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Governor Northam announces new international partnerships for Virginia distilleries

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BERLIN—On June 19th, during a trade and marketing mission to Europe, Governor Ralph Northam announced new distribution partnerships for two Virginia craft distilleries, Catoctin Creek Distilling Company and Reservoir Distillery. The Office of International Marketing at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) supported Virginia company participation at a major international trade event for the bar and spirits industry where the two Virginia producers met their new distribution partners.

“Virginia distilleries provide a growing market for our Commonwealth’s agricultural products, and we are proud to support companies like Catoctin Creek and Reservoir as they pursue export opportunities and forge important relationships around the world,” said Governor Northam. “Foreign trade and investment are key to strengthening and diversifying our economy, and these two international partnerships are a perfect example Virginia’s commitment to helping businesses of all sizes explore new sales channels and compete both at home and abroad.”

“VDACS international marketing resources both in Virginia and in representative offices around the world are designed to introduce Virginia beverage, food, agriculture, and forestry companies to profitable sales opportunities. We are so pleased to see successes like this resulting from those efforts,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “Catoctin Creek and Reservoir, and many of the more than 70 distilleries around the Commonwealth, source grains such as corn, rye, and wheat from local producers, making these new sales opportunities successes not only for the spirits industry but also for all of Virginia agriculture. Some of their barrels are also made with Virginia oak.”

Founded by Becky and Scott Harris in 2009, Catoctin Creek was the first legal distillery in Loudoun County since before Prohibition. Catoctin Creek’s flagship product, Roundstone Rye, is a rye whiskey replicating traditional production methods and has been awarded gold medals across the globe. Catoctin Creek was first introduced to Hanseathische Weinhandelsgesellschaft Bremen (Hawe) at Bar Convent Berlin, where it participated in the “Virginia Is for Spirits Lovers”-themed booth hosted by VDACS. The VDACS European representative office identified Hawe as a potential German partner for Virginia distilleries and made the initial introduction to Catoctin Creek.

“We’d visited Germany a few times looking for the right partner in the market,” said Scott Harris, co-founder of Catoctin Creek. “The Virginia booth at Bar Convent and the effort made by the VDACS trade representative to bring prospective buyers to see us there gave us the visibility we’ve needed. We’re so excited for this opportunity with such a reputable importer of premium spirits.”

Based in Richmond, Reservoir Distillery crafts its award-winning whiskeys with Virginia grains. Its flagship wheat, rye, and bourbon whiskeys are 100 percent single-grain and bottled at 100 proof. Reservoir Distillery also met its new distribution partner in Germany, Hanseatische Weinhandelsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG, at Bar Convent Berlin.

“We have taken advantage of every opportunity VDACS has offered to expose us to international buyers and markets and are thankful Virginia has such valuable resources to assist small companies like ours with our export efforts,” said Dave Cuttino, co-founder and general manager of Reservoir. “We are excited to continue growing our brand in Europe.”

In 2018, Virginia exported $1.5 million in spirits to foreign markets, an increase of more than 13 percent over 2017. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States reports that distilled spirits exports grew more than 14 percent from 2014 to 2018.

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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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Governor Northam announces Virginia’s Unemployment Rate at 3.0%

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased 0.1 percentage point in May to 3.0 percent, which equals the rate from a year ago. In May, the labor force expanded for the eleventh consecutive month by 5,817, or 0.1 percent to set a new record high of 4,368,510, as the number of unemployed increased by 1,748. Household employment increased by 4,069 to set a new high of 4,239,506. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate, which was unchanged at 3.6 percent.

“Virginia’s growing and highly-skilled labor force continues to show the world that businesses can count on the Commonwealth’s robust talent pipeline to support their needs,” said Governor Northam. “However, even with a consistently low unemployment rate, we must remain focused on ensuring that every Virginian has the opportunity to participate in the Commonwealth’s economic progress. That’s why my administration working to maintain a competitive business environment and prioritizing investments in healthcare, education, and workforce development.”

Virginia has the lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate among the Southeast states. Virginia has the fourth best rate among the states east of the Mississippi along with Massachusetts. Virginia is ranked sixth in the nation for the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate along with Massachusetts and Nebraska.

“Virginia’s unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate, and a record-high number of workers in the labor force is a significant milestone,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “We just returned from a productive trade mission overseas, and this administration will continue to focus on economic development for every corner of the Commonwealth.”

Over-the-year employment growth in Virginia has been positive for 62 consecutive months. For May, Virginia’s over-the-year growth of 0.8 percent was less than the national rate. Nationally, over-the-year growth was slightly lower in May at 1.6 percent from 1.7 percent in April and March.

“Virginia’s record high labor force participation rate means that Virginians are more optimistic than ever about their job prospects,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “Our continually growing economy and strong workforce system make Virginia an ideal place to live, work, and do business.”

In May, the private sector recorded an over-the-year gain of 30,800 jobs, while employment in the public sector increased as well by 1,200 jobs. Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, eight of the eleven major industry divisions experienced employment gains, while the other three 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 to call Virginia General Assembly into Special Session to address gun violence

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that he will call members of the Virginia General Assembly into special session for the purpose of addressing gun violence in the Commonwealth.

“No one should go to work, to school, or to church wondering if they will come home,” said Governor Northam. “But that is what our society has come to, because we fail to act on gun violence… I will be asking for votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers.”

Governor Northam will announce the date of the special session in the coming days. His remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below. The governor’s remarks are also available on Facebook, here.

REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY:

Thank you, Secretary Moran. Good morning. Thanks to all of you for being in attendance. I’d like to start by thanking all of our first responders, state and local police, and public health and state officials for all that you do. It has been a long few days here in the Commonwealth.

12 years after the mass shooting at Virginia Tech, our Commonwealth has suffered another terrible tragedy.

Once more first responders displayed heroism, and ordinary Virginians showed extraordinary courage and compassion.

Once more, hearts are broken, lives are shattered, and families are crushed.

Once more, a community is in shock and pain and grief.

And once more we will hear folks offer their thoughts and prayers.

We do appreciate and need them. As I said this weekend in Virginia Beach, God is in control.

But we must do more than give our thoughts and prayers. We must give Virginians the action they deserve.

Virginia is heartbroken. We are heartbroken for the families who have lost their loved ones. Their lives are forever changed. The pain and suffering that Virginia Beach is experiencing is the same pain communities across Virginia and around the country suffer every day due to gun violence.

As an Army doctor, I have seen firsthand what a bullet does to a body, and I saw it again this weekend. I can’t imagine the devastation these families are suffering.

It is wrong, it is outrageous, it is unforgivable to turn our municipal centers, our schools, our churches and synagogues and mosques, into battlefields. No one should go to work, to school, or to church wondering if they will come home. Our elementary school children regularly practice lockdown drills. That is what our society has come to, because we have failed to act on gun violence.

It is wrong that we now view these mass shootings as the new normal. In fact, it is wrong that we view gun violence in general as the new normal. Tragic mass shootings draw our attention, but shootings happen in our communities every day. A 15-year-old boy was shot and killed in Norfolk Sunday. A little girl was shot and killed at a cookout in Richmond on Memorial Day weekend. Four people were shot, and one killed, in Portsmouth this past weekend.

It is past time to change it.

Back in January, I asked the Virginia General Assembly to work with me to stop this violence. I asked them to ban magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

I asked them to make background checks universal—a policy that 90 percent of the public supports. I asked them to create an Extreme Risk Protective Order – a way for law enforcement to ask a court to keep guns away from someone who poses a substantial danger to themselves or others, a concept supported by President Trump’s own School Safety Task Force.

I asked them to reinstate Virginia’s successful “One Handgun a Month” policy. I asked for tougher penalties for anyone who leaves a loaded gun around a child, and to require anyone whose gun has been stolen to report the theft within 24 hours.

And I have supported, and will continue to support, legislation giving localities more authority to regulate firearms, including in their own government buildings.

None of these ideas are radical. None of them violate the Second Amendment. None of them would impair any of my fellow Virginia hunters or sportsmen.

None of them would limit anyone from owning a gun who wasn’t a felon or a domestic abuser or declared by a judge to be a danger.

And none of them passed. In fact, some failed with just four votes against them in small subcommittees.

We lost 1,028 Virginians due to gun violence in 2017. That’s almost three people a day. Incredibly, that is more deaths than those due to vehicle accidents.

This weekend’s tragedy, as well as the tragedies that happen every day across Virginia, must instill in us a new level of urgency to act. If we can save one life because we acted now, it is worth it.

And so, by the power vested in me by Article IV, Section 6, and Article V, Section 5 of the Constitution of Virginia, I will summon the members of the Senate and the House of Delegates to meet in Special Session for the purpose of passing common sense public safety laws.

I will propose many of the same ideas that we have proposed before:

• Universal background checks;
• A ban on assault weapons, to include suppressors and bump stocks;
• An extreme risk protective order;
• Reinstating the one-gun-a-month law;
• Child access prevention;
• Requiring people to report lost and stolen firearms; and
• Expanding local authority to regulate firearms, including in government buildings.

I will be asking for votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers.

And I ask that the Members of the General Assembly engage in an open and transparent debate, and that the bills brought before the legislature are put to a vote by the entire General Assembly.

That is why our legislators are voted into office and sent to Richmond.

Business as usual, with leadership shielding most of their members from taking tough votes by setting early morning hearings before small subcommittees, won’t cut it. Virginians deserve leadership, and they will be watching. The nation will be watching.

From the moment the first shots were fired in Virginia Beach, our first responders knew what to do. They rushed to the sound of the gunfire. They responded in less than two minutes to the shooting. Our first responders acted to save lives—and indeed, they did save lives.

Now, I am calling on the elected officials of this Commonwealth to become second responders. Your duty is clear: rush to the scene, and put a stop to this violence. Heal our Commonwealth. Show Virginians that it doesn’t matter what party you are in, we are all Virginians first, and we care about the safety and security of every Virginian, no matter who they are or where they live.

There will be those—there are already those—who say it’s too soon after the tragedy to talk about responses. I would ask those people, when is the right time?

Delay only means what it always means—that there will be a next time, another tragedy, more deaths of innocent people, and when it happens, those same voices will again proclaim that it is too soon to talk about protecting our citizens.

I want this to be the last time.

I know this will be hard. Doing the right thing is often hard. But this work is not nearly as difficult as the task ahead for the Virginia Beach families who now have to carry on. Or for the more than a thousand Virginia families who lost a loved one due to gun violence.

It is right to respond to this tragedy with decisive action. Let Virginia set an example for the nation that we can respond to tragedy with action. That we can turn pain into purpose.

Let’s get to work.

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Governor Northam announces process to reinstate suspended driver’s licenses to begin July 1

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A sample Virginia driver's license. (Virginia DMV)

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is preparing to send letters to Virginians whose driving privileges are suspended for failure to pay court fines and costs to advise them of any specific requirements for obtaining their driver’s licenses. Governor Northam’s budget includes a provision that prohibits courts from suspending driving privileges solely for failure to pay court fines and costs, effective July 1, 2019. Also beginning July 1, any Virginian whose driver’s license has been suspended for that single reason will have his or her driving privileges restored, and the associated reinstatement fee waived.

“Earlier this year, I was proud to sign legislation to ending the counterproductive practice of suspending driving privileges for failure to pay court fines and costs,” said Governor Northam. “I appreciate the hard work taking place at the DMV now to ensure that starting July 1, hundreds of thousands of impacted Virginians will be able to move their lives forward.”

The change only affects a person’s ability to get his or her driver’s license. It does not eliminate the requirement to pay the underlying court costs and fines. Additionally, Virginians whose driving privileges are suspended or revoked for other reasons, in addition to failure to pay court fines and costs, will need to meet any other court or DMV requirements to include payment of reinstatement fees to regain their driving privileges.

“DMV is sending letters to more than half a million Virginians whose lives could be transformed by giving them access to jobs, education, healthcare, and opportunity––once again,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine.

“It is long overdue that Virginia end its inequitable practice of suspending driving privileges for failure to pay court fines and costs,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “This is a significant step in the right direction toward getting Virginians back to work and enabling them to support their families.”

DMV advises its offices will be extremely busy in the summer months. To avoid longer than normal waits, customers are encouraged to use alternative services such as the website, dmvNOW.com, mail, and DMV Selects locations for routine services.

“Virginians who still have their physical unexpired license and have proof of legal presence on file with DMV will be reinstated July 1 and can go about driving without coming to DMV for a new license,” said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb. “There are other customers whose licenses have expired or need to meet other statutory requirements to get their licenses. The letters those customers will receive will outline all of those requirements. So, the most important thing Virginians can do right now is to visit dmvNOW.com to make sure your mailing address is up-to-date with DMV so you receive this important information.”

For more information, visit www.dmvNOW.com/fac.

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Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
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Learn and practice the art of botanical drawing in pencil with local artist and instructor Elena Maza. Tuesdays: 1:30pm – 4:00pm, July 9th – 30th. Classes will be held in our upstairs studio at 205[...]
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6:30 pm Pour Me Another Fluid Art @ Strokes of Creativity
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Botanical Drawing 1 @ Art in the Valley
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Learn and practice the art of botanical drawing in pencil with local artist and instructor Elena Maza. Tuesdays: 1:30pm – 4:00pm, July 9th – 30th. Classes will be held in our upstairs studio at 205[...]

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