RICHMOND—Today, (August 19, 2019) Governor Ralph Northam sent a letter to members of the Virginia State Crime Commission in advance of their hearing on legislation introduced during the 2019 Special Session.
Governor Northam called the Special Session in June to address the emergency of gun violence in the Commonwealth; legislators voted to adjourn after 90 minutes and refer all legislation to the Crime Commission for further study.
August 19, 2019
Virginia State Crime Commission
1111 East Broad Street, Ste. B036
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Dear Members of the Crime Commission:
On June 4, five days after a horrific mass shooting took twelve innocent lives and injured four more in Virginia Beach, I called a Special Session of the General Assembly to address the emergency of gun violence in our Commonwealth. I called this session because we in Virginia are all too familiar with the horror of mass shootings—I never want another governor to have to mourn with the families of innocent people killed at their workplace or their school. But we also know it is more than just mass shootings; the daily toll of gun violence in our communities kills more than 1,000 Virginians each year. That’s an average of three people killed by guns every single day.
Virginians deserve action—and that is what I asked for when the General Assembly convened on July 9. Instead, legislators chose to adjourn ninety minutes after convening without hearing or debating a single bill, referring everything to the Crime Commission for further study. In the weeks and days since, we have watched as gun violence continues to upend communities across our Commonwealth and nation.
The legislative package I put forward during the Special Session included commonsense proposals that will undoubtedly save lives. In fact, they are so common sense that even the President of the United States and other Republican leaders recently announced their support for some of these proposals, including background checks and an Extreme Risk Protective Order. While I reject the assertion that these bills need further study, I am confident that the presentations you all will hear on August 19 and 20 will only underscore the importance of implementing these measures.
Data show these measures are not only common sense and bipartisan—they are effective. An Extreme Risk Protective Order, now adopted in 17 states and Washington, D.C., has been shown to significantly reduce suicide deaths by firearms. Virginia’s One Handgun a Month law dramatically reduced the number of crime guns from Virginia recovered in the Northeast, a total drop of 54 percent. Since the repeal of this law in 2012, Virginia has returned to being the top source state for crime guns recovered in D.C., Maryland, New York, and West Virginia. And we know that background checks work: In 2018, nearly 2,000 prohibited persons were prevented from purchasing firearms from a federally licensed dealer in Virginia. Many more prohibited persons continue to purchase guns—without background checks—each and every day through private sales.
These proposals do not need further study. In fact, some of these measures were first recommended after the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007. The Virginia Tech report called for changes to higher education and mental health policies; importantly, the report also urged lawmakers to take direct action on gun violence through expanded background checks. While many of the mental health recommendations were embraced and adopted by the General Assembly, lawmakers ignored recommendations on gun violence. The assertion that more study is needed—twelve years and over 70 mass shootings after Virginia Tech—is inaccurate and inexcusable.
Furthermore, it is wrong to continue perpetuating the false idea that mental illness is solely to blame for gun violence. Research has repeatedly demonstrated that people experiencing mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. I refuse to allow many politicians and the gun lobby to scapegoat some of our most vulnerable citizens as an excuse for their inaction.
As you continue your work on this important issue, I hope each of you will join me in rejecting baseless claims, stereotypes, and excuses. Commonsense gun safety legislation has already saved lives, where implemented. It is past time to save lives in Virginia.
Ralph S. Northam
Governor of Virginia
Governor Northam hosts roundtable discussion with Amazon HQ2 officials
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.”
Governor Northam issues statewide drought watch advisory
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced a statewide drought watch advisory for the Commonwealth of Virginia. A drought watch is intended to increase awareness of current conditions that are likely to precede a significant drought event. Localities, water suppliers, self-supplied water users, and all citizens are encouraged begin preparations for a potential drought.
According to the Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, a work group coordinated by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) representing state and federal agencies, the primary factors contributing to the current drought advisory are low precipitation amounts across the state since July, low stream flows (affecting aquifers, lakes, and soils), and low groundwater levels in observation wells compared to previous October levels.
“More than half of our Commonwealth is currently experiencing a water deficit, which can have lasting agricultural, economic, environmental impacts,” said Governor Northam. “While water conservation activities during a drought watch are generally voluntary, we encourage localities and individuals across Virginia to heed this warning and take necessary steps to monitor their water usage.”
The next stage after a drought watch is a drought warning, which indicates that a significant drought event is imminent. If a drought warning is issued, water conservation and contingency plans that are already in place—or prepared during a drought watch—would begin.
“Higher temperatures and less consistent precipitation patterns driven by climate change are making extreme weather like droughts more prevalent around the world, and Virginia is no exception,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Governor Northam and our administration are taking steps to monitor and mitigate drought impacts and address the causes and symptoms of climate change.”
Additionally, 36 localities in Virginia have issued open air burn bans. Individuals are encouraged to check the Virginia Department of Forestry’s map for the latest information on active burn bans and contact their locality for further details on outdoor burning restrictions.
“Fortunately, Virginia’s vigilant task force, ongoing monitoring program and cohesive regional water resource plans are in place for this very situation, to help raise awareness across the Commonwealth and mitigate potential impacts to citizens, water suppliers, and their customers,” said DEQ Director David Paylor.
Throughout the drought watch advisory, localities, water suppliers and self-supplied water users in all areas are strongly encouraged to take voluntary steps to protect current water supplies.
• Minimize non-essential water use.
• Review or develop new local water conservation and drought contingency plans and take actions consistent with those plans.
• Share information as broadly as possible.
• Continue monitoring the condition of public waterworks and self-supplied
water systems in partnership with the Virginia Department of Health.
• Impose water restrictions when consistent with local water supply conditions.
• Aggressively pursue leak detection and repair programs.
Statewide information on current drought conditions is available on the DEQ website.
The map displays the current status of drought indicators for each of the thirteen Drought Evaluation Regions in Virginia. The squares within each region indicate the current stage of each of the drought indicators as described by the key below. The color shown for each Drought Evaluation Region indicates the current stage for that region. For example, regions colored green indicate normal conditions with no current drought advisory. If a region is colored yellow, a Drought Watch Advisory is currently in effect for that region.
Drought Indicator Key
Res = Reservoir
Prcp = Precipitation
GW = Groundwater Levels
Flow = Streamflow
No Data = An indicator groundwater or streamflow gage or reservoir is not available for that region, or that data from existing stations are temporarily unavailable
Governor Northam announces civil rights restored to more than 20,000 Virginians
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced today that since he took office in January 2018, his administration has restored the civil rights of 22,205 Virginians previously convicted of a felony. The civil rights restored include the right to vote, serve on a jury, run for public office, and become a notary public.
“Virginia remains one of the few states in the nation that permanently strip individuals of their civil rights after a felony conviction,” said Governor Northam. “I’m proud to use my executive clemency power to restore those rights to Virginians who have completed their sentences and returned to their communities seeking a second chance. This is about doing what is fair and right, and is an important part of our ongoing work to build a stronger, more accessible, and more inclusive Commonwealth.”
Governor Northam announced in February that civil rights had been restored to over 10,000 individuals since the start of his administration, more than any other Virginia governor prior to Terry McAuliffe.
“Since the start of his administration, Governor Northam has been committed to fairness and making sure that Virginia is open and welcoming to everyone,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson. “The restoration of civil rights is an important step to ensuring that all of our residents are treated equally.”
For more information on restoration of rights and the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, visit restore.virginia.gov.
Virginia State Police welcomes 59 new troopers to its ranks
RICHMOND – On Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, the Commonwealth will graduate its 130th generation of Virginia State Troopers. The 59 new troopers will be presented their diplomas during commencement exercises at 10 a.m. at the State Police Training Academy located at 7700 Midlothian Turnpike in North Chesterfield County. Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Ryant Washington will be in attendance of the graduation ceremony.
The new troopers have received more than 1,300 hours of classroom and field instruction in more than 100 different subjects, including defensive tactics, crime scene investigation, ethics and leadership, survival Spanish, police professionalism, firearms, judicial procedures, officer survival, cultural diversity and crisis management. The members of the 130th Basic Session began their 29 weeks of academic, physical and practical training at the Academy March 20, 2019.
The soon-to-be graduates of the 130th Basic Session are from every corner of the Commonwealth, as well as Alabama, Indiana, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
Upon graduation, the new troopers will report to their individual duty assignments across Virginia the week of October 7. For their final phase of training, each trooper will spend an additional six weeks paired up with a Field Training Officer learning his or her new patrol area.
130th BASIC GRADUATING CLASS
|Kevin Alexander Allen||Virginia Beach||Hampton/Newport News|
|Maximo L. Arduini||Hamilton, New Jersey||Chesterfield|
|Domanic James Banish||Ticonderoga, New York||Fairfax|
|Brian Wayne Barrett||Bristol||Scott|
|Richard Shayne Brooks||Suffolk||York|
|Sung Hoon Cho||Sterling||Springfield|
|Jabreia Camay Clark||South Hill||Mecklenburg|
|Christopher Thomas Cortese||Guilderland, New York||Orange|
|Kelsea Lee Crotts||Smithfield||Portsmouth/Suffolk/Chesapeake|
|Anthony Carroll Daulton, Jr.||Appomattox||Prince Edward|
|Luis Brian Delgado||Chester||Chesterfield|
|Aaron Matthew Dorr||Suffolk||Portsmouth/Suffolk/Chesapeake|
|Nicholas Charles Fleischer||Bangor, Pennsylvania||Portsmouth/Suffolk/Chesapeake|
|Jacob Peter Gooch||Woodbridge||Springfield|
|Keith Aaron Griese||Manassas||Prince William|
|Devin Nicholas Hacker||Courtland||Norfolk/Virginia Beach|
|Chance Alan Harrington||Rural Retreat||Frederick|
|Justin Roy Harris||Seville, Ohio||Campbell|
|Matthew Lane Hedgepeth||Chester||Hampton/Newport News|
|Andrew Ryan Jennings||Charlottesville||Arlington|
|Tanner Blake Jones||Damascus||Halifax|
|William Revely Keesee||Amherst||Franklin|
|Alexander Stephen King||Indianapolis, Indiana||Fairfax|
|Jason Patrick Kirk||Wytheville||Wythe|
|Joseph James Kulick||Edwardsville, Pennsylvania||Hampton/Newport News|
|Michael B. LeSage||Port Haywood||York|
|William McKinley Lester, II||Wise||Scott|
|William H. Littlejohn, Jr.||Chester||Dinwiddie|
|Joseph Hunter Lowe||Rural Retreat||Springfield|
|Larry Nathan Luna||Hackensack, New Jersey||Springfield|
|Jalante Rashard Manns||Roanoke||Isle of Wight|
|William Wyatt McCraw||Danville||Pittsylvania|
|Matthew David Meadows||Verona||Augusta|
|Conlan Jonathan Miller||Herndon||Fairfax|
|Bradley Austin Mills||Ashland||Hanover|
|Christopher Edward Miskin||Midlothian||Chesterfield|
|Adolfo Alberto Orellana||North Chesterfield||Stafford|
|Caleb James Parnell||Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania||Rockbridge|
|Jesse Dylan Peebles||Fries||Albemarle|
|Joshua Ryan Pelletier||La Crosse||Lunenburg|
|William Austin Peters||Rural Retreat||Dinwiddie|
|Alexander Carl Pike||Schwenksville, Pennsylvania||Warren|
|Devin Joseph Pluchino||Virginia Beach||Norfolk/Virginia Beach|
|Isaiah Chance Puckett||Ararat||Botetourt|
|Katie Jean Reeves||Bealeton||Madison|
|Benjamin Alan Rhodes||Bracey||Mecklenburg|
|James Matthew Riggs||Tuscaloosa, Alabama||James City|
|Alexandra Nicole Roberts||Bumpass||Stafford|
|David M. Saunders||Henrico||Hanover|
|Kevin Peter Schumann||Centreville||Fairfax|
|Timofey Smosyuk||Vestal, New York||Henrico|
|Lloyd Ryan Spencer||Patrick Springs||Botetourt|
|Justin Lee Sproston||Gloucester||Mathews|
|Ryan James Walker||Midlothian||Rockbridge|
|Matthew Allan Wilkinson||Clarksville||Appomattox|
|John Dakota Winebrenner||Danville||Pittsylvania|
|John Carper Workman||Wytheville||Albemarle|
|John Tyler Wukich||Christiansburg||Albemarle|
|James Brandon Yates||Lebanon||Botetourt|
VDOT announces new Interstate 81 Program Delivery Director
RICHMOND — Following the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan and new dedicated funding as a result of 2019 legislation, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Chief Engineer, Bart Thrasher, P.E., announced today that Dave Covington, P.E., will lead VDOT’s implementation of projects and initiatives identified in the plan. As the new Interstate 81 program delivery director, Covington will oversee corridor-long strategy and program-level consistency as projects and initiatives from the plan are developed, constructed and prioritized by the I-81 Advisory Committee.
“As we found in the study, I-81 is a critical driver of economic vitality in Virginia, serving 11.7 million trucks and transporting $312 billion in goods each year,” said Thrasher. “Having a strong leader at the helm of project implementation across district lines will ensure success of our goals to improve safety and reliability along Virginia’s 325 miles of the corridor.”
Covington has over 20 years of experience in the transportation industry, with diverse, yet vast expertise in design, maintenance and construction. Most recently, he has served as the Staunton District maintenance engineer.
In design and construction, he has managed complex design-bid-build projects and large-scale design-build contracts, both with private engineering consultants to VDOT and as an employee of VDOT. Recently, he led VDOT’s $250 million Route 29 Solutions program in Charlottesville. Throughout the development and delivery of these major infrastructure projects, Covington utilized sound risk-management principles to ensure that projects were delivered safely, completed ahead of schedule and under budget, and that Virginia residents and taxpayers received good value for their investments. Covington will be charged with employing the same principles in managing implementation of the $2.2 billion package identified to improve the I-81 corridor.
Covington is a licensed professional engineer in the Commonwealth of Virginia and holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Virginia Tech. He will assume the new role on September 25, 2019.
First Lady Pamela Northam concludes second annual Back to School Tour
RICHMOND—Over the past month as nearly 1.2 million Virginia students returned to school, First Lady Pamela Northam visited early childhood education programs and elementary schools in each of the Commonwealth’s eight Superintendent Regions, highlighting the importance of school readiness. The First Lady traveled more than 2,327 miles, making 42 stops in 27 localities where she read with students and delivered books donated by bbgb books, an independent children’s bookshop in Richmond.
“Our conversations on this tour confirmed once again that local communities are leading the way in innovative approaches to early childhood care and education,” said First Lady Northam. “We are grateful to the dedicated educators, leaders, and local partners across the Commonwealth who are preparing children for success in school and beyond in a wide variety of settings. We look forward to working together to expand these types of opportunities to all children and in every region of Virginia.”
Throughout the tour, the First Lady and staff engaged with students, educators, parents, legislators, local departments of social services, and members of the non-profit and business communities. Conversations during last year’s tour informed the administration’s work over the past year and discussions from this year’s tour will continue to guide efforts to expand access to early childhood education in Virginia, from the implementation of the $9.9 million federal Preschool Development Grant to the recently released Draft Strategic Plan for Early Childhood Care and Education in Virginia. The Administration is in the process of applying for an extension of the federal grant through 2020.
“Expanding access to quality, affordable early childhood care and education is an investment in both the workforce of today and tomorrow,” said Chief School Readiness Officer Jenna Conway. “Quality programs allow for parents to go pursue further education or work while preparing children to succeed in school and in life.”
In August, Governor Northam signed Executive Director Four, establishing the Executive Leadership Team on School Readiness that is responsible for developing a plan to ensure that all at-risk three and four-year-olds in Virginia have access to a quality, subsidized early education option by 2025. The full text of Executive Directive Four can be found here.
This year all kindergarten teachers in Virginia public schools are using the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP) to evaluate and build children’s literacy, math, and socio-emotional skills so they start off school fully prepared to succeed during the kindergarten year and into the future.
See below for highlights from the First Lady’s Back to School Tour, including photos from the from the final day of her tour on September 23 at North Star Early Childhood Education Center in Stafford (top) and Courtland Elementary School in Spotsylvania (center, bottom).