RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that the upcoming limited series The Good Lord Bird will film in Virginia this summer. The new SHOWTIME® limited series, produced by Blumhouse Television, is based on the National Book Award-winning novel, by the same name, from bestselling author James McBride.
Oscar®, Golden Globe® and Tony® nominee Ethan Hawke will star as 19th-century abolitionist John Brown and is co-writing and executive producing, along with McBride; award-winning author, producer and Virginia native Mark Richard (The Ice at the Bottom of the World and Hell on Wheels); Albert Hughes (Menace II Society, Dead Presidents), who will also direct multiple episodes; Jason Blum, Marci Wiseman and Jeremy Gold, for Blumhouse Television (Sharp Objects, The Loudest Voice, The Purge); Brian Taylor; Ryan Hawke (First Reformed); David Schiff (Southpaw); and Marshall Persinger (Rectify).
The Good Lord Bird is told from the point of view of Onion, an enslaved teenager who joins Brown during the time of Bleeding Kansas, eventually participating in the famous 1859 raid on the Army depot at Harpers Ferry. Brown’s raid failed to initiate the slave revolt he intended, but is often cited as the instigating event that started the Civil War.
Production of the eight-part limited series will begin in Central Virginia this summer. The Good Lord Bird marks another major project filming in Virginia in 2019, following an announcement regarding AMC’s popular The Walking Dead franchise.
“The Good Lord Bird will be a fantastic showcase of all that our Commonwealth has to offer,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia has emerged as a popular destination for lucrative film and television productions, a hard-earned reflection of our film-friendly atmosphere, talented workers, and unparalleled scenery.”
“Virginia is the perfect production home for The Good Lord Bird,” said Marci Wiseman and Jeremy Gold, co-presidents of Blumhouse Television. “The state’s visual backdrop lends itself beautifully to what we are looking to bring to the screen, the talent in the state is top notch and of course, Virginia has a historical relevance to this story.”
“Virginia’s film, television, and new media industries continue to develop every year,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “We look forward to the significant benefit that this continued growth will have for the Virginia economy. The Commonwealth has become a leader in a variety of evolving, tech-based industries, and pursuing growth in the globally-expanding production arena offers a natural, lucrative complement to our existing economic strengths.”
“Blumhouse has become synonymous with high-quality content, with such recent successes as the critically-acclaimed BlacKkKlansman, Whiplash, Get Out and Us,” said Director of the Virginia Film Office Andy Edmunds. “We are grateful to Mark Richard, Ethan Hawke, Jason Blum and the entire Blumhouse team for choosing to produce this consequential project in Virginia. This truly solidifies the Commonwealth as a favored destination among filmmakers, and a rising competitor in this desirable industry.”
The Good Lord Bird will be eligible to receive a Virginia film tax credit or grant. The exact amount will be based on the number of Virginia workers hired, Virginia goods and services purchased, and deliverables including Virginia tourism promotions.
The Virginia Film Office is part of the Virginia Tourism Corporation, the state agency charged with marketing the state of Virginia. Tourism is an instant revenue generator in Virginia. In 2017, visitors spent $25 billion, supporting 232,000 jobs and contributing $1.73 billion in state and local taxes.
For information about Virginia’s film production industry, please visit the Virginia Film Office website at www.filmvirginia.org.
For information about Virginia tourism, please visit www.virginia.org.
Governor Northam to call Virginia General Assembly into Special Session to address gun violence
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.
Governor Northam announces process to reinstate suspended driver’s licenses to begin July 1
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.
Governor’s Flag Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia
This is to order that the flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia is to be flown at half-staff over the state Capitol and all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds to honor the victims of the attack in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on May 31, 2019.
I hereby order that the flags shall be lowered until sunset, Saturday, June 8, 2019.
Ordered on this, the 1st day of June, 2019.
Five indicted in connection with Maryland-to-Virginia heroin pipeline that resulted in fatal overdose
HARRISONBURG , VIRGINIA – A federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment this week charging five individuals in connection with heroin trafficking from Maryland into Shenandoah County, Virginia that caused one fatal and one non-fatal overdose, United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced today.
In an indictment returned under seal on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 and unsealed this week after arrests were made, the grand jury has charged the following:
Craig Allen Kidwell, 52, and Norman Lynda Kidwell, 54, both of Mount Jackson, Va., were each charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 100 grams or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of heroin resulting in death and resulting in serious bodily injury and one count of distribution and possession with the intent to distribute resulting in the death of J.H. and the serious bodily injury of J.W.
James Harold Lichliter, 52, of Mauretown, Va., Stacy Allen Marston, 42, of Woodstock, Va., and Jonathan Dale Neice, 42, of Woodstock, Va., were each charged with one count of distribution and possession with the intent to distribute resulting in the death of J.H. and the serious bodily injury of J.W.
“Over the last two years, more Americans have died from fatal opioid overdoses than the total number of troops killed during the Vietnam War,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated. “In order to mitigate this public health crisis, we will aggressively prosecute street dealers and corrupt health-care providers whose unlawful activities directly result in harm to others. I am particularly grateful for the hard work and determination of our state and local partners in Shenandoah County in bringing everyone involved in this deadly distribution chain to justice. I also appreciate the valuable assistance provided by our federal partners in Maryland in this case, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland and the Drug Enforcement Administration.”
“The resulting indictments should serve as a warning of what will happen to those who make it their business to exploit and profit from the members of our community. We will remain relentless with our local partners in holding drug dealers accountable for poisoning our citizens,” stated Special Agent in Charge Jesse R. Fong of the Drug Enforcement Administration Washington Division
According to the indictment, beginning around June 2017 a Maryland-based drug-trafficking network began selling controlled substances to Virginia-based drug traffickers, who, in turn, transported those drugs to Shenandoah County for redistribution.
Defendants Craig Kidwell and his wife Norma Kidwell are alleged to have repeatedly traveled from their home in Shenandoah County to Maryland to obtain heroin from the Maryland-based drug-trafficking organization. At times, the heroin Craig Kidwell and Norma Kidwell obtained from their Maryland-based source was mixed with other drugs, such as fentanyl and acetyl fentanyl.
After obtaining heroin, Craig Kidwell and Norma Kidwell transported the drugs back to Shenandoah County where the drugs were redistributed to others, including, but not limited to, co-defendants Lichliter, Marston, and Neice, who redistributed the drugs to others around Shenandoah County.
As claimed in the indictment, as a direct result of the defendants’ drug distribution activities, two overdoses occurred, one of which resulted in the death of victim J.H.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Virginia State Police, Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, and Woodstock Police Department with the assistance of the Shenandoah County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland. Assistant United States Attorney Grayson A. Hoffman will prosecute the case for the United States.
A Grand Jury Indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. The defendants are entitled to a fair trial with the burden on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Governor Northam celebrates Virginia’s 13-spot jump to seventh place in U.S. News Best States ranking
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today celebrated Virginia’s jump to seventh place in the U.S. News 2019 Best States Rankings, representing a 13-spot jump from 20th in 2018. In calculating the rankings, each of eight categories was assigned weightings based on the average of three years of data from an annual national survey that asked a total of more than 50,000 people to prioritize each subject in their state. The data behind the rankings aims to show how well states serve their residents in a variety of ways. In addition to healthcare and education, the metrics consider a state’s economy, infrastructure, fiscal stability, public safety, natural environment, and the opportunity it affords its residents.
Virginia experienced the most significant improvements in its rankings from 2018 to 2019 in the categories of healthcare (from 29th to 18th), education (from 12th to 7th), economy (from 30th to 25th), and fiscal stability (from 14th to 8th).
“In Virginia, we are laser focused on growing and diversifying our economy, driving innovation, and bringing jobs and prosperity to all corners of the Commonwealth—and as a result we are making steady progress toward restoring Virginia’s standing as the top-ranked business destination in the country,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia’s rise to from 20th to 7th in the U.S. News Best States ranking is evidence that our priorities of expanding healthcare, investing in education, and creating economic opportunity are paying off. I look forward to building on this momentum with our state, local, and regional partners across the Commonwealth.”
“We work tirelessly with many public and private sector partners to make Virginia more competitive, and it is gratifying that our efforts have been recognized by improved third-party rankings from an international news outlet like U.S. News,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “We are moving in the right direction, and remain committed to focusing on the key areas for improvement that will push Virginia forward.”
Virginia recently has moved up in several business climate rankings, including those published by CNBC, Forbes, Site Selection, and Chief Executive. Most recently, Virginia improved from 15th to 13th in Chief Executive’s Best and Worst States for Business. The latest Chief Executive ranking was based on a national survey of business executives conducted from late February to mid-March of this year.
“I am very grateful for all that Governor Northam and the General Assembly have been doing to improve Virginia’s business climate and make us more competitive for economic development opportunities, said VEDP President and CEO Stephen Moret. “With the full implementation of several recently funded initiatives, such as Virginia’s historic tech-talent investment program and a big investment in rural broadband, as well as new initiatives focused on marketing Virginia for business, preparing sites for development, and launching a world-class custom workforce solutions program, Virginia will be poised for additional improvements in our national rankings and more economic development wins.”
“Recent investments in and modernizations across Virginia’s education continuum are better preparing our workforce to drive Virginia’s economy forward,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “Providing every Virginian the opportunity to access high quality education at every level is a top priority for the Commonwealth, and our shared commitment to that will build a strong foundation for Virginia’s success for decades to come.”
Governor Northam recognizes Virginia Police Week and Peace Officers Memorial Day
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam has issued a proclamation declaring May 12–18, 2019, as Virginia Police Week, and May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day in the Commonwealth.
Both National Police Week and National Peace Officers Memorial Day have been recognized every year since 1962, when President John F. Kennedy signed the first proclamation to honor the men and women who work to protect our communities, often at great personal sacrifice.
“I am proud to recognize the brave and selfless service of Virginia’s law enforcement officers who face countless risks in the line of duty each and every day,” said Governor Northam. “In observing Virginia Police Week and Peace Officers Memorial Day, we also honor the memories of fallen officers and express our gratitude for the tremendous sacrifices made by officers and their families in order to protect our communities and ensure our Commonwealth remains a safe place to live, work, and raise a family.”
“Law enforcement is a challenging and often dangerous profession,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran. “We are proud of the men and women in Virginia who make this daily sacrifice to ensure our safety, and I encourage all Virginians to take a moment this week and thank these courageous officers.”
There are approximately 22,500 men and women serving as law enforcement officers in Virginia. In 2018, one Virginia law enforcement officer died in the line of duty and over 1,400 were victims of offenses ranging from a simple assault to aggravated assault.*
*Statistics generated from the VA UCR files that the Department of Criminal Justice Services Research Center receives from the Virginia State Police and from the Officer Down Memorial Page.