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Governor Glenn Youngkin announces 100,000 job milestone



On August 19, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that nearly 100,000 more Virginians are employed today since the end of January.

Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) household survey data released today by the Virginia Employment Commission, Virginia added nearly 6,000 jobs in July, and the Commonwealth’s unemployment rate declined 0.1 percentage point to 2.7 percent from 3.4 percent in January. This rate continues to track below the national rate at 3.5 percent.

According to BLS household survey data, the number of employed residents rose by 5,865 to 4,238,134, with the labor force participation rate declining slightly to 63.8 from June’s revised 63.9 percent as the labor force in Virginia remains approximately 120,000 less than its pre-pandemic levels.

“With 100,000 jobs added since January, we are well ahead of pace to reach our goal of 400,000 jobs during my term. However, the slowdown in monthly job creation and the lower level of job participation have my full attention. We will continue the critical work to return more Virginians to the workforce and will double-down on policies that make Virginia attractive for job growth and business investment,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “We remain laser-focused on our mission to make Virginia the best place to live, work and raise a family.”

“We are excited by the number of new businesses coming to Virginia and the expansion of those companies currently operating in the Commonwealth. We have many job opportunities across Virginia, and we will work with our businesses and Virginians to return more people to the workforce,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick.

“While the July unemployment rate of 2.7% is not far from its historically low rate of 2.1% in 2000, we need to add workers and achieve higher rates of growth for the economy. We must continue our return to a more vibrant economy that reaches across all sectors in Virginia.,” said Secretary of Labor Bryan Slater.

For more details, visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website at

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Repeal of RGGI marks a turning point in Virginia’s Energy Policy



In a move celebrated by Governor Glenn Youngkin, the State Air Pollution Control Board voted to repeal the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) regulation, following the Governor’s directive outlined in Executive Order 9. Youngkin argued that RGGI was a burdensome tax on families and businesses in the Commonwealth and did not contribute to pollution reduction.

A Return to Power Diversity

Before RGGI was implemented, Virginia witnessed significant growth in electricity generation and almost halved the CO2 emissions per MWh over a decade. The repeal of RGGI aims to return Virginia to these promising trends, providing a more balanced energy policy that does not unnecessarily burden its residents.

The General Assembly in 2020 adopted legislation that allowed the Air Board to adopt regulations requiring Virginia’s participation in RGGI. However, it did not mandate participation, allowing Governor Youngkin to scrutinize the initiative’s impact and decide on its termination.

Under the RGGI framework, power producers in Virginia were obliged to purchase carbon offsets from auctions managed by the interstate compact. The costs of these offsets were then passed onto power customers, impacting all households and businesses in Virginia. Moreover, it failed to incentivize power producers to reduce carbon emissions.

A Vision for Reliable, Affordable, and Clean Energy

Emphasizing the legal authority of the State Air Pollution Control Board to act on this regulatory proposal, Governor Youngkin expressed his vision for an affordable, clean, and reliable energy future for Virginians. This would entail an all-encompassing energy plan, including natural gas, nuclear, renewables, and emerging sources.

The repeal of RGGI, according to Governor Youngkin, will provide regulatory stability and prevent market fluctuations from impacting consumers. It’s a pivotal move towards realigning Virginia’s energy policy with the needs of its residents and businesses, creating a cleaner, more affordable, and reliable energy landscape.

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Bribery conviction upheld for Va. man who offered town $500 to back gaming machines



The Virginia Court of Appeals upheld a bribery conviction Tuesday for a Southside Virginia convenience store operator who offered the town of La Crosse a $500 monthly donation in exchange for officials’ support for gaming machines at his business.

Businessman Mamdoh Abouemara was appealing his 2021 guilty conviction in Mecklenburg County, arguing prosecutors hadn’t sufficiently proven he acted with corrupt intent, partly because he made the offer to the town openly.

The appellate court rejected that argument in a 2-1 opinion, ruling that nothing in Virginia law requires quid pro quos to be offered “secretly or surreptitiously” to qualify as an illegal bribe.

“If that were true, the most unseemly, open, and notorious bribes offered to public servants in plain view would be immunized from prosecution,” Judge Stuart A. Raphael wrote for the majority.

The court opinion appears to center on so-called skill machines, the slots-like devices installed in convenience stores throughout Virginia, despite questions about their legality. However, the court opinion only refers to “gaming machines,” and local officials could not confirm Tuesday that the devices at issue were skill machines. The events in the bribery case occurred before the General Assembly voted to ban skill machines in 2021. That ban remains in limbo while the skill-game industry continues to fight the law in court.

Abouemara was sentenced to one year of probation, with a five-year term of incarceration fully suspended.

One of Abouemera’s attorneys, Kevin Calhoun, said the legal battle would continue.

“We are disappointed by the Court of Appeals’ ruling today, but we intend to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Virginia and to vigorously fight for our client’s conviction to be overturned,” Calhoun said.

The events that led to Abouemara’s legal trouble began when local law enforcement started investigating his store after noticing “many cars” in the parking lot late at night when the store was supposed to be closed, according to court records. In early October of 2019, Abouemara went to the La Crosse town manager’s office to discuss making donations to the town in exchange for a letter supporting the gaming machines.

The town manager at the time, F.A. Hendrick, told Abouemara the town couldn’t take donations directly, but donations could be made to a nonprofit called “Friends of La Crosse” that focuses on civic improvement.

Hendrick said he would take Abouemara’s offer to the town council, and the matter was taken up at a Dec. 9 meeting. The council responded with a resounding no. According to the court opinion, a “garbled” recording of that meeting shows council members laughing after rejecting the proposal.

Abouemara also wrote the town a $200 check, which town officials did not accept. Hendrick had originally testified at trial that the check came after the December council meeting, but the check was dated Oct. 26, and Hendrick later acknowledged he might have received the check before the meeting.

Abouemara was charged with two felony counts of bribery, according to the appellate opinion, but the count related to the attempted $200 donation was dismissed.

The appellate court rejected the defense’s claim that the attempted $200 donation after the town rejected his original proposal shows “the original offer was not a bribe.”

“For instance, his paying $200 once, rather than $500 every month, could well have signaled punishment for the council’s failure to accept the bribe,” Raphael wrote in the majority opinion. “Or the donation could have been a fallback effort to curry favor. Or an attempt to cover up the crime.”

According to court records, on Dec. 15, 2019, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Abouemara’s business and “seized several gaming machines.”

Appeals Court Judge Vernida R. Chaney disagreed with the opinion, writing in a dissent that the majority was taking an overly broad reading of the bribery law by treating the possibility of an informal letter as an official act by the public servants allegedly being improperly propositioned. Her dissent notes that both the donation offer and the request for a letter of support would have been legal on their own, and the mere fact they were linked together doesn’t prove the “requisite intent for bribery.”

“To construe the bribery statute as criminalizing any proposed quid pro quo would absurdly criminalize offers of monetary donations to benefit the community in return for a letter of thanks or a birthday greeting to the community’s oldest citizen,” Chaney wrote. “By construing the bribery statute to criminalize any proposal in which there is an exchange of benefits between the town and a private individual, the majority converts the lawful act of proposing a contract to the town council into a criminal act.”

The majority, however, said the offer became a “completed crime once communicated to the town council.”


by Graham Moomaw, Virginia Mercury

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Virginia wetlands protections remain robust despite Supreme Court ruling, say enviro groups



Following a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that narrows environmental protections for wetlands, environmental groups say there will be little change in Virginia because of the state’s strong wetlands regulations.

“Theoretically, Virginia has stronger water quality protection than the federal government,” said Peggy Sanner, Virginia director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Under Virginia wetlands laws and regulations, she said, the state “should be able to continue to protect all the waters of the state, including those that may not be in the federal protections.”

On May 25, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case known as Sackett v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the wetlands protections in the Clean Water Act apply only to bodies of water with a “continuous surface connection” to larger navigable water bodies, a decision that will greatly reduce the number of wetlands the government can protect.

Previously, wetlands connected to larger bodies through groundwater and intermittent bodies of water that might dry up during portions of the year were protected under the law, which regulates pollution discharges into the nation’s waters.

The Sackett family in Idaho brought the case, who argued they shouldn’t have to obtain an EPA permit to build a house on their property. The EPA had said a permit was necessary because water from the land would run into a ditch that fed into a creek, which fed into a navigable lake.

After an initial loss in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the family challenged the decision and won its case in the nation’s highest court.

“The wetlands on the Sacketts’ property are distinguishable from any possibly covered waters,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion.

Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil and are broadly understood to encompass swamps, bogs, marshes, and areas around creeks, rivers, lakes, and ponds. They are seen as critical habitats for diverse species of wildlife. Wetlands are also seen as a critical tool to filter out pollutants from reaching larger bodies of water like the Chesapeake Bay and to absorb flooding from sea level rise and stormwater surge before communities are damaged.

While the federal government regulates disturbances of wetlands through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Clean Water Act also gave states the power to impose their own rules for wetlands.

Virginia has its own set of laws under the Department of Environmental Quality and Virginia Marine Resources Commission for wetland protections, established by the Tidal Wetlands Act of 1972 and the Virginia Nontidal Wetlands Act. As the names imply, the Tidal Wetlands Act applies to wetlands in more coastal areas, whereas the Nontidal Wetlands Act applies to inland waters.

DEQ spokesperson Aaron Proctor said the agency is still reviewing the Sackett decision and declined to comment on how it could impact Virginia’s regulations.

Several Virginia environmental groups, however, said strict state laws and regulations will continue to protect Virginia’s wetlands.

The laws require permits for any action that impacts wetlands and mandate that there must be “no net loss” of the resource, explained Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Director Peggy Sanner. To avoid or minimize any loss, permits from DEQ that allow disturbances to wetlands “shall contain requirements for compensating impacts,” which may include requirements to build new wetlands, buy credits from wetland restorers or pay into a fund that is used to restore wetlands, Sanner added.

Virginia’s regulations “made a very strong protection for our waterways where you have the federal government and the state government acting together,” Sanner said. “When you have one of those partners, for whatever reason, bow out, that’s a cause for concern.”

Mary-Carson Stiff of environmental nonprofit Wetlands Watch said that while the impact of the Supreme Court decision on traditional tidal waters isn’t as much of a concern because surface water connections between bodies of water are more easily distinguishable, the effect on non-tidal waters could be greater because of climate change.

With sea level rise, waters from one ditch may jump a road or a floodwall to another land area, explained Stiff, making the new ditch a wetland through a process known as wetland migration. At the same time, coastal areas are experiencing coastal squeeze, resulting from rising sea levels pushing coastlines inland.

“From a climate change standpoint and sea level rise adaptation standpoint that’s focused on natural resource conservation and shoreline ecosystem survival, this is bad news,” Stiff said of the Sackett ruling.

Stiff said that Wetlands also impact other wetlands that may be further downstream or disconnected on the surface but still connected through groundwater.

“If anything happens to our laws in Virginia to weaken our ability to call the wetlands on the other side of the road wetlands, we won’t have a fighting chance to do the appropriate amount of wetlands migration that needs to happen so we have wetlands under sea level rise,” Stiff said.

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh also raised concerns about the ruling’s impact on areas experiencing sea level rise in his concurring opinion.

“Federal protection of the Chesapeake Bay might be less effective if fill can be dumped into wetlands that are adjacent to (but not adjoining) the bay and its covered tributaries,” Kavanaugh wrote, calling the new interpretation an “overly narrow view of the Clean Water Act.”

But while environmental groups are expressing some concern over Sackett’s effect on wetland protection, the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation has praised the ruling as a necessary reduction of bureaucracy for farmers.

Prior to the Sackett ruling, if a farmer wanted to dig a ditch in his or her field to drain flood waters from a serious storm, the EPA would need to issue a permit for the work in addition to state approval, said Virginia Farm Bureau Vice President of Government Relations Martha Moore.

“We’re very happy with the Sackett ruling. For us, it provides clarity for farmers that don’t require a team of attorneys to try and figure out,” Moore said. “Virginia already has the Chesapeake Preservation Act, and you can’t do anything in those zones. We already have conservation practices, we already encourage the development of wetland mitigation banks. I feel like Virginia already has those protections, and this just added another layer of bureaucracy that you don’t really need.”


by Charlie Paullin, Virginia Mercury

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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How Virginia is spending new state funding to prevent gun violence



The office of Attorney General Jason Miyares plans to hire six prosecutors and group violence intervention coordinators with the $2.6 million in grant funding it received to try to reduce gun crime.

Another $5 million will go toward the extension of a hospital-based violence intervention program meant to help people escape life circumstances that led to them being shot or stabbed.

Virginia State Police plans to spend $256,044 to hire a new analyst at the crime-fighting Virginia Fusion Center, who will use geographic data to help authorities spot and address trends in violent activity.

And more than a dozen local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and community groups will receive grant funding for a variety of initiatives to stem gun violence in their areas, projects that range from hiring more prosecutors to funding outreach programs for at-risk youth.

A report issued this week by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services lays out how various state and local entities plan to spend roughly $10 million in anti-gun violence funding recently approved by the General Assembly. The new report also includes status updates on $500,000 grants previously issued to the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth, Richmond, and Roanoke.

The more recent state funding was awarded through the 2023 Operation Ceasefire Grant Program, which runs from the start of this year through the end of 2024. Ceasefire programs are modeled after an anti-violence model Boston officials implemented in the 1990s that focuses on trying to steer people away from gangs and other activities that make them more likely to be shot or shoot someone while cracking down on those who disregard those efforts and go on to commit violence with a firearm.

Prince William County told the state it intends to use the $353,974 it received to hire a full-time “gun violence interventionist” responsible for implementing the county’s “community-based intervention and prevention initiatives.”

The city of Suffolk said it intends to hire a new prosecutor and “identify high-risk individuals to participate in call-ins, which will provide directed cease and desist messaging.”

Prosecutors in Prince George County and neighboring Hopewell plan to use $249,996 to create a “regional prosecutor initiative,” with a new attorney working in both jurisdictions to “prosecute offenders involved in firearms offenses and gun violence.”

In Southwest Virginia’s Lee County, officials will receive $81,766 for an additional prosecutor focused on guns, violent crime, and “methamphetamine trafficking.”

A handful of nonprofit groups also received state funds for a variety of intervention programs meant to prevent violence before it occurs through mentoring programs, skills training, and mental health support.


by Graham Moomaw, Virginia Mercury

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Virginia DMV issues over three million REAL ID compliant credentials



The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reached a significant milestone with the issuance of over three million REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards. Starting from May 7, 2025, Virginians wishing to board domestic flights using their driver’s license must present a REAL ID-compliant version, distinguished by a star in the right corner. This article explores the implications of this requirement and provides essential information for those seeking to upgrade their credentials.

The REAL ID Act, enacted by Congress in 2005, established federal security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. The primary goal was to enhance the integrity and reliability of identification documents used for official purposes, including air travel and access to secure federal facilities. The Virginia DMV has been actively working to ensure its residents are well-prepared for the forthcoming changes.

DMV Commissioner Gerald Lackey emphasized the significance of obtaining a REAL ID: “Many Virginians rely on their state-issued credentials for air travel. If you still need to upgrade to a REAL ID, prepare for your visit now by applying online and gathering the necessary documents. When you arrive at the DMV, we are committed to delivering a personalized, positive experience that exceeds your expectations.”

In addition to domestic air travel, a REAL ID will be required to access secure federal facilities, including military bases. Virginians interested in obtaining a REAL ID are strongly encouraged to apply as soon as possible, as the DMV anticipates a surge in customers as the 2025 deadline approaches. Individuals will receive guidance on the required documents by completing the application process online at

It is important to note that obtaining a REAL ID is optional. Virginians who choose not to upgrade can still use their current driver’s license or identification card. However, upon renewal, their new credential will display the phrase “Federal Limits Apply,” indicating that it is not compliant with the REAL ID Act. For those who need to board domestic flights after May 7, 2025, alternative federally approved identification documents, such as a U.S. Passport, a Passport Card, or specific military IDs, can be used.

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Silver Branch Brewing Company expands into Virginia with new facility in Fauquier County



Silver Branch Brewing Company, a renowned production brewery and taproom based in Silver Spring, Maryland, is making a significant move by investing $3 million to establish a new facility in Fauquier County, Virginia. The expansion aims to enhance the company’s production capabilities, broaden its range of beer offerings, and strengthen its presence in the region. The project, which successfully competed with Maryland, will generate 38 new jobs and contribute to the economic growth of Fauquier County.

Governor Glenn Youngkin expressed his excitement about Silver Branch Brewing Company’s expansion into Virginia, highlighting the state’s reputation in the food and beverage processing industry. Governor Youngkin emphasized the Commonwealth’s business advantages, industry resources, and strategic access to markets, which have contributed to its strong manufacturing growth across various regions.

Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick welcomed Silver Branch Brewing Company to Virginia’s impressive food and beverage processing industry, underscoring its position as the second-largest manufacturing sector in the Commonwealth. Merrick emphasized the value and efficiency of Virginia’s robust logistics infrastructure, which enhances supply chain growth for companies. The state is committed to supporting the success of Silver Branch Brewing Company in Fauquier County.

Christian Layke, Co-Founder of Silver Branch Brewing Company, expressed excitement about joining Virginia’s vibrant craft beer community. With personal ties to the area, Layke and his co-founder, Brett Robison, are fulfilling a lifelong ambition of bringing their beer to the Commonwealth. They view beer not just as a beverage but as a social experience they call “Gemütlichkeit” (German for comfort), which is essential to their brewery’s ethos. Silver Branch Brewing Company is eager to welcome Virginians to their new tasting room in Old Town Warrenton and is actively seeking passionate beer lovers from Fauquier and surrounding counties to join their team.

Mayor Carter Nevill of Warrenton extended a warm welcome to Silver Branch Brewing Company, emphasizing the significance of having such a highly regarded regional brewer and restaurateur invest in the town. Mayor Nevill highlighted the thriving business community in Warrenton and the role that craft brewing plays in making Fauquier County a premier tourist destination. The addition of Silver Branch Brewing Company will complement the existing array of wonderful restaurants, craft breweries, cideries, and unique retail shops, ensuring the continued growth and success of the local economy.

Delegate Michael J. Webert expressed his support for Silver Branch Brewing Company’s choice to establish their facility in Fauquier County. He credited the efforts of House Republicans and Governor Youngkin in making Virginia a more business-friendly state. Delegate Webert expressed enthusiasm for the positive impact this investment will have on the hardworking individuals in his district and home county.

Silver Branch Brewing Company, founded by Christian Layke and Brett Robison in March 2019, has gained recognition for its exceptional beers inspired by European and American brewing traditions. The company’s location in the heart of downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, has served as a hub for beer enthusiasts, and now their expansion into Virginia will further solidify their presence in the craft beer community.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership collaborated with Fauquier County to secure the project, offering support for job creation through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP). This program provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs, aiding in employee recruitment and training. VJIP, a state-funded business incentive, demonstrates Virginia’s commitment to enhancing job opportunities for its citizens.

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Aders Insurance Agency, Inc (State Farm)

Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning

Apple Dumpling Learning Center

Apple House

Auto Care Clinic

Avery-Hess Realty, Marilyn King

Beaver Tree Services

Blake and Co. Hair Spa

Blue Mountain Creative Consulting

Blue Ridge Arts Council

Blue Ridge Education

BNI Shenandoah Valley

C&C's Ice Cream Shop

Card My Yard

CBM Mortgage, Michelle Napier

Christine Binnix - McEnearney Associates

Code Jamboree LLC

Code Ninjas Front Royal

Cool Techs Heating and Air

Down Home Comfort Bakery

Downtown Market

Dusty's Country Store

Edward Jones-Bret Hrbek

Explore Art & Clay

Family Preservation Services

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Independent Business Alliance

Front Royal/Warren County C-CAP

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Treatment Center

Front Royal Women's Resource Center

Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

Fussell Florist

G&M Auto Sales Inc

Garcia & Gavino Family Bakery

Gourmet Delights Gifts & Framing

Green to Ground Electrical

Groups Recover Together

Habitat for Humanity

Groups Recover Together

House of Hope

I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

Jean’s Jewelers

Jen Avery, REALTOR & Jenspiration, LLC

Key Move Properties, LLC

KW Solutions

Legal Services Plans of Northern Shenendoah

Main Street Travel

Makeover Marketing Systems

Marlow Automotive Group

Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

Merchants on Main Street

Mountain Trails

Mountain View Music

National Media Services

Natural Results Chiropractic Clinic

No Doubt Accounting

Northwestern Community Services Board

Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

Phoenix Project

Reaching Out Now

Rotary Club of Warren County

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

Royal Examiner

Royal Family Bowling Center

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Oak Computers

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

Shenandoah Shores Management Group

St. Luke Community Clinic

Strites Doughnuts

Studio Verde

The Arc of Warren County

The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Valley Chorale

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

Warren Coalition

Warren County Democratic Committee

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warren County DSS Job Development

Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

WCPS Work-Based Learning

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

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