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Attorney General Herring releases Clergy Abuse Hotline

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RICHMOND – Saying he “felt sick” upon reading a grand jury report on clergy abuse in the Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania, Attorney General Mark R. Herring on Wednesday launched the Virginia Clergy Abuse Hotline and www.VirginiaClergyHotline.com.

He indicated it was part of an ongoing investigation into whether criminal sexual abuse of children may have occurred in Virginia’s Catholic dioceses, and whether leadership in the dioceses may have covered up or abetted any crimes of that nature.

The hotline and online reporting form were launched in the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report that documented decades of sexual abuse and cover-up by Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania.

“Like so many Americans, I read the grand jury report on clergy abuse in the Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania, and I felt sick. It made me sick to see the extent of the damage done, the efforts to cover it up, and the complicity and enabling that went on by powerful people who should have known better and should have done more to protect vulnerable children,” said Attorney General Herring. “We shouldn’t assume the behavior and the problems are limited just to Pennsylvania or to one diocese. If there has been abuse or cover-up in Virginia like there was in Pennsylvania I want to know about it, I want to root it out, and I want to help survivors get justice and get on a path to healing.”

The Virginia Clergy Abuse Hotline and www.VirginiaClergyHotline.com will be available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to receive reports of abuse by clergy or faith leaders. The toll-free hotline will allow for anonymous reporting. It will be staffed by Virginia State Police investigators during regular business hours.

State News

Governor Northam announces over $600,000 in Farmland Preservation Grants

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Emridout [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the recipients of fiscal year 2019 farmland preservation grants. Six localities have been awarded a total of $633,831 from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (VDACS) Office of Farmland Preservation. The funds will be used to permanently preserve working farmland through local Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) programs. PDR programs compensate landowners who work with localities to preserve their land permanently by voluntarily securing a perpetual conservation easement.

VDACS has allocated funding to Albemarle, Clarke, Fauquier and Stafford counties as well as the cities of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. These grant allocations bring the total allocation of state matching funds to $12.4 million since 2008, when PDR funds were first distributed.

“Preserving Virginia’s working farm and forest lands is a key priority of my administration and a central component to our land conservation strategy,” said Governor Northam. “By helping these localities and individual landowners protect their most valuable assets, we will ensure that our agricultural sector—Virginia’s largest private industry—remains viable, sustains more than 442,000 jobs in our Commonwealth, and supports our environmental management efforts.”

“The vitality of our economy, which is built upon agriculture and tourism, is dependent on preserving open spaces,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “Keeping working farm and forest lands in production is good for Virginia, good for the environment, and good for the economy.”

“Investing in conservation remains a priority for Virginia,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler. “Land conservation is an important tool in preserving critical ecological habitats throughout the Commonwealth.”

This is the twelfth time that the Commonwealth has provided state matching funds for certified local PDR programs. Of the 23 local PDR programs in Virginia, 19 have received local funding over the past few years. To date, more than 13,300 acres on 95 farms in 16 localities have been permanently protected, in part with $11.4 million of these funds. VDACS expect that additional easements will close using the remaining funds over the next two years.

Localities interested in creating a PDR program or applying for future rounds of grant applications for PDR matching funds should contact the VDACS Office of Farmland Preservation Coordinator, Jen Perkins, at jennifer.perkins@vdacs.virginia.gov or (804) 786-1906.

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State police respond to crashes, disabled vehicles during snowstorm

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A Virginia state trooper's vehicle is parked along a Loudoun County roadway Sunday afternoon. /Courtesy photo.

As temperatures dropped Sunday evening, Virginia State Police urged motorists to avoid traveling overnight. VSP spokesman Corrine Geller said that wet and/or snow-covered roads were expected to ice, creating treacherous conditions for motorists across the Commonwealth.

Conditions Sunday ranged from snow-covered highways along the I-81 corridor and Northern Virginia to heavy rain across eastern Virginia.

From 12 a.m. Sunday (Jan. 13) through 5:30 p.m., Virginia State Police troopers responded to 324 traffic crashes and assisted 196 disabled/stuck motorists statewide. The majority of crashes involved only damaged vehicles, Geller said.

In addition to those totals, state police troopers continue investigating 44 traffic crashes across the state. While state police in the Richmond Division responded to the most traffic crashes, the state police Fairfax Division responded to the most disabled/stuck vehicles. There has been one storm-related fatal crash, in Brunswick County.

From 12 a.m. Sunday thru 5:30 p.m. Sunday, state troopers responded to:
Richmond Division: 107 traffic crashes & 29 disabled vehicles
Culpeper Division: 40 traffic crashes & 30 disabled vehicles
Appomattox Division: 28 traffic crashes & 13 disabled vehicles
Wytheville Division: 12 traffic crashes & 4 disabled vehicles
Chesapeake Division: 49 traffic crashes & 21 disabled vehicles
Salem Division: 18 traffic crashes and 18 disabled vehicles
Fairfax Division: 68 traffic crashes and 81 disabled vehicles

VSP investigated three fatal crashes since Saturday night (Jan. 12):
1/12/19 – Pulaski County on Interstate 81 (1 fatality) – STORM-RELATED
1/13/19 – Brunswick County on a rural road (1 fatality – 16 yr old male passenger)
1/13/19 – City of Norfolk on Interstate 64 (1 fatality)
Pulaski County:
At 8:51 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 12, 2019), Virginia State Police Trooper J.L. Simone responded to a three-vehicle crash at the 90-mile marker in the southbound lanes of Interstate 81 in Pulaski County.

A 1991 Oshkosh M1074 (military surplus vehicle) was traveling south on I-81 when its driver lost control due to the slick road conditions. The vehicle was then struck by two southbound tractor-trailers. The M1074 and one of the tractor-trailers came to rest in the median.

The impact of the crash caused the other tractor-trailer to run off the left side of the highway, continue through the median, through the guardrail, cross over northbound lanes of I-81 and strike a fence.

The driver of the M1074, Ronald W. Harris, 73, of Gainesville, Ga., did not survive the crash and died at the scene.

Each tractor-trailer driver was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. Geller had no additional information on the drivers.

The Virginia State Police Wytheville Division’s Crash Reconstruction Team responded to the scene and is  assisting with the ongoing crash investigation.

Geller said Virginians should call 511 or go to 511virginia.org for road conditions and not 911 or #77.  Those numbers should only be used for emergency situations.

State police remind motorists to take the following safety precautions:

· Clear off ALL snow and ice from your vehicle – windows, roof, trunk and lights…and use your headlights to make yourself more visible
· Add extra time to reach travel destination
· Slow speed for road conditions
· Increase driving distances between vehicles for increased stopping distance
· Buckle up and don’t drive distracted
· MOVE OVER for all stopped emergency vehicles, highway vehicles and tow trucks.

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December 2018 General Fund revenue collections down 5.7% from previous year and fiscal-year-to-date collections up 1.5%

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RICHMOND—Governor Northam announced January 11th,  that December General Fund revenue decreased 5.7 percent from the previous year, mainly due to a significant drop in individual estimated payments received ahead of the January 15th due date. Sources most closely tied to economic activity—payroll withholding and sales tax collections—posted strong growth. On a fiscal year-to-date basis, total revenue collections rose 1.5 percent through December, trailing the revised annual forecast of 5.9 percent growth.

Although collections are lagging the annual estimate, growth is expected to be higher in the second half of the fiscal year due to effects of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Because the timing of payments at this time of year can distort growth in several sources, December and January collections should be viewed together to accurately assess growth. This is especially true for non-withholding receipts where fourth quarter estimated payments for the calendar year are normally split between December and January. As a result of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, last December’s individual estimated payments totaled $403.8 million as compared to this year’s $108 million.

“This report indicates that the underlying fundamentals of Virginia’s economy remain strong,” said Governor Northam. “As we begin this General Assembly session in Richmond, we have the opportunity to ensure positive revenue growth for the rest of the year by keeping our focus on creating well-paid, 21st century jobs, and investing in core priorities that will continue to expand and diversify our economic base.”

Collections of payroll withholding taxes rose a strong 11.9 percent in December. Through the end of December, the partial federal government shutdown has had no effect on receipts because payments are received from agencies at the beginning of the month, prior to the start of the shutdown. Collections of sales and use taxes, reflecting November sales, were up 7.7 percent in December. November represents the beginning of the holiday shopping season and a clearer assessment of the season will be possible after receiving December sales tax payments due in January. Finally, collections of wills, suits, deeds, and contracts—mainly recordation tax collections—were $32.0 million in December, compared with $32.4 million in December of last year for a decline of 1.3 percent.

Year-to-date, withholding collections are 4.5 percent ahead of the same period last year and ahead of the revised annual estimate of 3.8 percent growth. Year to-date collections of non-withholding were $828.2 million compared with $1,045.5 million in the same period last year, a 20.8 percent decline compared with the annual estimate of a 15.2 percent increase. A clearer assessment of growth will be possible at the end of January, when all quarterly payments have been received and December and January collections can be considered together. However, since some of the extremely large payments from individuals received last December were in fact a proxy for their May 1st final payment, it may be until May before a complete analysis can be done.

On a year-to-date basis, sales tax collections have risen 4.8 percent, ahead of the annual estimate of 3.7 percent growth. Corporate income tax collections for the first half of the fiscal year have risen 1.2 percent from the same period last year, but are behind the annual estimate of a 5.6 percent increase. On a fiscal year-to-date basis, total revenue collections rose 1.5 percent through December, behind the revised annual forecast of 5.9 percent growth.

To view the full report, click here.

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New Virginia State Police public information officer appointed to Culpeper Division

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New public information officer, Sgt. Brent Coffey.

CULPEPER, VA – Virginia State Police Captain Donald W. Jones Jr. is proud to announce the Culpeper Division has a new public information officer (PIO), Sgt. Brent Coffey. Sgt. Coffey’s assignment became effective Jan. 10, 2018, and he takes the place of Sgt. Les Tyler, who retired Jan. 1, 2018 after 35 years of service with state police.

Sgt. Coffey joined the Virginia State Police in 2012. Upon graduation from the State Police Academy he has been assigned to the Culpeper Division’s Area 15 Office located in Culpeper County. During his tenure with VSP, Sgt. Coffey has served as a Field Training Officer, has been assigned to the Tactical Field Force and has been a member of the Culpeper Division’s Crash Reconstruction Team.

Sgt. Coffey is responsible for media and public relations within the Culpeper Division, which encompasses 13 counties: Clarke, Culpeper, Fauquier, Frederick, Madison, Orange, Page, Rappahannock, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Spotsylvania, Stafford and Warren; and the cities of Fredericksburg, Harrisonburg and Winchester.

Sgt. Coffey can be reached at (office) 540-829-7713, (cell) 540-881-0023 and by email at brent.coffey@vsp.virginia.gov.

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Governor Northam and Legislators announce bipartisan proposal for dedicated funding to improve Interstate 81

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By Famartin - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56198753

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced on January 8th, a legislative proposal that will fund $2.2 billion in critical improvements along the Interstate 81 (1-81) Corridor. The legislation is a result of a year-long study completed by the Commonwealth Transportation Board at the direction of the General Assembly.

“Interstate 81 is the economic engine of western Virginia, and it’s time we take decisive action to enhance the safety and improve the reliability of this key corridor,” said Governor Northam. “I am committed to working with legislators on both sides of the aisle to establish a dedicated funding source that will support the critical improvements that Interstate 81 needs to move goods and people around the Commonwealth.”

The initial draft legislation would establish an Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Fund supported by tolls along I-81. The proposal would establish limits on toll rates and give automobiles and small trucks the ability to purchase an annual pass allowing unlimited use of I-81 for a fixed yearly fee. Revenues collected would only be used for improvements included in the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan that was adopted by the Board at its December meeting.

“Interstate 81 is a critical element of Virginia’s transportation infrastructure,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “Dedicated funding will allow us to make significant capital, multimodal, and operational improvements to I-81 promoting safety and economic growth.”

The Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Program legislation will be patroned by Senators Mark Obenshain and Bill Carrico in the Senate, and by Delegates Steve Landes and Terry Austin in the House.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to address longstanding issues on the I-81 Corridor,” said Senator Mark Obenshain. “I will continue to work with the Northam administration and with my colleagues in the General Assembly in hope that we can find bipartisan solutions to the critical reliability and safety issues in this region of the Commonwealth.”

“The hard-working citizens in the communities on the I-81 Corridor deserve a viable, long-term solution to the challenges of travel along this route,” said Delegate Steve Landes. “A focus on key improvements and dedicated funding for the corridor will positively affect those who rely on it every day.”

“The residents along the 81 Corridor have called for a safer, more dependable interstate,” said Delegate Chris Hurst. “The time to make these important improvements is now.”

“I-81 is a crucial resource for commerce and for the citizens of Southwest Virginia,” said Senator Bill Carrico. “Carrying 12 million trucks each year, this interstate highway is important for rural economic development in the area.”

“We are listening to the citizens who have told us that 81 needs to be improved,” said Delegate Terry Austin. “I am committed to finding a commonsense solution for I-81 to address safety and reliability.

The Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan can be found at www.va81corridor.org.

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Governor Northam and Virginia Council on Women announce 8th Annual STEM Essay Contest

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Five $5,000 scholarships will be awarded to high school junior and senior women pursuing a STEM career at a higher education institution. (Source: Pixabay)

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam and the Virginia Council on Women announced on January 6th, the 8th Annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Essay Contest for young women in their junior and senior years of high school.

The Council will award at least five $5,000 scholarships to high school junior and senior young women who will be pursuing a STEM career at an institution of higher education. One scholarship will be awarded in each of five geographic regions across the state. Additional scholarships may be awarded at the discretion of the Council.

“It is critical that we prepare all Virginia students to succeed in fields like science, technology, engineering, and math, and this annual contest is a great way to encourage more young women to explore their passions and pursue careers in these industries,” said Governor Northam. “The scholarships awarded by the Council will help Virginia women achieve their academic and professional goals in high-demand sectors that are charting the path of our global economy today and into the future.”

The STEM Essay Contest was launched in 2012 with 170 young women from across the Commonwealth submitting essays focusing on their vision for a future STEM education or career. In its first year, the Council raised $10,000 and made three scholarship awards. Now, in its eighth year, the Council has awarded nearly $200,000 in scholarships. The Council partners with the Math Science Innovation Center, which, has served as a regional math and science center since its establishment in 1966, to administer the contest.

Last year, the Council received nearly 500 essay submissions and, thanks to the generosity of sponsors, awarded $50,000 in scholarships to five Virginia students.

To be eligible, one must be a female or identify as a female, reside in Virginia, be a junior or senior in high school and hold at least a 2.5 GPA. Applications and guidelines are available online here.

Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on February 22, 2019. Essays will be judged by a panel of Council members and individuals who represent STEM fields. Winners will be notified by March 21, 2019. The scholarship awards will be presented at a reception at the Executive Mansion in Richmond, Virginia, in April 2019.

The chief purpose of the Virginia Council on Women is to help women reach their potential and maximize their contributions to society and the Commonwealth as wage earners and citizens. The Council has initiated several projects to meet this goal. Find additional information about the Council and available sponsorship opportunities here.

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