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Governor Northam to celebrate Public Lands Week – September 22nd



RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam and members of his administration will celebrate Public Lands Week, which begins with National Public Lands Day on Saturday, September 22. Established in 1993 as a day of volunteer service to help restore the country’s public lands, this year marks the 25th Anniversary of National Public Lands Day. The celebration will conclude on Sunday, September 29 with the 2nd annual Virginia Public Lands Day, showcasing the public lands of Virginia and honoring the Commonwealth’s natural heritage.

To highlight the importance of Virginia’s public lands, Governor Northam and First Lady Pamela Northam will visit Pocahontas State Park in Chesterfield on Sunday, September 23 where they will tour the park and present a proclamation recognizing Public Lands Week in Virginia. Governor Northam will also visit First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach on Friday, September 28.

“Public lands represent the best of Virginia. They celebrate our history, our biodiversity and provide countless outdoor recreation opportunities for all Virginians to enjoy,” said Governor Northam. “My administration is committed to protecting and expanding access to public lands across the state to continue to improve quality of life, promote shared stewardship, and grow the tourism and recreational economy of the Commonwealth.”

Virginia’s public lands include state, local, and national parks, forests, nature centers, wilderness and wildlife management areas, waterways, wetlands, community gardens, historical sites, and other types of land—providing residents and visitors with opportunities to explore nature, help protect and preserve our diverse natural resources, and contribute to the state’s economic vitality.

“Public Lands Week is an ideal time to celebrate Virginia’s cherished natural and historic sites that are available to all Virginians and visitors from around the world,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler. “Whether you love to hunt and fish, bird watch, mountain bike or simply take a walk with family and friends, Virginia’s public lands provide countless opportunities for recreation. We hope that people across the Commonwealth will enjoy our public lands year round, and especially during Public Lands Week.”

The Commonwealth is home to 37 Virginia State Parks covering 73,000 acres with three under development offering 651 miles of trails, with convenient access to boating, fishing, and swimming, and 22 National Park System Units.

Virginia’s 63 Natural Area Preserves cover 56,661 acres and harbor over 750 exemplary natural community and rare species locations and provide hiking and water access. The Virginia Department of Forestry manages 24 State Forests that total 68,858 acres across the Commonwealth, offering 377 miles of recreational trails, and lakes and rivers that provide opportunities for fishing swimming, and paddling. The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries maintains 41 Wildlife Management Areas, with more than 200,000 acres of land open to the public for wildlife-related recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing. In addition, local governments provide over 850 neighborhood and local parks covering more than 79,000 acres across Virginia.

Throughout the week, members of the administration will make a series of visits around the Commonwealth to help showcase Virginia’s public lands, promote the accessibility of environmental learning and highlight efforts to protect and restore Virginia’s natural and historic resources. Visits will include:

  • Secretary Strickler and Deputy Secretary Saks will visit Presquile National Wildlife Refuge in Henrico, home to the James River Ecology School.
  • Secretary Strickler will chair the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation Board of Trustees meeting.
  • Secretary Strickler and Deputy Secretary Saks will tour the Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain Battlefields.

A complete list of programs at Virginia State Parks during Public Lands Week is available here.

Governor Northam issued a proclamation recognizing Public Lands Week in Virginia. Read the full proclamation here.

State News

Governor’s proposed budget to include funding to increase financial aid, affordable housing options, and reduce eviction levels



Governor Northam

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today, December 17th,  announced his proposed budget will include funding to address the affordability of higher education and housing in Virginia. These investments will support programs and strategies proven successful in assisting Virginians.

“Virginia families trying to pay for rent and tuition should be able to count on access to affordable education and stable housing, which are essential to creating opportunities for success,” said Governor Northam. “These initiatives will help more Virginians thrive, no matter who they are or where they live.”

Governor Northam’s proposed budget allocates $15.5 million for additional need-based financial aid for public four- and two-year higher education institutions in Virginia. Furthermore, $5.2 million in additional funds will be allocated for the Tuition Assistance Grant Program (TAG), a program that provides grants to Virginia residents who attend accredited private, nonprofit colleges and universities in Virginia. These additional funds will increase the award to an annual amount of $3,400. These investments fully fund the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia’s (SCHEV) recommendation for undergraduate need-based financial aid and TAG.

Governor Northam has also proposed budget language requiring institutions of higher education to develop tuition predictability plans as a part of their biennial six-year financial plans submitted to SCHEV. These predictability plans will outline the expected cost of tuition and fees—for a period of at least three years—that in-state, undergraduate students shall be expected to pay.

“These proposals take serious steps to not only address the affordability of higher education, but also offer enhanced transparency for students,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “By enabling students to better understand the costs of higher education, individuals and families will be able to use this knowledge as they plan their finances.”

The Governor’s proposed budget allocates an addition $19 million over the biennium to the Housing Trust Fund, which will enable it to increase its capacity to address homelessness and expand the supply of quality, affordable housing. The Housing Trust Fund is critical to assisting local and regional efforts to address the high-cost burden of housing. This is one-time funding to increase the Housing Trust Fund to a total of $20 million in FY2019 and a total of $10 million in FY2020.

“Access to quality affordable housing is critical to successful economic development,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “The Governor’s proposed budget includes important investments that will improve affordable housing, reduce eviction rates, and allow communities to grow and thrive.”

In addition, the investments include funding to help reduce eviction levels. Several localities across the Commonwealth have some of the highest eviction rates in the nation. Governor Northam’s proposed budget includes $2.6 million to expand access to legal assistance for individuals and families who are facing eviction proceedings in every region of the Commonwealth.

Governor Northam also proposed funding for the Department of Housing and Community Development to hire a staff member to work across state government and with stakeholders to find innovative ways to pilot eviction diversion and prevention programs.

Governor Northam will address the Joint Money Committees on December 18 at 9:30 AM to share the full details of his structurally balanced budget plan. The proposal features additional investments, as well as a plan to put Virginia on a path to committing 8 percent of its total budget in reserves by the end of the Northam administration.

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State News

Governor’s proposed budget to feature increased funding to ensure key student supports for safe learning environments



RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced his proposed budget will feature an additional $39 million in new money for investments to ensure safe learning environments for Virginia’s K-12 students. In addition to a raise in teacher salaries announced Monday, Governor Northam also is proposing to allocate $36 million to fund additional school counselors for school divisions across the Commonwealth.

“Virginia is a nationally-recognized leader on school safety, but creating a safe learning environment means ensuring all of our students receive proper supports, including access to mental health professionals,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia’s school counselors play a critical role in creating a positive school climate and engaging with our students—they are an important source of support in the education system and we need more of them. We can create safer learning environments for Virginia’s students by taking a more holistic approach, and adding school counselors is integral to our success.”

Earlier this year, Governor Northam signed Executive Order Eleven, re-establishing the Children’s Cabinet and creating a Student Safety Work Group chaired by Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. The diverse group of stakeholders convened to develop recommendations to enhance the safety of students and schools, centering focus on the individual safety and well-being of Virginia’s students. A number of the work group’s recommendations are reflected in the budget proposals announced today.

Virginia schools reported 9,238 threat assessments in 2017—50 percent of which were threats of harm to self. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among school-aged youth nationally, and in Virginia. Taking steps to provide additional supports to students, raise awareness about suicide, and ensure students, school professionals, public safety personnel and community members are equipped with appropriate training and intervention skills are critical to a holistic school safety strategy. The $36 million proposal would be the first installment of a three-year, phased strategy to hire enough school counselors to reduce caseloads to 1:250 across all grade bands, the nationally-recognized best practice. The state currently funds a ratio of 1:425 school counselors.

In addition, the governor’s budget will provide $3.3 million to the Virginia Center for School Campus Safety, enabling it to fund critical positions; expand access to training for school professionals, school resource and security officers; supplement expired grant support for the annual school climate survey; and provide additional active shooter trainings. It also will add funding for a threat assessment case management tool, enabling consistent tracking and reporting of threat assessment data that will allow school and state leaders to better understand issues facing schools and direct resources accordingly.

“Investing in school counselors clearly demonstrates our commitment to best serving our students and all their needs,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “When it comes to the safety and well-being of our children, we can never be too vigilant. Providing funding for critical personnel, mental health supports, and highly relevant trauma-informed trainings is essential.”

“Virginia has long established itself a national leader on school safety, in large part because of the tremendous work of the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “Governor Northam’s significant investment will bolster their work and enable the Center to hire additional staff, create and offer cutting edge training to our school and law enforcement communities, and provide technical support to local school divisions.

Governor Northam will address the Joint Money Committees on December 18 to share the full details of his structurally balanced budget plan. The proposal features additional investments, as well as a plan to put Virginia on a path to committing 8 percent of its total budget in reserves by the end of the Northam administration.

Governor Northam will unveil additional budget proposals this week. For more information on the schedule of events, click here.

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State News

State police launching Instagram account, will reveal name of newest bloodhounds



RICHMOND – The Virginia State Police is launching an official Instagram account on Thursday, Dec. 13 at 11 a.m. in a very big way!  The VSP account at state police is now “live” on the photo-sharing app platform and at 11 a.m. Thursday will feature as its first post – a sneak preview of the names selected for the Department’s two newest bloodhounds.

Last month, state police invited the public to send in via Facebook their favorite names for the floppy-eared siblings. The Department’s K-9 Training Unit considered over  3,300 pairs of suggested names and narrowed them down to five for final consideration. Just shy of 1,500 Facebook followers cast their votes and the winning pair of names will be revealed on all three state police social media platforms by noon Thursday.

The Virginia State Police established itself on YouTube in 2009 and Facebook in 2010. A @VSPPIO Twitter page followed five years later. Today, the state police engages with more than 180,000 Facebook followers, approximately 13,500 Twitter followers and 1,500 YouTube viewers worldwide.

“Adding Instagram to the Virginia State Police social media portfolio enables us to reach a much greater audience with our key traffic safety messaging, crime prevention outreach, investigative alerts and recruitment efforts…and, of course, more photos of our canines,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “We look forward to engaging with the public via Instagram and sharing even more about the state police and our mission in service and safety to others.”

Instagram followers who connect with state police by 11 a.m. Thursday will be among the first to find out the winning names for the 11-week-old brother and sister bloodhounds pictured with Colonel Settle.

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State News

Virginia awarded competitive $15.5 million federal grant for improvements at Virginia Inland Port



RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced today that the Port of Virginia was awarded a $15,500,197 federal grant through the highly competitive Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) transportation discretionary grants process. The U.S. Department of Transportation is investing in surface transportation infrastructure through the BUILD program. Grant applicants vied for a total of $1.5 billion in discretionary grant funding for projects supporting roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports, or intermodal transportation. The Port of Virginia project was fully funded.

Projects were evaluated based on merit criteria that included safety, economic competitiveness, quality of life, environmental protection, state of good repair, innovation, partnership, and additional non-Federal revenue for future transportation infrastructure investments.

“The Port of Virginia is a critical asset to the Commonwealth that generates jobs and serves as a gateway to global markets,” said Governor Northam. “These improvements will both enhance the safety and increase the capacity of the Virginia Inland Port, allowing the facility to receive Ultra Large Container Vessels and bringing new opportunities for international commerce to Virginia.”

The $15.5 million in BUILD grant funds will be used to build a highway bridge grade separation at the at-grade crossing on State Route 658 (Rockland Road). The project involves constructing a new bridge on State Route 658 that will run above the existing railroad tracks.

The Port is investing a total of $26 million in two projects at the Virginia Inland Port (VIP) designed to improve traffic flow and safety on a local road and expand the terminal’s overall cargo handling capabilities. The projects will be funded through two infrastructure grant programs, one federal and one state.

“The success of our multimodal transportation network depends upon the kind of collaboration that made this grant award possible,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “These improvements will allow the Inland Port to more efficiently move international freight to inland markets, opening Virginia’s economy to the world.”

The VIP terminal brings The Port of Virginia 220 miles closer to inland markets and improves service throughout the Capital Region of Baltimore, Washington, and Richmond by providing rail service to the terminals in Hampton Roads. VIP also consolidates and containerizes local cargo for export. As a direct result of the VIP facility opening in 1989 to help better distribute freight inland along highways and railroads, nearly 40 manufacturing and distribution centers have located in the region, creating roughly 8,000 direct and indirect jobs.

U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and U.S. Representatives Barbara Comstock and Bob Goodlatte wrote to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao in support of the BUILD grant application. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and the Virginia Department of Transportation endorsed the application as well.

“This is a traffic flow and safety concern that is important to the community and we now have the funding to begin addressing this issue—we are grateful for the broad support this grant application received from members of our Congressional delegation, Virginia’s governor, regional economic development authorities, and the business community around VIP,” said CEO and Executive Director of the Virginia Port Authority John F. Reinhart. “This is an important step forward in the evolution of the Virginia Inland Port. Our container volumes are growing, and inland destinations like VIP and Richmond Marine Terminal are vital to the efficient and predictable flow of cargo. We are investing now in order to build the port of the future.”

Inside the VIP terminal, the Port is investing $3.3 million, which will be matched by $7.7 million from the state’s Rail Enhancement Fund. The $11-million project will expand capacity and improve cargo flow at VIP. The optimization project consists of building three new railroad tracks on terminal (bringing to eight the total number of railroad tracks at VIP), lengthening the existing track, and purchasing two pieces of hybrid, low-emissions cargo moving equipment.

Virginia Inland Port is located in Front Royal, which is 220 miles northwest of the Norfolk Harbor. The terminal is situated at the intersection of interstates 81 and 66 and is connected by daily train service to the Port’s deep-water terminals in the harbor. The terminal is an important inland destination for container cargo that also helps to drive significant economic investment and job creation in the surrounding community.

The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VPA owns and, through its private operating subsidiary Virginia International Terminals LLC (VIT), operates four general cargo facilities: Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Newport News Marine Terminal, and the Virginia Inland Port in Warren County. The VPA leases Virginia International Gateway and Richmond Marine Terminal.

A recent economic impact study from The College of William and Mary shows that The Port of Virginia helps to create more than 530,000 jobs and generated $88.4 billion in total economic impact throughout the Commonwealth on an annual basis.

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State News

VDOT cleanup continues as winter storm exits region



RICHMOND, Va. – As the major winter storm exits the Commonwealth, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) crews remain focused on plowing and treating roads around the clock. With most interstates and primary routes in clear condition, VDOT crews may be able to shift focus to secondary routes and neighborhood streets. This slow-moving winter storm dropped record amounts of heavy snow across the southern and southwest parts of the state.

If possible, motorists should limit unnecessary travel, if possible. Snow removal equipment may move slower than other traffic, so motorists who must travel are encouraged to use extra caution. Crews are focused on focusing on plowing and pushing snow away from roadway shoulders, turn lanes, shaded areas and ramps. While daytime temperatures will assist in snow removal efforts, overnight temperatures may continue to cause potential refreeze and increase the likelihood for black ice.

VDOT’s goal is typically to make all roads passable within 48 hours after a storm’s end. Due to this particular storm’s heavy accumulations, outlying areas may experience longer response time frames as crews continue to progress.

What the public can stay safe if traveling:

Clear the snow and ice from your vehicle’s roof, hood and trunk and especially from the windows, mirrors and lights.
Always wear your seat belt.
Leave a few minutes early.
Start out slowly in the lowest gear recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.
Be aware of potentially icy areas such as shady spots and bridges.
Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles and trucks that are plowing the road.
Don’t pass a snowplow or spreader unless it is absolutely necessary. Treat these as you would emergency response vehicles.
Keep an emergency winter driving kit in your car.

Information resources:

Check current road conditions and watch real-time camera feeds of major routes at, or through the free mobile app or by phone.
Track VDOT snowplows online through VDOT and contractor trucks are equipped with automatic vehicle location technology, and can be monitored to see general coverage areas. The website is activated at the local level, generally when snow accumulations reach approximately two inches or more.

Report severe road conditions to and ask questions of VDOT’s Customer Service Center team around the clock at or by calling 1-800-FOR-ROAD (367-7623).

Find more winter travel tips at

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Local News

Governor Northam declares State of Emergency in advance of expected winter storm



RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam on Saturday, December 8th, declared a state of emergency in advance of winter weather effects on southern Virginia anticipated to begin this weekend and last into the early part of next week.

“Virginians should take all necessary precautions to ensure they are prepared for winter weather storm impacts,” said Governor Northam. “I am declaring a state of emergency to ensure localities and communities have appropriate assistance and to coordinate state response to possible snow and ice accumulations, transportation issues, and potential power outages.”

A s allows the Commonwealth to mobilize resources and to deploy people and equipment to assist in response and recovery efforts. This action does not apply to individuals or private businesses. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia National Guard and other pertinent agencies are already mobilizing and preparing for the impact of this storm.

To learn more about how to prepare yourself, your family and your business for winter weather, visit: For real-time traffic conditions anywhere in the state, dial 5-1-1 or visit

Governor Northam authorized a maximum of $500,000 in state sum sufficient funds for state and local government’s mission assignments authorized and coordinated through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management that are allowable as defined by The Stafford Act. This funding is also available for state response and recovery operations and incident documentation.
The order also provides authorization of an amount estimated at $500,000 for matching funds for the Individuals and Household Program, authorized by the Stafford Act (when presidentially authorized), to be paid from state funds.

This Executive Order shall be effective December 7, 2018, and shall remain in full force and in effect until January 6, 2019, unless sooner amended or rescinded by further executive order.

To read the text of the Governor’s Executive Order declaring this state of emergency visit

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