviews the SOQs and prescribes amendments as necessary.

The Board reviewed proposed amendments to the Regulations Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in Virginia (also known as the Standards of Accreditation or SOA). The amendments are recommended by the Special Committee established by the Board to review the first years of implementation as well as identify the positive, negative, and unintended consequences of the 2017 SOA revisions. Action to approve this item will be requested at a future meeting, anticipated to be Nov. 18, 2021.

The Board approved the Report on Recommendations for Appropriate Staffing and Funding Levels Necessary for State Operated Programs (SOP) in Regional and Local Detention Centers to be transmitted to the General Assembly by November 1, 2021.

The Board approved the Fast Track Regulatory Action to Conform Definitions of “Traumatic Brain Injury” to ensure alignment in regulatory language and guidance. This action will clarify definitions that currently differ across regulatory chapters.

The Board reviewed the Board of Education’s 2021 Annual Report on the Conditions and Needs of Public Schools in Virginia, which provides an overview of the needs of public education, an update on student achievement and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and highlights the Board’s work over the past year. Additionally, the annual report outlines the conditions of education funding as compared to other states, student enrollment trends, staff vacancies, and graduation and dropout rates. Action to approve this item will be requested at a future meeting, anticipated to be Nov. 18, 2021.

Board actions are unanimous or unopposed unless otherwise noted

The next meetings of the Board of Education are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, November 17 18, 2021. For more information, visit the Virginia Board of Education web page.

The Virginia Board of Education, established in the Virginia Constitution, consists of nine members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the General Assembly. General supervision of the public school system is vested in the Board of Education, which prescribes standards of quality for the school divisions. Subject to the ultimate authority of the General Assembly, the Board of Education has primary responsibility and authority for effectuating the educational policy of the Commonwealth. The Superintendent of Public Instruction, also appointed by the Governor, serves as the executive officer of the Virginia Department of Education, an executive branch agency. The Virginia Department of Education implements statutory and regulatory requirements. The supervision of schools in each school division is vested in local school boards.

 

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Governor Northam announces $2 billion public-private broadband investment

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RICHMOND—Governor Northam announced that Virginia has received a record number of local and private sector applications to match state broadband investments, putting the Commonwealth on track to become one of the first states to achieve universal broadband access by 2024. Virginia anticipates more than $2 billion in total broadband funding, thanks to local and private-sector matching funds that go beyond the $874 million in state appropriations since the Governor took office in 2018.

“Broadband is as critical today as electricity was in the last century,” said Governor Northam. “Making sure more Virginians can get access to it has been a priority since I took office, and the pandemic pushed us all to move even faster. Virginia is now on track to achieve universal broadband by 2024, which means more connections, more investments, easier online learning, and expanded telehealth options, especially in rural Virginia.”

The Virginia Telecommunication Initiative is the Commonwealth’s broadband program. It was started in 2017 to fund public-private partnerships to extend broadband service to areas unserved by an internet service provider. When the most recent application round closed last month, the program received 57 applications from 84 localities, requesting $943 million to connect more than 250,000 Virginia homes and businesses. These applications leverage $1.15 billion in private and local matching funds. The Department of Housing and Community Development is reviewing applications and expects to award the funds by the end of the year.

Virginia has taken dramatic steps on broadband since Governor Northam took office in 2018, as Virginia’s first rural Governor in a generation. He set out a clear goal: achieve universal access to broadband within 10 years. The goal was bold, as Virginia’s broadband program was investing just $4 million a year and 660,000 Virginians did not have access to high-speed internet.


Since then, Governor Northam and the General Assembly have awarded $124 million in grants to connect more than 140,000 homes, businesses, and community organizations. The Virginia Telecommunication Initiative has awarded 39 projects in 41 different counties, supported by over $94 million in matching private and local funds. Along with private investment and federal broadband grants, the Commonwealth has reduced the digital divide by 65 percent. Plans accelerated further in August, when Governor Northam and the General Assembly allocated $700 million in American Rescue Plan funding to broadband, moving the original goal for achieving universal access to 2024.

“Ensuring that rural Virginians have access to broadband is the number one way we can make sure they have equal access to the economic, educational, and health opportunities that broadband provides,” said Broadband Advisory Council Vice-Chair Delegate Roslyn Tyler. “No Virginian should be left behind. Thanks to Governor Northam’s commitment to getting universal broadband done, we’re seeing record levels of public and private sector matching funds, and we’ll have this critical infrastructure available to all Virginians more quickly than we imagined.”

“Broadband a vital resource for communities across the Commonwealth,” said Broadband Advisory Council Chair Senator Jennifer Boysko. “Broadband access allows our citizens to connect to their workplaces, schools, and doctors and broadens their opportunities and choices about where to live and work. The Northam administration’s investment in broadband, paired with these matching funds, will get universal broadband access to Virginians in record time.”

The overwhelming response to this year’s Virginia Telecommunication Initiative grant round demonstrates that Virginia has built an innovative and successful model for bridging the digital divide.

 

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Mail-in ballot requests due Friday, October 22

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Voters wishing to cast a mail-in ballot in the November 2, 2021 elections have until 5 p.m. on Friday, October 22 to request a ballot be sent to them.

Voters may apply for a mail-in ballot online at the Department of Elections’ Citizen Portal at vote.elections.virginia.gov or by downloading a paper application at elections.virginia.gov/registration/voter-forms, filling it out, and submitting it to their local Voter Registration Office. Forms are available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Korean. Application forms may be submitted to the voter’s local Voter Registration Office by mail, fax, or email.

Contact information for your local voter registration office can be found at elections.virginia.gov/VRO. Voters may choose to receive a mail-in ballot for this November General Election only or receive mail-in ballots automatically for every election in which they are eligible, until they request to be taken off the permanent absentee list.

If the voter is print disabled, they may request to receive an absentee ballot electronically to mark their ballot using an electronic ballot-marking tool. If this option is chosen for voting absentee, the ballot will be delivered by email and can be marked using screen reader assistive technology. More information about this option is available by contacting the local voter registration office or at elections.virginia.gov/accessible.



All are encouraged to mail their ballot requests well in advance of the October 22 deadline to ensure it is received in time. Applications received by the local Voter Registration Office after 5 p.m. on October 22 cannot be accepted.

ELECT encourages voters to return their absentee ballot at their earliest convenience. A voter may return their absentee ballot by:

  • Mailing the ballot via USPS or a commercial delivery service (such as FedEx or UPS.) All absentee ballots include pre-paid postage through the USPS (ballot must be postmarked by Election Day);
  • Placing the ballot in a drop-off location listed on their county or city’s official website;
  • Delivering the ballot to the Office of the General Registrar in the voter’s county or city; or,
  • Dropping the ballot off at any polling place within their county or city on Election Day.

More information can be found about absentee and early voting for the November 2 elections online at elections.virginia.gov/absentee.

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Governor Northam announces September revenue increased more than 18 percent

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced on October 13, 2021, that September General Fund revenue increased 18.4 percent from the previous year, continuing Virginia’s economic momentum.

“Our economy continues to show signs of a strong recovery,” said Governor Northam. “Our strategic and proactive decisions are paying off. In this strong economy, Virginia will continue making critical investments in our communities, our public schools, and statewide infrastructure to bolster our growing economy. Our fiscal responsibility is paying off for Virginians.”

Collections of payroll withholding taxes grew 9.9 percent in September. Collections in non-withholding grew 25.2 percent since September of last year. Collections of sales and use taxes, reflecting August sales, grew 20.6 percent in September. Collections of corporate income tax increased by 41.3 percent in September. Collections of wills, suits, deeds, and contracts—mainly recordation tax collections—were $60.1 million, compared with $56.6 million in September of last year. The first estimated payment of non-withholding and corporate income tax collections for the fiscal year was due in September.

“September completes the first quarter of the fiscal year 2022 and is a significant month for revenue collections,” said Secretary of Finance Joe Flores. “Overall, this quarter’s revenue performance was strong. It is important to remember that we are comparing this quarter’s performance to the heart of the pandemic closures last year when there was still not even a vaccine on the horizon.”


On a year-to-date basis, collections of payroll withholding taxes—62 percent of General Fund revenues—grew by 9.7 percent, well above the annual estimate of 1.7 percent increase. Sales tax collections—17 percent of General Fund revenues—increased 16.7 percent through September, far outpacing the annual forecast of a 4.2 percent decline. On a fiscal year-to-date basis, total revenue collections rose 10.6 percent, well ahead of the annual forecast of an 8.0 percent decrease. Through the first quarter of the fiscal year, corporate income tax collections rose 36.5 percent, exceeding expectations of an annual 16.1 percent decrease. The collections of wills, suits, deeds, and contracts were up 9.0 percent in the first quarter, outperforming the forecasted 31.3 percent decline.

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Social Security announces 5.9 percent benefit increase for 2022

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Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for approximately 70 million Americans will increase 5.9 percent in 2022, the Social Security Administration announced today.

The 5.9 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 64 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2022.  Increased payments to approximately 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2021.  (Note: some people receive both Social Security and SSI benefits).  The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some other adjustments that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages.  Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $147,000 from $142,800.

Social Security and SSI beneficiaries are normally notified by mail starting in early December about their new benefit amount.  Most people who receive Social Security payments will be able to view their COLA notice online through their personal my Social Security account.  People may create or access their my Social Security account online at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.


Information about Medicare changes for 2022, when announced, will be available at www.medicare.gov.  For Social Security beneficiaries receiving Medicare, Social Security will not be able to compute their new benefit amount until after the Medicare premium amounts for 2022 are announced.  Final 2022 benefit amounts will be communicated to beneficiaries in December through the mailed COLA notice and my Social Security’s Message Center.

The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated.  To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.

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Regional News

September marks second consecutive month of cargo volume in excess of 300,000 TEUs

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Strong import loads at The Port of Virginia® in September have helped the port achieve consecutive months of cargo volume in excess of 300,000 TEUs (twenty-foot-equivalent units).

In September the port processed more than 306,000 TEUs, which is an increase of nearly 50,000 TEUs (+19%) when compared with last September; loaded import volume was more than 152,000 TEUs, or 31,000 units (+26%). In August, the port handled more than 307,000 TEUs. Last September is when the port began seeing a considerable rebound in its volumes from the COVID period.

To see the port’s operational metrics on productivity at the berth, rail ramp and truck gates, click here.

“The growth we’re seeing is not artificial and the movement of loaded and empty containers is up, for both exports and imports,” said Stephen A. Edwards, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. “Last September is when volumes began coming back and since then we have posted growth each month. The operation is fluid and the Virginia Model of being an operating port, where we own, lease and operate all of the assets, allows us to be agile in meeting the needs of our customers and cargo owners.”


In the last two months, three vessel services, Maersk’s TP20, Hapag-Lloyd and CMA CGM’s Indamex 2 and MSC’s Indus 2 began making Virginia their first-in US East Coast port call. This and the port’s commitment to efficiency is helping to drive growth, Edwards said.

“There is no congestion here and ocean carriers and cargo owners are taking notice of our track record and what we are doing to ensure consistency in our operation,” he said. “We are maintaining our efficiency and service levels because we are monitoring the operation so closely and continuing to add modern assets. The result is that they are choosing Virginia because they see value here.”

With three months left in the calendar year, the port’s TEU volume is 2.58 million TEUs, an increase of 589,136 units (+30%) when compared with the same period last year. Edwards is not anticipating a slowdown in volume before year’s end.

“We may see a dip as the retail season comes to its end, but this is normal and any fall-off in volumes will be small,” Edwards said. “Looking into 2022 we see nothing that leads us to believe that there is going to be a drop in volumes. It is going to take some time before the supply chain returns to normal.”

September Cargo Snapshot (2021 vs. 2020)

  • Total TEUs – 306,219 up 19.4%
  • Loaded Export TEUs – 80,697 up 6.8%
  • Loaded Import TEUs – 152,197, up 25.7%
  • Total Containers – 170,998, up 21.6%
  • Virginia Inland Port Containers – 2,297, down 31%
  • Breakbulk Tonnage – 4,332, up 1.8%
  • Total Rail Containers – 53,405 up 16.4%
  • Total Truck Containers – 110,452 up 25.2%
  • Total Barge Containers – 7,141 up 9.4%

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Front Royal
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Upcoming Events

Oct
23
Sat
11:00 am Fall Farm Days: History of Sky M... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: History of Sky M... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 23 @ 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Fall Farm Days: History of Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area.  During Fall Farm Days History Weekend, step back in time and see history come to life. Stroll through the Historic Area buildings, interact with our living historians and discover our links to historic[...]
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 23 @ 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Blacksmith Shop in the Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work in the Historic Area. Members of the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac have set up shop and[...]
1:00 pm Paint Class for Kids Ages 8 and up @ Strokes of Creativity
Paint Class for Kids Ages 8 and up @ Strokes of Creativity
Oct 23 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Paint Class for Kids Ages 8 and up @ Strokes of Creativity
This is a painting class for children 8 years old and up. Tickets: CLICK HERE Tickets are available through Square Up, or can be paid in person at Strokes of Creativity. Date: Saturday, October 23,[...]
Oct
24
Sun
11:00 am Fall Farm Days: History of Sky M... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Farm Days: History of Sky M... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 24 @ 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Fall Farm Days: History of Sky Meadows @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area.  During Fall Farm Days History Weekend, step back in time and see history come to life. Stroll through the Historic Area buildings, interact with our living historians and discover our links to historic[...]
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 24 @ 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Blacksmith Shop in the Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work in the Historic Area. Members of the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac have set up shop and[...]
6:30 pm Benefit Concert for Front Royal ... @ Riverton Church
Benefit Concert for Front Royal ... @ Riverton Church
Oct 24 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Benefit Concert for Front Royal Police @ Riverton Church
Riverton Church is hosting a benefit concert featuring the Mr. Ron Dye (director) and the Riverton Church Symphonic Wind Orchestra as well as Yesterday Swing Orchestra. Free Admission: Offering taken to benefit the Front Royal[...]
Oct
25
Mon
11:00 am Art Class for K-1st @ Strokes of Creativity
Art Class for K-1st @ Strokes of Creativity
Oct 25 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Art Class for K-1st @ Strokes of Creativity
This class is for Kindergarten and First Grade. Perfect for home schoolers. Recommended ages: Ages 5 and 6 Tickets: CLICK HERE Tickets are available through Square Up, or can be paid in person at Strokes[...]
1:00 pm Art Class for 2nd & 3rd @ Strokes of Creativity
Art Class for 2nd & 3rd @ Strokes of Creativity
Oct 25 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Art Class for 2nd & 3rd @ Strokes of Creativity
This class is for Grades 2nd and 3rd. Perfect for home schoolers. Recommended ages: 7 and 8 years old Tickets: CLICK HERE Tickets are available through Square Up, or can be paid in person at[...]
Oct
28
Thu
10:00 am Senior Painting Class with Dottie @ Strokes of Creativity
Senior Painting Class with Dottie @ Strokes of Creativity
Oct 28 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Senior Painting Class with Dottie @ Strokes of Creativity
Senior Painting Class with Dottie at Strokes of Creativity. Tickets: CLICK HERE Cost: $80 for 6 weeks Dates: Thursdays – Oct 21, Oct 28, Nov 4, Nov 11, Nov 18, Dec 4 Time: 10 am[...]
1:00 pm Art Class for 4th & 5th @ Strokes of Creativity
Art Class for 4th & 5th @ Strokes of Creativity
Oct 28 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Art Class for 4th & 5th @ Strokes of Creativity
This class is for Grades 4th and 5th. Perfect for home schoolers. Recommended ages: 9 and 10 years old Tickets: CLICK HERE Tickets are available through Square Up, or can be paid in person at[...]