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Governor Northam vetoes legislation designed to shame TANF recipients

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RICHMOND—Governor Northam vetoed House Bill 2749, which would require the Department of Social Services to report to the General Assembly the number of reported violations of restrictions on the use of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance. The Governor’s full veto statement is below.

March 22, 2019

Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto House Bill 2749. This bill would require the Department of Social Services to report to the General Assembly the number of reported violations of restrictions on the use of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance (42 U.S.C. § 601 et seq).

House Bill 2749 is a solution looking for a problem. There is no evidence to suggest TANF violations are an issue. In fact, Department data shows that less than 0.2% of transactions are possibly in this category. Therefore, the only purpose of this bill is to codify a false and discriminatory stereotype about hard-working Virginia families who may temporarily need cash assistance.

The mission of the Department of Social Services is to help Virginians triumph over poverty, abuse, and neglect, and its time and resources are more effectively directed to support strong and resilient families. Our administration continues to focus on this important mission and welcomes bipartisan cooperation in its pursuit.

Accordingly, I veto the bill.

Sincerely,
Ralph S. Northam

SUMMARY AS PASSED: (all summaries)
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; restrictions on use of cash assistance; report. Directs the Department of Social Services to report annually by December 1 to the Chairmen of the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services and the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions information regarding the number of reported violations of restrictions on the use of TANF cash assistance, including the number of reported cases involving multiple violations of such restrictions.

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Governor Northam signs Executive Order establishing Commission on African American History Education

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HAMPTON—Governor Ralph Northam  signed Executive Order Thirty-Nine, which establishes the Commission on African American History Education. The Commission is charged with reviewing Virginia’s history standards, and the instructional practices, content, and resources currently used to teach African American history in the Commonwealth. Governor Northam made the announcement speaking at the 2019 Commemoration of the First African Landing, a ceremony to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in English-occupied North America at Point Comfort in 1619.

“The full history of Virginia is complex, contradictory, and often untold—and we must do a better job of making sure that every Virginia graduate enters adult life with an accurate and thorough understanding of our past, and the pivotal role that American Americans have played in building and perfecting our Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “The important work of this Commission will help ensure that Virginia’s standards of learning are inclusive of African American history and allow students to engage deeply, drawing connections between historic racial inequities and their continuous influence on our communities today.”

The Executive Order tasks the Commission with issuing a report no later than July 1, 2020, with recommendations for improving the student experience, including but not limited to:

• Technical edits to and recommendations for enriched standards related to African American history;

• Broader considerations for the full history and social studies standards review process; and
• Necessary professional development and instructional supports for all teachers to ensure culturally competent instruction.

The Commonwealth first established its history and social science standards of learning in 1995. Since that time, the standards have been routinely updated based on feedback from practitioners, historians, and stakeholders. The work of the Commission will help inform the next history and social science standards review the state will undertake.

Additionally, the Virginia Department of Education will work with Virtual Virginia, WHRO Public Media, and committees of history and social science public school educators, university historians, and college professors to develop a new African American history course for high school students. Together, they will establish objectives and competencies to provide a foundation of knowledge and understanding of African American history.

This new elective will be available to all students in the Commonwealth virtually beginning in the fall of 2020. Its component digital parts will be accessible resources for students in numerous other history courses.

The Governor has appointed the following individuals to serve on the Commission:

• Derrick P. Alridge of Charlottesville, Professor of Education and Director of the Center for Race and Public Education in the South, Curry School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
• Dr. Rosa S. Atkins of Charlottesville, Superintendent, Charlottesville City Schools
• Edward Ayers of Richmond, Professor of the Humanities, University of Richmond
• Jarvis E. Bailey of Fredericksburg, High School Administrator, Westmoreland County Public Schools and School Board Member, Fredericksburg City
• Maria D. Burgos of Prince William County, Supervisor of Global Learning and Culturally Responsive Instruction, Prince William County Public Schools
• Christy S. Coleman of Chesterfield, CEO, American Civil War Museum
• Dr. Robert N. Corley, III of Chesterfield, Associate Vice-Provost for Academic Affairs and Project Director, The Wallace Foundation’s University Principal Preparation Initiative, Virginia State University
• Pamela Croom of Hampton, President-Elect, Virginia PTA
• Dr. Andrew P. Daire of Moseley, Dean of the School of Education, Virginia Commonwealth University
• Crystal DeLong of Bedford, Teacher, Liberty High School, Bedford County Public Schools
• Beau Dickenson of Harrisonburg, President, Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium and Social Studies Supervisor, Rockingham County Public Schools
• Crystal M. Edwards of Lynchburg, Superintendent, Lynchburg City Schools
• Anne Marie Evans of Fluvanna County, Director of Education and Outreach–New American History, University of Richmond
• Dr. John K. Lee of Raleigh, Professor, North Carolina State University
• Makya Renée Little of Woodbridge, Parent Advocate and Florida A&M University Alumnus
• Dr. Monica Manns of Henrico, Director of Equity and Diversity, Henrico County Public Schools
• Basil Marin of Atlanta, Assistant Principal, DeKalb County Schools
• Tyrone Nelson of Henrico County, Chairman, Henrico County Board of Supervisors and Pastor, Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church of Richmond
• Dr. Cassandra L. Newby-Alexander of Chesapeake, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Professor of History, Norfolk State University
• The Honorable Atif Qarni of Prince William, Secretary of Education, Commonwealth of Virginia
• Gloria Randolph-King of Roanoke, Retired Roanoke City Public Schools Administrator
• Rodney Robinson of Richmond, 2019 National Teacher of the Year
• Dr. Vanessa D. Thaxton-Ward of Hampton, Director, Hampton University Museum
• Pastor Michelle C. Thomas of Loudoun County, Founder and CEO, Loudoun Freedom Center and President, NAACP Loudoun Branch
• Dr. Dietra Trent of Halifax, Former Secretary of Education
• Dr. James F. Lane of Chesterfield, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction
• Dr. Alice Reilly of Alexandria, Educator, George Mason University
• Renita S. Williams of Chesapeake, Secondary Social Studies Instructional Supervisor, Newport News Public Schools
• Rodney Jordan of Norfolk, Co-Chair, Virginia School Boards Association Task Force on Students and Schools in Challenging Environments and School Board Member, Norfolk City
• Cainan Townsend of Farmville, Director of Education, Robert Russa Moton Museum
• Chris Van Tassell of Richmond, Program Coordinator and Educator, Virginia Museum of History & Culture
• Robert C. Watson of Williamsburg, Assistant Professor of History, Hampton University
• Dr. William E. White of Williamsburg, Visiting Distinguished Scholar, Christopher Newport University
• Jonathan C. Zur of Richmond, President and CEO, Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities

The full text of Executive Order Thirty-Nine can be found here.

Additional information about the Commission and its meetings will be available online here.

Governor Northam’s full remarks at the 2019 Commemoration of the First African Landing, as prepared for delivery, are below.

Good morning.

What a beautiful setting this is. I thank you for the privilege of speaking to you at Fort Monroe today. As a former member and vice-chairman of the Fort Monroe Authority, it’s always a pleasure to be here at this site.

Thank you all for being here today to commemorate 400 years of American history.

For those of you from out of state, welcome to Virginia.

It’s great to be here today with former governors, now Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and former governors McDonnell and Baliles. I also want to recognize Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, Congressman Bobby Scott, Congresswoman Elaine Luria, House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox, members of our legislative black caucus, and other elected officials.

I would like to thank everyone who has worked hard to make this commemoration a reality—Fort Monroe Authority director Glenn Oder, Fort Monroe Authority Board of Trustees Chairman Jim Moran, members of the Fort Monroe Authority board, Fort Monroe National Monument Superintendent Terry Brown, the National Park Service, Kathy Spangler, Nancy Rodrigues, and the team from American Evolution. I’d also like to thank the Hampton 2019 Commemorative Commission for all the hard work they have done around these events in their home city.

We are here today for a commemoration, and a reckoning.

Today is a time to reckon with the fact that four hundred years ago, enslaved Africans arrived for the first time on Virginia shores. Like you and me, they had lives and families—lives and families they would never see again.

Just up the river in Jamestown, a few weeks earlier, white landowning men had come together to establish a system of representative government.

But that system did not represent all of the people who arrived here at Old Point Comfort, people whose skin looked different than mine.

That government did not represent them during 246 years of slavery. It did not represent them through nearly 100 years of Reconstruction and Jim Crow terror and discrimination. And in many ways, it struggles to represent them today.

That is the truth, and that is what we must reckon with as we move forward. How do we tell the full and true story of our past 400 years?

How do we do so with honor and dignity for people whose honor and dignity were taken away from them? Who should tell that story? And how do we learn from those lessons as we move forward?

Ida B. Wells wrote that “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

If we are going to begin to truly right the wrongs of our four centuries of history, if we are going to turn the light of truth upon them, we have to start with ourselves.

Over the past several months, as I have met with people around the state and listened to their views on the disparities and inequities that still exist today, I have had to confront some painful truths.

Among those truths was my own incomplete understanding regarding race and equity.

I have learned a great deal from those discussions, and I have more to learn. But I also learned that the more I know, the more I can do.

For too long, the burden has been on individuals and communities of color to lead these discussions. But if more of us have these hard conversations, and truly listen and learn from them, we’ll be better able to shine that light of truth. Because the eyes can’t see what the mind doesn’t know.

We can start those conversations at places like this, Fort Monroe, the ground where the first enslaved Africans landed.

This is also the same ground where the end of slavery began. It was here where enslaved people sought refuge, and were granted it, a decision that eventually led to emancipation.

General Butler’s contraband decision has been hailed by Ed Ayers—a nationally known historian of the American South, and a member of the Fort Monroe Authority—as “the greatest moment in American history.”

Virginia is the place where enslaved Africans first landed and where American representative democracy was born.

Virginia is the place where emancipation began and the Confederate capitol was located.

Virginia is the place where schools were closed under Massive Resistance, rather than desegregate and allow black children to attend, and it is the state that elected the nation’s first African American governor.

Virginia is a place of contradictions and complexity. We take a step forward and, often, a step back.

And we have to acknowledge that. We have to teach that complexity to our children, and often to our adults. We are a state that for too long has told a false story of ourselves.

The story we tell is insufficient and inadequate, especially when it comes to black history.

We must remember that black history IS American history.

That’s why earlier today, I signed an executive directive to establish a Commission on African American History Education in the Commonwealth.

This Commission will review our educational standards, instructional practices, content, and resources currently used to teach African American history in the Commonwealth. We want to make sure all students develop a full and comprehensive understanding of the African-American voices that contribute to our story.

But that is not the only thing we can do.

When we look back at events of 1619, or 1861, or 1964, when the Civil Rights Act was signed, we often look at them as history—frozen in time or locked in a book, relics of the past.

We memorize dates, but not connections. We don’t teach the themes that appear in our history over and over again.

We often fail to draw the connecting lines from those past events to our present day.

But to move forward, that is what we must do.

We know that racism and discrimination aren’t locked in the past. They weren’t solved with the Civil Rights Act. They didn’t disappear—they evolved.

They’re still with us, in the disparities we see in educational attainment and school suspension rates, in maternal and neonatal mortality for black and white mothers, in our courts and prisons, and in our business practices.

Through 400 years of American history, starting with the enslavement of Africans, through Jim Crow, Massive Resistance, and now mass incarceration, black oppression has always existed in this country, just in different forms.

The legacy of racism continues not just in isolated incidents, but as part of a system that touches every person and every aspect of our lives, whether we know it or not. And if we’re serious about righting the wrong that began here at this place, we need to do more than talk. We need to take action.

The Commission I mentioned earlier is just one action. My administration is taking bold steps to right historical inequities in education, in our health system, and in access to business opportunities.

We established a commission to examine racial inequities in Virginia law.

We have set a goal to eliminate racial disparities in maternal and neonatal mortality by 2025.

I signed an executive order to advance equity for our small women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses, including a statewide disparity study, and we are working to reduce evictions.

A few weeks ago, I was here at Fort Monroe to announce the removal of letters from the arch that once celebrated the president of the Confederacy.

Jefferson Davis was charged with treason and was imprisoned here at Fort Monroe, a traitor to his country. And I believe it is no coincidence that in the same year that Virginia enacted Massive Resistance as official state policy, that arch went up in his honor.

To have a monument glorifying a person who worked to maintain slavery, on the same site on which enslaved Africans both first arrived here and were later freed, is not just inappropriate, it is offensive, and it is wrong. Removing that monument is one way we can act to better tell the true story here in Virginia.

And I am pleased and proud to announce today another important step in how we represent the full and true story of our Commonwealth.

Last year, I requested and the General Assembly agreed to allocate $500,000 toward the first African Landing Memorial Art Project here at Fort Monroe.

Since that time, the Fort Monroe Authority and the Virginia Commission for the Arts, in partnership with the National Park Service, the Fort Monroe Foundation, and Project 1619, led a national search for an artist who could create this memorial art project at Old Point Comfort.

The art project will be dedicated to the first landing of African people here on these shores. Importantly, the artist will engage with the public to ensure that the community has the chance to express their opinion on what this memorial project means to them, and what experiences should be included in the design.

I’m delighted that the artist for the Fort Monroe African Landing Memorial Art Project is here with us today. Mr. Brian Owens, would you please stand?

I look forward to seeing Mr. Owens’ project and how it will contribute to this site and the telling of this important American story.

On this very day last year, I was at the Tucker family cemetery, a cemetery named after the first documented child of African descent born in English-speaking North America.

William Tucker’s parents, Anthony and Isabell, were among those who were brought here to Old Point Comfort in 1619.

Like too many African-American cemeteries, the Tucker family cemetery had fallen victim to neglect.

But it is also a testament to revival and restoration. Family members and interested groups are working to restore that cemetery, and I want to recognize Delegate Delores McQuinn for her work on this issue.

In that restoration work, and in the events here this weekend, I see steps forward. I see us working to acknowledge the wrongs and the evils done in the past—and in the present.

Because, while we cannot change the past, we can use it and learn from it. When we know more, we can do more.

I know more, and as your governor, I will do more.

And as we reckon with the painful legacy of Virginia’s racist past, and acknowledge that it continues to shape our present, we can and must continue to act to improve the future. We must work to tell our full and true story.

It is our job—all of us that make up this diverse society—to ensure that when the next generation looks back—a generation that is hopefully more inclusive than we have been—they see a more accurate narrative, one that tells the truth, and includes everyone.

Thank you.

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Law enforcement hopeful new website & increased reward help solve 2009 Montgomery County murders

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Heidi Childs, 18, and David Metzler, 19. Photos courtesy of Virginia State Police.

RICHMOND – Local, state and federal law enforcement are hopeful that a new website and $100,000 reward will generate renewed interest and additional information related to the 2009 murders of two Virginia Tech students. Aug. 26, 2019 marks 10 years since Heidi Childs, 18, and David Metzler, 19, were brutally murdered in the Caldwell Fields parking lot of the Jefferson National Forest in Montgomery County. Both families joined the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Blacksburg Police Department, Christiansburg Police Department, Virginia Tech Police Department, Montgomery County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Virginia State Police, FBI, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia for a press conference Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, to announce these latest developments.

Childs, of Bedford County, Va., and Metzler, of Campbell County, Va., met through their church youth group while in high school, but didn’t start dating until attending Virginia Tech (VT). Both were just weeks into their sophomore year at VT when the two headed to Caldwell Fields in David’s navy 1992 Toyota Camry that Wednesday night in 2009. Investigators have determined that it was sometime between 8:25 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Aug. 26, 2009 that both teenagers were shot and killed. David’s guitar, which he had brought along to play that night, was still in the car; but Heidi’s purse, credit cards, VT ID and lanyard, camera, and cell phone were gone and are still missing. Their bodies were discovered in that same parking lot early the next morning, Aug. 27, 2009, by a man walking his dogs.

“We have specific individuals we are interested in and pursuing related to this case,” said Lt. Colonel Tim Lyon, Director of the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation. “We have an extensive inventory of evidence collected from the scene and from vehicles seized during the course of the investigation. We have DNA, and are working to take advantage of 10 years-worth of technological and scientific advancements in DNA testing and criminal databases. We have new leads still coming in that we are pursuing. But we still need the public’s help to fit all of these pieces and parts together to bring justice to Heidi, David and their families.”

Those interested in learning more about Metzler, Childs and the investigation are encouraged to go to the new website established for this case at https://vspunsolved.com/. This will be a site with continually evolving content. The Website features photos, a video tribute, and more information about this case. There is a section dedicated to receiving online tips from the public and tipsters can remain anonymous if they choose. Tips can also be received by phone at 540-375-9589.

Thanks to the support of the community, Virginia Tech and, most recently, the FBI, the reward being offered for any information that leads to an arrest(s) in the murders of Metzler and Childs is now up to $100,000.

“The FBI is committed to devoting investigative resources to this investigation,” said Special Agent in Charge David W. Archey, FBI Richmond Field Office. “Today we augment those efforts by contributing $28,000 towards the reward, increasing the total to $100,000; hoping it will generate additional valuable information for investigators.”

“It’s been 10 years. It’s time to come forward and let these families find some sense of peace. Heidi’s parents and siblings, David’s parents and siblings, their friends have all been held hostage long enough. Now’s the chance to share whatever details, suspicions, odd behavior, and/or information anyone has in connection with these unsolved murders,” continued Lyon.

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Winchester man pleads guilty to Armed, Hobbs Act robbery of Martins Food Pharmacy

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Carl William Morris II, 44

HARRISONBURG, VIRGINIA – A Winchester man, who in January 2019 committed an armed robbery at Martins Food in Winchester, Virginia, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg to a pair of related federal charges, United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced.

“In our efforts to assist our state and local partners reduce violent crime, we have substantially increased the number of federal prosecutions for offenses involving firearms, including robbery,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today. “We will continue to work closely with these partners to identify violent offenders in specific communities and put them in federal prison.”

Today (August23, 2019) in District Court, Carl William Morris II, 44, pleaded guilty to one count of Armed, Hobbs Act Robbery and one count of discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

According to court documents, on January 18, 2019, Morris approached a pharmacy clerk at the cash register at Martins Food on Gateway Drive in Winchester. While the clerk was ringing up a purchase, Morris pulled a black handgun that was tucked in his waistband and directed the clerk to “give me all your pain meds.” The clerk complied with Morris’ demand and handed over multiple bottles of controlled substances, including Oxycontin valued at over $2,000.

The defendant took four bottles of the medication and fled the store. A second pharmacy clerk followed Morris out of the store and into the parking lot. Upon seeing the second clerk, Morris discharged his firearm in the clerk’s direction. The bullet did not strike the clerk. After firing his weapon, Morris fled into a nearby wooded area where he was tracked by a police canine and ultimately apprehended by law enforcement.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Jeb Terrien is prosecuting the case for the United States.

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Fairfax County teacher convicted of solicitation of a minor; jury recommends 7 years

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Ryan Thomas Pick, 41, of Woodbridge, Virginia

HANOVER COUNTY (August 20, 2019) – Ryan Thomas Pick, 41, of Woodbridge, Virginia, was convicted yesterday by a Hanover County jury of two counts of Using a Communication System to Procure a Minor for an Unlawful Act and one count of Solicitation of a Minor Under the Age of 15, following a trial on the charges. The jury subsequently recommended that Pick serve a seven-year prison term for his offenses. Upon his release, Pick will be required to register as a sex offender in any jurisdiction in which he lives or works. He will be formally sentenced on November 22, 2019. Mark R. Herring, Attorney General of Virginia, made the announcement following the trial and conviction, which was presided over by Hanover County Circuit Court Judge J. Overton Harris.

“Individuals who sexually solicit children are robbing them of their childhood and their innocence, and what is even more troubling is that this man worked with children on a daily basis,” said Attorney General Herring. “Because of the work my team and local law enforcement agencies put into this, another dangerous predator is out of our community. My office will continue to seek justice against those who would exploit and harm children like this.”

The investigation of this case began in July of 2018 when an undercover officer with the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office conducted an undercover chat investigation on the social networking site Omegle. While posing as a 12 year-old girl, the officer was connected with Pick, who chatted with the officer and made comments that were sexual in nature. During the conversation, Pick sent a video of himself to the officer engaging in sexually explicit conduct. He then made several statements about sex acts he wanted to engage in with the purported 12 year-old. An investigation revealed that Pick held several jobs including as a music teacher for Fairfax County public schools, the music director at his local church, a private music instructor, and a seasonal pizza delivery man. In August of 2018, officers executed a search warrant at Pick’s Fairfax County residence. During the execution, Pick admitted to using Omegle regularly and to chatting with the purported 12 year-old.

This case was investigated by the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. Attorney General Herring’s Computer Forensic Unit provided digital forensic analysis of the evidence in support of the case. Assistant Attorney General Alexaundra Williams of Attorney General Herring’s Computer Crime Section prosecuted the case on behalf of the Commonwealth.

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Governor Northam addresses Joint Money Committees of the General Assembly

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Governor Northam

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today (August 20, 2019) addressed a Joint Meeting of the Senate Finance, House Appropriations, and House Finance Committees where he discussed the state of the Commonwealth’s finances and the Virginia economy.

“Over the last year we have worked together to maintain Virginia’s triple-A bond rating, put more money in our reserves, and made smart investments in our long-term growth,” Governor Northam said. “But as the global economy changes, we must be both cautious and strategic. During the next budget cycle we will continue laying a strong foundation for Virginia—preparing for a rainy day while investing responsibility in our long-term growth.”

Virginia ended the fiscal year with a surplus of $797 million, with much of that money already obligated for items such as water quality and taxpayer relief. The Commonwealth put $344.4 million into our reserves, which will bring total reserve funding to $1.6 billion—the highest amount ever—by 2021.

Governor Northam highlighted another important milestone for economic development in Virginia, announcing that his administration has secured $20 billion in investment since taking office in January 2018—more than any previous administration has announced in a full four-year term. This economic development has created over 51,000 new jobs across the Commonwealth.

Here is the Governor’s full remarks:

Good morning, Chairman Norment, Chairman Hanger, Chairman Jones, Chairman Ware, Speaker Cox, Members of the General Assembly, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for the privilege of speaking with you this morning.

I would like to recognize Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, First Lady Pam Northam, and members of my Cabinet.

I am here today to update you on the Commonwealth’s revenues for the just-ended fiscal year, as we look forward to our next budget cycle and the choices we will make to ensure Virginia remains a strong and diverse place to live and work.

We start out this new budget cycle in a good place, and we all can, and should, take credit for that. We have accomplished a great deal working together.

We have maintained our triple-A bond rating, put more money in our reserves for a rainy day, and made smart investments in Virginia’s long-term growth.

We approved dedicated transportation funding this year, which will make I-81 safer and more reliable while providing much-needed revenue for transportation projects in other parts of the state as well.

We worked together to attract new business to the state—notably Amazon, which is ahead of schedule in hiring, and has submitted its development plans for its National Landing campus. Virginia Tech will offer courses in their new Alexandria location next fall. I want to thank Delegate Rush for his work with Tech, and thank all of you for the bipartisan work that went into this project.

We took a huge step to reduce the criminalization of poverty by ending the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for unpaid court costs and fees. As I have traveled the state to bring awareness to this issue, people have told me how much this means to them.

We found agreement on how to pay for a long overdue rebuilding of Central State Hospital.

We gave our teachers the largest single-year pay raise in 15 years.

We found a bipartisan resolution to the environmental challenge of what to do with 27 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash lying in unlined ponds near our waterways.

And we have now enrolled more than 306,000 additional Virginians in Medicaid through the expansion of that program. These people can now access the kind of health care many of us take for granted, helping them lead more productive lives. They can get treatment for chronic conditions.

They can get preventive care to help head off health problems before they become serious. And they can access treatment for addiction or other behavioral health issues. This access is saving lives, and we made this happen together.

We did all of these things together, working across the aisle, and put our differences aside to serve the people of Virginia.

We have opportunities to continue this good work in the session, and budget, ahead.

But first, let me update you on the financial health of the Commonwealth for the budget year that recently ended.

By and large, our financial health is good. We ended the year with a surplus of $797.7 million. But, as is often the case, much of that surplus is already obligated, for items like water quality and taxpayer relief. We also are putting $344.4 million into reserves, which means by 2021, we’ll have $1.6 billion in our reserves—approximately seven percent of our general fund revenue, the highest amount we have ever put in reserves.

This is something we all should be proud of. Last year I mentioned that putting 8 percent of our revenues into reserves is a goal of our administration, and we’re on the path to do so.

We expect revenues to grow in the coming year. I want to thank all of the economists, business leaders, and General Assembly members who volunteer to help provide our consensus revenue forecast. This is important work, and I thank Secretary Layne for his steady guidance.

While our revenues are positive, we also must plan for mandatory expenditures.

For example, we are due to rebenchmark our Standards of Quality in the coming biennium.

This is critical to ensure that our schools, and school funding, keep pace with our students’ needs, so every child receives a quality education. But it comes with a price tag.

We also know that our Medicaid program is likely to be more costly next year, as healthcare costs across the board continue to rise. Our administration is keenly aware of the issue of rising health costs, and will continue to work with you on solutions.

We also continue the work to build up our community-based behavioral health services, which provide critical support to many Virginians and their families, and we know there are costs to that work.

Over the past few years, we have invested, and will continue to invest, in strengthening our community service boards and ensuring that the services they provide are the same across the state. I want to take a moment to thank Dr. Hughes Melton for his work at our Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

That work must and will continue. I ask that we have a moment of silence in memory of Dr. Melton and of Hailey Green, who lost their lives in a tragic accident.

Thank you.

As we go into this new budget cycle, we must be both cautious and strategic.

Our unemployment rate remains at 2.9 percent. Our employers continue to add jobs. But because we are close to full employment, our job growth has slowed.

And though we are in the 12th year of economic expansion, we know that can’t last forever.

Federal policies continue to affect us. For example, the trade war with China and its resulting tariffs have already led to drastic cutbacks on purchases of American agricultural products, which hurt our farmers in Virginia.

China used to be the number one destination for Virginia’s agricultural and forestry exports, such as soybeans. In 2016, we exported nearly $700 million in those products to China.

But because of the trade war, our agricultural exports to China have lost nearly two-thirds of their value, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars of lost revenue for Virginia farmers. Sales of soybeans are now just $235 million, and China has dropped to our number two agricultural trading partner.

Personally, we have soybeans growing on our family farm this year, and they may very well stay in the fields if we can’t sell them. The farmers I grew up with would much rather sell at a profit than rely on federal subsidies.

We live in a global economy these days, and that means what happens on a global scale also happens at the local level. As the national economy slows, Virginia’s economy is expected to slow as well.

We’re fortunate that Congress has resolved the issue of sequestration—for now.

But federal fiscal policy and the accumulation of significant federal debt—now over $22 trillion and growing—will continue to be a drag on consumers and the economy.

To best prepare the Commonwealth for the future, we must continue to protect our AAA bond rating, diversify our economy, and make strategic investments in our long-term success. We must ensure that Virginia has the strongest foundation possible.

In the 21st century, broadband is like electricity—it is a necessity of modern life.

The projects we have supported are bringing broadband connections to nearly 70,000 homes and businesses so far across the Commonwealth, and we will continue to work on this important issue.

I thank you all for the additional dollars we put into the Housing Trust Fund in the last budget. But we can, and must, do more for affordable housing.

We must continue our investment in education, from early childhood through higher education and skills training. Every Virginian deserves access to a high quality and affordable education.

Making sure that every child has access to opportunity means starting early.

Last month, I signed Executive Directive 4, establishing the Executive Leadership Team on School Readiness.

That team will work to ensure that all at-risk three and four year olds have access to quality, affordable early childhood education options. I want to thank the First Lady for her work and leadership on this issue.

There is an obvious overlap between investments in education and investments in our workforce.

My administration continues to work with our community colleges and the entire higher education system, to build bridges between education, skills training, and the high-demand jobs we need to fill and want to continue to attract.

We want Virginians to be able to get the skills they need for good jobs.

This fall, I’ll be having conversations about these workforce pathways in our communities, talking to our higher education partners, our businesses, and our local leaders to see what our communities need.

We want to make absolutely sure we continue to support our world-class workforce and educational systems—both of which helped make Virginia the best state in the nation in which to do business.

One of my proudest days as Governor was to be at Shenandoah River State Park for the announcement that CNBC had named the Commonwealth the best state for business.

Over the years, we have moved steadily from 13th, to 7th, to 4th, and we are now back to our rightful place at number one.

This is an achievement for every one of us, and it comes because we have all worked together.

My top priority as Governor is making sure that every Virginian—no matter who you are or where you live—is able to fully participate in our economic growth.

By diversifying our economy, investing in our workforce, and keeping a stable and open business climate, I am proud to report that my administration has secured extensive new investment and jobs across the Commonwealth.

That includes Premier Tech, in your district, Chairman Norment—20 jobs and almost $2 million of investment in King and Queen County.

It includes Merck in Chairman Hanger’s district—152 jobs and a billion dollars of investment in Rockingham County.

In an area of Suffolk represented by Chairman Jones, Target is investing $2.8 million to expand its distribution center, bringing 225 new jobs.

Volvo Trucks, in Delegate Rush’s district, plans to invest $400 million and create 777 new jobs in Pulaski.

In Senator Howell’s district, Appian invested $28 million to expand its headquarters to McLean, bringing 600 jobs. Senator Howell couldn’t be here today, but we wish her a speedy recovery.

In Chesapeake, in Delegate Hayes’ district, Cloverleaf Cold Storage invested $21 million to create 33 jobs.

In Senator Ruff’s district, in Dinwiddie, Richlands Creamery is investing $1.7 million and creating 17 new jobs.

And in Portsmouth, in Senator Lucas’ district, Preferred Freezer has invested $60 million to create 60 new jobs.

There are similar stories across the state. From a large company like Amazon, to a small-town Main Street shop with five employees, every business contributes to the fabric of Virginia.

Every dollar of investment, and every job created, means more Virginians can put a roof over their head, put food on their table, and sleep soundly at night knowing they are able to support themselves and their families.

That’s why I am thrilled to announce today that over the last 20 months, we have secured 378 new economic development projects that will bring over $20.3 billion in investment.

This is a record. The $20 billion of investment is more than any previous administration has announced in a full four-year term, and we have achieved this significant milestone in less than half that time.

I am proud of what this means for Virginia, and I am equally proud that $2.7 billion of this investment is in distressed communities around the Commonwealth that have often been overlooked by these types of investments.

These economic development projects will create more than 51,000 new jobs, including over 8,700 in distressed communities.

We couldn’t do this without our local, legislative, and state economic development partners.

I want to particularly thank Secretary Brian Ball and his Commerce and Trade team, as well as Stephen Moret and his team at VEDP, for their efforts to promote the Commonwealth and its communities as ideal locations for business.

And I want to thank all of you. We have done strong work to attract business and jobs, and ensure that we have a diverse economy that is strong enough to weather headwinds. As I travel the Commonwealth, businesses are excited about locating or expanding in Virginia.

We also must continue to do the work needed to make Virginia a more welcoming and inclusive place, ensuring that a person’s race, income level, or place of birth doesn’t keep them from accessing a world-class education, quality health care, or business opportunities.

I have spent the past several months traveling the Commonwealth listening to leaders and everyday Virginians share the daily inequities they face.

As we prepare this budget, I will prioritize initiatives that level the playing field for small-, women-, and minority-owned businesses, reduce the unacceptable racial disparity in Virginia’s maternal mortality rate, and ensure equal access to a world-class education.

Ensuring that Virginia is a welcoming place to live also means continuing to work to make sure this is a safe place.

As we meet here this morning, the Virginia Crime Commission has also been meeting to take up gun safety legislation that we have proposed for years, and introduced again for the special session I called earlier this summer, after the tragic mass shooting in Virginia Beach.

Universal background checks, extreme risk protective orders, one gun a month laws, and tougher penalties for people who leave loaded guns around children, are a few of the commonsense proposals that we have made.

I know where many of you stand on these issues. But I also know that we have an opportunity to come together to save lives. I hope we will seize that opportunity.

As we look to this next budget, we’re seeing larger requests for security funding, for state buildings and from outside groups. Already, for fiscal year 2020, we doubled the money in our School Security Equipment Fund. And we’ve had 133 state employees spend 4 hours each in active shooter training since July 1.

Those are resources we’d rather spend on other priorities, but our refusal to address gun violence requires us to instead prioritize self-protection.

We have made good choices together that led CNBC to award us that number one ranking.

And we have made good choices together, to invest in our infrastructure and our educational systems.

We can continue to make good choices.

From economic development to our spending priorities, we have seen that when we work together, we can build a better Virginia. When we invest in our people and our places, our roads, and the education and training people need to get good jobs, we thrive.

No matter what happens in the coming months and years, we are laying a strong foundation for Virginia to weather stormy days and prosper on sunny ones. I look forward to continuing to build upon that foundation in the upcoming session.

Thank you.

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State News

13 Virginians among those honored in 2019 No Kid Hungry Summer Hero Hall of Fame

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Richmond, VA – A total of 13 individuals and organizations across Virginia have been named to the 2019 No Kid Hungry Summer Hero Hall of Fame, a national honor that recognizes and celebrates those who go above and beyond to find innovative ways to ensure children get the food and nutrition they need during the summer months.

This year’s Virginia inductees include the coordinator of outdoor barbecues at 18 school-based meal sites, a public library manager who has enlisted community partners to create fun and educational events around meal programs and the originator of a weekend backpack meal program that has tripled the number of students it serves over the past three years.

“This roster of Hall of Fame inductees not only showcases the incredible commitment that exists throughout the Commonwealth to help feed children experiencing hunger, but also the deep wells of creativity and energy to make it all possible,” said Claire Mansfield, director of No Kid Hungry Virginia.  “Our congratulations to these deserving recipients whom I know will continue to make big contributions to the well-being of so many children in Virginia.”

Among the 20 states recognized in this year’s Summer Hero Hall of Fame, Virginia had the most honorees, who are the following:

  • Morgan McGhee, MPH RD, Food Operations Specialist, Fairfax County Public Schools
  • Jennifer Brown, MSLIS, Ph.D., Youth and Family Services Manager, Suffolk Public Library
  • Jacquelyn Linder, Nutrition Programs Director, Virginia Peninsula Foodbank
  • Kathy Jenkins, Page County Public Schools
  • Katherine Humenik, Stacey Fox and Carrie Lohr, Warren County Public Schools
  • Araceli Donahue, Fredericksburg City Public Schools
  • Stefanie Dove, MBA RDN SNS, Coordinator of Marketing and Outreach for School Nutrition, Loudoun County Public Schools
  • Cheryl Perkins, Taylor Education Administration Center
  • Danville Public Schools Child Nutrition Staff
  • Mary Poe, Assistant Director, Buena Vista Summer Feeding Program, Buena Vista Public Schools
  • Becky Brown, School Nutrition Director, Buena Vista Public Schools
  • Jane Fisher, Jenny Riffe & Daniela Brunner, Bobcat Backpacks Program, Radford City Public Schools
  • Greg Holmes, School Nutrition Specialist, Loudon County Public Schools

One in seven children in Virginia live in families that struggle with hunger. Research shows that hunger has long-term ramifications on children, including lower test scores, weaker attendance rates, and a higher risk of hospitalizations and chronic diseases.

Summer can be the hungriest time of year for many children from low-income families. In fact, only about 15 percent of Virginia students who rely on free or reduced-price school lunches are also getting free meals through summer programs. When schools close, students no longer get school meals, and families struggle to put food on the table. Summer hunger can have a long-term impact on a child’s health, ability to learn and general well-being. No Kid Hungry and its partners focus on connecting kids to the national Summer Meals Program as a critical way to end childhood hunger.

Visit va.nokidhungry.org for more information about No Kid Hungry Virginia’s work.


About Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign

No child should go hungry in America, but 1 in 6 kids will face hunger this year. Using proven, practical solutions, No Kid Hungry is ending childhood hunger today by ensuring that kids start the day with a nutritious breakfast and families learn the skills they need to shop and cook on a budget. When we all work together, we can make sure kids get the healthy food they need. No Kid Hungry is a campaign of national anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength. Join us at NoKidHungry.org.

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Front Royal
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Upcoming Events

Aug
24
Sat
4:30 pm Front Royal Salvation Army Corps... @ Salvation Army
Front Royal Salvation Army Corps... @ Salvation Army
Aug 24 @ 4:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Front Royal Salvation Army Corps BBQ Cookout @ Salvation Army
The Front Royal Salvation Army Corps will host a BBQ Cookout on Saturday, August 24, 2019, from 4:30 pm to 8:30 pm at 296 South Street, Front Royal. A BBQ chicken meal, including chips and[...]
Aug
27
Tue
1:30 pm Botanicals in Watercolor I @ Art in the Valley
Botanicals in Watercolor I @ Art in the Valley
Aug 27 @ 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Botanicals in Watercolor I @ Art in the Valley
This four week course with the instructor, Elena Maza, will deal with the basic three-primary color palette, different pigments and how they interact, how to mix all colors from three primary colors, how to apply[...]
Aug
29
Thu
1:00 pm Substance Abuse and Recovery Summit @ Mountain Home Bed and Breakfast
Substance Abuse and Recovery Summit @ Mountain Home Bed and Breakfast
Aug 29 @ 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Substance Abuse and Recovery Summit @ Mountain Home Bed and Breakfast
The McShin Foundation and RSW (Rappahannock, Shenandoah, and Warren County) Regional Jail would like to invite you to our substance abuse and recovery summit to be held on August 29, 2019, in Front Royal, Virginia.[...]
Aug
31
Sat
1:00 pm DJ Skyhigh’s End of Summer Blast @ Warren County Fair
DJ Skyhigh’s End of Summer Blast @ Warren County Fair
Aug 31 @ 1:00 pm – 9:00 pm
DJ Skyhigh's End of Summer Blast @ Warren County Fair
Come join DJ Skyhigh for his end of summer blast. Lisa Bell will be hosting wine tastings (at an additional charge) of over 50 international wines. Wines may also be purchased by the bottle to[...]
Sep
3
Tue
1:30 pm Watercolor Landscapes @ Art in the Valley
Watercolor Landscapes @ Art in the Valley
Sep 3 @ 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Watercolor Landscapes @ Art in the Valley
This four week course with instructor Elena Maza will focus on learning basic skills to create watercolor landscape paintings: basic composition and use of color and value to create a sense of depth and distance.[...]
Sep
4
Wed
1:30 pm Botanical Drawing @ Art in the Valley
Botanical Drawing @ Art in the Valley
Sep 4 @ 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Botanical Drawing @ Art in the Valley
Learn and practice the art of botanical drawing in pencil with local artist and instructor Elena Maza. This four session course will focus on learning basic drawing skills as applied to botanicals: basic line drawings[...]
Sep
7
Sat
10:00 am SHS Marching Band Mattress Fundr... @ Skyline High School
SHS Marching Band Mattress Fundr... @ Skyline High School
Sep 7 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
SHS Marching Band Mattress Fundraiser @ Skyline High School
Skyline High School Marching Band is having a mattress sale fundraiser on Saturday, September 7, 2019, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Skyline High School (151 Skyline Vista Drive, Front Royal, Virginia). There will[...]
12:00 pm 2019 NFL Kick Off Party @ Sly Fox Golf Club
2019 NFL Kick Off Party @ Sly Fox Golf Club
Sep 7 @ 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm
2019 NFL Kick Off Party @ Sly Fox Golf Club
Golf – “Captains Choice Format” 12pm Shotgun “Tail Gate” Food and Drinks – 5pm to 8pm Golf + Food & Drinks $45 Tail Gate Food & Drinks Only $15
1:00 pm Strokes of Creativity: 1-year ce... @ Strokes of Creativity
Strokes of Creativity: 1-year ce... @ Strokes of Creativity
Sep 7 @ 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Strokes of Creativity: 1-year celebration @ Strokes of Creativity
Join us for our 1-year celebration on Sept. 7 from 1-6 pm. We will have demos, and Artist meet and greets. Unique and one of kind items, face painting, crafts and Chase from Paw Patrol will[...]
6:00 pm FRUMC Celebrates Homecoming @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
FRUMC Celebrates Homecoming @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
Sep 7 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
FRUMC Celebrates Homecoming @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
In tandem with the 110th anniversary of the church building, the Front Royal United Methodist Church will host Homecoming ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday, September 7th and 8th. Five previous pastors have agreed to return[...]