Governor Ralph Northam announced the first ever comprehensive International Trade Strategic Plan for Virginia. The plan lays out an aggressive goal to expand the Commonwealth’s international trade output by 50 percent over the next 15 years, increasing Virginia’s position from 41st in exports per capita to the top 20 states for exports per capita by 2035.
Governor Northam presented the plan at the 71st Virginia Conference on World Trade, where he highlighted specific initiatives that support existing Virginia businesses in building their capabilities and expanding networks and markets, while also attracting and promoting export-intensive companies that can serve as anchors and growth-drivers for Virginia’s economy.
“International trade is a powerful economic engine for our Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “Maintaining Virginia’s position as the best state to do business and ensuring that all regions of the Commonwealth can participate in our economic growth requires that we boost our international trade. Virginia has a great deal to offer, including the East Coast’s deepest port, and we are committed to doing more to support and promote growth-minded companies as they successfully expand into global markets. I am proud of the many partners collaborating to meet our aggressive goals in this area, and help position the Commonwealth to be more competitive in a globally connected economy.”
Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball and Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring led a steering committee comprised of prominent business leaders from around Virginia and staff from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), the Port of Virginia, and other state agencies in developing the plan. The group engaged hundreds of companies, a dozen state and federal agencies and trade associations, and many state, regional, and local leaders across the public and private sectors, geographies, and industries, ensuring the final recommendations represent a broad cross-section of Virginians.
“I would like to commend everyone involved in this ambitious undertaking, particularly the members of the International Trade Plan Steering Committee, to analyze Virginia’s strengths and opportunities in the international trade arena and to develop a bold plan to increase Virginia exports by 50 percent,” said Secretary of Agriculture Bettina Ring. “The initiatives included in this plan will positively impact every region of the Commonwealth, from rural to urban, and every industry, including agriculture and forestry, making Virginia’s economy even stronger and more resilient.”
“Virginia has best-in-class export promotion programs to help businesses enter global markets and attract large-scale, export-intensive companies,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “The International Trade Strategic Plan represents an unprecedented partnership to move the Commonwealth forward as a major player in international trade and help Virginia’s businesses become more competitive in the global marketplace, resulting in increased exports and new job creation across the Commonwealth.”
While Virginia has highly-regarded international trade development programs and a long track record of supporting export growth with partner companies of all sizes, the Commonwealth still trails other states in international trade activity. Virginia’s exports per capita rank 41st in the country, and 38th in imports as a share of gross state product.
The International Trade Strategic Plan identifies 26 initiatives across three categories to support existing companies with international trade and to attract and expand trade-intensive businesses to Virginia:
• Exports: Expand the capacity of state agencies to build capabilities, facilitate connections, and share risk with Virginia firms that export
• International Supply Chains: Increase focus of state agencies to build capabilities and facilitate connections for firms that import critical elements of their supply chains
• Business Attraction, Infrastructure, Tourism, and Other Enablers: Fully align business expansion and recruitment activity with international trade efforts; advocate for critical investments in logistics infrastructure and tourism strategies; enhance the Commonwealth’s ability to serve Virginia businesses through increased coordination among agencies; and engage state and federal leaders strategically and systematically to raise awareness of trade issues
These initiatives have the potential to double the number of internationally trading firms that the Commonwealth supports, adding nearly $18 billion in annual exports and well over 150,000 high-quality jobs. This increase in exports and jobs will position Virginia as a leader in export activity, diversify the Commonwealth’s economy, and contribute to a better quality of life in communities across all regions of Virginia.
Since taking office, Governor Northam has hosted ambassadors from Mexico, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Indonesia, and Switzerland at the Executive Mansion in Richmond to discuss the Commonwealth’s international trade relationships and encourage investment in Virginia.
The Governor also presented the 2019 Commonwealth of Virginia Governor’s Award for Excellence in International Trade to The Turman Group, an operator of lumber facilities, land development, and other vertically integrated companies, located in Carroll County. The annual award recognizes a Virginia business that has increased its international sales while promoting the best interests of its employees and the surrounding community. The Turman Group joined VEDP’s flagship Virginia Leaders in Export Trade (VALET) Program in February 2008 and graduated in January 2010. Since then, the company has grown its annual sales to $120 million and is active in more than 30 countries globally.
The International Trade Strategic Plan for the Commonwealth of Virginia is available here.
Richmond Circuit Court upholds Executive Order Forty-Nine
RICHMOND—The Richmond Circuit Court today upheld Governor Ralph Northam’s decision, outlined in Executive Order Forty-Nine, to temporarily ban firearms on Capitol grounds from 5:00 PM on Friday, January 17, 2020 until 5:00 PM on Tuesday, January 21, 2020. The Governor said that law enforcement intelligence analysts had identified credible threats of violence surrounding the event, along with white nationalist rhetoric and plans by out-of-state militia groups to attend.
Governor Northam issued the following statement:
This is the right decision. I took this action to protect Virginians from credible threats of violence. These threats are real—as evidenced by reports of neo-Nazis arrested this morning after discussing plans to head to Richmond with firearms.
I’m grateful to the Circuit Court for recognizing the seriousness of these threats, and for upholding this reasonable, legal action to protect all Virginians, including demonstrators and policymakers. I will continue to do everything in my power to keep Virginians safe.
Governor Northam declares State of Emergency in advance of Capitol Square demonstration
On January 15th, Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in advance of expected demonstrations on Capitol Square on Monday, January 20, 2020. According to the Governor, law enforcement intelligence analysts have identified credible threats of violence surrounding the event, along with white nationalist rhetoric and plans by out-of-state militia groups to attend.
The Governor’s declaration prohibits all weapons, including firearms, from Capitol grounds, and will provide joint law enforcement and public safety agencies the resources they need to keep demonstrators, policymakers, and all Virginians safe.
This emergency declaration is temporary, and extends from Friday, January 17 at 5:00 PM until Tuesday, January 21 at 5:00 PM.
Watch the Governors comments:
Attorney General Herring says he’ll continue to fight to protect student borrowers
~ Herring joins coalition of attorneys general in commending Congressional effort to reject the U.S. Department of Education’s 2019 Borrower Defense Rule that would hurt students ~
RICHMOND (January 14, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined a coalition of states in supporting Congressional efforts to reject a final rule by the U.S. Department of Education that fails to protect students and taxpayers from the misconduct of unscrupulous schools. In a letter to Congress, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues commended efforts to reject the U.S. Department of Education’s 2019 Borrower Defense Rule. Previously, Attorney General Herring won a victory in federal court after he challenged the U.S. Department of Education’s plan to abruptly rescind the 2016 Borrower Defense Rule.
“Time and again the Trump Administration has shown that it favors protecting for-profit colleges over protecting student borrowers,” said Attorney General Herring. “This new Borrower Defense Rule will hurt student borrowers and leave them without options to discharge their loans if they have been defrauded by one of these for-profit schools. I will continue to fight to make sure that for-profit colleges are held accountable and student borrowers are afforded the protections they deserve.”
According to the letter, the final rule provides no realistic prospect for borrowers to discharge their loans when they have been defrauded by predatory for-profit schools, and it eliminates financial responsibility requirements for those same institutions.
“If this rule goes into effect, the result will be disastrous for students while providing a windfall to abusive schools,” the letter states.
The U.S. Department of Education’s new rule would rescind and replace its comprehensive 2016 Borrower Defense Rule, which involved a thorough rulemaking process addressing borrower defense and financial responsibility, in which the views of numerous schools, stakeholders, and public commenters were involved. The 2016 Borrower Defense Rule provided defrauded borrowers with a transparent process to seek debt relief and protected taxpayers by holding schools that engage in misconduct accountable.
According to the letter, the Department’s new rule provides an unworkable process for defrauded students to obtain loan relief and will do nothing to deter and hold accountable schools that cheat their students. Instead of ensuring that borrowers are not bearing the costs of institutional misconduct, the Department’s new rule empowers predatory for-profit schools and cuts off relief to victimized students.
In October 2018, Attorney General Herring announced that a federal judge rejected the Trump Administration’s challenge to the Borrower Defense Rule, ordering its immediate implementation for students nationwide. This ruling followed a victory Attorney General Herring won in federal court after he and a coalition of state attorneys general challenged the U.S. Department of Education’s plan to abruptly rescind its Borrower Defense Rule which was designed to hold abusive higher education institutions accountable for cheating students and taxpayers out of billions of dollars in federal loans. The immediate implementation of the Borrower Defense rule meant that the U.S. Department of Education had to automatically discharge $381 million in loans for students whose schools closed.
Attorney General Herring has taken major actions against for-profit colleges for misleading students. In November 2015, for-profit education company Education Management Corporation announced it would significantly reform its recruiting and enrollment practices and forgive more than $2.29 million in loans for approximately 2,000 former students in Virginia through an agreement with the Attorney General and a group of state attorneys general. Nationwide, the agreement required the for-profit college company to forgive $102.8 million in outstanding loan debt held by more than 80,000 former students.
In December 2016, the Attorney General announced that more than 5,000 Virginia students formerly enrolled in schools operated by Corinthian Colleges, Inc. may be eligible for loan forgiveness. This came after the U.S Department of Education found that Corinthian College and its subsidiaries published misleading job placement rates for many programs between 2010 and 2014. Following this announcement, Attorney General Herring urged Secretary DeVos and the Department of Education to follow through on their commitment to cancel student debt for students in Virginia and around the country who were victimized by Corinthian Colleges’ practices.
Attorney General Herring announced in January of 2019 that he and 48 other attorneys general reached a settlement with for-profit education company Career Education Corporation. The terms of the settlement required CED to reform its recruiting and enrollment practices and forgo collecting about $493.7 million in debts owed by 179,529 students nationally. In Virginia, 3,094 students will receive relief totaling $8,022,178.
Joining Attorney General Herring in sending today’s letter are the attorneys general of California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
December 2019 General Fund revenue collections up 7.6% from previous year, fiscal-year-to-date collections up 8.3%
On January 13th, Governor Ralph Northam announced that total general fund revenues rose 7.6 percent in December, driven by solid growth in payroll withholding, sales and use taxes, and recordation tax collections. On a fiscal year-to-date basis, total revenue collections rose 8.3 percent through December, well ahead of the annual forecast of 1.9 percent growth.
“This continued strong revenue performance gives us confidence that we can achieve the forward-looking agenda I have laid out, while also putting money into our cash reserves,” said Governor Northam. “As the General Assembly session gets underway in Richmond, we have a unique opportunity to invest in our shared future, grow and diversify our economic base, and continue building on our progress.”
Collections of payroll withholding taxes rose 9.2 percent in December, with an additional deposit day compared with last year. Collections of sales and use taxes, reflecting November sales, rose 5.1 percent in December. November represents the beginning of the holiday shopping season and this year had fewer shopping days after Thanksgiving than last year.
“A clearer assessment of the season will be possible after receiving December sales tax payments due in January,” said Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne. “January non-withholding payments will also give us a better indication of taxpayer behavior for calendar 2019 tax returns.”
Collections of wills, suits, deeds, and contracts—mainly recordation tax collections—were $40.4 million in December, compared with $32.0 million in December of last year.
December is a significant month for corporate income tax collections as quarterly estimated payments are due for most corporations and refunds from extension returns are processed. With the main refunding season completed and the first two estimated payments received, collections of corporate income taxes grew 19.2 percent on a year-to-date basis, compared with the forecast of 2.2 percent growth.
Fiscal-year-to-date, payroll withholding collections have grown 5.8 percent, well ahead of the annual estimate of 4.7 percent growth. Collections of sales and use taxes have risen 8.1 percent, ahead of the annual estimate of 6.0 percent growth and recordation tax collections are up 29.0 percent, far ahead of the annual forecast of 13.2 percent growth. On a fiscal year-to-date basis, total revenue collections rose 8.3 percent through December, well ahead of the annual forecast of 1.9 percent growth.
Absentee voting for March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary starts this week
Registered voters may now request an absentee ballot for the March 3, 2020, Virginia Democratic Presidential Primary be mailed to them by going online to www.elections.virginia.gov/citizen-portal or find the form to fill out and mail to their local voter registration office at www.elections.virginia.gov/forms.
Virginia Republicans will choose delegates to their national convention at a state convention. Therefore, no Republican candidates will appear on the ballot in the March 3, 2020, Presidential Primary.
A list of the 20 acceptable reasons a voter can give to vote absentee in Virginia is available at www.elections.virginia.gov/absentee.
In-person absentee voting will begin on Thursday January 16, Friday January 17, or Saturday January 18, 2020, depending on office hours and observation of state holidays. If a voter is unsure when in-person absentee voting starts in their locality, they should contact their local voter registration office. They can find information about their local office at www.elections.virginia.gov/vro.
Other important absentee ballot dates to remember if voting in the March 3, 2020, Virginia Democratic Presidential Primary, include:
- The deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail is at 5pm on Tuesday February 25, 2020.
- The deadline to vote absentee in-person is on Saturday February 29, 2020.
- The deadline for returning your ballot by mail is on Election Day, Tuesday March 3, 2020.
Virginia voters casting an absentee ballot either in-person or on Election Day must show an acceptable photo ID. Voters can get a free Voter Photo ID at their local voter registration office. Voters who do not have an acceptable form of ID may still vote absentee in-person after completing the Virginia Voter Photo Identification Card Application and receiving a Temporary Identification Document from their voter registration office. Find out more about Virginia’s voter ID requirements at www.elections.virginia.gov/voterid.
The last day to register to vote or update voter registration information in order to vote in the March election is Monday February 10, 2020. More information on voter registration can be found online at www.elections.virginia.gov/registration.
For more information on the March 3, 2020, Virginia Democratic Presidential Primary or other election-related inquiries, go to vote.virginia.gov, send an email to email@example.com, or call the Virginia Department of Elections at (800) 552-9745.
Former Case Manager at Northwestern Community Services Board pleads guilty to federal charge
A former case manager at the Northwestern Community Services Board [NWCSB] pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg to illegally accessing the health care information of another individual, United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced today.
Melissa Thomas, 45, of Winchester, Va., pled guilty yesterday to one count of accessing the individually identifiable health care information of a minor child for whom she was not the case manager.
According to court documents, Thomas worked as a case manager at NWCSB from September 2009 through January 2014. In December 2013, an individual lodged a complaint that Thomas had accessed her minor child’s health record, breaching confidentially. Thomas was subsequently investigated by the NWSCB and the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services and it was determined she willfully and knowingly violated the law by illegally accessing the record of the minor child. Thomas was terminated from her employment for the illegal access on January 7, 2014.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the United States Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services Roanoke Field Office. Assistant United States Attorney Ronald M. Huber is prosecuted the case for the United States.