Governor Ralph Northam announced on June 23, 2021, that Virginia’s unemployment rate dropped 0.2-percentage point to 4.5 percent in May, which is 4.0 percentage points below the rate from one year ago. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continues to be below the national rate of 5.8 percent.
“More people are working in Virginia and our recovery is outpacing the rest of the country,” said Governor Northam. “This week, we reached the 70 percent vaccination benchmark, and we did it two weeks ahead of the nationwide July 4 target. In the weeks and months ahead, we will remain focused on helping the communities that COVID-19 hit hardest and making sure all Virginians have the resources they need to thrive.”
Virginia had the third-lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, along with Kentucky, among the Southeast states. The only states with lower unemployment were Alabama and Georgia.
“Virginia’s unemployment rate continues to drop and more people are returning to the workforce—two important indications about the strength of our economy,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “It’s vitally important that every Virginian does their civic duty and gets vaccinated, so we can maintain this positive momentum.”
Total nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 3,500 jobs in May. The labor force increased by 4,042 to 4,229,852, as the number of unemployed residents decreased by 8,061. The number of employed residents rose by 12,103 to 4,040,585. In May 2021, Virginia saw over-the-year job gains of 7.0 percent.
“With over 4.2 million Virginians fully vaccinated, we are reaching what looks like the final stages of this pandemic,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “Our Administration is committed to helping Virginians return to work and make sure that they have the skills and support they need to thrive in the post-pandemic job market.”
The private sector recorded an over-the-year gain of 256,900 jobs, while employment in the public sector lost 1,600 jobs in May. Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, nine of the 11 major industry divisions experienced employment gains. The largest over-the-year job increase occurred in leisure and hospitality, up 104,600 jobs, or 45.7 percent. The next largest over-the-year job increase occurred in trade, transportation, and utilities, up 59,800 jobs, or 10.0 percent. Education and health services experienced the third-largest over-the-year job increase of 31,500 jobs or 6.3 percent.
For a greater statistical breakdown, visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website at vec.virginia.gov.
Herring has filed an amicus brief defending Florida’s law limiting the sale of firearms to people aged 21 and up
RICHMOND (October 26, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring is defending a Florida law limiting the sale of firearms to people aged 21 and up. Attorney General Herring has joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit arguing that states have the right to enact reasonable, age-based firearms regulations that protect public safety and reduce the prevalence of gun violence.
In September, Attorney General Herring helped successfully defend a longstanding federal gun safety law after he and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh filed a similar amicus brief defending the decades-old law that limits the sale of handguns to those age 21 and older.
“Almost every state across the country, including Virginia, has implemented some kind of age-based restrictions on the sale of firearms,” said Attorney General Herring. “Age-based firearm regulations have been used for decades to keep communities and people safe, and to help keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals. It’s critical that states have the ability to pass gun safety measures, like age-based restrictions, that meet their individual public safety goals.”
Attorney General Herring and his colleagues filed the brief in National Rifle Association v. Commissioner, Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The lawsuit challenges a provision of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act that generally prohibits the purchase of firearms by individuals under the age of 21. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim that the law infringes upon the Second Amendment rights of young people. A lower court, in this case, rejected that argument, holding that laws regulating the sale of firearms to young people are longstanding and constitutional.
In the brief, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that the Second Amendment gives states the ability to enact sensible regulations designed to protect the public, including age-based restrictions that limit the ability of people younger than 21 to purchase firearms. Although regulations differ based on each state’s needs, virtually every state and the District of Columbia have imposed some age-based restrictions on the sale or use of firearms, and at least 19 states and the District of Columbia have enacted a minimum age requirement of 21 for the sale or possession of certain categories of firearms. Similarly, courts across the country have consistently upheld age-based regulations, noting that the goal of these regulations is to deter crime and promote public safety.
Joining Attorney General Herring in filing the amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
Behavioral technician pleads guilty to unlawful wounding
RICHMOND (October 25, 2021) – Stacey Burrell, 57, of King William, has pled guilty today in New Kent Circuit Court to one count of felony unlawful wounding. The guilty plea is related to injuries suffered by a juvenile patient in 2019 at Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescents in New Kent County, while Burrell was employed at the hospital as a behavioral technician. A sentencing hearing, in this case, is scheduled for December 20, 2021.
“The conduct committed by this behavioral technician against a juvenile patient is truly awful and should never occur in a facility that is meant to treat and take care of children,” said Attorney General Herring. “My team and I are dedicated to protecting the vulnerable and holding those who harm their fellow Virginians accountable, especially when they harm our children.”
This guilty plea is part of an ongoing investigation into Cumberland Hospital by the Virginia State Police and was prosecuted by members of Attorney General Herring’s Major Crimes and Emerging Threats Section. Previously, former Cumberland Hospital psychotherapist Herschel “Mickey” Harden was indicted for two felony counts of sexual assault, however, he died by suicide before standing trial.
If anyone has additional information about these or other alleged crimes that may have occurred at Cumberland Hospital for Children and Adolescents they may contact the Virginia State Police’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations at (804) 537-6788.
Virginia Department of Education Board Brief – October 21, 2021 Business Meeting
October 21, 2021 Business Meeting
The Board approved the minutes of their meetings on September 22-23, 2021.
The Board adopted a resolution of recognition of the 2021 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching State Finalists. They are:
- Raymond Cotter, an engineering teacher William Fleming High in Roanoke;
- Stephanie Harry, a chemistry teacher at Tabb High in York County;
- Yvette Lee, a mathematics and computer science teacher at John Randolph Tucker High in Henrico County;
- Melinda Liebau, a mathematics teacher at Green Run Collegiate in Virginia Beach; and
- Geraldine Maskelony, a mathematics teacher at the Arlington Career Center in Arlington County.
The Board also adopted a resolution of recognition to commemorate November 2021 as Family Engagement in Education Month.
The Board approved four consent items:
- Certification of Qualified Persons for the Office of Division Superintendent of School
- Quarterly Report of the Literary Fund
- Advisory Board on Teacher Education and Licensure Recommendation for Revisions to the Guidelines for Mentor Teacher Programs for Beginning and Experienced Teachers
- Approved Training Programs for the Treatment of Students with a Seizure Disorder
The Board approved the 2021 Prescriptions to the Standards of Quality (SOQ), which describe the foundational instructional programs and support services all schools must provide and drive approximately 85% of state funding for local school divisions. The Constitution of Virginia requires the Virginia Board of Education to prescribe SOQs for the public schools of Virginia, subject to revision only by the General Assembly. During odd-numbered years, the Board reviews the SOQs and prescribes amendments as necessary.
The Board reviewed proposed amendments to the Regulations Establishing Standards for Accrediting Public Schools in Virginia (also known as the Standards of Accreditation or SOA). The amendments are recommended by the Special Committee established by the Board to review the first years of implementation as well as identify the positive, negative, and unintended consequences of the 2017 SOA revisions. Action to approve this item will be requested at a future meeting, anticipated to be Nov. 18, 2021.
The Board approved the Report on Recommendations for Appropriate Staffing and Funding Levels Necessary for State Operated Programs (SOP) in Regional and Local Detention Centers to be transmitted to the General Assembly by November 1, 2021.
The Board approved the Fast Track Regulatory Action to Conform Definitions of “Traumatic Brain Injury” to ensure alignment in regulatory language and guidance. This action will clarify definitions that currently differ across regulatory chapters.
The Board reviewed the Board of Education’s 2021 Annual Report on the Conditions and Needs of Public Schools in Virginia, which provides an overview of the needs of public education, an update on student achievement and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and highlights the Board’s work over the past year. Additionally, the annual report outlines the conditions of education funding as compared to other states, student enrollment trends, staff vacancies, and graduation and dropout rates. Action to approve this item will be requested at a future meeting, anticipated to be Nov. 18, 2021.
Board actions are unanimous or unopposed unless otherwise noted
The next meetings of the Board of Education are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, November 17 18, 2021. For more information, visit the Virginia Board of Education web page.
The Virginia Board of Education, established in the Virginia Constitution, consists of nine members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the General Assembly. General supervision of the public school system is vested in the Board of Education, which prescribes standards of quality for the school divisions. Subject to the ultimate authority of the General Assembly, the Board of Education has primary responsibility and authority for effectuating the educational policy of the Commonwealth. The Superintendent of Public Instruction, also appointed by the Governor, serves as the executive officer of the Virginia Department of Education, an executive branch agency. The Virginia Department of Education implements statutory and regulatory requirements. The supervision of schools in each school division is vested in local school boards.
Governor Northam announces $2 billion public-private broadband investment
RICHMOND—Governor Northam announced that Virginia has received a record number of local and private sector applications to match state broadband investments, putting the Commonwealth on track to become one of the first states to achieve universal broadband access by 2024. Virginia anticipates more than $2 billion in total broadband funding, thanks to local and private-sector matching funds that go beyond the $874 million in state appropriations since the Governor took office in 2018.
“Broadband is as critical today as electricity was in the last century,” said Governor Northam. “Making sure more Virginians can get access to it has been a priority since I took office, and the pandemic pushed us all to move even faster. Virginia is now on track to achieve universal broadband by 2024, which means more connections, more investments, easier online learning, and expanded telehealth options, especially in rural Virginia.”
The Virginia Telecommunication Initiative is the Commonwealth’s broadband program. It was started in 2017 to fund public-private partnerships to extend broadband service to areas unserved by an internet service provider. When the most recent application round closed last month, the program received 57 applications from 84 localities, requesting $943 million to connect more than 250,000 Virginia homes and businesses. These applications leverage $1.15 billion in private and local matching funds. The Department of Housing and Community Development is reviewing applications and expects to award the funds by the end of the year.
Virginia has taken dramatic steps on broadband since Governor Northam took office in 2018, as Virginia’s first rural Governor in a generation. He set out a clear goal: achieve universal access to broadband within 10 years. The goal was bold, as Virginia’s broadband program was investing just $4 million a year and 660,000 Virginians did not have access to high-speed internet.
Since then, Governor Northam and the General Assembly have awarded $124 million in grants to connect more than 140,000 homes, businesses, and community organizations. The Virginia Telecommunication Initiative has awarded 39 projects in 41 different counties, supported by over $94 million in matching private and local funds. Along with private investment and federal broadband grants, the Commonwealth has reduced the digital divide by 65 percent. Plans accelerated further in August, when Governor Northam and the General Assembly allocated $700 million in American Rescue Plan funding to broadband, moving the original goal for achieving universal access to 2024.
“Ensuring that rural Virginians have access to broadband is the number one way we can make sure they have equal access to the economic, educational, and health opportunities that broadband provides,” said Broadband Advisory Council Vice-Chair Delegate Roslyn Tyler. “No Virginian should be left behind. Thanks to Governor Northam’s commitment to getting universal broadband done, we’re seeing record levels of public and private sector matching funds, and we’ll have this critical infrastructure available to all Virginians more quickly than we imagined.”
“Broadband a vital resource for communities across the Commonwealth,” said Broadband Advisory Council Chair Senator Jennifer Boysko. “Broadband access allows our citizens to connect to their workplaces, schools, and doctors and broadens their opportunities and choices about where to live and work. The Northam administration’s investment in broadband, paired with these matching funds, will get universal broadband access to Virginians in record time.”
The overwhelming response to this year’s Virginia Telecommunication Initiative grant round demonstrates that Virginia has built an innovative and successful model for bridging the digital divide.
Mail-in ballot requests due Friday, October 22
Voters wishing to cast a mail-in ballot in the November 2, 2021 elections have until 5 p.m. on Friday, October 22 to request a ballot be sent to them.
Voters may apply for a mail-in ballot online at the Department of Elections’ Citizen Portal at vote.elections.virginia.gov or by downloading a paper application at elections.virginia.gov/registration/voter-forms, filling it out, and submitting it to their local Voter Registration Office. Forms are available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Korean. Application forms may be submitted to the voter’s local Voter Registration Office by mail, fax, or email.
Contact information for your local voter registration office can be found at elections.virginia.gov/VRO. Voters may choose to receive a mail-in ballot for this November General Election only or receive mail-in ballots automatically for every election in which they are eligible, until they request to be taken off the permanent absentee list.
If the voter is print disabled, they may request to receive an absentee ballot electronically to mark their ballot using an electronic ballot-marking tool. If this option is chosen for voting absentee, the ballot will be delivered by email and can be marked using screen reader assistive technology. More information about this option is available by contacting the local voter registration office or at elections.virginia.gov/accessible.
All are encouraged to mail their ballot requests well in advance of the October 22 deadline to ensure it is received in time. Applications received by the local Voter Registration Office after 5 p.m. on October 22 cannot be accepted.
ELECT encourages voters to return their absentee ballot at their earliest convenience. A voter may return their absentee ballot by:
- Mailing the ballot via USPS or a commercial delivery service (such as FedEx or UPS.) All absentee ballots include pre-paid postage through the USPS (ballot must be postmarked by Election Day);
- Placing the ballot in a drop-off location listed on their county or city’s official website;
- Delivering the ballot to the Office of the General Registrar in the voter’s county or city; or,
- Dropping the ballot off at any polling place within their county or city on Election Day.
More information can be found about absentee and early voting for the November 2 elections online at elections.virginia.gov/absentee.
Governor Northam announces September revenue increased more than 18 percent
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced on October 13, 2021, that September General Fund revenue increased 18.4 percent from the previous year, continuing Virginia’s economic momentum.
“Our economy continues to show signs of a strong recovery,” said Governor Northam. “Our strategic and proactive decisions are paying off. In this strong economy, Virginia will continue making critical investments in our communities, our public schools, and statewide infrastructure to bolster our growing economy. Our fiscal responsibility is paying off for Virginians.”
Collections of payroll withholding taxes grew 9.9 percent in September. Collections in non-withholding grew 25.2 percent since September of last year. Collections of sales and use taxes, reflecting August sales, grew 20.6 percent in September. Collections of corporate income tax increased by 41.3 percent in September. Collections of wills, suits, deeds, and contracts—mainly recordation tax collections—were $60.1 million, compared with $56.6 million in September of last year. The first estimated payment of non-withholding and corporate income tax collections for the fiscal year was due in September.
“September completes the first quarter of the fiscal year 2022 and is a significant month for revenue collections,” said Secretary of Finance Joe Flores. “Overall, this quarter’s revenue performance was strong. It is important to remember that we are comparing this quarter’s performance to the heart of the pandemic closures last year when there was still not even a vaccine on the horizon.”
On a year-to-date basis, collections of payroll withholding taxes—62 percent of General Fund revenues—grew by 9.7 percent, well above the annual estimate of 1.7 percent increase. Sales tax collections—17 percent of General Fund revenues—increased 16.7 percent through September, far outpacing the annual forecast of a 4.2 percent decline. On a fiscal year-to-date basis, total revenue collections rose 10.6 percent, well ahead of the annual forecast of an 8.0 percent decrease. Through the first quarter of the fiscal year, corporate income tax collections rose 36.5 percent, exceeding expectations of an annual 16.1 percent decrease. The collections of wills, suits, deeds, and contracts were up 9.0 percent in the first quarter, outperforming the forecasted 31.3 percent decline.