RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam has signed House Bill 2384, sponsored by Delegate Patrick Hope and Senate Bill 1295, sponsored by Senator Lionel Spruill, Sr., which will require all local school boards to develop and implement a comprehensive tobacco-free policy banning the use and distribution of any tobacco product or nicotine vapor product on a school bus, on school property, and at on-site and off-site school-sponsored activities. This legislation will be effective July 1, 2019.
“The recent and dramatic rise in youth smoking and vaping represents a serious public health crisis that requires our attention and action,” said Governor Northam. “We have a responsibility to prevent our children from being exposed to all types of tobacco or nicotine-containing products—as state senator, I led the successful, bipartisan effort to enact a statewide smoking ban in our bars and restaurants, and as governor I am proud to sign this legislation that will make Virginia schools and communities safer and healthier.”
Current law prohibits smoking on school buses and in school buildings, but does not address smoking on other school property, such as school grounds or school-sponsored events, or other types of tobacco products, such as electronic cigarettes. The United States Surgeon General and the Food and Drug Administration recently declared that e-cigarette use among high school students is an epidemic that is leading a new generation of young people to become addicted to nicotine.
“Tobacco products do not belong in schools or at school-sponsored events,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, M.D. “This law will not only protect Virginia’s children from exposure to second-hand smoke, it will also help to establish a tobacco-free norm, allowing students to make better choices about their health when it comes to saying no to tobacco products outside of school.”
Between 2017 and 2018, use of e-cigarettes among high school students in the United States increased 78 percent, from 11.7 percent to 20.8 percent. As of fall 2017, 152,366, or 11.8 percent of Virginia high school students, were using e-cigarettes—almost twice as many as the number of kids smoking traditional cigarettes.
“I am pleased to see this legislation pass,” said State Senator Lionel Spruill, Sr. “Studies have shown that tobacco and vape products can have a negative impact on the health and development of children and we need to do all we can to insure our students are not negatively affected by these products while on school grounds.”
“Virginia is making a commitment to a 100 percent tobacco-free environment for our students,” said Delegate Patrick Hope. “This is a comprehensive policy that will positively benefit students, school staff, and parents.”
The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY)’s award-winning volunteer group for high school students, Y Street, has been working on this issue for more than four years as a part of its 24/7 campaign. As a former member of the VFHY Board of Trustees, Governor Northam kicked off the very first 24/7 tobacco-free schools event in 2015 when he was lieutenant governor. VFHY and Y Street will continue to serve as a partner and resource to schools after the bill becomes law, providing schools with free tobacco-free signage and a toolkit with model policy language, event announcements, and sample enforcement strategies.
“The overwhelming support this bill received from Governor Northam, our legislators, and stakeholders demonstrates the importance of keeping our learning environments healthy and free of addictive and harmful tobacco and nicotine products,” said VFHY Executive Director Marty Kilgore. “Youth e-cigarette use is a national public health epidemic and it’s critical that we protect the health of Virginia’s students.”
When Y Street began the 24/7 campaign, VFHY determined that only 20 of Virginia’s 132 school systems had voluntarily adopted comprehensive tobacco-free and e-cigarette-free policies. Through Y Street’s hard work reaching out to school administrators, superintendents, and local school boards over the last four years, the number of school systems voluntarily adopting these policies doubled to 40 as of February 2019.
“The Virginia Adult Tobacco Survey found overwhelming support for this type of legislation,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver. “More than 84 percent of Virginians agree there should be a ban on all tobacco use on school grounds and at school events. More than 75 percent of smokers also agreed with this type of ban. While forty school districts in Virginia already have established this type of policy, the new law will expand protection to children in all of our public schools.”
Richmond Circuit Court upholds Executive Order Forty-Nine
RICHMOND—The Richmond Circuit Court today upheld Governor Ralph Northam’s decision, outlined in Executive Order Forty-Nine, to temporarily ban firearms on Capitol grounds from 5:00 PM on Friday, January 17, 2020 until 5:00 PM on Tuesday, January 21, 2020. The Governor said that law enforcement intelligence analysts had identified credible threats of violence surrounding the event, along with white nationalist rhetoric and plans by out-of-state militia groups to attend.
Governor Northam issued the following statement:
This is the right decision. I took this action to protect Virginians from credible threats of violence. These threats are real—as evidenced by reports of neo-Nazis arrested this morning after discussing plans to head to Richmond with firearms.
I’m grateful to the Circuit Court for recognizing the seriousness of these threats, and for upholding this reasonable, legal action to protect all Virginians, including demonstrators and policymakers. I will continue to do everything in my power to keep Virginians safe.
Governor Northam declares State of Emergency in advance of Capitol Square demonstration
On January 15th, Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in advance of expected demonstrations on Capitol Square on Monday, January 20, 2020. According to the Governor, law enforcement intelligence analysts have identified credible threats of violence surrounding the event, along with white nationalist rhetoric and plans by out-of-state militia groups to attend.
The Governor’s declaration prohibits all weapons, including firearms, from Capitol grounds, and will provide joint law enforcement and public safety agencies the resources they need to keep demonstrators, policymakers, and all Virginians safe.
This emergency declaration is temporary, and extends from Friday, January 17 at 5:00 PM until Tuesday, January 21 at 5:00 PM.
Watch the Governors comments:
Attorney General Herring says he’ll continue to fight to protect student borrowers
~ Herring joins coalition of attorneys general in commending Congressional effort to reject the U.S. Department of Education’s 2019 Borrower Defense Rule that would hurt students ~
RICHMOND (January 14, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined a coalition of states in supporting Congressional efforts to reject a final rule by the U.S. Department of Education that fails to protect students and taxpayers from the misconduct of unscrupulous schools. In a letter to Congress, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues commended efforts to reject the U.S. Department of Education’s 2019 Borrower Defense Rule. Previously, Attorney General Herring won a victory in federal court after he challenged the U.S. Department of Education’s plan to abruptly rescind the 2016 Borrower Defense Rule.
“Time and again the Trump Administration has shown that it favors protecting for-profit colleges over protecting student borrowers,” said Attorney General Herring. “This new Borrower Defense Rule will hurt student borrowers and leave them without options to discharge their loans if they have been defrauded by one of these for-profit schools. I will continue to fight to make sure that for-profit colleges are held accountable and student borrowers are afforded the protections they deserve.”
According to the letter, the final rule provides no realistic prospect for borrowers to discharge their loans when they have been defrauded by predatory for-profit schools, and it eliminates financial responsibility requirements for those same institutions.
“If this rule goes into effect, the result will be disastrous for students while providing a windfall to abusive schools,” the letter states.
The U.S. Department of Education’s new rule would rescind and replace its comprehensive 2016 Borrower Defense Rule, which involved a thorough rulemaking process addressing borrower defense and financial responsibility, in which the views of numerous schools, stakeholders, and public commenters were involved. The 2016 Borrower Defense Rule provided defrauded borrowers with a transparent process to seek debt relief and protected taxpayers by holding schools that engage in misconduct accountable.
According to the letter, the Department’s new rule provides an unworkable process for defrauded students to obtain loan relief and will do nothing to deter and hold accountable schools that cheat their students. Instead of ensuring that borrowers are not bearing the costs of institutional misconduct, the Department’s new rule empowers predatory for-profit schools and cuts off relief to victimized students.
In October 2018, Attorney General Herring announced that a federal judge rejected the Trump Administration’s challenge to the Borrower Defense Rule, ordering its immediate implementation for students nationwide. This ruling followed a victory Attorney General Herring won in federal court after he and a coalition of state attorneys general challenged the U.S. Department of Education’s plan to abruptly rescind its Borrower Defense Rule which was designed to hold abusive higher education institutions accountable for cheating students and taxpayers out of billions of dollars in federal loans. The immediate implementation of the Borrower Defense rule meant that the U.S. Department of Education had to automatically discharge $381 million in loans for students whose schools closed.
Attorney General Herring has taken major actions against for-profit colleges for misleading students. In November 2015, for-profit education company Education Management Corporation announced it would significantly reform its recruiting and enrollment practices and forgive more than $2.29 million in loans for approximately 2,000 former students in Virginia through an agreement with the Attorney General and a group of state attorneys general. Nationwide, the agreement required the for-profit college company to forgive $102.8 million in outstanding loan debt held by more than 80,000 former students.
In December 2016, the Attorney General announced that more than 5,000 Virginia students formerly enrolled in schools operated by Corinthian Colleges, Inc. may be eligible for loan forgiveness. This came after the U.S Department of Education found that Corinthian College and its subsidiaries published misleading job placement rates for many programs between 2010 and 2014. Following this announcement, Attorney General Herring urged Secretary DeVos and the Department of Education to follow through on their commitment to cancel student debt for students in Virginia and around the country who were victimized by Corinthian Colleges’ practices.
Attorney General Herring announced in January of 2019 that he and 48 other attorneys general reached a settlement with for-profit education company Career Education Corporation. The terms of the settlement required CED to reform its recruiting and enrollment practices and forgo collecting about $493.7 million in debts owed by 179,529 students nationally. In Virginia, 3,094 students will receive relief totaling $8,022,178.
Joining Attorney General Herring in sending today’s letter are the attorneys general of California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
December 2019 General Fund revenue collections up 7.6% from previous year, fiscal-year-to-date collections up 8.3%
On January 13th, Governor Ralph Northam announced that total general fund revenues rose 7.6 percent in December, driven by solid growth in payroll withholding, sales and use taxes, and recordation tax collections. On a fiscal year-to-date basis, total revenue collections rose 8.3 percent through December, well ahead of the annual forecast of 1.9 percent growth.
“This continued strong revenue performance gives us confidence that we can achieve the forward-looking agenda I have laid out, while also putting money into our cash reserves,” said Governor Northam. “As the General Assembly session gets underway in Richmond, we have a unique opportunity to invest in our shared future, grow and diversify our economic base, and continue building on our progress.”
Collections of payroll withholding taxes rose 9.2 percent in December, with an additional deposit day compared with last year. Collections of sales and use taxes, reflecting November sales, rose 5.1 percent in December. November represents the beginning of the holiday shopping season and this year had fewer shopping days after Thanksgiving than last year.
“A clearer assessment of the season will be possible after receiving December sales tax payments due in January,” said Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne. “January non-withholding payments will also give us a better indication of taxpayer behavior for calendar 2019 tax returns.”
Collections of wills, suits, deeds, and contracts—mainly recordation tax collections—were $40.4 million in December, compared with $32.0 million in December of last year.
December is a significant month for corporate income tax collections as quarterly estimated payments are due for most corporations and refunds from extension returns are processed. With the main refunding season completed and the first two estimated payments received, collections of corporate income taxes grew 19.2 percent on a year-to-date basis, compared with the forecast of 2.2 percent growth.
Fiscal-year-to-date, payroll withholding collections have grown 5.8 percent, well ahead of the annual estimate of 4.7 percent growth. Collections of sales and use taxes have risen 8.1 percent, ahead of the annual estimate of 6.0 percent growth and recordation tax collections are up 29.0 percent, far ahead of the annual forecast of 13.2 percent growth. On a fiscal year-to-date basis, total revenue collections rose 8.3 percent through December, well ahead of the annual forecast of 1.9 percent growth.
Absentee voting for March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary starts this week
Registered voters may now request an absentee ballot for the March 3, 2020, Virginia Democratic Presidential Primary be mailed to them by going online to www.elections.virginia.gov/citizen-portal or find the form to fill out and mail to their local voter registration office at www.elections.virginia.gov/forms.
Virginia Republicans will choose delegates to their national convention at a state convention. Therefore, no Republican candidates will appear on the ballot in the March 3, 2020, Presidential Primary.
A list of the 20 acceptable reasons a voter can give to vote absentee in Virginia is available at www.elections.virginia.gov/absentee.
In-person absentee voting will begin on Thursday January 16, Friday January 17, or Saturday January 18, 2020, depending on office hours and observation of state holidays. If a voter is unsure when in-person absentee voting starts in their locality, they should contact their local voter registration office. They can find information about their local office at www.elections.virginia.gov/vro.
Other important absentee ballot dates to remember if voting in the March 3, 2020, Virginia Democratic Presidential Primary, include:
- The deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail is at 5pm on Tuesday February 25, 2020.
- The deadline to vote absentee in-person is on Saturday February 29, 2020.
- The deadline for returning your ballot by mail is on Election Day, Tuesday March 3, 2020.
Virginia voters casting an absentee ballot either in-person or on Election Day must show an acceptable photo ID. Voters can get a free Voter Photo ID at their local voter registration office. Voters who do not have an acceptable form of ID may still vote absentee in-person after completing the Virginia Voter Photo Identification Card Application and receiving a Temporary Identification Document from their voter registration office. Find out more about Virginia’s voter ID requirements at www.elections.virginia.gov/voterid.
The last day to register to vote or update voter registration information in order to vote in the March election is Monday February 10, 2020. More information on voter registration can be found online at www.elections.virginia.gov/registration.
For more information on the March 3, 2020, Virginia Democratic Presidential Primary or other election-related inquiries, go to vote.virginia.gov, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Virginia Department of Elections at (800) 552-9745.
Former Case Manager at Northwestern Community Services Board pleads guilty to federal charge
A former case manager at the Northwestern Community Services Board [NWCSB] pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg to illegally accessing the health care information of another individual, United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced today.
Melissa Thomas, 45, of Winchester, Va., pled guilty yesterday to one count of accessing the individually identifiable health care information of a minor child for whom she was not the case manager.
According to court documents, Thomas worked as a case manager at NWCSB from September 2009 through January 2014. In December 2013, an individual lodged a complaint that Thomas had accessed her minor child’s health record, breaching confidentially. Thomas was subsequently investigated by the NWSCB and the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services and it was determined she willfully and knowingly violated the law by illegally accessing the record of the minor child. Thomas was terminated from her employment for the illegal access on January 7, 2014.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the United States Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services Roanoke Field Office. Assistant United States Attorney Ronald M. Huber is prosecuted the case for the United States.