On January 2, Governor Ralph Northam issued Executive Order Forty-Seven and Executive Directive Six, the most comprehensive executive actions in Virginia history to ensure inclusion and opportunity for Virginians with disabilities.
Executive Order Forty-Seven and Executive Directive Six continue the equal employment initiatives outlined by former Governor Terry McAuliffe in a 2015 executive order. In addition, these executive actions dramatically expand the scope of support for Virginians with disabilities to increase opportunity in higher education, improve the accessibility of state services, and ensure continued stakeholder engagement.
“Virginians with disabilities have an absolute right to the same benefits of society and freedoms of everyday life that all people enjoy,” said Governor Northam. “These executive actions highlight our commitment to ensuring every Virginian has access to the support and opportunities they need to thrive in our Commonwealth.”
Executive Order Forty-Seven ensures employment equity for Virginians with disabilities by prioritizing hiring and workforce diversity in state government. To expand educational opportunity, it directs the Secretary of Education to explore ways to increase active participation in advanced training and higher education programs. It also directs the Virginia Information Technologies Agency to review state websites and technology services, to increase accessibility and ensure all Virginians can benefit from the state services and support they need.
“True and genuine inclusion is only achieved by addressing systems of inequity—therefore it requires intentional collaboration and comprehensive action,” said Dr. Janice Underwood, the Commonwealth’s first-ever Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. “Today’s executive actions not only facilitate opportunity for Virginians with disabilities, they represent a bold step towards a Commonwealth that is truly open, inclusive, and equitable for all.”
Virginia also continues to prioritize the mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead v. L.C. by Zimring, 527 U.S. 581 (1999) decision, and the Virginians with Disabilities Act. Executive Directive Six continues the Community Integration Implementation Team (CIIT) to ensure the Commonwealth is providing opportunities for individuals with disabilities to become fully integrated into the community if they choose.
Finally, Executive Order Forty-Seven works to maintain a continued focus on Virginians with disabilities. It requires the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to convene regular meetings with relevant stakeholders, providing an opportunity for future feedback and ensuring Virginians with disabilities have an ongoing voice within state government.
The Virginia Department of Elections highlights security initiatives to ensure election integrity
Ensuring the integrity of our elections has always been and will continue to be a top priority for election officials across the Commonwealth. Election officials across the country have been faced with targeted attacks from bad actors, both foreign and domestic, who work to undermine the public trust in our elections process.
Virginians should feel confident that their votes will be counted accurately. The Department of Elections (ELECT) has worked to remove unsecure voting systems from service at the local level and promoted the transition to modern voting systems using voter verified paper-based balloting. Furthermore, the equipment voters use to cast their ballots in Virginia are not connected to the Internet.
“The Department of Elections is aware of security concerns related to elections and voting systems,” said Christopher Piper, Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner. “As election officials, it is important for us to make sure that voters know their votes will be counted and their voices are heard.”
ELECT has worked with voting equipment vendors to ensure all voting systems meet new standards prior to the 2020 General Election. System vulnerability tests are constantly in process to ensure that the Department’s infrastructure is sound.
The work to protect Virginia’s elections from cybercrime is ongoing. In March 2019, Governor Northam signed Ch. 426, Acts of Assembly 2019, which requires the creation and implementation of cybersecurity standards for all jurisdictions who access the state election database. These efforts have helped Virginia to prevent, mitigate, and respond to cyber incidents targeting the integrity of its election system. Cybersecurity training courses have been made available to Virginia’s election administrators statewide. One of ELECT’s most successful training opportunities has generated participation from more than 400 of Virginia’s election officials. The program, created by the Chicago nonprofit Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), is divided into three courses and covers practices like creating strong passwords, protecting accounts with two-factor authentication, identifying common types of cyber attacks faced by government offices, and effectively communicating with the public about security issues.
ELECT has developed collaborative relationships with federal, state and local election officials to share and learn from one another in support of more secure elections. The Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) and the Center for Internet Security (CIS) work with ELECT to ensure adherence to state security policies and best practices set forth by CIS, including conducting an annual security audit.
ELECT has increased its staff to include hiring additional training professionals tasked with updating and maintaining compliance materials for elections, while staff also receives ongoing security training and resources from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).
“Training is a top priority at the Virginia Department of Elections,” explains Commissioner Piper. “We are proud of the fact that our training opportunities are as diverse as the partnerships we have formed. Our training varies from conducting tabletop exercises for election officials to hosting continuity of operations workgroup meetings with elections stakeholders, where we identify best practices and areas for improvement in cyber incident planning, preparedness, identification and response.”
Virginia’s 2020 Primary Election will be held March 3, and the General Election scheduled for November 3. The Department of Elections encourages voters to take the following steps to help promote election security and voter confidence:
- Check your voter registration status to ensure that it is current and/or find your polling place. Virginia provides a secure way for Virginia voters to access their registration information through our citizen portal.
- Always review your ballot before casting it.
- Find information about elections by using trusted sources such as state and county agencies.
- Learn more about the security efforts of the Virginia Department of Elections and our state and federal partners.
- Follow the Virginia Department of Elections on Twitter @VaELECT and like us on Facebook.
Governor Northam signs 16 bills into law
~ Newly-approved measures include pro-transit planning, parole reform ~
Governor Ralph Northam today announced he signed 16 pieces of legislation into law, including bills to encourage local energy-efficient transit strategies and reform parole eligibility for certain juvenile offenders.
The measures include House Bill 585, sponsored by Delegate Elizabeth Guzman, which requires certain Virginia cities and counties to consider incorporating into their comprehensive plans strategies to focus development around transit, with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions through coordination of transportation, housing, and land use planning. Local governments use comprehensive plans to guide future development and infrastructure.
“Transit-oriented development helps create walkable, accessible communities with smaller carbon footprints,” said Governor Northam. “I am happy to sign this bill to ensure that our localities consider transit in their land-use planning.”
“Localities and cities are asked to do their part to fight climate change by considering options related to affordable housing, public transportation, and land use planning when preparing their comprehensive plans,” said Delegate Guzman. “By working together, we can drastically reduce Virginia’s carbon footprint.”
Governor Northam also signed House Bill 35, sponsored by Delegate Joseph Lindsey, which reforms parole by making people eligible for parole after serving 20 years of a sentence for crimes committed as juveniles and for which they received lengthy sentences.
“Criminal justice reform includes reforming parole,” said Governor Northam. “This is about simple justice and fairness.”
The measure complements Governor’s Northam criminal justice reform package, which continues to move through the legislative process. The package funds public defenders, supports returning citizens, and further reforms parole.
“House Bill 35 is a landmark piece of legislation that gives an opportunity for youths who have committed serious crimes and repented, a future opportunity for social redemption,” said Delegate Lindsey.
Governor Northam also signed the following bills:
• House Bill 94: Adoption; proper notice of proceeding to the legal custodian.
• House Bill 106: Numbering on buildings; civil penalty.
• House Bill 150: Derelict residential buildings; civil penalty.
• House Bill 278: Home/electronic incarceration program; payment to defray costs.
• House Bill 369: Furloughs from local work-release programs; furlough approved by a local sheriff.
• House Bill 370: Board of zoning appeals; dual office holding.
• House Bill 406: Local government revenues and expenditures; comparative report, filing date.
• House Bill 515: Urban county executive form of government; board of social services.
• House Bill 549: Overgrown vegetation; local authority.
• House Bill 598: Alcoholic beverage control; creates an annual mixed beverage performing arts facility license.
• House Bill 778: Family assessments; increases timeline for completion.
• House Bill 949: Alcoholic beverage control; privileges of local special events licensees.
• House Bill 1006: Human trafficking; assessments by local departments.
• House Bill 1137: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Virginia Initiative for Education and Work; hardship exception.
These measures become law on July 1, 2020, unless otherwise noted.
Until the session’s final week, the Constitution of Virginia requires the Governor to act on legislation within seven days.
The General Assembly session is scheduled to adjourn on March 8, 2020.
Governor Northam announces Statewide 2020 Census Week of Action
~ Activities promote participation in the upcoming census, encourage Virginians to take action in their communities ~
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today invited Virginians across the Commonwealth to participate in a 2020 Census week of action tomorrow through next Friday. Events throughout the week encourage Virginia residents to learn more about what’s at stake in the 2020 Census and to take action in their communities to help ensure Virginia has a complete and accurate count.
“An accurate count in the 2020 Census will support our efforts to build a Commonwealth for all Virginians and paint a more complete picture of the diverse voices that make up our state,” said Governor Northam. “I urge all Virginians to take part in the 2020 Census week of action and learn about how you can raise awareness about the upcoming census in your community.”
Virginians throughout the Commonwealth can help promote the census by taking part in the following activities.
Friday, February 21 – Sunday, February 23 | Interfaith Engagement
This weekend, faith-based organizations and communities are encouraged to share information about the 2020 Census with their parishioners by incorporating messaging into their sermons, lectures, or other teachings, and by including information in programs, bulletins, and newsletters. Faith-based organizations and communities can access the Virginia Complete Count Commission’s Interfaith Engagement Toolkit here.
Monday, February 24 | Engaging Virginia’s Seniors
Facilities and organizations that support Virginia’s seniors are encouraged to share information about the 2020 Census. Additionally, families are encouraged to create a plan of action for completing the 2020 Census with the seniors in their lives.
Older Virginians and their loved ones are also asked to mark their calendars for Wednesday, March 4 and join the 2020 Census Tele-Townhall hosted by the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth and AARP Virginia. From protecting themselves against census scams to letting family caregivers know how to help their loved ones, the Tele-Townhall will offer important information to help people make sure they are counted. Details about how to participate in the 2020 Census Tele-Townhall will be made available here.
Tuesday, February 25 | College Students’ “Talk About It Tuesday”
Colleges and universities are encouraged to educate students and faculty about the importance of the 2020 Census. Students are encouraged to participate in “Talk About It Tuesday” by talking to their parents and guardians to create a plan of action for completing the 2020 Census. College Students can find information on student enumeration here.
Wednesday, February 26 | Let’s “Get Social” (on Media)
Virginians can “Get Social” (on Media) by following Virginia’s Census engagement efforts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Virginians are also invited to participate in a Twitter chat about what’s at stake in the 2020 Census. Questions can be tweeted to @CountOnVirginia. Promote the Census using the hashtags #Census2020 #VACompleteCount #CountOnVirginia.
Pledge to be Counted
The Northam administration recently announced a partnership with CommunityConnect Labs to use mobile messaging to connect with hard-to-reach populations. On Wednesday, February 26, Virginians are encouraged to “Pledge to be Counted” by texting the word “PLEDGE” or “CENSO” (Español) to the number for their respective locality. Participants will receive a digital pledge card that can be shared on social media. Standard text messaging data rates may apply.
Valley: (540) 235-5155
Northern: (703) 684-0007 or (571) 200-0828
Coastal: (757) 210-3232
Southside: (434) 201-4884
Southwest: (276) 218-8138
Central: (804) 203-0393
“We are excited to use our new text messaging platform to reach Virginians all over the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson. “We know that text and other mobile messaging is one of the best ways to reach underserved populations, especially those populations that are historically hard-to-count in the census.”
Thursday, February 27 | Counting Our Youngest Virginians
It is estimated that upwards of 5 percent of children under the age of four went uncounted in the 2010 Census. On Thursday, early childhood care and education centers are encouraged to share information with parents and guardians about the 2020 Census and the importance of young children born on or before April 1, 2020 (Census Day), being counted. Information on the enumeration of children ages 0-4 can be found here.
Friday, February 28 | K-12 “Census in Schools”
Educators and school administrators are encouraged to learn about how they can incorporate the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistics in Schools (SIS) program into their lessons and classroom activities. The SIS program uses census statistics to create classroom materials for grades pre-K through 12. Learn more about the SIS program here.
Additionally, Parent-Teacher Associations are encouraged to share information on the importance of the 2020 Census through newsletters and on social media—highlighting the value of programs such as Head Start, school breakfasts and lunches, and how 2020 Census data will support these efforts.
About the Virginia Complete Count Commission
On December 18, 2018, Governor Northam signed Executive Order Twenty-Seven establishing the Virginia Complete Count Commission. The purpose of the Commission is to improve participation and representation of all Virginians in the 2020 Census. The Commission facilitates the sharing of ideas and community resources regarding the 2020 Census and serves as a conduit between the Commonwealth and the United States Census Bureau.
The Virginia Complete Count Commission serves as a trusted voice and resource to educate, empower, and engage all communities for the purpose of ensuring that everyone who lives in the Commonwealth of Virginia is counted in the 2020 Census.
For more information on the 2020 Census and Virginia Complete Count Commission, visit census.virginia.gov or follow @CountOnVirginia on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
CANCELLED Virginia Senior Alert Activation: Fairfax man missing
Cancelled Senior Alert: Subject has been located
The Virginia State Police has issued a senior alert on behalf of Fairfax Police Department on February 19, 2020, at 9:00 p.m.
The Fairfax Police Department is looking for William Shaw, a white male, 85-years-old, height: 6’1”, weight: 225 lbs., with grey eyes and grey hair. He was last seen on February 19, 2020, at 1:30 p.m. on Clara Barton Road, driving a 2008 white Toyota Sienna, VA Registration 258-2BBE. He was last seen wearing a green jacket and jeans.
The missing senior suffers from a cognitive impairment, and the disappearance poses a credible threat to his health and safety as determined by the investigating agency.
Please contact the Fairfax Police Department with any information regarding his whereabouts at 1-703-691-2131, or you may find complete information at www.vasenioralert.com.
Governor Northam announces new funding to preserve farmland
~ $350,000 for permanent conservation easements in Albemarle, Clarke, Fauquier, and Stafford counties, cities of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach ~
On February 19, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam announced $350,000 in grants from the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund to help six localities protect their farm and forest land. The grants will be used as matching funds to permanently preserve working lands through local Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) programs.
The grant recipients for the fiscal year 2020 are Albemarle, Clarke, Fauquier, and Stafford counties, and the cities of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. PDR programs empower localities to limit development on priority farm and forest lands and provide an incentive to landowners who want to protect their working lands by voluntarily securing a perpetual conservation easement.
“As Virginia’s largest private industry, agriculture plays a vital role in maintaining our strong economy and outstanding quality of life,” said Governor Northam. “Through this program, localities are helping us identify the working farm and forest lands that are most important to conserve for agricultural and forestry production, and working to ensure that future generations of Virginians can benefit from cleaner air and cleaner water.”
Since the program’s inception in 2008, Virginia has provided matching funds for certified local PDR programs to 23 localities, allocating $12.8 million to protect more than 14,100 acres on 105 farms. In August, Governor Northam celebrated the milestone of surpassing more than 100 conservation easements through the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund. Conservation easements supported by this program ensure that protected lands stay intact as working farms and forests in perpetuity.
“Conserving working farm and forest lands is crucial to maintaining Virginia’s economy, through the agricultural and forestry industries and agritourism,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “Keeping farms in production conserves open spaces and provides economic, environmental, and social benefits to local communities and to the Commonwealth as a whole.”
Localities interested in doing more to protect their vital working farms and forestlands by creating a PDR program or implementing other best practices should contact Jen Perkins, Coordinator, Office of Farmland Preservation at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, at Jennifer.Perkins@vdacs.virginia.gov or (804) 786-1906.
CANCELLED: Virginia Senior Alert Activation: Newport News woman missing
The Virginia State Police has issued a senior alert on behalf of Newport News Police Department on February 17, 2020 at 6:30 a.m.
The Newport News Police Department is looking for Marva Keyser, a black female, 77-years-old, 150 lbs., with hazel eyes and brown hair. She was last seen on February 16, 2020, at 9:30 p.m., on Wellesley Drive. She was last seen wearing a light jacket, long sleeve shirt – black and pink in color, red shorts just past the knees, and white/gray/red shoes.
The missing senior suffers from a cognitive impairment and the disappearance poses a credible threat to her health and safety as determined by the investigating agency.
Please contact the Newport News Police Department with any information regarding her whereabouts at 1-757-928-4100, option 4, or you may find complete information at www.vasenioralert.com.
The Virginia Senior Alert for Ms. Keyser of Newport News has been cancelled. The Newport News Police Department is reporting that she was safely located.