RICHMOND (July 19, 2019)—As Virginia continues to deal with extreme heat, Attorney General Mark R. Herring and his first-in-the-nation Animal Law Unit are reminding Virginians that heat can be deadly to children and animals, and that there can be serious legal consequences for leaving children or animals in hot cars or outside without adequate shelter and water.
“The extreme temperatures in Virginia continue to pose a real threat to health and safety, especially for young children or animals left in vehicles or outside without adequate precautions and shelter,” said Attorney General Herring. “The law requires owners to protect their pets from the elements and gives law enforcement tools to ensure the safety and health of an animal, including the ability to break into cars or seize an animal to ensure its safety. As we all try to deal with this oppressive heat, I encourage all Virginians to check on and take care of yourself, your friends, neighborhoods, and family members, and don’t forget about your animals.”
A parent or caretaker who leaves a child in a hot vehicle could face criminal charges, especially if the child is injured or killed. Leaving an animal trapped in a car or exposed to the elements with no shelter or inadequate shelter can be considered animal cruelty, a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail.
Attorney General Herring and his Animal Law Unit advise animal control officers to ask owners to bring animals inside or into shelter, ask the owner to surrender the animal if they are unable to provide adequate shelter, or in certain circumstances take temporary custody of an animal to ensure its safety.
In 2015, Attorney General Herring created the nation’s first OAG Animal Law Unit to serve as a training and prosecution resource for state agencies, investigators, and Commonwealth’s Attorneys around the state dealing with matters involving animal fighting, cruelty, and welfare. Illegal animal fighting is closely tied to illegal gambling, drug and alcohol crimes, and violence against animals has been shown to be linked to violence towards other people. To date the unit has handled hundreds of matters, including trainings, prosecutions, and consultations.
Next two-year budget will include includes 10% pay raise for teachers, further expanding largest teacher raises in 15 years
On December 6, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam launched his ‘Thank You, Virginia’ Tour, announcing that he will propose a two-year state budget next week that includes record funding for public education, including a 10 percent pay raise for teachers.
Virginia has already increased teacher salaries by more than 10 percent under Governor Northam—the largest increase in 15 years. This latest raise will push Virginia’s teacher pay above the national average.
“Paying teachers is the right thing to do and a wise investment,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia has invested in teachers in a big way over these past four years, and now it’s time to do much more. Our country has asked teachers to carry a heavy load, especially during the pandemic. They have delivered, and they deserve to be rewarded. This raise is possible because of strong, steady fiscal stewardship. Virginia’s strong economy has delivered booming revenues. What we’ve been doing these four years is working, and Virginia should continue it.”
Governor Northam’s proposal will increase compensation 5 percent a year in each of the next two budget years, for a cumulative increase of 10.25 percent. When matched by local funds, the increase will push compensation for the typical Virginia teacher above the national average.
Governor Northam noted that local budgets have been significantly augmented by federal and state pandemic relief dollars. These funds include more than $1.3 billion of federal CARES Act dollars that Virginia allocated to localities in 2020, and another nearly $3 billion in federal ARPA funds (American Rescue Plan) for counties and cities in Virginia earlier this year.
“Teachers deserve to be paid more, and Governor Northam has delivered,” said Secretary of Education Fran Bradford. “That’s an important tool in recruiting and retaining talented teachers. It matters in normal times, and it’s critical today.”
“Virginia has taken dramatic steps to fund public education over the past two years, especially to raise teacher salaries and hire more counselors,” said Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn. “Virginia’s public schools are delivering for parents and students, and we all appreciate Governor Northam taking this latest step to build an even stronger future.”
“There is no greater value for the taxpayer than investing in public education, which has far-reaching effects for all Virginians,” said Majority Leader Dick Saslaw. “The education pipeline begins in Pre-K, continues through K-12 and into the handoff to post-secondary education or a workforce credential. But every investment costs money, and Governor Northam has delivered over these past four years.”
The Governor made the announcement at Alexandria City High School, Westside Elementary School in Roanoke, and Glen Allen High School.
Virginia Offers a World-Class Education:
• Under Governor Northam, early childhood education is now available to more Virginia families than ever before:
• Since 2018 Virginia has more than doubled public Pre-K funding to serve a record total of more than 25,000 three and four-year-olds.
• Virginia has expanded access to affordable child care to more families than ever before, serving over 27,000 children and exceeding pre-pandemic participation.
• The Commonwealth has received national attention for investing in an early childhood teacher incentive grant program that has cut turnover in half in participating classrooms.
• Virginia’s tuition-free community college now helps working people who choose career paths in high-demand fields.
• You may be eligible if you pursue a career in Healthcare, Information Technology, Manufacturing, and Skilled Trades, Early Childhood Education, or Public Safety.
• The message is simple: Get skilled, get a job, give back.
• Virginia’s K-12 public schools benefit from record funding:
• Virginia has increased teacher salaries by more than 10% under Governor Northam–the largest increase in 15 years.
• Virginia is helping students by hiring more counselors. School counselors are now responsible for 325 students on average, down from as many as 500.
• Virginia is making it easier to go to college.
• Virginia has made the largest-ever investment in Historically Black Colleges and Universities—$328 million over three years. This includes $297 million for capital projects and nearly $32 million in operating support.
• Students attending Virginia high schools are now eligible for financial aid and in-state tuition, regardless of their citizenship status.
Governor Northam announces Commonwealth to remove Monument Avenue pedestal, convey state-owned land to City of Richmond
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced December 5, 2021, the Commonwealth will remove the pedestal that formerly displayed the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, as part of a plan reached with the City of Richmond to convey the state-owned land to the City. Preliminary work at the site is expected to begin Monday morning. The removal process will be substantially complete by December 31.
“This land is in the middle of Richmond, and Richmonders will determine the future of this space,” said Governor Northam. “The Commonwealth will remove the pedestal and we anticipate a safe removal and a successful conclusion to this project.”
Once the pedestal has been removed, the Commonwealth will convey the circle of land to the City of Richmond. The Commonwealth will safely disassemble and store the pedestal until the next steps have been determined.
If the 1887 time capsule is recovered during the disassembly process, it will remain under the control of the Commonwealth and will be removed for preservation.
State Board: Schools, students and families face continuing challenges from COVID-19 pandemic
RICHMOND — Staff shortages, unfinished learning, and enrollment loss are identified as the top pandemic-related challenges facing Virginia’s public schools in the state Board of Education’s annual report to the governor and General Assembly.
“With the multifaceted impact of the pandemic, teachers, principals and staff have responded with resilience, professionalism, and compassion. Schools are undertaking heroic efforts to address the academic needs of students related to unfinished learning, and support students’ social well-being and mental health,” Board of Education President Dan Gecker said. “While there is much reason for optimism as the commonwealth navigates a path to recovery, the pandemic and its lingering impacts continue to present significant challenges for public schools.”
The board noted in its 2021 Annual Report on the Condition and Needs of Public Schools in Virginia that while information on the impact of the pandemic on staffing shortages is still largely anecdotal, preliminary indications suggest that teacher shortages have intensified due to the pandemic. School divisions are also experiencing challenges recruiting and retaining support staff, including school bus drivers and nutrition staff. Early childhood education and care programs face similar staffing challenges. The board notes that the disparity between child care wages and the cost of living results in significant turnover of staff in early childhood classrooms and child care centers.
“Growing school staffing shortages were a concern before the pandemic, but the pandemic has exacerbated issues related to recruitment and retention of teachers, school bus drivers, school counselors, and others – all of whom are critically important to the full recovery of our students,” Gecker said.
The state board also reports that the commonwealth’s public schools enrollment fell by more than 45,000 students between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, but remained relatively stable between 2020-2021 and 2021-2022. Since most state support for public education is allocated on a per-pupil basis, enrollment declines would likely impact local school division budgets absent the continuation of “no-loss” funding by the 2022 General Assembly for the 2023-2024 biennium.
Enrollment in publicly supported early childhood care and education programs has also been impacted by the pandemic. The Board of Education’s annual report acknowledges the challenges faced by families dependent on early childhood programs and warns that drops in enrollment in early childhood programs will likely impact school readiness in future years.
The annual report points to steep declines in the performance of students on state Standards of Learning assessments in 2021 as evidence of the impact of the disruptions to instruction since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020.
“Moving forward, Virginia must remain steadfast in our commitment to helping all students complete unfinished learning and attain grade-level proficiency, especially in reading and mathematics,” Vice President Jamelle S. Wilson said. “Our strategies must include tailored and equitable supports targeted to the individual needs of students to ensure their long term academic success.”
The board’s annual report notes that Virginia schools continue to be underfunded. The board cites a 2021 Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission study that ranked the commonwealth 40th in the nation for state per-pupil funding.
The annual report urges adoption by the General Assembly of the Standards of Quality prescribed by the Board of Education in October, which seeks to ensure that every child is taught by an effective educator, highlighting the importance of teachers and building school and division leadership.
The board identifies the creation of the Enhanced At-Risk Add-on Fund as a critical priority. The fund would consolidate the current at-risk add-on and other state prevention, intervention, and remediation programs into a single, expanded fund within the SOQ distributed to divisions based on concentrations of students in poverty. This fund addresses disparities in the state funding model for at-risk students and directs resources to serve those student populations that most benefit from additional, targeted support.
The Board of Education approved the 2021 Annual Report on the Condition and Needs of the Public Schools in Virginia at its November 18 business meeting in Richmond. The report was delivered this week — as required by the state constitution — to Governor Ralph Northam and the General Assembly.
Thanksgiving holiday weekend crashes claim four lives
Over the 2021 Thanksgiving statistical counting period, preliminary data shows that there were four fatal traffic crashes in Virginia. This is the lowest number of traffic fatalities during Thanksgiving in more than a decade.
“Although even one life lost is a tragedy, this Thanksgiving has given us something to truly be thankful for,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Patience, keeping your attention on the road and buckling up are the anecdote to the record number of traffic fatalities we have seen the past two years. This Thanksgiving, the number of people issued summons for reckless driving and seatbelts were down compared to last year, even though we know more people were on the roads. This brings home the point, that if we all do our part on the road everyone can have a safe holiday.”
In total, during the five-day period, which began at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 24, 2021 and concluded at midnight Nov. 28, 2021, four people lost their lives to traffic crashes in Virginia. The fatal crashes occurred in the counties of Albemarle, Chesterfield, Fairfax and Spotsylvania. Of those crashes, one involved a pedestrian and one was not wearing a seatbelt.
This is a decrease from 2020 when there were 12 traffic fatalities during the five-day Thanksgiving statistical counting period. This is also the lowest number of traffic fatalities during the counting period in more than a decade. *
In an effort to prevent traffic deaths and injuries during the Thanksgiving holiday, the Virginia State Police participated in Operation C.A.R.E. – Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort. Operation CARE is an annual, state-sponsored, national program during which state police increases its visibility and traffic enforcement efforts during the five-day statistical counting period.
The 2021 Thanksgiving Holiday CARE initiative resulted in troopers citing 5,127 speeders and 1,565 reckless drivers statewide. Virginia troopers arrested 65 drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and cited 477 drivers for failing to buckle up themselves and/or juvenile passengers.
State police responded to 1,273 traffic crashes across the Commonwealth, with 139 of those resulting in injuries. State police also assisted 1,151 disabled/stranded motorists during the Thanksgiving weekend.
Funds generated from summonses issued by Virginia State Police go directly to court fees and the state’s Literary Fund, which benefits public school construction, technology funding and teacher retirement.
Governor Northam: ‘These Four Years Mean One Thing for Transportation’
Governor Ralph Northam today told transportation industry leaders that he will turn over to Virginia’s new governor a comprehensive multi-modal transportation system that is dramatically stronger and more forward-looking than ever before.
“These four years mean one thing for transportation—you’ll be able to get to work, back home, and travel around Virginia faster, safer, and easier,” said Governor Northam. “We have put in place once-in-a-generation investments that are making the Commonwealth better for people, goods, and the environment. I am proud of our strong partnerships and the hard work our agencies are doing to deliver these crucial improvements on time and on budget.”
Northam spoke at the three-day annual Governor’s Transportation Conference that brings together transportation industry leaders and policymakers to discuss major issues facing the industry. The Governor and Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine reviewed the major progress made over the past four years.
“Virginia’s historic transportation achievements have revolutionized travel, and it was my honor to discuss our progress at the Governor’s Transportation Conference today,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “We are using every asset available to provide Virginians with improvements in rail, roads, bridges, and more. The Commonwealth’s forward-thinking approach is creating safe and efficient infrastructure that will meet the demand of many generations to come.”
These groundbreaking improvements in transportation infrastructure were largely made possible by the passage of the Omnibus Transportation Bill. The bill addressed the sustainability of transportation revenues, providing the largest transportation funding increase in a generation. It also established the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority and authorized bonds to improve Interstate 81.
Transforming Rail in Virginia
The Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative is the Commonwealth’s answer to growing traffic congestion. The population of Virginia is expected to grow from 8.5 million to 10 million over the next 25 years, with 20 percent of that growth expected in Northern Virginia, only compounding congestion problems and putting more pressure on the transportation network. Increases in passenger rail service are meeting the growing demand, not only among Virginians but throughout the eastern seaboard as an alternative to traveling the heavily congested I-95 corridor.
As part of the initiative, Governor Northam announced agreements with Amtrak, CSX, and Virginia Railway Express, launching a $3.7 billion investment to expand and improve passenger, commuter, and freight rail in Virginia and create a vital connection in America’s national rail network between the Northeast and Southeast corridors.
The agreement includes plans for the construction of a new $1.9 billion “Long Bridge” over the Potomac River dedicated to passenger rail, acquisition of 386 miles of the railroad right-of-way and 223 miles of track from CSX, and an investment of more than $1 billion in additional infrastructure improvements by the Commonwealth. These investments are allowing Virginia to expand Amtrak and VRE services, create a pathway for the separation of freight and passenger rail in Virginia, and preserve future rail corridors.
Governor Northam also announced an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway this spring to extend passenger rail service to the New River Valley for the first time since 1979. This agreement is increasing intercity passenger rail service from Roanoke to the Northeast Corridor. The agreement includes both an increase of existing service and expansion of service to the New River Valley.
Investing in Metro’s State of Good Repair
Governor Northam negotiated a landmark bipartisan agreement that is providing Metro with a dedicated source of revenue for the first time in the system’s history. The Metro system is vitally important to the economy and commuters, and this funding ensures that Metro can continue to provide necessary services to the people who rely on it every day. Virginia secured $500 million annual funding dedicated to rebuilding the aging system. Metro must provide annual reports on performance and safety to continue receiving these funds.
Expanding the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel
Significant improvements along major road corridors are being implemented across the Commonwealth, including one of the largest transportation investments in the Commonwealth’s history—the expansion of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. The $3.8 billion project is increasing tunnel and interstate capacity along 9.9 miles of Interstate 64 between Hampton and Norfolk, reducing congestion and easing access to the Port of Virginia and the world’s largest Naval base. This work also aligns with efforts to implement a 44-mile Hampton Roads Express Lanes Network.
Addressing the Worst Highway Bottleneck in Virginia
Governor Northam announced a bipartisan agreement with Maryland that is creating a unified Capital Beltway, replacing the aging American Legion Bridge, and relieving congestion at one of the country’s worst traffic chokepoints. The project is expected to cut commuting time in half for many travelers, create a reliable transit option, reduce congestion in the regular lanes by 25 percent, provide 40 percent more lane capacity over the old bridge, and include bicycle and pedestrian paths across the Potomac River. The collaboration with Maryland allows for uninterrupted improved travel between and around the two states.
Expanding the Port of Virginia
Virginia is now home to one of the most modern and technologically advanced ports in North America. The $670 million expansion of the Port of Virginia has positioned the Commonwealth as a gateway to global markets. Virginia secured a federal permit and authorized state funding to dredge the Port of Virginia to 55 feet—the deepest Port on the East Coast, allowing access for larger ships.
The expansion of the Port has increased the capacity of ships we are able to process, with record-setting volumes. Because of these strategic investments in advanced technology, Virginia has been able to avoid the shipping backlog that is affecting ports around the world.
Interstate 81 is a significant highway in Virginia, connecting western and Southwest Virginia residents. The interstate is also a major corridor for trucking and freight, carrying $300 billion in commerce and goods each year. In recent years, Virginians raised concerns about safety and reliability, so Governor Northam dedicated billions to make improvements and secure a steady source of funding for I-81. The Interstate 81 Improvement Plan will reduce crashes and alleviate points of congestion. The funding also included additional funding to support improvement projects along I-95 and I-64.
AG Herring files amicus brief to support Biden-Harris Administration rule broadening the scope of Title X family planning grants
RICHMOND (November 30, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has filed an amicus brief in Ohio v. Becerra in support of the new Title X rule promulgated in 2021 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that removes harmful restrictions put in place by the Trump Administration. The new rule will result in the distribution of Title X funds to a greater number of family planning and related preventive health service providers that deliver care to millions of low-income or uninsured individuals and others. Attorney General Herring has joined a coalition of 24 attorneys general in filing the amicus brief.
Title X is the only federal grant program that funds family planning and counseling programs to help patients access contraception, as well as breast and cervical cancer screenings, screenings and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, and other related health services.
“Title X has been instrumental in giving women in low-income communities access to family planning programs, and preventative and reproductive healthcare, but unfortunately, with its ‘gag rule’ the Trump Administration worked hard to limit a woman’s ability to make her own choices about her body,” said Attorney General Herring. “The Biden-Harris Administration’s new Title X rule will remove those harmful Trump-era restrictions and distribute Title X funding to a greater number of healthcare providers, in turn helping more families across the country. I am proud to join my colleagues in supporting this new Title X rule that will give low-income and uninsured individuals in Virginia and around the country better access to healthcare.”
Attorney General Herring’s brief supports the new HHS rule, issued in 2021, that broadens the scope of federal grants under Title X, in part, by eliminating the harmful provisions of the 2019 Trump Administration rule — also known as the “gag rule.” The 2019 rule 1) imposed onerous requirements for physical separation between abortion and non-abortion services at clinics that provided abortion services and 2) prohibited clinicians from providing referrals to abortion providers, even when directly requested by the patient. By contrast, under HHS’s new 2021 rule, Title X funds can, once again, go to clinics that do not physically separate non-abortion and abortion services, and that provide referrals to abortion providers at a patient’s request. The coalition’s brief argues for the court to reject a request by a group of plaintiff states for a preliminary injunction of the 2021 rule.
Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that the plaintiffs’ proposed injunction would put patients and providers in harm’s way by returning to the 2019 Trump Administration rule, which caused dramatic loss of Title X providers and a substantial decrease in patient visits and health care services provided. Underserved communities were especially impacted by the loss of essential care, particularly low-income individuals, minorities, LGBTQ+ individuals, individuals living with disabilities, minors, and those living in rural areas.
The 2021 HHS rule allows lost providers to reenter the Title X program and improves client outcomes by providing greater access to and a wider range of health care services and promotes health equity by emphasizing efforts to reach underserved communities.
Attorney General Herring and his colleagues have fought hard to protect Title X funding. In March 2019, Attorney General Herring sued the Trump Administration challenging the constitutionality of its Title X “Gag Rule” that restricted healthcare providers that receive certain federal funds from counseling or making referrals for abortion. After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the new “gag rule”, Attorney General Herring filed a petition that asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. Separately, Attorney General Herring filed an amicus brief in a different lawsuit brought by the city of Baltimore against the Trump Administration’s Title X rule. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down the rule – enjoining it in Maryland while it remained in place across the rest of the nation – after which the Trump Administration filed its own petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case. In March 2021, the coalitions in both cases joined with the Biden-Harris Administration to ask the Supreme Court to dismiss both cases, while the Biden-Harris Administration acted to rescind and replace the rule. In May 2021, the Supreme Court entered the order to dismiss both cases and denied efforts by additional parties to step in and defend the gag rule. At the same time, Attorney General Herring sent a comment letter to HHS applauding the agency’s proposed rule to undo the harmful, Trump-era Title X “gag rule.”
Joining Attorney General Herring in filing today’s amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.