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Governor Northam announces 105 new jobs in the City of Manassas

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that High Purity Systems, Inc., a leading provider of mechanical piping systems for a broad range of industries, will invest approximately $8.5 million to grow its manufacturing operation in the City of Manassas. The company will expand into a new, 30,000-square-foot facility in order to increase production capabilities for piping fabrication. The project will create 105 new jobs.

“Innovative manufacturers like High Purity Systems are thriving due to the region’s competitive operating costs, strong pipeline of skilled talent, and extensive transportation network,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia’s existing businesses play an important role in fostering economic vitality, and when they choose to reinvest and expand, it helps generate and sustain economic development throughout the Commonwealth. With a wide range of clients across cutting-edge and emerging industries, High Purity Systems is an emblem of 21st-century manufacturing, and we thank the company for its continued commitment to the City of Manassas.”

In business for over 30 years and based in the City of Manassas, High Purity Systems, Inc. (HPS) specializes in solving complex, highly technical mechanical projects for a variety of industries including microelectronics, biopharmaceutical, aerospace, food and beverage manufacturers, and other industrial companies. In addition to traditional mechanical services, HPS’ expertise includes fabricating and installing critical process piping systems, performing orbital welding and other specialty welding services, and manufacturing skidded piping systems.

“High Purity Systems has thrived in the City of Manassas for more than three decades, and we are honored that the company has again chosen to reinvest in the Commonwealth for its latest multi-million-dollar expansion,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “This homegrown manufacturer is a valued corporate partner that will continue to benefit from the region’s robust infrastructure, world-renowned workforce, and strategic access to its growing customer base. We look forward to HPS’ continued success in Virginia, and to the creation of 105 new, high-paying manufacturing jobs.”

“High Purity Systems, Inc. is proud to partner with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the City of Manassas Economic Development Authority to expand our operations,” said Jody Ralston, CEO of High Purity Systems, Inc. “Our company and our employees’ families have deep roots in the area, which is why we’re thrilled to remain in the City of Manassas and the Commonwealth of Virginia. This expansion significantly increases our capacity to serve our industrial and government client base throughout the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, as well as our national fabrication customers.”

HPS is seeking individuals with any level of experience in Project Management, Estimating, Engineering, BIM/VDC/CAD, Welding, Mechanical Helper, Marketing, Accounting, as well as anyone looking for an exciting career in the Piping and Metal Trades. Interested candidates are encouraged to apply at highpurity.com/careers.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the City of Manassas to secure the project for Virginia and will support HPS’ job creation through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP). VJIP provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs or experiencing technological change in order to support employee training activities. As a business incentive supporting economic development, VJIP reduces the human resource costs of new and expanding companies. VJIP is state-funded, demonstrating Virginia’s commitment to enhancing job opportunities for citizens. The company is eligible to receive Sales and Use tax exemptions on manufacturing equipment, as well as a Major Business Facility Job Tax Credit for new, full-time jobs created.

“High Purity Systems, Inc. has become a vital part of the Manassas business community with ties to several of the City’s largest employers in aerospace and advanced manufacturing,” said Mayor Harry J. Parrish II. “We are proud to have created an environment in which companies like HPS are able to thrive and grow, helping make the City of Manassas a regional employment center with one of the highest percentages of high-wage jobs in professional and technical services in Virginia.”

“High-paying, skilled jobs are a critical component of our efforts to diversify Virginia’s economy,” said Senator Jeremy McPike. “The investment that High Purity Systems, Inc. is making in the City of Manassas strengthens our community by creating these high-paying jobs closer to home.”

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Virginia’s phased reopening plan for Virginia schools

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Governor Northam announced a phased reopening plan for Virginia schools which gradually opens up in-person instructional opportunities for students as public health conditions permit. The first three phases of the plan are detailed below. While in-person instruction may vary by division and throughout the summer and next year, all divisions must resume new instruction with all students for the 2020-2021 school year. Regardless of the delivery format, all students are expected to cover the content over the course of the year.

This phased approach closely aligns with those outlined in the Forward Virginia Blueprint which allows businesses to gradually open up activities. Specific gating criteria, as defined by public health officials, must be met prior to entering into each new school reopening phase. If conditions worsen and the public health data indicate increased risk, school operations may need to revert to requirements in earlier phases. At all times, schools should be prepared for intermittent dismissals or closures depending on local public health circumstances. Finally, the guidance and requirements of each phase are subject to revision and updates as public health conditions evolve in the Commonwealth.

The phases for reopening school provide the parameters of maximum flexibility for in-person instruction that a division may utilize. Nothing prohibits a locality or region from being more stringent than options permitted here, and some divisions or regions may choose to provide fewer in-person offerings in any given phase based on local public health conditions.

The state has outlined the details of the first three phases of reopening schools and resuming in-person instruction. Phase I continues remote learning as the predominant mode of instruction but permits some very limited in-person options including extended school year, special education programs, and child care for working families in school buildings. Phase II expands options to more children, including summer camp in school settings, and in-person instruction for preschool through third-graders, and English Learners – for whom in-person instruction is not as easily replaced. Phase III permits in-person instruction for all students, but with strict physical distancing that may require staggered schedules. In all phases, schools should follow school guidance from the CDC, including enhanced social distancing measures, physical distancing, and cleaning, disinfecting, and other mitigation strategies.

Virginia’s phased reopening plan
The following guidance is intended to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission in public and private school settings while supporting the resumption of peer-to-peer learning and providing crucial support for parents and guardians returning to work. These recommendations should be implemented in accordance with the Forward Virginia Blueprint, any existing Executive Orders, CDC Interim Guidance for Schools and Day camps and CDC Considerations for Schools, and in partnership with local and state public health officials.

Phases will be determined by monitoring public health data and key measures on disease transmission, healthcare capacity, testing capacity, and public health capacity to trace contacts of cases, and other relevant factors. The phased approach is intended to allow a gradual scale-up of operations and local school divisions and private schools may choose to proceed through phases at a slower pace if local public health conditions necessitate. Community mitigation strategies (e.g. physical distancing, enhanced cleaning, etc.) will be necessary across all Phases to decrease the spread of COVID-19.

Summary of Phases

Allowable Programs
• Phase I is effective immediately but is not intended to change the school division’s continuity of learning plans as they close the 2019-2020 school year.
• Remote learning is still the dominant method of instruction.
• School divisions may elect to provide in-person instruction for students with disabilities in both extended school year services and school year special education services, including private placements, with strict social distancing. Students will only attend such programs if the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team agrees it is appropriate and the parent consents. Virtual instruction may remain appropriate for certain students who may be challenged with adherence to the strict social distancing and safety guidelines as determined by the IEP team and the parents’ consent.
• With the approval of the Division Superintendent, accommodations may be offered for students to access the school building for critical instructional needs, such as accessing a secure assessment, if all health, safety, and physical distancing measures are adhered to.
• As is currently permitted, child care for working families may operate in schools but are subject to existing operational requirements for childcare programs and should be focused on providing programming/care to children of working families and limited to children in the local geographic area.
• The State Superintendent may continue to consider variances for other in-person instruction on a case by case basis. Such programs should follow all mitigation guidance.
• Schools may continue to ensure the provision of student services such as school meal programs.

Health, Safety and Physical Distancing Measures
• Schools should follow operational guidance from the CDC, including enhanced social distancing measures, physical distancing, occupancy, cleaning, disinfecting, and other mitigation strategies.
• Physical distance should be created between children on school buses (e.g. seat children one per seat, every other row) limiting capacity as needed to optimize the distance between passengers. In Phase 1, schools should limit bus capacity to 10 persons to the extent possible.
• The number of persons in a classroom should not exceed 10, and physical distancing of at least 6 feet should be maintained to the greatest extent possible.
• Other social distancing precautions should include, but are not limited to:
• Restrict mixing groups of students.
• Close communal spaces.
• No large gatherings, per the Governor’s Executive Order.
• No athletics or extracurricular activities may be offered.

Phase II
• Extended school year and special education services that are allowed in Phase I may continue to operate.
• Emergency child care for working families that are allowed in Phase I may continue to operate.
• Summer camp in schools may be offered to children of all ages. Programs should ideally be limited to children in the local geographic area.
• Schools may offer limited in-person instruction to preschool – third grade and English Learners students given the unique challenges of providing remote academic and social-emotional support to young learners and English language learners. Operational requirements include enhanced social distancing measures including physical distancing and other mitigation strategies.
• The State Superintendent may continue to consider variances for other in-person instruction on a case by case basis. Such programs should follow all physical distancing and mitigation guidance.
• Schools should continue to ensure the provision of student services such as school meal programs.
• Extracurricular activities (such as clubs) may be offered if social distancing mitigation strategies can be implemented.
• Athletics should be limited to an individual or team-based practice, skill-building drills or conditioning activities that allow maintenance of physical distancing at all times.
• VDH recommends that no youth recreational/school sports competition take place in Phase II unless physical distancing can be maintained at all times (e.g. individual swimmers showing up at scheduled times to have their event timed, etc.). A competition that involves contact with other athletes should be avoided.
• If socially distancing competitions are taking place, the following conditions must also be met:
• Outdoor recreational sports are allowable if 10 feet of physical distance can be maintained by all participants and spectators at all times and all shared items can be disinfected between uses. The total number of attendees (including both participants and spectators) cannot exceed the lesser of 50% of the occupancy load of the venue (if an occupancy load exists) or 50 persons.
• Indoor recreational sports (including practices and classes) may occur if 10 feet of physical distance can be maintained by all participants at all items and all shared items can be disinfected between uses. The total number of attendees (including participants, referees, coaches, etc.) cannot exceed the lesser of 30% of the occupancy load of the room in which the sport is being held or 50 persons.

Spectators may not be present except parents or guardians who are supervising children. Spectators must wear face coverings consistent with any active Executive Orders and due to behaviors that may bring greater risk (e.g. cheering), it is recommended that spectators be separated by 10 feet of distance from other persons.

Health, Safety and Physical Distancing Measures
• Schools should follow operational guidance from the CDC, including enhanced social distancing measures, physical distancing, occupancy limits, and cleaning, disinfecting, and other mitigation strategies.
• Physical distance should be created between children on school buses (e.g. seat children one per seat, every other row) limiting capacity as needed to optimize the distance between passengers.
• Physical distancing of at least 6 feet should be maintained to the greatest extent possible in all buildings.

Other social distancing precautions should include, but are not limited to:
• Restrict mixing groups of students.
• Close communal spaces.
• Limit outdoor activities/recess to 50 people, with a priority on social distancing and restricting mixing of classrooms.
• No gatherings (assemblies, graduations, etc) of more than 50 people (indoor or outdoor).
• No field trips.
• Limit extracurricular activities to those that can maintain social distancing, support proper hand hygiene, and restrict attendance to avoid severe mitigation.
• No athletics may be offered.

Phase III
Allowable Programs
• In-person instruction can be offered for all students, however, strict social distancing measures should be implemented.
• Remote learning exceptions and teleworking should be options for students and staff who are at a higher risk of severe illness.
• Mitigation strategies may impact operations and capacity limits. A multi-faceted instructional approach should be planned for Phase III.

Health, Safety and Physical Distancing Measures
• Social distancing and other measures will remain important prevention strategies. Additional operational requirements will include measures such as physical distancing, gathering limits, and other mitigation strategies (e.g. face coverings, class size limitations, etc). Schools should follow all guidance from the CDC.
• Physical distance should be created between children on school buses (e.g. seat children one per seat, every other row) limiting capacity as needed to optimize the distance between passengers.
• Physical distancing of at least 6 feet should be maintained to the greatest extent possible in all buildings.

Other social distancing precautions should include, but are not limited to:
• Consider restricting mixing groups of students.
• Consider closing or stagger use of communal spaces.
• Limit outdoor activities/recess to 50 people, with a priority on social distancing and restricting mixing of classrooms.
• Large gathering limits to be determined by Executive Order in effect at that time.
• Athletics and extracurricular activities may continue with some mitigation measures. More guidance will be forthcoming.

Beyond Phase III
• School divisions will return to a “new normal” for instructional and extracurricular operations in consultation with public health officials.
• Some restrictions may still be in place at such a time.
• Additional guidance will be forthcoming as public health data, safety precautions, and guidance evolve.

Public Health Guidance for All Phases
Schools should follow all CDC guidance for reopening schools. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
• Implement strategies to prioritize the health of staff and students, mitigate disease transmission and maintain healthy environments.
• Provide remote learning exceptions and teleworking options for students and staff who are at a higher risk of severe illness.
• Daily health screenings should be conducted for staff and students upon arrival. These should be done safely and respectfully, in accordance with privacy laws.
• At this time, public health is still developing its contact investigation guidance/outbreak response guidance for school settings.
• Staff and students should use cloth face coverings when physical distancing cannot be maintained, as is medically and developmentally appropriate. Face coverings are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult.
• Cloth face coverings should be worn by staff in times when at least 6 feet of physical distancing cannot be maintained. For example, a teacher standing in a classroom 7 feet from students
could teach without a face covering. During meetings or gatherings or in narrow hallways or other settings where physical distancing may not be easy to maintain, a face covering would
be prudent to wear. Other considerations such as speaking loudly, singing, etc. should be considered and may require additional distance.
• The role of children in the transmission of COVID19 is unclear at this time. Face coverings may be challenging for students, especially younger students, to wear in all-day settings such as school.
• Cloth face coverings are most important to wear in times when physical distancing cannot be maintained. Schools will have other prevention strategies in place (e.g. health screenings,
physical distancing, enhanced hygiene and cleaning protocols, limits on gatherings, etc.).
• Schools should encourage the use of face coverings in students as developmentally appropriate in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained. Schools should strongly encourage older students (e.g. middle or high school) to use face coverings in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Local Division Plans
Before entering Phase II and III, every school in Virginia will be required to submit to the VDOE, and make publicly available, a plan outlining their strategies for mitigating public health risk of COVID-19 and complying with CDC and VDH recommendations, including face-covering policies and procedures. The Virginia Council for Private Education (VCPE) will receive plans submitted by private schools accredited through a VCPE Approved State Recognized Accrediting Association.

Additionally, public school divisions will be required to submit to the VDOE, a plan for providing new instruction to all students in the 2020-2021 academic year, regardless of phase or the operational status of the school at the time. This plan must also include strategies to address learning lost due to spring 2020 school closures. This should include a plan for fully remote instruction should public health conditions require it. Plan templates and additional guidance from VDOE is forthcoming.

New survey: Warren County Public Schools need feedback on fall back-to-school plans

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AG Herring says Virginia’s rape kit backlog has been eliminated

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Attorney General Mark R. Herring provided an update on his project to end Virginia’s rape kit backlog. AG Herring was joined by Director of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science Linda Jackson, and Sexual Assault Survivor, Advocate and Founder of H.E.A.R.T. Inc. Debbie Smith at a press conference held today, July 8, 2020.

Attorney General Herring has led the effort, along with the Virginia Department of Forensic Science and local law enforcement agencies, to eliminate a backlog of thousands of pre-2016 untested PERK kits held by law enforcement, some of which were decades old. The PERK testing initiative is one part of Attorney General Herring’s larger effort to change the culture around sexual violence in Virginia. In addition to eliminating the rape kit backlog, he has invested in training to make trauma-informed, survivor-centered responses the new standard has worked with DFS to launch the state’s first electronic statewide PERK tracking system, and has brought on additional personnel to support survivors.

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Virginia Department of Veterans Services continues phased reopening

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The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS) continues the phased reopening of offices and facilities that had been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Veterans and their family members must call or email their local VDVS office to make an appointment to meet in-person with a Veteran Services Representative (Benefit Services division) or a Resource Specialist (Virginia Veteran and Family Support program – VVFS).  All persons entering VDVS offices must wear face masks or face coverings and are asked to not bring along guests to their appointment unless necessary.

Telephone and e-mail services will continue to remain available for veterans and family members.

The following VDVS offices are currently open and accepting appointments for in-person assistance:

Abingdon Portsmouth Naval Hospital
Big Stone Gap Quantico
Charlottesville Richmond (McGuire VAMC)
Hampton Salem VAMC
Hampton Pinewood (VVFS only) Staunton
Fort Lee Strasburg
Loudoun Virginia Beach/Oceana
Lynchburg Williamsburg
Manassas Wytheville
Norfolk

The following VDVS offices are scheduled to open and begin accepting in-person appointments on July 13:

Emporia Pentagon
Fredericksburg South Hill
Fort Belvoir Springfield
Henrico Tazewell
Manassas Virginia Beach/Pembroke

The addresses, telephone numbers and emails of all VDVS offices are available on the VDVS website at www.dvs.virginia.gov/dvs/locations.

Everyone at the Virginia Department of Veterans Services appreciates the understanding and patience of veterans and their families during these challenging times.  VDVS has been working diligently to reopen offices as quickly as possible but only when the safety and health of all veterans and their families and staff members can be assured.

The Virginia War Memorial and Virginia’s three state veterans cemeteries have also reopened:

  • The interior portions of the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond are open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday from 12 noon-4 p.m. Social distancing requirements are in effect, facemasks are required, and no more than 50 persons will be permitted inside the Memorial at one time. The grounds of the Memorial are open from daybreak until 10 p.m. daily. Details at vawarmorial.org.
  • The Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Amelia, the Southwest Virginia Veterans Cemetery in Dublin, and the Albert G. Horton, Jr. Memorial Veteran Cemetery in Suffolk are open, but with a limit of 50 persons permitted at committal services. Military funeral honors are provided based on availability of an honors teams from the Department of Defense or a veterans service organization. Details at dvs.virginia.gov/cemeteries.

About the Virginia Department of Veterans Services

The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS) is a state government agency with more than 40 locations across the Commonwealth of Virginia.  VDVS traces its history to 1928 and the establishment of the Virginia War Service Bureau to assist Virginia’s World War I veterans.  Today, VDVS assists veterans and their families in filing claims for federal veterans benefits; provides veterans and family members with linkages to services including behavioral healthcare, housing, employment, education and other programs. The agency operates two long-term care facilities offering in-patient skilled nursing care, Alzheimer’s/memory care, and short-term rehabilitation for veterans; and provides an honored final resting place for veterans and their families at three state veterans cemeteries. It operates the Virginia War Memorial, the Commonwealth’s tribute to Virginia’s men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice from World War II to the present. For more information, please visit www.dvs.virginia.gov.

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Minimum wage increases but doesn’t take affect until May 2021

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Here’s everything you want to know about the new minimum wage law than went into effect on July 1, 2020.

The new law increases the minimum wage from its current federally mandated level of $7.25 per hour to $9.50 per hour effective May 1, 2021; to $11.00 per hour effective January 1, 2022; to $12.00 per hour effective January 1, 2023; to $13.50 per hour effective January 1, 2025; and to $15.00 per hour effective January 1, 2026.

For January 1, 2027, and thereafter, the annual minimum wage shall be adjusted to reflect increases in the consumer price index. The measure provides that the increases scheduled for 2025 and 2026 will not become effective unless reenacted by the General Assembly prior to July 1, 2024. If such provisions are not reenacted prior to July 1, 2024, then the annual minimum wage will be adjusted to reflect increases in the consumer price index beginning January 1, 2025.

The measure creates a training wage at 75 percent of the minimum wage for employees in on-the-job training programs lasting less than 90 days. The measure also provides that the Virginia minimum wage applies to persons whose employment is covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act; persons employed in domestic service or in or about a private home; persons who normally work and are paid on the amount of work done; persons with intellectual or physical disabilities except those whose employment is covered by a special certificate issued by the U.S. Secretary of Labor; persons employed by an employer who does not employ four or more persons at any one time; and persons who are less than 18 years of age and who are under the jurisdiction of a juvenile and domestic relations district court.

Minimum wage does not apply to the following:

  • Any person employed as a farm laborer or farm employee;
  • Any person engaged in the activities of an educational, charitable, religious, or nonprofit organization where the relationship of employer-employee does not, in fact, exist, or where the services rendered to such organization are on a voluntary basis;
  • Caddies on golf courses;
  • Traveling salesmen or outside salesmen working on a commission basis; taxicab drivers and operators;
  • Any person under the age of 18 in the employ of his parent or legal guardian;
  • Any person confined in any penal or corrective institution of the Commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions or admitted to a state hospital or training center operated by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services;
  • Any person employed by a summer camp for boys, girls, or both boys and girls;
  • Any person under the age of 16, regardless of by whom employed;
  • Any person who is paid pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 214(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended;
  • Students participating in a bona fide educational program;
  • Any person who is less than 18 years of age and who is currently enrolled on a full-time basis in any secondary school, an institution of higher education, or trade school, provided that the person is not employed more than 20 hours per week;
  • Any person of any age who is currently enrolled on a full-time basis in any secondary school, an institution of higher education, or trade school and is in a work-study program or its equivalent at the institution at which enrolled as a student;
  • Any person who works as a babysitter for fewer than 10 hours per week;
  • Any person participating as an au pair in the U.S. Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program governed by 22 C.F.R. § 62.31;
  • Any individual employed as a temporary foreign worker as governed by 20 C.F.R. Part 655; and
  • Any person who is exempt from the federal minimum wage pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(3).
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Governor Northam applauds historic progress as new laws take effect in Virginia

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~ Sweeping measures include minimum wage increase, worker protections, gun violence prevention, expanding voting access, fighting climate change ~

Governor Ralph Northam highlighted new laws that take effect July 1, 2020, as Virginia begins a new fiscal year. The Governor worked closely with members of the General Assembly to take forward-looking and historic steps to protect vulnerable Virginians, increase equity, and position the Commonwealth for future growth and success.

New laws include commonsense gun safety measures, worker protections, improvements to voting accessibility, criminal justice reforms, and measures that advance the rights of women and the LGBTQ community. Governor Northam also signed legislation that removes discriminatory and racist language from Virginia’s books and includes actions to fight climate change and dramatically boost Virginia’s renewable energy production.

“I am proud of the bold legislation we championed with the General Assembly this year,” said Governor Northam. “From protecting civil rights to expanding voting access, to supporting workers, we have made generational progress on some of the most critical issues of our time. With these new laws, Virginia will be an even better place to live, work, visit, and raise a family.”

Key measures from the 2020 General Assembly Session that go into effect today include:

Advancing historic justice and equity with new laws that give localities authority over Confederate war memorials, remove discriminatory language from the Acts of Assembly and establish a commission to study slavery in Virginia and subsequent racial and economic discrimination. New measures also ban discrimination based on hair.

Enhancing worker protections with measures that increase the minimum wage, ban workplace discrimination, and combat worker misclassification and wage theft.

Commonsense gun safety laws that reinstate the restriction on handgun purchases to one per month, implement background checks on all firearm sales, require the reporting of lost or stolen firearms, and establish an Extreme Risk Protective Order.

Criminal justice reforms that include decriminalizing marijuana, raising the felony larceny threshold, and permanently ending the practice of driver’s license suspensions for unpaid court fines.

Expanding access to the ballot box by allowing early voting 45 days prior to an election without a stated excuse, extending in-person polling hours, and making Election Day a state holiday by repealing Lee-Jackson Day.

Accelerating Virginia’s transition to clean energy with the Virginia Clean Economy Act and measures to advance offshore wind and solar energy sources, establish renewable portfolio standards, and enter the Commonwealth into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Increasing protections for LGBTQ+ Virginians with the Virginia Values Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, public spaces, and credit applications. New laws also ban the harmful practice of “conversion therapy” for minors, increase protections for transgender students in public schools, expand the definition of a hate crime, and make it easier for LGBTQ+ individuals to obtain a birth certificate that matches their gender identity.

Restoring reproductive rights by repealing medically-unnecessary restrictions on women’s healthcare. The Reproductive Health Protection Act repeals Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound law and 24-hour waiting period prior to an abortion, and rolls back politically motivated “TRAP” restrictions on women’s health centers.

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AG Herring’s legislative package to go into effect July 1st

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~ Herring’s legislative package helped to make 2020 the most progressive legislative session in Virginia history, includes bills that will make Virginia’s criminal justice system more fair, equal, and just; protect vulnerable communities; protect consumers, and more ~

Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s legislative package, which helped to make the 2020 General Assembly session the most progressive in Virginia history, is set to go into effect tomorrow, July 1st. Attorney General Herring’s package includes bills that will make Virginia’s criminal justice system more fair, just, and equal; protect vulnerable communities; make Virginia an even more open and welcoming community; and more. Additionally, Attorney General Herring’s package included comprehensive consumer protection reforms that will go into effect in January 2021, after Attorney General Herring asked Governor Northam to move the effective date up earlier citing the need to better protect Virginians during these difficult financial times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Tomorrow, when these new, progressive bills take effect, it will be a new day in Virginia. I have fought for these measures and reforms for years, even when the General Assembly was led by Republicans who would block our every move,” said Attorney General Herring. “With things like decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, we are creating a more fair, just, and equal Virginia. We were able to pass comprehensive consumer protections so that Virginians can take out certain kinds of small-dollar loans without falling into a vicious cycle of debt and high-interest rates. Vulnerable communities can now feel confident in knowing that their Commonwealth is behind them and ready to protect them from hate or other threats.

“Virginians voted last November for commonsense gun reform and this year we were finally able to deliver. For too long, too many Virginians were losing their lives at the end of a gun and Republicans were okay with keeping that status quo. Our communities and our families and loved ones are now safer because of these new gun safety measures like the one-handgun-a-month law, that I successfully defended in court just last week; a red flag law; and universal background checks.

“I want to thank my colleagues in both the Senate and the House for helping to pass my priorities this year. And I look forward to seeing how much more we are able to accomplish next year.”

Criminal Justice
The General Assembly passed House Bill 972 (Delegate Charniele Herring) and Senate Bill 2 (Senator Adam Ebbin) that will decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.

“Virginia’s approach to cannabis hasn’t been working for far too long, needlessly saddling Virginians, especially Black Virginians and people of color, with criminal records. Those days are now behind us,” said Attorney General Herring. “With this historic legislation, we are making Virginia a more just, fair, equal, and progressive place. While decriminalization is an important first step on Virginia’s path, we cannot stop until we have full legalization in the Commonwealth.

“I want to thank my colleagues in the Senate and the House for helping me make this a top priority and I look forward to the progress that Virginia will make on this issue in the coming years.”

Attorney General Herring has become the leader on cannabis reform in Virginia following his call for decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, action to address past convictions, and a move towards legal and regulated adult use. In his call for cannabis reform, he cited the unnecessary negative impact of a criminal conviction for possession, the expense and social costs of enforcing the current system, and the disparate impact on African Americans and people and communities of color. In December 2019, Attorney General Herring held a cannabis summit for policymaking stakeholders in Virginia that focused on policy and included experts from attorneys generals’ offices, state agencies, and legislative operations in states that have legalized cannabis, as well as cannabis policy experts.

Protecting Vulnerable Communities
The General Assembly passed Attorney General Herring’s package of legislation that he says will better protect Virginians and vulnerable communities from hate crimes and white supremacist violence. The bills will update the Commonwealth’s definition of a hate crime, protect Virginians from violence and intimidation by hate groups and white supremacists, and make it harder for hate groups and white supremacists to threaten, intimidate, or hurt Virginians with firearms.

Additionally, the General Assembly passed House Bill 6 (Delegate Jeff Bourne) that added discrimination on the basis of a person’s income to the list of unlawful discriminatory housing practices and House Bill 1663 (Delegate Mark Sickles) that creates explicit causes of action for unlawful discrimination in public housing and employment under the Virginia Human Rights Act.

The General Assembly also passed House Bill 704 (Delegate Mark Keam) that provides that there will be a policy in Virginia that promotes environmental justice.

“It is so important to make sure that vulnerable communities throughout Virginia know that their elected officials and their state stands behind them, ready to protect them, their families, and their fundamental rights,” said Attorney General Herring. “It is incredibly gratifying this year to finally have my hate crimes and white supremacist violence legislation passed after many years of being held up in committee by Republicans in the General Assembly.”

“Preventing discrimination, both in housing and in unemployment, as well as putting policies in place that will promote environmental justice here in Virginia are all crucial elements to building stronger, more inclusive communities. I am proud I was able to help get this important legislation passed.”

Attorney General Herring’s hate crimes and white supremacist violence legislative package is below:

Updating Virginia’s definition of “hate crime”: This bill will create protections against hate crimes committed on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. (House Bill 618 Delegate Ken Plum)

Empowering the Attorney General to prosecute hate crimes: This bill will allow the Attorney General to prosecute hate crimes through the Commonwealth’s network of multijurisdictional grand juries. (House Bill 787 Delegate Lamont Bagby)

Prohibiting Paramilitary Activity: This bill will further restrict the kind of paramilitary activity by white supremacist militias and similar groups that were seen in Charlottesville in August 2017 (Senate Bill 64 Senator Louise Lucas)

Firearms at Permitted Events: This bill authorizes communities to ban firearms in a public space during a permitted event or an event that would otherwise require a permit. (Senate Bill 35 Senator Scott Surovell)

Protecting Virginia Consumers
This year, Attorney General Herring supported two bills (House Bill 789 Delegate Lamont Bagby and Senate Bill 421 Senator Mamie Locke) that were passed by the General Assembly that will enact comprehensive predatory lending reforms in Virginia. The legislation tightens the rules on exploitative predatory lenders and closes easily abused loopholes so that Virginia borrowers are afforded protections regardless of the type of loan they seek. It will also give Attorney General Herring’s Predatory Lending Unit more tools to enforce these new protections and better combat predatory lenders operating in the Commonwealth. These bills will go into effect January 2021 after Attorney General Herring asked Governor Northam to move the effective date earlier citing the need to better protect Virginians during these difficult financial times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attorney General Herring also supported House Bill 1553 (Delegate Rodney Willett) that will further protect Virginia borrowers by putting tighter restrictions and regulations on debt settlement service providers.

“This much needed comprehensive consumer protection legislation closes easily abused loopholes and tightens the rules on exploitative predatory lenders ensuring that Virginia borrowers do not have to worry about falling into a cycle of debt and high-interest rates if they take out certain kinds of loans,” said Attorney General Herring. “Virginia consumers deserve to be protected during every phase of the loan process and this comprehensive legislation will help with that.”

Firearms on School Property
Attorney General Herring’s bill House Bill 1080 (Delegate Patrick Hope) further clarifies that only trained, authorized individuals may carry a gun at schools. This bill follows an opinion Attorney General Herring put out that concluded that schools could not designate just anyone as a special conservator of the peace and allow them to carry a firearm on school property.

“Our kids deserve to go to school in a safe, secure learning environment. Adding guns and armed, unqualified individuals to our classrooms and our schools does not align with that goal,” said Attorney General Herring. “The last thing we need to do to keep our children safe is to put more guns in schools and in the hands of untrained, unqualified personnel. I hope we can all work together to continue to find safe, effective ways to make our schools safe and welcoming places for our kids to learn and grow.”

In-State Tuition for DREAMers
In 2014, Attorney General Herring sent a letter to the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia, the presidents of Virginia’s colleges and universities, and the chancellor of the Virginia Community College System advising that Virginia students who are lawfully present in the United States under DACA quality for in-state tuition.

This year, Attorney General Herring supported House Bill 1547 (Delegate Alfonso Lopez) that further clarifies that any student is eligible for in-state tuition, regardless of citizenship status, as long as they have fulfilled the necessary requirements.

“Every student deserves in-state tuition in their own home state, regardless of what their citizenship status is,” said Attorney General Herring. “I hope that knowing that their right to in-state tuition is now protected in Virginia code and no one will be able to deny them a higher education will give DREAMers peace of mind.”

Driver’s License Suspension
Attorney General worked with the General Assembly this year to ensure that there was a permanent fix that ended Virginia’s license suspension policy and strongly supported Senate Bill 1 (Senator Stanley).

“No one should have their license suspended just because they are unable to immediately pay their fines,” said Attorney General Herring. “This was a bad policy from the start and it disproportionately affected minority communities and I’m pleased we were able to change it.”

Confederate Monuments
Attorney General Herring has pushed for legislation that will give localities the ability to remove, relocate, or contextualize Confederate monuments and statues and Senate Bill 183 (Senator Mamie Locke) will do just that.

“These grandiose Confederate monuments memorialize one of the darkest periods in Virginia history and they represent oppression and injustice to so many who call our Commonwealth home,” said Attorney General Herring. “Giving localities the ability to remove or contextualize their monuments will allow these communities to tell their own stories – an important step on Virginia’s path to becoming even more open and welcoming.”

Marriage Records
Last fall, Attorney General Herring sent a memo to clerks of the court around Virginia explaining that state law “does not require a clerk to refuse to issue a marriage license when the applicant declines to identify his or her race and that clerks should issue a license regardless of an applicant’s answer or non-answer to that inquiry.” Along with the memo, clerks also received a newly updated marriage license form that gave applicants the option to decline to answer a question about the applicant’s race.

Since issuing the memo, Attorney General Herring has been advocating to have the question about an applicant’s race removed from the marriage license application altogether. House Bill 180 (Delegate Mark Levine) removes all requirements that an individual’s race be included on any kind of marriage record, divorce report, or annulment report.

“It was never clear why any of these records and forms included a question about the applicant’s race,” said Attorney General Herring. “I’m glad my office was able to initially find a solution by changing the forms and now this new legislation will change it in Virginia code.”

Protecting Animals
Attorney General Herring has made it a priority to strengthen enforcement of animal cruelty and other animal-related crimes. This year, Attorney General Herring’s Senate Bill 114 (Senator David Marsden) will put certain animal care statutes under the Virginia Consumer Protection Act and give the Office of the Attorney General even more tools to protect animals.

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.

“Individuals who harm or kill animals are truly disgusting, and oftentimes these types of crimes can lead to other, more serious crimes as well,” said Attorney General Herring. “I am incredibly proud of the fantastic work my Animal Law Unit has done to crack down on animal abuse and cruelty and I am glad we will now have even more tools in our toolbox to go after these terrible crimes.”

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