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Governor Glenn Youngkin ceremonially signs legislation to support Virginia’s military, veteran community and proclamation honoring Armed Forces Day



RICHMOND, VA – Governor Glenn Youngkin ceremonially signed 23 bills highlighting the priorities of Virginia’s military and veteran community. After delivering remarks, Governor Youngkin also signed a proclamation to honor Armed Forces Day, which will be recognized on May 21, 2022.

Governor Glenn Youngkin acknowledges Dr. Bridgette Williams after signing the Armed Forces Day Proclamation at the Virginia War Memorial on Friday, May 20, 2022. Official Photo by Christian Martinez, Office of Governor Glenn Youngkin.

“Making Virginia the best place for military service members and their families to live and the number one state for service members to retire has been a priority of mine since day one. Our military makes sacrifices daily, and the Commonwealth owes them great gratitude and support to them and their families, ” said Governor Youngkin. “ I am proud of the significant bipartisan effort around the 23 bills we are here to celebrate today, but this is just the beginning. When the time comes for service members to retire…to turn the page on the next chapter of their life…we want them to make Virginia their permanent home. To help make that possible, we are working diligently to eliminate taxes on the first $40,000 in military retirement pay. Our message is simple: when you come back to the safety of our shores and eventually retire, we want you to retire here, in the great Commonwealth of Virginia.”

“As a Marine veteran, it is heartwarming to see the many pieces of legislation that passed to encourage veterans to call Virginia home – for work reciprocity for spouses, and for their children to have educational choices. Promises made, promises kept,” said Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears.

“Freedom is not free. Virginia’s veteran and military community have dedicated their lives to preserving America’s freedom,” said Attorney General Jason Miyares. “Growing up and living in a military community, I have the utmost respect and admiration for the brave men and women who have served and those currently serving in the armed forces. There is no braver or more selfless group than the United States military, and Virginia is dedicated to supporting them.”

“I am pleased with this package of bills and the services it provides to our National Guardsmen, Veterans, and their families and look forward to furthering this work in the sessions to come,” said Secretary Craig Crenshaw, Secretary of Veteran and Defense Affairs.

Additionally, reflecting on Armed Forces Day, Governor Youngkin added: “This is a great opportunity to pay tribute to these brave men and women who keep our nation safe every day. It is because of them we get the privilege of calling our Commonwealth and nation safe and free. As Governor, it is my honor to recognize our heroes by signing this Armed Forces Day Proclamation.”

A copy of the Armed Forces Day Proclamation can be found here.

Watch the full event here.

Governor Youngkin Ceremonially Signed Four Day One Game Plan Bills, including:

HB 358, patroned by Delegate John McGuire, R-Goochland, and SB 572, patroned by Senator Jen Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach, which Directs the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs and the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, in conjunction with the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, to examine the waiving of fees associated with permits necessary to establish a small business for veteran-owned small businesses.

HB 994, patroned by Delegate Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight, and SB 529, patroned by Senator Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, which directs the Board of Education to determine the feasibility of amending its regulations to permit all active-duty members of the Armed Forces of the United States who serve as caregivers to dependents to apply for the Child Care Subsidy Program.

Governor Youngkin Ceremonially Signed 19 Additional Bills, including:

HB 17, patroned by Delegate Buddy Fowler, R-Hanover, and SB 618, patroned by Senator Richard Stewart, R-King George, exempts members of a lawfully recognized military color guard, honor guard, or similar organization and members of a veterans service organization that is congressionally chartered or officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, when such member is participating in a training or educational exercise, funeral, or public ceremony on behalf of such military color guard, honor guard, or similar organization or veterans service organization, from the crime of unlawful paramilitary activity unless such member engages in such activity with malicious intent.

HB 40, patroned by Delegate Phillip Scott, R-Spotsylvania, authorizes a disabled veteran’s special license plate issued to a disabled veteran to be transferred, upon his death, to his un-remarried surviving spouse.

HB 120, patroned by Delegate Scott Wyatt, R-Hanover, authorizes resident veterans who have a service-connected disability of at least 30 percent to receive from the Department of Wildlife Resources, at no cost or a reduced cost depending on the veteran’s disability rating, a lifetime license to hunt and freshwater fish.

HB 210, patroned by Delegate Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight, and SB 256, patroned by Senator John Bell, D-Loudon, which authorizes the Department of Military Affairs to utilize grant funding to recruit qualified applicants for service in the Virginia National Guard.

HB 230, patroned by Delegate Carrie Coyner, R-Chesterfield, and SB 154, patroned by Senator Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, requires the Board of Education’s licensure regulations to provide for licensure by reciprocity for any spouse of active-duty or reserve member of the Armed Forces of the United States or a member of the Virginia National Guard who has obtained a valid out-of-state license, with full credentials and without deficiencies, that is in force at the time the application for a Virginia license is received by the Department of Education.

HB 231, patroned by Delegate Bobby Orrock, R-Caroline, increases, from 15 to 21 days, the number of days a member of the armed services, reserves, National Guard, Virginia Defense Force, or National Defense Executive Reserve shall be entitled to paid leave for military duties.

HB 354, patroned by Delegate Anne Ferrell Tata, R-Virginia Beach, and SB 315, patroned by Senator Lionell Spruill, D-Northern Chesapeake, which establishes the Virginia Military Community Infrastructure Grant Fund to support military communities in the Commonwealth by awarding grants to aid the planning and design, construction, or completion of infrastructure projects that enhance military readiness, installation resiliency, or quality of life for military communities.

HB 642, patroned by Delegate Betsy Carr, D-Richmond City, and SB 719, patroned by Senator John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, provides that the Department of Military Affairs shall have the power to pay the employer portion of health care premiums for any member of the Virginia National Guard or Virginia Defense Force when certain circumstances are met.

HB 857, patroned by Delegate David Reid, D-Loudon, and SB 71, patroned by Senator Frank Ruff, R-Mecklenburg, adds parameters around grants distributed by the Department of Military Affairs to members of the Virginia National Guard who are enrolled in any course or program at any public institution of higher education or accredited nonprofit private institution of higher education.

HB 957, patroned by Delegate Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax County, provides that beginning with the taxable year 2022, any locality may declare real property owned by a surviving spouse of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States who died in the line of duty with a line of duty determination from the U.S. Department of Defense, where such death was not the result of criminal conduct, and where the spouse occupies the real property as his principal place of residence and does not remarry, a separate class of property for local taxation of real property that may be taxed at a different rate than that imposed on the general class of real property, provided that the rate of tax is greater than zero and does not exceed the rate of tax on the general class of real property.

HB 1203, patroned by Delegate Anne Ferrell Tata, R-Virginia Beach, establishes the position of Suicide Prevention Coordinator in the Department of Veterans Services to support and closely coordinate effective mental health care services for military service members and veterans and their families.

SB 212, patroned by Senator Jen Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach, authorizes the issuance of revenue-sharing special license plates with a design that incorporates the emblem of the United States Navy to active members and certain veterans of the United States Navy.

SB 768, patroned by Senator Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, amends the definition of “qualified survivors and dependents” under the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program to include that a child who is a stepchild of a deceased military service member shall receive all program benefits if the military service member claimed the stepchild on his tax return or on his Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System while serving on active duty.

Governor Glenn Youngkin and attendees after signing the Armed Forces Day Proclamation at the Virginia War Memorial on Friday, May 20, 2022. Official Photo by Christian Martinez, Office of Governor Glenn Youngkin.


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Virginia again takes a shine to gold



The Commonwealth of Virginia traces its roots to the perennial quest for gold. England’s King James I chartered what would become the Virginia Company in 1606 in a colonizing pursuit of gold, spices, and land. While the land was abundant, there were no discoveries of spices or gold.

Renewed buzz about prospects for Virginia gold was prompted by a future U.S. president, Thomas Jefferson, publicizing in 1782 the discovery of a 1.8-kilogram gold-bearing rock on the north side of the Rappahannock River. But the precious metal was not found in abundance within the borders of Virginia until the early 19th century.

Two gold nuggets are on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History from the mid-19th century Whitehall mine in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. The bottom nugget is about 12 cm long. (Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian)

Two gold nuggets are on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History from the mid-19th century Whitehall mine in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. The bottom nugget is about 12 cm long. (Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian)
Gold mining in Virginia peaked as the third-largest producing state in the country yielded hundreds of commercial caches north of the James River in the 225-kilometer-long Pyrite Belt. Much of the gold from the state was shipped to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, helping to wean the young nation off foreign coinage and private tokens as legal tender. The Virginia boom went bust in 1848 when the California gold rush compelled serious speculators to go west.

Nowadays, there are limited opportunities in Virginia to experience gold fever. Fauquier County’s Gold Mining Camp Museum at Monroe Park in Goldvein allows visitors to try their luck at a sluice after purchasing bags of gems. The park is also home to artifacts found at one of the 19 mines that operated within an eight-kilometer radius.

At Lake Anna State Park in Spotsylvania County, rangers escort visitors to a semi-clandestine spot adjacent to the old Goodwin gold mine to work a pan in a pond and see what washes up.

“I’m going to start to shake and agitate the material because I want the heavy gold to sink to the bottom,” says chief ranger Lauri Schular as she demonstrates the basic technique with pan in hand at the park’s Old Pond.

Those lucky enough to spot specks of gold will, however, leave empty-handed. All discoveries in the Virginia state park must remain on the premises.

Lake Anna State Park Chief Ranger Lauri Schular holds a rock and a pan that are part of the Virginia park’s exhibition on the area’s gold mining history. (Steve Herman/VOA)

Potential prospectors do get a consolation prize from Schular: a free lesson on the benefits of gold, which is a reliable and constant conductor of electricity that does not oxidize.

“That makes it great for all of our electronics that we want to close up and never open. So, don’t go home and take things apart. It’s not going to make you rich. It’s a thin coating,” she explains.

If you want to try to strike it rich in Virginia these days mining for gold, you are going to have to set aside the pan, invest in expensive equipment and persuade a landowner to allow you to prospect.

Paul Busch has accomplished that as Virginia’s only licensed commercial miner and apparently the first one since the late 1940s.


Licensed Virginia gold miner Paul Busch displays a rock tossed aside by previous prospectors that contains enough gold to process with modern technology and higher prices, at his Goochland County, Virginia, reclamation site. (Steve Herman/VOA)

Nineteenth century miners’ trash is his treasure, piled high in Goochland County at the site of a mine with extensive mercury contamination that closed down in 1936. Back then, gold was worth around $35 an ounce (28.35 grams). These days it is about $2,000 an ounce.

“Anything under an ounce per ton on an average to them wasn’t worth running and processing. They knew they were losing 50 to 60 percent of their gold in their tailings already. They could only process 20 tons in 24 hours,” Busch, owner of Big Dawg Resources, explains, standing aside a hill of soil. “Any stone that was underground that they removed that was under an ounce per ton to them was garbage.”

Busch is going through those piles of stones again with machinery he says can extract as much as $800 worth of gold a minute. He is also cleaning up the mercury contamination and filling in any pits and shafts that still may be hazardous.

“There’s the potential for there to be a second gold mining boom to an extent” here, even though Virginia does not have large deposits, according to Busch. “For a small mining operation, there are a lot of veins out there that have been found over the years that could be highly profitable.”

One new discovery in Buckingham County is attracting attention.

“You can see little specks of gold here and there,” says Thomas Ullrich as he peers through a hand lens to inspect a specimen he has chipped off a big rock in Buckingham County.


VOA videographer Adam Greenbaum, left, records Aston Bay Holdings CEO Thomas Ullrich as the geologist uses a hand lens to inspect a rock sample in Buckingham County, Virginia. (Steve Herman/VOA)

Ullrich, a geologist and chief executive officer of Canada’s publicly traded Aston Bay Holdings, has zeroed in on a quartz vein only two meters wide but spanning the length of a couple of city blocks. Several multi-ton boulders are visible above the surface. He discusses the potential of the site alongside one of those quartz-veined metavolcanic rocks that would likely yield nearly a couple of ounces of gold after extraction. At the current market rate, that would add up to nearly $4,000.

“Gold-bearing veins of ounce-plus grade, these have a value of tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s too early to say anything like that about anything here at Buckingham, but we are very encouraged by what we’re seeing so far,” Ullrich tells VOA.

“The success rate for prospects going to mine is very poor,” Ullrich acknowledges. But based on what he has inspected in Buckingham County, “our odds are greatly improved here.”

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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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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

Front Royal
5:46 am8:37 pm EDT
Feels like: 82°F
Wind: 5mph SW
Humidity: 26%
Pressure: 29.84"Hg
UV index: 9

Upcoming Events

8:00 am Church Yard Sale @ Cornerstone Christian Fellowship
Church Yard Sale @ Cornerstone Christian Fellowship
Jun 10 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm
Church Yard Sale @ Cornerstone Christian Fellowship
10:00 am Backcountry Crash Course: Earth ... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Backcountry Crash Course: Earth ... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jun 10 @ 10:00 am – Jun 11 @ 11:00 am
Backcountry Crash Course: Earth Connection Series @ Sky Meadows State Park
Meet at the Overnight Parking Lot. Ready to try backcountry camping? Spend 24 hours in nature learning backcountry skills and survival techniques with professional outdoor instructor Tim MacWelch. With Sky Meadows’ Backcountry Campground as the[...]
4:30 pm Free Community Meal @ Valley Assembly of God Church
Free Community Meal @ Valley Assembly of God Church
Jun 10 @ 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Free Community Meal @ Valley Assembly of God Church
Doors open at 4:30. Dinner served at 5:00 at Valley Assembly of God Church in Middletown. Menu: Fried chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, roll, drink, cupcake. Free-will offering accepted.
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Jun 14 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
9:00 am Indoor Yard Sale @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
Indoor Yard Sale @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
Jun 16 @ 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Indoor Yard Sale @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
Large indoor yard sale will be held in the Front Royal United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall Friday, June 16th, 9 am – 3 pm and Saturday, June 17th, 9 am – 2 pm. Gently used[...]
8:30 am Vacation Bible School @ Living Water Christian Church
Vacation Bible School @ Living Water Christian Church
Jun 17 @ 8:30 am – 12:00 pm
Vacation Bible School @ Living Water Christian Church
BEE BLESSED WITH GOD’S BEE-ATTITUDES  Vacation Bible School | Saturday, June 17 Ages: 3 yrs. to 12 yrs. Registration at 8:30 a.m. VBS will run from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon.
9:00 am Indoor Yard Sale @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
Indoor Yard Sale @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
Jun 17 @ 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Indoor Yard Sale @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
Large indoor yard sale will be held in the Front Royal United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall Friday, June 16th, 9 am – 3 pm and Saturday, June 17th, 9 am – 2 pm. Gently used[...]
12:00 pm VA State Parks History and Cultu... @ Sky Meadows State Park
VA State Parks History and Cultu... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jun 17 @ 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
VA State Parks History and Culture: The Enslaved Community at Mount Bleak @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. In 1860, nearly half of Fauquier County’s 21,706 residents were enslaved, with fourteen enslaved individuals living at the Mount Bleak Farm. Journey through these difficult stories alongside staff, volunteers and costumed interpreters. Explore[...]
1:00 pm Summer Show 2023: Aladdin @ Skyline High School
Summer Show 2023: Aladdin @ Skyline High School
Jun 17 @ 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Summer Show 2023: Aladdin @ Skyline High School
Italia Performing Arts presents ALADDIN, An Adaptation for Dance of the Traditional Story, with music edited, compiled and arranged by Dr Ryan Keebaugh. Tickets are on sale only through our ticket agency SimpleTix, and not[...]
6:00 pm Connecting with the Sun & Season @ Sky Meadows State Park
Connecting with the Sun & Season @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jun 17 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Connecting with the Sun & Season @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Welcome Summer by watching the sunset across the Crooked Run Valley with a special solstice-themed Astronomy For Everyone. Join members of the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club as they use special technology to view the[...]