On October 21, 2019, Governor Ralph Northam hosted a roundtable discussion in St. Paul with officials from Amazon’s second headquarters, located in Arlington. The Governor was joined by his Chief of Staff Clark Mercer, Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy, Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball, and Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade and Director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation Cassidy Rasnick. Held at the Oxbow Center of the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, the conversation included community and business leaders in Southwest Virginia who spoke about workforce development, economic development, and small business issues. Following the discussion, Governor Northam became the first sitting governor to ride on the Spearhead Trails. Photos from the Governor’s visit are available here.
“Workforce development is a key reason why companies are choosing to locate in Virginia, and we’re proud to work with diverse partners to grow our tech talent pipeline across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “One of my proudest days in office was last year when I announced Amazon’s decision to call Virginia their second home, and we believe the company’s location here can benefit every part of the state. Southwest Virginia has strong communities, a skilled workforce, and visionary leadership, and I’m pleased to have the opportunity to discuss with local leaders how we can attract more jobs and investment to this important region.”
In November 2018, Governor Northam announced that Amazon would invest at least $2.5 billion and create more than 25,000 high-paying jobs to establish their second headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. The Commonwealth’s proposal was designed to help grow the tech talent pipeline in all parts of the state, enhance transportation infrastructure, and ensure that the economic benefits of the Amazon project are shared across Virginia.
“Attracting world-class talent that will help Amazon continue to innovate on behalf of its customers was the main driver of our decision to locate our second headquarters in Northern Virginia,” Ardine Williams, Vice President of Workforce Development at Amazon. We are excited by the Commonwealth’s response and look forward to continue building the future together.”
“After our statewide workforce tour in September, the number one issue in Southwest Virginia is bringing jobs to the area to keep communities together,” said Chief Workforce Advisor Megan Healy. “It is great to show international business leaders the strong workforce and innovation happening in all parts of the states.”
“Bringing Amazon’s HQ2 to Virginia was a huge win for the whole Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “The Governor has been focused on diversifying the economy, and making sure all regions participate in our economic growth. This roundtable is a chance to highlight the human and natural assets of Southwest Virginia, and hear from community leaders about ways we can continue to enhance the economic prosperity of all regions.”
Governors announce historic ‘Capital Beltway Accord’ to rebuild American Legion Bridge, connect Interstate Highway System
Governor Ralph Northam (D-VA) and Governor Larry Hogan (R-MD) announced a bi-state, bipartisan accord to create a new, unified Capital Beltway, replace the aging American Legion Bridge and relieve congestion at one of the country’s worst traffic chokepoints. The two governors made the announcement at the annual Capital Region Transportation Forum in Washington, DC.
“A new bridge means commuters will get to work and back home faster,” said Governor Northam. “Our teams have identified a way to fix one of the worst traffic hot spots in the country. This demonstrates what can get done when leaders come together to find shared solutions to tough regional problems. This is about helping people see their families more, grow their businesses, and further unlock the region’s vast economic potential.”
“The ‘Capital Beltway Accord’ is a once-in-a-generation achievement for the capital region,” said Governor Hogan. “A bipartisan, commonsense, interstate agreement such as this has eluded elected leaders throughout the region for many decades. Together with our partners in Virginia, we are building a foundation for even greater economic growth, greater opportunity for our citizens, and advancing real, lasting, transformative improvements for the entire Washington metropolitan region.”
The project complements ongoing plans by both governors in their jurisdictions—advancing a region-wide vision for a seamless network of reliable travel options around the Capital Beltway, and along Interstates 270 and 95, 395, and 66.
The project is expected to cut commuting time in half for many travelers, reduce congestion in the regular lanes by 25 percent, provide 40 percent more lane capacity over the old bridge, and include bicycle and pedestrian paths across the Potomac River.
The American Legion Bridge has been operating beyond its capacity for nearly four decades. Daily traffic has grown 390 percent since the bridge opened in 1962, with 235,000 vehicles using it daily. More than 40 percent of the region’s population travels this segment of the Capital Beltway, and the region expects to grow by another 1.2 million people by 2040. Both governors have made it a top priority to identify a long-term, seamless solution for the Capital Beltway.
The project will replace the existing lanes in each direction across the Potomac River and add two new Express Lanes in each direction for approximately three miles between the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia to the vicinity of River Road in Maryland. New bicycle and pedestrian access will connect trails on both sides of the Potomac River. The project is being designed predominantly within the footprint of the existing bridge and right-of-way to minimize impact to travelers, the environment, and surrounding communities. No homes or businesses are expected to require relocation.
“This is once-in-a-generation project that will improve accessibility throughout the region,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “This is a milestone in regional cooperation. We in Virginia look forward to working hand-in-hand with Maryland to deliver this transformative transportation solution.”
Virginia announced plans earlier this year to leverage its existing public-private partnership with Transurban, the operator of the 495 Express Lanes, to extend the lanes approximately two miles north toward the American Legion Bridge and add new connections at the Dulles Toll Road and the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Construction on what is known as “Project Next” could begin as early as 2021.
Maryland’s Board of Public Works has approved advancing a bold and innovative Traffic Relief Plan that includes improvements to I-270 and I-495. It is the largest public-private partnership of its kind in the world.
“Our transportation network cannot function without fixing the American Legion Bridge, I-495 and I-270,” said Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn. “Without these improvements, our horrendous congestion will only get worse. I commend Governors Hogan and Northam for reaching this historic agreement that will have lasting benefits for our region for decades to come.”
The new American Legion Bridge will be delivered in coordination with these other projects and will leverage private capital through public-private partnerships to reduce the need for public funding and shift key traffic and construction risks to the private sector.
The states have agreed to a bi-state funding plan to accelerate the delivery of these critical improvements, including all of the infrastructure needed for connections between George Washington Parkway and MD-190/River Road.
Maryland will cover 79 percent of the General Purpose Lanes on the new American Legion Bridge, 50 percent of the Express Lanes on the new American Legion Bridge, and 100 percent of the southbound Express Lanes and General Purpose Lanes from MD-190/River Road to the George Washington Parkway.
Virginia will cover 21 percent of the General Purpose Lanes on the new American Legion Bridge, 50 percent of the Express Lanes on the new American Legion Bridge, and 100 percent of the northbound Express Lanes and General Purpose Lanes from the George Washington Parkway to MD-190/River Road.
Texas man charged with cyberstalking, making interstate threats
An Odessa, Texas man, who had an online relationship with a juvenile female in the Western District of Virginia, has been indicted by a federal grand jury sitting in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville and charged with cyberstalking and making interstate threats to the girl’s family following her suicide. United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen and David W. Archey, FBI Special Agent in Charge for the Richmond Division, made the announcement today following the defendant’s arrest in Texas.
Adrian Raul O’Dell, 19, was charged in a sealed indictment on October 15, 2019, and arrested this week in Texas. The grand jury has charged O’Dell with three counts of cyberstalking and two counts of making interstate threats.
“Cyberstalking and communicating threats through social media are serious federal crimes and prosecuting them is a priority of this office,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today. “I am grateful for the hard work of the FBI and the Warren County Sheriff’s office in identifying this defendant and bringing him to justice.”
“The FBI takes online threats very seriously, and will work with our law enforcement partners to ensure matters are addressed swiftly and appropriately,” SAC Archey said today. “This case is important to us because a young girl’s family, while still mourning her death, was re-victimized with the messages sent by the accused. We are grateful for the assistance of the FBI El Paso Division’s Midland Resident Agency and the United States Attorney’s Office during the course of this investigation.”
According to the indictment, between September 2017 and around March 2018, O’Dell had an online relationship with a 16-year girl who lived in Linden, Virginia. In May 2018, following an investigation by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, it was determined that O’Dell’s victim died by suicide in a wooded area near her home.
The indictment alleges that from June 2018 through June 2019, O’Dell, using a variety of false email and online personas, took credit for her suicide. The defendant then sent threatening and intimidating messages to her family members and friends that placed them in reasonable fear of death and serious bodily harm. In addition, these messages attempted to cause friends and family members substantial emotional distress. The defendant sent certain of these messages in violation of a protective order.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Kate Rumsey is prosecuting the case for the United States.
A grand jury indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial with the burden on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Virginia’s Western Highlands publishes Regional Trail Guide
The Virginia’s Western Highlands Travel Council, made up of tourism offices from Craig, Alleghany, Bath and Highland counties, has published a guide to hiking, biking and riding trails. The 48-page guide includes descriptions and maps of trails in all four counties, including some that span multiple counties. The booklet uses icons to indicate which trails are open to hiking, biking and horseback riding.
The regional travel council will distribute the guides at local visitor centers and select Virginia Welcome Centers. They will also be available to local lodging establishments to distribute to guests interested in hiking, biking or riding. The entire guide can also be viewed online as an interactive flipbook that is tablet and mobile friendly.
“We think this guide will be a valuable tool to bring outdoor enthusiasts to our region, and once they’re here, help them find a trail that meets their needs,” said Teresa Hammond, Executive Director of the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism.
“The number of trails included in this guide demonstrates that the four-county Virginia’s Western Highlands region has so much outdoor adventure to offer to visitors,” added Chris Swecker, Executive Director of the Highland County Tourism Council and Chamber of Commerce.
The guide is made possible in part through a partnership with The Nature Conservancy.
For additional information visit vawesternhighlands.com.
Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony to be held at Virginia War Memorial on November 11
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam will deliver the keynote address at the Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony, Monday, November 11, 2019 at 10:45 a.m. EST at the Virginia War Memorial at 621 South Belvidere Street in Richmond.
This will be the 63rd annual ceremony at the Virginia War Memorial honoring Virginia’s men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces. The ceremony will be held in the Memorial’s E. Bruce Heilman Amphitheater. The event is free of charge and the public is encouraged to attend.
“One in every twelve Virginians is a veteran,” said Dr. Clay Mountcastle, Virginia War Memorial Director. “As our exhibits here at the Memorial showcase, Virginians have proudly answered the call to duty to defend and protect our nation and our commonwealth in peacetime and in war for over 400 years. Veterans Day gives all of us the opportunity to thank them for their service and sacrifice.”
Governor Northam will be introduced by Virginia Secretary of Veteran and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins. The program will also include the winners of the Virginia War Memorial’s Veterans Day Student Essay Contest in the middle and high school age categories who will share their compositions.
Patriotic music will be provided by the U.S. Army Training & Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Band from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. Additional music during and after the conclusion of the formal ceremony will feature the bagpipes and drums of the Combined Bands of Clan MacLeod and Benedictine College Preparatory of St. Andrew’s Legion.
The Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony will be held rain or shine. The Virginia War Memorial’s Paul and Phyllis Galanti Education Center will be open for tours from 9 a.m.to 4 p.m. on November 11.
Due to expansion construction at the Memorial, there will be no onsite parking. Free parking will be available in the VHDA surface lot at 601 South Belvidere Street and in the VHDA parking deck which is accessible from 2nd Street. For more information, please visit www.vawarmemorial.org, www.dvs.virginia.gov, Facebook @virginiawarmemorial or call 804.786.2060.
About the Virginia War Memorial
The mission of the Virginia War Memorial is to Honor Veterans, Preserve History, Educate Youth and Inspire Patriotism in All. Dedicated in 1956, the Memorial includes the names of the nearly 12,000 Virginia heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the Global War on Terrorism. The Memorial is currently undergoing a $28 million expansion project. The Virginia War Memorial is a division of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services and serves as an integral part of its mission in support of all Virginians who have served in our military. For more details, visit www.virginiawarmemorial.org or www.dvs.virginia.gov .
About the Virginia Department of Veterans Services
The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) is a state government agency with more than 40 operating locations across the Commonwealth of Virginia. DVS traces its history to 1928 and the establishment of the Virginia War Service Bureau to assist Virginia’s World War I veterans. Today, DVS assists veterans and their families in filing claims for federal veterans benefits; provides veterans and family members with linkages to services including behavioral healthcare, housing, employment, education and other programs. The agency operates two long-term care facilities offering in-patient skilled nursing care, Alzheimer’s/memory care, and short-term rehabilitation for veterans; provides an honored final resting place for veterans and their families at three state veterans cemeteries. It operates the Virginia War Memorial, the Commonwealth’s tribute to Virginia’s men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice from World War II to the present. For more information, please visit www.dvs.virginia.gov.
AG Herring announces $116.9 million multi-state settlement with Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon, Inc.
RICHMOND (October 25, 2019) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today announced that Virginia has joined with 42 other attorneys general in a $116.9 million settlement with Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Ethicon, Inc. to resolve allegations that they deceptively marketed and promoted their transvaginal surgical mesh devices. Virginia will receive approximately $3 million of the settlement.
“We will not tolerate deceptive or false marketing of any products in Virginia, but especially when it involves medical devices that can negatively impact the health of a patient,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “Under this settlement, going forward Johnson & Johnson must fully disclose the risks and side effects of their medical devices on all promotional materials, giving both doctors and patients confidence that they are making informed decisions about their health.”
The Complaint, filed in Richmond Circuit Court, alleges that Ethicon and Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturers of transvaginal surgical mesh, misrepresented or failed to adequately disclose the products’ possible side effects. Transvaginal surgical mesh is a synthetic material that is surgically implanted through the vagina to support the pelvic organs of women who suffer from stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. These side effects included:
• risk of chronic pain and inflammation;
• mesh erosion through the vagina;
• incontinence developing after surgery;
• painful sexual relations; and
• vaginal scarring.
According to the Complaint, Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon were aware of the possibility for serious medical complications, but did not provide sufficient warnings to consumers or surgeons who implanted the devices.
Under the settlement, Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $116.86 million to the 41 participating states and District of Columbia. The settlement also provides injunctive relief, requiring full disclosure of the device’s risks and accurate information on promotional material, in addition to the product’s “information for use” package inserts.
Among the specific requirements, the companies must:
• Refrain from referring to the mesh as “FDA approved” when that is not the case;
• Refrain from representing in promotions that risks associated with mesh can be eliminated with surgical experience or technique alone;
• Ensure that product training provided to medical professionals covers the risks associated with the mesh;
• Omit claims that surgical mesh stretches after implantation, that it remains soft after implantation, that foreign body reactions are transient and that foreign body reactions “may” occur (when in fact they will occur);
• Disclose that mesh risks include: fistula formation, inflammation, as well as mesh extrusion, exposure and erosion into the vagina and other organs;
• Disclose risks of tissue contraction, pain with intercourse, loss of sexual function, urge incontinence, de novo incontinence, infection following transvaginal implantation and vaginal scarring; and
• Disclose that risks include that revision surgeries may be necessary to treat complications, that revision surgeries may not resolve complications and that revision surgeries are also associated with a risk of adverse reactions.
The settlement, which is in the form of a Consent Judgment, has been filed with the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond for approval.
This matter is being handled by Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section. In 2016, Attorney General Herring announced the completion of a reorganization of the Consumer Protection Section to more efficiently and effectively enforce Virginia’s consumer protection laws, provide exceptional customer service in resolving complaints and disputes, and provide robust consumer education to keep Virginians from being victimized by fraud, scams, or illegal or abusive business practices. During Attorney General Herring’s administration, the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section has recovered more than $311 million in relief for consumers and payments from violators.
If you have any consumer-related inquiries, the Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline telephone counselors are available to assist you with your consumer questions. Please call the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-552-9963 if calling from Virginia, or 804-786-2042 if calling from the Richmond area. You can also subscribe to the Consumer Protection Quarterly Newsletter here.
Governor Northam announces international tourism to Virginia reaches record level
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia’s international tourism visitation surpassed 1.1 million in 2018, with overseas visitors spending a record $2 billion. Since 2009, Virginia has witnessed a 22 percent increase in international visitation, welcoming an additional 200,000 visitors to the Commonwealth. Between 2017 and 2018 alone, Virginia saw a 5 percent increase, exceeding the national rate of 3.2 percent, based on data from Tourism Economics.
“Virginia’s doors are open, and we are welcoming record numbers of visitors from around the world,” said Governor Northam. “International visitors play an important role in building and maintaining our strong economy by shopping at our local businesses, dining at our restaurants, and taking in our world-class attractions. It is these diverse tourism assets that make Virginia a premier destination for global travelers and drive economic prosperity and job creation throughout our Commonwealth.”
Virginia draws on a diverse geography of international travelers with almost half coming from Canada, 29 percent from Europe, and 17 percent from the Asia Pacific Region. While the Canadian and European markets currently represent the majority of international travelers to Virginia, the Asia Pacific Region will play a key role in the future, forecasted to increase to 20 percent of the Commonwealth’s international visitation by 2028.
“International visitors inject dollars directly into our communities,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Tourism also acts as a bridge to trade and economic opportunities, fueling further industry and growth in Virginia.”
The rise in overseas visitation has been robust in the majority of Virginia Tourism’s target markets, including the United Kingdom, Germany, India, Japan, and Australia, made possible in part by the increasing number of non-stop flights from destinations around the globe to Dulles International Airport located in Chantilly, Virginia. Total international visits to Virginia are forecast to grow to 1.5 million in the next 10 years.
“Love is at the heart of every vacation. That’s one reason our brand resonates so well—even across continents,” said Rita McClenny, President and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation. “Whether our beaches, mountains, music, wine, craft beer or oysters, there’s something for everyone to love in a Virginia vacation.”
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Commonwealth’s ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ brand is used in marketing campaigns to highlight the wealth of tourism attractions found throughout Virginia. Home to iconic sites such as George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, it is evident why ‘Virginia is for History Lovers.’ Shenandoah National Park, the world-famous Blue Ridge Parkway, and beautiful beaches along our coast help demonstrate why ‘Virginia is for Outdoor Lovers.’
About Virginia Tourism
The Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) is the state agency responsible for marketing the Commonwealth as a premier travel and film destination. Its iconic slogan, Virginia is for Lovers, celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019.
Tourism is an instant revenue generator in Virginia. In 2018, international and domestic visitors to Virginia spent $28 billion, with domestic tourism alone supporting 235,000 jobs and contributing $1.8 billion in state and local taxes. For more information about Virginia Tourism, please visit virginia.org.