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Governor Northam announces final action and signature of budget

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today (May 2, 2019) announced his final action and signature of House Bill 1700. In a letter to the General Assembly, Governor Northam details his veto of language constraining the funding for a pilot program to distribute long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) to low-income women across the Commonwealth.

While the budget signed today reflects many of the priorities Governor Northam laid out for the General Assembly’s consideration earlier this year, it also includes disappointing and out-of-touch provisions that will harm Virginians with respect to fighting climate change, women’s access to reproductive healthcare, and the use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement. These provisions will not restrict the governor’s budget development this fall and will be addressed in his introduced budget later this year.

Governor Northam’s full letter detailing his action on the budget is included below.

May 2, 2019

I have completed my review of House Bill 1700. Overall, I am very proud of what we accomplished together. We have achieved many of the priorities I laid out for your consideration in December, and we also moved forward with new achievements during the regular and reconvened sessions.

This year’s budget actions make significant investments in education. We are providing over $200 million in new funding for our public schools, including additional funding for our most at-risk schools, funds for school construction, the largest single-year pay raise for teachers in 15 years and funding for more school counselors. We are also investing in early childhood education and in financial aid for students attending higher education institutions.

This budget invests in critical infrastructure improvements like expanding access to broadband and replacing Central State Hospital. We provide funding for affordable housing and eviction diversion and prevention. We also put additional resources into our cash reserves, helping to protect against future economic downturns.

Importantly, beginning on July 1st, Virginians will no longer face driver’s license suspensions because of a failure to pay court fines and fees. This policy change will help over 600,000 individuals.

While I am pleased with most of this budget, I am extremely disappointed that the General Assembly included several provisions in the budget that will harm Virginians.

First, this budget restricts the Commonwealth’s ability to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) — a critical avenue for reducing carbon emissions in the Commonwealth and addressing the negative effects of climate change, which is impacting the health and safety of people who live, work, and vacation in our great state. The Department of Environmental Quality recently finalized a regulation to reduce carbon pollution from fossil fuel fired power plants by 30 percent over the next decade. While the General Assembly has restricted the Commonwealth from participating in RGGI, I am directing the Department of Environmental Quality to identify ways to implement the regulation and achieve our pollution reduction goals.
Second, this budget restricts the use of state funds for abortions in the case of a gross and totally incapacitating fetal anomaly. While these instances are rare, expecting parents who receive the devastating news that something has gone very wrong with their pregnancy deserve compassion and support. The General Assembly’s action is cruel and out of touch with the difficult reality some families face. While the General Assembly has prohibited the use of state resources to deliver a critical service for Virginia families, I am hopeful that other medical providers in the Commonwealth are able to accommodate families in need.

Third, this budget restricts state agencies and authorities from purchasing and implementing the use of body-worn cameras. This provision unnecessarily prohibits state law enforcement officers from providing the accountability that both citizens and law enforcement officers deserve.

These and other provisions in the budget do a disservice to the citizens of the Commonwealth. I will not be constrained by these provisions as I develop my proposed budget this fall.

Overall, I am proud to sign this budget. However, pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I have vetoed the following item. The effect of this Veto will be to return the item to its original enactment in Chapter 2, 2018 Acts of Assembly, Special Session I.

Item 292, pages 319, 320, 321, 322 – Community Health Services
Action: I veto this item including all appropriations and conditions that appear on pages 319, 320, 321, and 322.
Ralph S. Northam, May 2, 2019

The re-enrolled bill changes language the General Assembly and I agreed to last year providing funding for a pilot program to distribute long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) to low-income women across the Commonwealth. s are the most effective form of contraception and are associated with reducing pre-term births and lower birth weight babies, as well as decreasing abortion rates. The language as passed by the General Assembly will constrain the program, preventing individuals in need from receiving this important service. By vetoing all of Item 292, the budget will revert back to the original language, which satisfies the intent of the program.

Respectfully submitted,
Ralph S. Northam

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During extreme heat, AG Herring reminds Virginians to ensure health and safety of children and animals

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Leaving a child or pet exposed to extreme heat, whether in a car or outside without adequate shelter, can lead to criminal charges.

RICHMOND (July 19, 2019)—As Virginia continues to deal with extreme heat, Attorney General Mark R. Herring and his first-in-the-nation Animal Law Unit are reminding Virginians that heat can be deadly to children and animals, and that there can be serious legal consequences for leaving children or animals in hot cars or outside without adequate shelter and water.

“The extreme temperatures in Virginia continue to pose a real threat to health and safety, especially for young children or animals left in vehicles or outside without adequate precautions and shelter,” said Attorney General Herring. “The law requires owners to protect their pets from the elements and gives law enforcement tools to ensure the safety and health of an animal, including the ability to break into cars or seize an animal to ensure its safety. As we all try to deal with this oppressive heat, I encourage all Virginians to check on and take care of yourself, your friends, neighborhoods, and family members, and don’t forget about your animals.”

A parent or caretaker who leaves a child in a hot vehicle could face criminal charges, especially if the child is injured or killed. Leaving an animal trapped in a car or exposed to the elements with no shelter or inadequate shelter can be considered animal cruelty, a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail.

Attorney General Herring and his Animal Law Unit advise animal control officers to ask owners to bring animals inside or into shelter, ask the owner to surrender the animal if they are unable to provide adequate shelter, or in certain circumstances take temporary custody of an animal to ensure its safety.

In 2015, Attorney General Herring created the nation’s first OAG Animal Law Unit to serve as a training and prosecution resource for state agencies, investigators, and Commonwealth’s Attorneys around the state dealing with matters involving animal fighting, cruelty, and welfare. Illegal animal fighting is closely tied to illegal gambling, drug and alcohol crimes, and violence against animals has been shown to be linked to violence towards other people. To date the unit has handled hundreds of matters, including trainings, prosecutions, and consultations.

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Governor Northam announces Commonwealth’s Unemployment Rate drops to 2.9%

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased 0.1 percentage point in June to 2.9 percent, which is 0.1 percentage point lower than a year ago. In June, the labor force expanded for the twelfth consecutive month by 9,099, or 0.2 percent to set a new record high of 4,377,595, as the number of unemployed decreased by 1,036. Household employment increased by 10,135 to set a new high of 4,249,639. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate, which rose 0.1 percentage point to 3.7 percent.

“This report is a great sign that our efforts to build an inclusive and diverse economy are yielding positive results, whether reflected by the decrease in our unemployment rate, the continued growth of our labor force, or Virginia reclaiming the title of ‘Top State for Business’ in CNBC’s annual ranking announced earlier this month,” said Governor Northam. “My administration will stay focused on attracting new capital investment, supporting existing companies looking to expand in Virginia, creating well-paying jobs, and bolstering our workforce so that we can keep our economic momentum moving forward and ensure that all communities, and all Virginians have an opportunity to share in the Commonwealth’s success.”

Virginia has the lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate among the Southeast states. Virginia has the third best rate among the states east of the Mississippi along with Wisconsin. Virginia is ranked sixth in the nation for the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate along with South Dakota and Wisconsin.

“It has been a busy month for the Commonwealth, and we’re pleased to see our unemployment rate drop to 2.9 percent,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “We’re also very proud that Virginia was just named the best state to do business in the nation. While there’s work to be done, this administration remains committed to using every tool we have to ensure that all Virginians can participate in our economic progress.”

Over-the-year employment growth in Virginia has been positive for 63 consecutive months. For June, Virginia’s over-the-year growth of 0.7 percent was less than the national rate. Nationally, over-the-year growth was slightly lower in June at 1.5 percent from 1.6 percent in May and 1.7 percent in April.

“Today’s announcement serves to remind that Virginia’s recent ranking as America’s ‘Top State for Business’ is in large part due to our world-class workforce,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “Thanks to Governor Northam’s thoughtful investments in education and training opportunities, more Virginians than ever are earning skills that prepare them for quality jobs in high demand industries. The Northam administration will continue to prioritize the development of an inclusive, diverse economy that benefits both our workers and businesses.”

In June, the private sector recorded an over-the-year gain of 26,600 jobs, while employment in the public sector increased as well by 1,000 jobs. Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, seven of the eleven major industry divisions experienced employment gains, while the other four experienced employment losses.

For a greater statistical breakdown visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website at www.vec.virginia.gov.

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Governor Northam announces new Office of Outdoor Recreation

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ROANOKE—During an event held at Carvins Cove Natural Reserve, Governor Northam today announced the creation of an to lead efforts to promote the outdoor recreation industry in Virginia and recruit new outdoor businesses to the Commonwealth. The outdoor recreation industry contributes nearly $22 billion annually to the Virginia economy, and employs more than 197,000 Virginians. Virginia will be the 15th state in the nation to establish an office or task force dedicated to strengthening the outdoor industry, and the third on the East Coast.

“Every region of our Commonwealth is home to unique outdoor assets and recreation opportunities, which continue to earn national praise and are sought out by millions of travelers each year,” said Governor Northam. “In establishing a statewide Office of Outdoor Recreation, we are taking significant steps to recognize the importance of this industry as a true driver of economic development in the Commonwealth, and demonstrate why Virginia is the natural fit for outdoor business. Outdoor recreation not only improves the growth potential of our communities, but it also aligns with our goals on land conservation, workforce development, and public health.”

The Office will lead an effort to grow the outdoor industry in Virginia through industry promotion, coordination, and recruitment. Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade Cassidy Rasnick will serve as director of the Office, which will be staffed by agencies currently working to promote Virginia’s outdoor assets and top ranked business climate. The Office is spearheading an initiative to recruit manufacturers of outdoor products such as kayaks, bicycles, and gear to locate or expand in the Commonwealth and produce their goods in the state—spurring job creation and private investment, while creating opportunities for outdoor tourism focused partnerships and on-site demo experiences.

“Outdoor recreation not only contributes to a community’s economy, but also to its sense of place,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Quality of life is often a key decision point for businesses deciding on their next location, and we want to leverage every asset in Virginia’s value proposition. Our diverse outdoor assets, combined with our ranking as the country’s Top State for Business, make Virginia the perfect place for new and expanding outdoor businesses.”

“We have made great progress to improve air and water quality and protect the special places across the Commonwealth that attract so many lovers of the outdoors,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Governor Northam and I are committed to building upon this progress and I look forward to working closely with the new Office of Outdoor Recreation to promote, restore, and protect Virginia’s natural landscapes and environment.”

To learn more about Virginia’s outdoor recreation industry, or the Office of Recreation, please visit governor.virginia.gov/outdoor.

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Virginia reclaims “Top State for Business” title in CNBC ranking

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that CNBC has named Virginia America’s “Top State for Business” in 2019. CNBC unveiled Virginia as the top state for business this morning during a live broadcast from Shenandoah River State Park, and Governor Northam was on location to discuss the announcement. The top ranking is determined by CNBC following an extensive study of all 50 states based on 64 metrics in 10 categories of competitiveness. Virginia is tied with Texas for most years named top state for business by CNBC, with wins in 2007, 2009, 2011, and now 2019.

“I am proud to bring the title of America’s top state for business back to Virginia,” said Governor Northam. “One of my primary goals has been to make Virginia the number one place to do business, and to do it in a way that benefits all Virginians and every region of the Commonwealth. This recognition underscores our work to build an inclusive and diversified economy, invest in our workforce, and create quality jobs—and is proof that companies of many different sizes and industries can find a home in Virginia.”

Since Governor Northam took office in January 2018, the Commonwealth has secured more than $18.5 billion in statewide capital investment and created 50,000 new jobs. Governor Northam has announced $2.5 billion in new capital investment in Virginia’s distressed communities, including significant projects with Volvo and Microsoft. Virginia has attracted major investments from leading companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Micron, and many other prominent businesses are choosing to deepen their roots in the Commonwealth.

In its 2019 ranking, CNBC highlights Virginia’s highly educated workforce, strong economic growth, and stable business climate. The study also gives Virginia top scores for education, access to capital, and technology and innovation.

CNBC debuted its Top States for Business ranking in 2007. Information about the methodology used by CNBC to determine America’s Top States for Business in 2019 is available here.

Read more about Virginia’s business ranking here. Watch Governor Northam discuss how Virginia reclaimed the title of Top State for Business in this video.

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VDOT lifts lane closures to ease July 4 travel

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Plan ahead to make the most of your Independence Day holiday travel, and be sure to keep safety top of mind. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will help make trips easier by suspending most highway work zones and lifting most lane closures on interstates and major roads in Virginia from noon Wednesday, July 3 until noon Friday, July 5.

While the lane closure lift is in effect for most areas, motorists may encounter semi-permanent work zones that remain in place during this time. A full listing of those lane closures can be found on VDOT’s website.

TRAVEL-TRENDS MAP HELPS PREDICT PEAK CONGESTION

VDOT’s online, interactive travel-trends map shows peak congestion periods on Virginia interstates during the three previous Fourth of July holidays. While it cannot precisely predict when congestion will occur this year, it can help motorists avoid travel when roads have been busiest.

Based on the traffic data, periods of moderate to heavy congestion is likely to occur between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 6, and Sunday, July 7.

NORTHERN VIRGINIA HIGH OCCUPANCY VEHICLE (HOV) SCHEDULE AND OTHER INFORMATION

On Thursday, July 4, HOV restrictions on I-66 and I-395 and rush hour tolls on the 66 Express Lanes Inside the Beltway will be lifted.

Go online to find directional schedules for the reversible 95 Express Lanes. The free 495 and 95 Express Lanes app lets drivers check real-time toll prices and live traffic updates. Once drivers are on the road, pricing and traffic updates will be available on overhead signs; updates will be available online via Twitter (@VAExpress Lanes).

HAMPTON ROADS HOV SCHEDULE, TUNNELS AND OTHER INFORMATION:

I-64/I-264/I-564 HOV Diamond Lanes and 64 Express Lanes: HOV restrictions and express lanes tolls are lifted on Thursday, July 4, and HOV restrictions are not enforced on Sundays. The 64 Express Lanes in Norfolk are free and open to motorists outside of normal operating hours, including Sundays. To learn more about the 64 Express Lanes, click here.

I-64 Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT): Local traffic to Virginia Beach is encouraged to use the I-664 Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel (MMMBT) as an alternative to the HRBT. If traveling to Virginia Beach, take I-664 south to the MMMBT. Then take the Portsmouth/Norfolk exit (exit 15A) to I-264 east to Virginia Beach.

Travel to Outer Banks: Local traffic to the North Carolina Outer Banks should use I-664 and the MMMBT to save time. From I-664 south, take I-64 west to exit 292, Chesapeake Expressway/I-464/Route 17. Keep left to continue to the Chesapeake Expressway (Route 168), and take Nags Head/Great Bridge (exit 291B) to the Outer Banks.

STAY SAFE

Be cautious behind the wheel. Your actions impact yourself, your passengers and everyone else on the road. Do your part in making travel safer for all:

If you plan to drink, have a designated driver
Buckle up
Keep your eyes on the road
Take a break if you are drowsy
Don’t drive distracted, and speak up if someone else is doing so

REAL-TIME TRAFFIC INFO IS AT YOUR FINGERTIPS

VDOT’s 511 app offers information about construction, traffic, incidents and congestion as well as access to traffic cameras, weather and more. The free mobile VDOT 511 app is available online. Traffic information is also available at 511Virginia.org, or by calling 511 from any phone.

To report a road problem or get answers to your transportation questions, call VDOT’s Customer Service Center at 800-FOR-ROAD (800-367-7623) around the clock.

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Governor Northam announces approval of new teacher education degrees and programs

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced on June 24, that the state policy boards for elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education have approved 53 new teacher preparation programs and 25 new degrees that will allow graduates to become teachers after earning four-year degrees in education.

“We must remain focused on meeting the growing needs of our public education system to prepare the Commonwealth’s students for success and secure Virginia’s economic future,” said Governor Northam. “As we work to strengthen Virginia’s educator pipeline, I am pleased to see the approval of these comprehensive changes that will create new pathways to the classroom and help increase both the supply and the diversity of quality teachers in the Commonwealth.”

On May 14, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) approved new degree programs at seven of the Commonwealth’s public institutions of higher education. The Board of Education, which sets standards for all teacher preparation programs in the state, followed with its approval of the new public preparation programs on June 20. The Board also approved new preparation programs at eight private colleges and universities.

“Eliminating the barrier of extra years of schooling traditionally required for teacher licensure will encourage more students to pursue teaching careers,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “I am excited to see this increase in quality teachers impact the Commonwealth’s students for years to come.”

Two state advisory panels—the Task Force for Diversifying Virginia’s Educator Pipeline in 2016 and the Advisory Committee on Teacher Shortages in 2017—recommended that the Commonwealth allow new teachers to enter the profession with undergraduate degrees in education. The legislation approved by the 2018 General Assembly in response to the recommendations included House Bill 1125, sponsored by Delegates R. Steven Landes; Senate Bill 76, sponsored by Senator Barbara A. Favola; and Senate Bill 349, sponsored by Senator Mark J. Peake. The bills amended Section 22.1-298 of the Code of Virginia to allow colleges and universities to offer undergraduate degrees in education.

“I thank our partners in higher education for their swift response to the needs of our schools and students,” said Board of Education President Daniel Gecker. “I believe that increasing the number of four-year routes to the classroom will lead to an increase in the number of men and women choosing teaching as a career and eventually to an easing of the teacher shortage.”

The new degree programs at George Mason University, James Madison University, Old Dominion University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia State University, William & Mary, Ferrum College, Liberty University, Marymount University, Randolph College, Roanoke College, Shenandoah University, Sweet Briar College and the University of Lynchburg were created in response to legislation approved by the 2018 General Assembly.

“Right now, Virginia teachers are in high demand but in short supply,” said SCHEV Director Peter Blake. “This new streamlined approach will improve Virginia’s production of qualified teachers. We are grateful to the institutions for recognizing the need and moving rapidly to address it.”

The legislation broadened the definition of teacher preparation programs in the Commonwealth to include programs culminating in four-year degrees in education, in addition to programs resulting in bachelor’s degrees in the arts and sciences.

The newly approved education endorsement programs offered by public universities in the Commonwealth are as follows:

• George Mason University—Early/Primary Education, Elementary Education, Special Education-General Curriculum, Special Education-Adapted Curriculum, Special Education-Blindness and Visual Impairments, and Special Education-Early Childhood
• James Madison University—Early/Primary Education, Elementary Education, Middle Education, English, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Physics, Special Education-General Curriculum, Special Education-Adapted Curriculum, and Special Education-Early Childhood
• Old Dominion University—Career and Technical Education-Technology, Career and Technical Education-Marketing, Early/Primary Education, Elementary Education, and Special Education-General Curriculum
• University of Virginia—Early/Primary Education, Elementary Education, and Special Education-General Curriculum
• Virginia Commonwealth University—Early/Primary Education, Elementary Education, Engineering, Health and Physical Education, and Special Education-General Curriculum
• Virginia State University—Elementary Education, Middle Education, and Special Education-General Curriculum
• William & Mary—Elementary Education (optional Special Education-General Curriculum add-on endorsement)

The seven public universities project that when the new programs are running at full enrollment, their combined annual teacher production will increase by more than 400 new teachers over current levels.

“Several of these new programs will address critical shortage areas, including elementary education, middle education, special education, mathematics and science,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said. “These additional teachers will make a big difference as the Virginia Department of Education works in partnership with local school divisions to ensure that every child in the Commonwealth is taught by a fully qualified teacher.”

The newly approved education endorsement programs offered by private colleges and universities in the Commonwealth are as follows:

• Ferrum College—Elementary Education
• Liberty University—Elementary Education (optional Special Education-General Curriculum add-on endorsement), Elementary Education (optional Middle Education endorsement), and Special Education-General Curriculum
• Marymount University—Elementary Education and Special Education-General Curriculum
• Randolph College—Elementary Education
• Roanoke College—Elementary Education
• Shenandoah University—Elementary Education (optional Special Education-General Curriculum add-on endorsement), Middle Education (optional Special Education-General Curriculum add-on endorsement), Biology (optional Special Education-General Curriculum add-on endorsement), Chemistry (optional Special Education-General Curriculum add-on endorsement), English (optional Special Education-General Curriculum add-on endorsement), History and Social Sciences (optional Special Education-General Curriculum add-on endorsement), and Mathematics (optional Special Education-General Curriculum add-on endorsement)
• Sweet Briar College—Elementary Education
• University of Lynchburg—Elementary Education and Special Education-General Curriculum

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