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Governor Glenn Youngkin Announces that the Commonwealth’s unemployment rate fell to 3.0 percent in March

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Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that Virginia’s unemployment rate dropped 0.2 percentage points to 3.0 percent in March, while total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 2,700 jobs. The Commonwealth’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.0 percent is 1.5 percentage points below the rate from a year ago. The labor force increased by 19,532 to 4,311,629, as the number of unemployed residents decreased by 4,922 to 131,101. The number of employed residents rose by 24,454 to 4,180,528. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate of 3.6 percent. Virginia had the second-lowest unemployment in the southeast and 15th lowest in the nation.

The Commonwealth’s labor force participation rate increased slightly by 0.3 percentage points to 63.3 percent in March. The labor force participation rate measures the proportion of the civilian population age 16 and older that is employed or actively looking for work.

“We’re seeing green shoots in job recovery as we hit the lowest unemployment rate in the Commonwealth in nearly two years, that’s really exciting. My administration is focused on continuing this trend, creating jobs, and boosting our economy. We’re going to have a big surplus and we look forward to investing that back into Virginians, job recovery, our economy, education, law enforcement and mental health.” said Governor Youngkin.

“We’re happy to see the unemployment rate fall and the labor force continue to grow,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick. “The labor force participation rate increased as well, but it’s still well below the pre-pandemic levels. We expect that number to continue rising as more Virginians head back to work.”


“Compared to this time last year, employment is up in all but two of the Commonwealth’s major industry divisions,” said Secretary of Labor Bryan Slater. “Even though the employment gains in March weren’t as large as the month before, our economy is continuing to trend in the right direction.”

From March 2021 to March 2022, the VEC estimates that establishments in Virginia gained 109,200 jobs, an increase of 2.8%. In March, the private sector recorded an over-the-year gain of 98,900 jobs, while employment in the public sector gained 10,300 jobs. Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, nine of eleven major industry divisions experienced employment increases while two saw employment decrease. The largest year-over-year job gain occurred in leisure and hospitality, up 54,700 jobs (+16.1%). The next largest over-the-year job gains occurred in professional and business services, up to 16,900 jobs (+2.2%) and trade and transportation (+13,000 jobs). The only two industries to record over-the-year job losses were finance (-3,600 jobs) and manufacturing (-2,800 jobs).

For more details, visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website at vec.virginia.gov.

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Attorney General Miyares joins the charge against contraband cell phones in prison

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On January 26, 2023, Attorney General Jason Miyares joined a coalition of 22 Attorneys General urging Congressional leaders to pass legislation giving states the authority to jam contraband cell phones.

“Contraband cell phones are already illegal and pose a significant threat to safety and security at correctional facilities – but the reality is that they exist and are prevalent in our prison system. They allow willing inmates a way to continue running and organizing criminal activity while incarcerated, threatening the public safety of Virginians,” said Attorney General Miyares. “I encourage Congress to swiftly pass legislation permitting states to implement a contraband cell phone jamming system to stop this illicit activity and protect our communities.”

Contraband cell phones are a nationwide problem, commonly allowing inmates to continue their criminal behavior, plan escapes, and intimidate witnesses from behind bars.

The letter details that “in Oklahoma, the white supremacist prison gang, the Universal Aryan Brotherhood, used contraband cell phones to help commit murder, money laundering, assault and robbery throughout the state. In Tennessee, a Memphis inmate used a contraband cell phone to orchestrate drug conspiracy deals by sending a FedEx package full of methamphetamine to his girlfriend. Then in Georgia, inmates used contraband cell phones to make scam calls and demand payment and even texted photos of bloodied inmates to the relatives demanding cash.”


Bills have been filed regarding this issue in previous sessions, H.R. 1954 in the 116th Congress and H.R. 8645, S. 4699 in the 117th Congress. But none of the bills have moved or received a vote.

Click here to read the letter.

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A 13-car crash on Interstate 95 and more Va. headlines

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The State Capitol. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

 

• The Newport News elementary school teacher who a 6-year-old student shot sent someone a text message before the shooting indicating the boy had a gun, and her superiors weren’t doing anything about it. A lawyer for the teacher said she intends to sue the school district.—NBC News

• The Newport News School Board voted to part ways with Superintendent George Parker III, who has been sharply criticized after the classroom shooting.—Daily Press

• The former president of the Arlington Education Association was arrested and charged with embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the teachers union.—Prince William Times


• The Virginia Senate passed a bill to protect same-sex marriage in a bipartisan vote, but the measure faces an uncertain future in the Republican-led House of Delegates.—WRIC

• More than a dozen vehicles were involved in a “chain reaction” crash on Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg.—WTOP

 

by Staff Report, 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: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Virginia House votes to repeal Clean Cars law

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Republicans in the House of Delegates passed legislation Wednesday to repeal a law tying Virginia to California vehicle emissions standards that are set to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars in 2035.

Along party lines, the House of Delegates voted 52-48 to pass House Bill 1378, carried by Del. Tony Wilt, R-Rockingham.

Wilt’s bill faces a rocky road in the Senate, where Democrats have killed several Republican bills for the same goal. Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, has said any bill to repeal the California emissions law that comes over from the House will meet the same fate.

Democrats struck down several Republican efforts to roll back or delay the enactment of climate laws, including the more stringent vehicle emissions standards, during the last General Assembly session.


In 2021, the General Assembly passed legislation that coupled Virginia vehicle emissions regulations with those set by the California Air Resources Board, a set of rules often called the “Clean Car” standards. Last year, CARB issued a new rule requiring that all new cars sold in the state be zero-emission beginning in 2035.

The 2021 legislation Virginia enacted was one of two options the state has when it comes to regulating tailpipe emissions: either continue to follow the federal standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or follow more stringent regulations set by California.

The Clean Air Act allows states only two choices on vehicle emissions regulations to limit the number of standards that manufacturers must adhere to. California was granted an exception to set its own standards to address smog issues. Over a dozen other states have also adopted the Golden State’s rule.

Wilt and Republicans argue the California standards place burdensome cost demands on Virginians and say the 2035 target is unrealistic. EVs will also put a strain on the grid, Wilt said in a floor speech Wednesday.

“The free market is driving this, and I would dare say, as fast as they can,” Wilt said, noting manufacturers’ plans to electrify their fleets. “I think we’re all on board; there’s just a distinct difference [on] how we want to go about it.”

But Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Arlington, said Virginia’s adoption of the Clean Cars standard positions it as a leader in the “acceleration” toward electric vehicles.

Passing Wilt’s bill sends a message that the state doesn’t want to lead “or, worse yet, can’t compete,” Sullivan said.

Del. Alfonso Lopez, D- Arlington, contended that data centers, which have proliferated in Northern Virginia, are already putting demands on the grid.

Earlier Wednesday, a House subcommittee advanced a bill by Sullivan to set up a $25 million fund to establish charging infrastructure outside highway corridors. Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Fairfax, has a similar bill in the Senate that is scheduled to be taken up Thursday.

“We want every part of Virginia” to be part of the transition, said Sullivan in the subcommittee meeting.

Similar proposals were put forward in 2022 but failed to pass the General Assembly or make it into the budget.

 

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: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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House panel narrowly backs legislation to lower the minimum wage for minors 

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Lawmakers narrowly backed a bill to lower the minimum wage for employees under the age of 18 Tuesday, with House Majority Leader Terry Kilgore, R-Scott, joining with two Democrats to oppose it.

The House Commerce and Energy subcommittee voted 4-3 to recommend approval of a bill from Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, that would require employers to pay employees younger than 18 no less than the greater of $9 per hour or the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour.

The minimum wage in Virginia has risen from $7.25 an hour to the current $12 an hour over the past three years following Democrat-backed legislation signed into law in 2020. That law included provisions further increasing the minimum wage to $13.50 an hour in 2025 and $15 an hour in 2026. Still, those increases will require additional approval from the General Assembly to go into effect.

The current law lists 16 categories of workers not subject to the state increases, including those under the age of 16 and those younger than 18 who are enrolled in school full-time while working less than 20 hours per week.


Workers aged 16 and 17 who don’t fall under any of the exemptions must be paid at least the state minimum of $12 an hour. Marshall’s legislation would reduce that wage floor to $9 an hour.

Marshall told the panel the push for lower wages for minors was brought to him by small business owners in his area over concerns that they will be unable to afford to pay workers if the state’s minimum wage increases up to $15 an hour in 2026.

Small businesses “cannot afford to pay $15 for someone who comes into a business less than 18 with a small skillset,” Marshall said. “They have to be trained that 8 o’clock means 8 o’clock.”

Kilgore, as well as Del. Cliff Hayes, D-Chesapeake, and House Minority Leader Don Scott, D-Portsmouth, voted against the bill.

Over 10 individuals and organizations opposed the bill, saying it promotes age discrimination and don’t consider employed teenagers’ financial needs.

Abby Garber, a 17-year-old with the Coalition for Virginia’s Future student group, told the subcommittee she’s been working since she was 14 to save money for college. Many of her friends are forced to work long hours after school to support their families.

The bill “would force many of my friends to take up multiple jobs to make ends meet and might even force them to leave school to survive,” Garber said. “This bill would be detrimental to our commonwealth’s youth.”

Mel Borja, a policy analyst for the progressive think tank Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, said the legislation would also disproportionately impact Black and other workers of color, youth in rural communities, and first- and second-generation immigrant children.

“This bill burns a hole in the wallets of teenage workers in a time of high inflation that has made it harder to make ends meet,” Borja said.

While no one spoke in support of the bill Tuesday, Marshall said if minors continue to be paid the state’s minimum wage as it inches up to $15 an hour, “we’re going to have an unintended consequence that is actually going to have a reverse effect that we’ll have fewer people that will be hired.”

“If people come to the job at under 18 and they have certain skills,” Marshall said, “then they will be able to get paid a higher wage.”

 

by Meghan McIntyre, 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: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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State Senate Republicians on Attorney General’s report on investigation of Virginia Parole Board

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On January 25, 2023, State Senate Republicans expressed disappointment and outrage over the information uncovered by Attorney General Jason S. Miyares’s investigation of the Virginia Parole Board during the administration of former Governor Ralph Northam.

“This report was far worse than any of us could have possibly imagined,” noted Senate Republican Leader Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R-James City). “The reckless and deliberate disregard for the Code and the Parole Board’s own policies and procedures ranks among the most outrageous conduct by government officials I have seen in my three decades of service.

“The report attributes actions to former Chair Bennett and the former members of the Parole Board that were a direct assault on our system of justice,” said Senator Mark
D. Obenshain (R-Rockingham), former Senate Courts of Justice Committee Chair. “The findings in this report point to a Board run amok, and the statistics are
staggering: violating the rights of victims 83 times and failing to notify Commonwealth’s Attorneys 66 times in just a two-month period, resulting in four capital murderers, 31 first-degree murderers, and eleven rapists being released.

“These actions violated the public’s trust, and there must be consequences.”


“The Attorney General’s report includes important legislative and policy recommendations,” Senator Norment noted. “For those recommendations requiring legislative action, the General Assembly should act on a bipartisan basis as soon as possible. Additionally, we must demand accountability for these egregious actions and
derelictions of duty. Therefore, I respectfully ask Judge Bennett to avoid legislative action regarding her status by immediately submitting her resignation from the bench.”

 

Attorney General Miyares releases report on Virginia Parole Board

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Attorney General Miyares releases report on Virginia Parole Board

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On January 25, 2023, Attorney General Jason Miyares released a 69-page report on the Virginia Parole Board detailing significant and repeated violations of Parole Board policies and state law under former Chair Adrianne Bennett. The report describes the chaotic atmosphere surrounding a parole-granting frenzy at the Parole Board in March and April 2020, the time between when Chair Bennett was nominated for a judgeship and her investiture, and a deeper look into her board’s risky practices.

The investigation and final report were conducted pursuant to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s Executive Order 3.

Attorney General Miyares issued the following statement on the report:

“Under Chair Adrianne Bennett, the Virginia Parole Board endangered public safety and abused its power by releasing dozens of violent felons against Parole Board policies, and frequently in clear violation of a court order or Virginia law,” said Attorney General Miyares. “Judge Bennett’s brazen abuse of her power put Virginians’ safety at risk so that she could promote a criminal-first, victim-last agenda without regard for victims or their safety.


“I thank the hard work of my team to compile this report and look forward to working with the General Assembly and the current Parole Board to promote trust and transparency in its actions and ensure the victims of violent crime are never again ignored, silenced, or overlooked. The reckless disregard for the law described in my office’s report must never again be repeated.”

Click here to read the attached fact sheet.

Click here to read the full report.

Click here to read the full appendices.

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