RICHMOND(August 17, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has filed comments with the State Corporation Commission (SCC) in support of a newly passed “bill of rights” for Virginia student borrowers – laws that protect borrowers by regulating student loan servicing in Virginia. The Office of Attorney General has authority under these new laws to investigate claims of misconduct by student loan servicers and to take action when appropriate. Virginia is home to more than one million student borrowers, who collectively owe nearly $42 billion in student loans.
“More than one million Virginians are saddled with the crippling weight of student loan debt – something that negatively affects almost every aspect of their lives,” said Attorney General Herring. “My office has worked hard to help student loan borrowers in the Commonwealth, especially in instances where the loan servicer has taken advantage of borrowers and acted deceptively. These new student borrower protections and student loan servicer regulations are critical to my office’s ongoing mission to ensure Virginia borrowers are protected from bad actors, which is why it was so important that we file these supportive comments with the SCC.”
In February 2020, the General Assembly passed legislation with strong bipartisan support that created Chapter 26 in Title 6.2 of the Virginia Code and that tasked the SCC with issuing regulations implementing Chapter 26. Chapter 26 protects student borrowers from servicers who would, among other things, engage in unfair or deceptive conduct, misapply loan payments, or misreport information to credit bureaus. It also gives the Office of Attorney General the authority to investigate and to bring enforcement actions against servicers suspected of violating these student borrower protections.
Attorney General Herring’s comments come in response to challenges raised by both the Student Loan Servicing Alliance (SLSA) and the National Association of Student Loan Administrators (NASLA) claiming that Chapter 26 and its related regulations, which are currently under consideration by the SCC, are unconstitutional. In the filed comments, Attorney General Herring explains why SLSA and NASLA are simply wrong and why Virginia’s student borrower bill of rights is constitutional. Attorney General Herring argues that federal law does not preempt these new laws and that these new laws do not violate the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity. Attorney General Herring concludes his comments by saying that Chapter 26 and the proposed regulations “are entitled to both a presumption of constitutionality and a presumption against preemption. And by simply raising general constitutional questions . . . , NASLA and SLSA fail to show they are unconstitutional.”
Herring’s Previous Work Fighting to Protect Student Borrowers
Last month, Attorney General Herring filed an amicus brief that challenged action taken by the Trump Administration’s Department of Education that unlawfully repealed and replaced federal “borrower defense” regulations. In October 2018, Attorney General Herring announced that a federal judge had 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 2019 that he and 48 other attorneys general reached a settlement with for-profit education company Career Education Corporation (CEC). The terms of the settlement required CEC 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.
Celebrate smart, safe & sober this July 4th holiday weekend
Independence Day traditions include backyard barbecues, festivals, family gatherings, and fireworks. To keep all those living, working, visiting, and traveling through Virginia safe during the extended holiday weekend, the Virginia State Police is encouraging Virginians to play it smart and plan ahead to ensure everyone on the road is safe and sober.
“Summer days are filled with celebrations, vacations, outdoor festivals, and backyard cookouts, but no matter where your plans take you, please make safety your priority,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “With fatal traffic crashes on pace this year to mimic last year’s record number, I urge all Virginians to buckle up, eliminate distractions and never drive buzzed, drunk, or under the influence. Together we can make this Independence Day the safest on record!”
If planning to drink alcohol at a July 4 function, plan ahead and arrange a designated driver, use a rideshare service or taxi, or utilize public transportation to be certain you get home safely. Party hosts are encouraged to serve non-alcoholic beverage options, and to help prevent any guests from drinking and driving home from their event.
As part of its ongoing efforts to increase safety and reduce traffic fatalities on Virginia’s highways during the coming holiday weekend, Virginia State Police will increase patrols from 12:01 am Friday (July 1, 2022) through midnight Monday (July 4, 2022) as part of the Operation Crash Awareness Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.). Operation C.A.R.E. is a state-sponsored, national program intended to reduce crashes, fatalities, and injuries due to impaired driving, speed, and failing to wear a seat belt.
During last year’s four-day Independence Day Operation C.A.R.E initiative, there were 12 traffic deaths on Virginia highways. Virginia troopers arrested 61 drivers operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, cited 4,025 speeders and 1,434 reckless drivers, and issued 510 citations to individuals for failing to obey the law and buckle up. Troopers also assisted 1,550 disabled/stranded motorists.
With increased holiday patrols, Virginia State Police also reminds drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road. If unable to move over, then drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.
DMV reminds Virginians to make a plan before celebrating this Fourth of July
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reminds Virginians to celebrate responsibly and designate a sober driver before the Fourth of July festivities begin.
Last year, during the Fourth of July holiday period (July 2-July 5, 2021) there were 105 crashes, 56 injuries, and two deaths related to alcohol on the Commonwealth’s roads.
“Preventing an alcohol-related tragedy is simple – do not drive after drinking any alcohol, period,” said Acting DMV Commissioner Linda Ford, the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “Even one drink can impair judgment on the road. And if your holiday celebrations involve alcohol, be sure to designate a sober driver before the party begins to ensure a safe ride home.”
Celebrate this Fourth of July weekend responsibly:
- If you are planning to drink at an event, plan a safe ride home before even arriving.
- If someone you know has been drinking, do not let that person get behind the wheel.
- If you do decide to drink, do not drive for any reason. Arrange a ride from a sober friend, a taxi, or a ride-sharing service.
- If you are serving alcohol at your party, make sure all guests leave with a sober driver.
- Everyone in the vehicle should be wearing a seat belt – it’s your best defense against impaired drivers.
- Slow down and if you see an impaired driver on the road, contact law enforcement – your actions could save a life.
Virginia’s annual crime analysis report now available on Virginia State Police website
Virginia’s official and only comprehensive report on local and statewide crime figures for 2021, titled Crime in Virginia, is now available online at the Virginia State Police website on the VSP CJIS Data Analysis & Reporting Team page. Crime in Virginia continues to provide precise rates and occurrences of crimes committed in towns, cities and counties across the Commonwealth. The report breaks down criminal offenses and arrests by reporting agency.
Violent crime includes the offenses of murder, forcible sex offenses (rape, sodomy and sexual assault with an object per the FBI’s updated rape definition), robbery and aggravated assault. Overall, the violent crime rate increased in 2021 to 194.4 (per 100,000 population) from 183.0 in 2020. There were 16,823 violent crime offenses reported in 2021 compared to 15,713 violent crime offenses reported in 2020, representing a 7.1% increase.
The following 2021 crime figures in Virginia are presented in the report:
- The number of reported homicides increased from 528 to 562 (6.4%). The murder/non-negligent manslaughter rate increased from 6.15 in 2020 to 6.49 in 2021 (per 100,000 population). Victims and offenders tended to be younger males; 38.6% of homicide victims were men between 18 and 34 and 55.7% of known offenders were men between 18 and 34. Nearly half (47.5%) of all homicides occurred at a residence/home.
- Motor vehicle thefts and attempted thefts increased 3.8% compared to 2020. During 2021, there were 11,638 motor vehicles reported stolen in 11,249 offenses. In 2021, 7,589 motor vehicles were recovered (vehicles may have been stolen prior to 2021). Of all motor vehicles stolen, 35.4% were taken from the residence/home. The reported value of all motor vehicles stolen was $131,738,135.
- Drug arrests decreased by nearly half (46.7%) with the largest percentage decrease in arrestees under age 25 (67.6%). The number of reports of drugs seized decreased for nearly all drug types, especially marijuana (67%), due in part to decriminalization of possessing less than 1 ounce of the drug effective July 1, 2020 and Code of Virginia §18.2-250.1 being repealed July 1, 2021.
- Burglary decreased by 8.3% between 2020 and 2021. In fact, burglaries and attempted burglaries have steadily declined over the past ten years. In 2021, there were 10,464 burglaries and attempted burglaries whereas in 2011 there were 27,872, representing a decreased burglary rate in the last decade from 344.24 to 120.89 per 100,000 population.
- Fraud offenses increased 8.4% compared to 2020. Nearly 80% of victims (79.9%) were individuals while 11.3% were businesses. Nearly a quarter (23.2%) of fraud victims were over the age 65.
- Of the known weapons reported for violent crimes, firearms were used in 82.1% of homicides and 48.6% of robberies. Firearms were used in more than one-third (38.7%) of aggravated assault cases.
- There were 123 hate crime offenses, involving 106 victims, reported in 2021. This represents a 35.3% decrease compared to 2020. Most hate crimes (69.8%) were racially or ethnically motivated. Bias toward sexual orientation and religion were next highest (19.0%, 8.7%, respectively). Of all reported bias motivated crimes, 75.6% were assault offenses (aggravated assault, simple assault) or destruction/damage/vandalism of property.
The report employs an Incident Based Reporting (IBR) method for calculating offenses, thus allowing for greater accuracy. IBR divides crimes into two categories: Group A for serious offenses including violent crimes (murder, forcible sex offenses, robbery and aggravated assault), property crimes and drug offenses, and Group B for what are considered less serious offenses such as trespassing, disorderly conduct, and liquor law violations where an arrest has occurred.
Per state mandate, the Department of Virginia State Police serves as the primary collector of crime data from participating Virginia state and local police departments and sheriff’s offices. The data are collected by the Virginia State Police Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division via a secured internet system. This information is then compiled into Crime in Virginia, an annual report for use by law enforcement, elected officials, media and the general public. These data become the official crime statistics for the Commonwealth and are sent to the FBI for incorporation into their annual report, Crime in the United States.
Statement of the Lieutenant Governor Earle-Sears – Dobbs v. Jackson Decision
The Lieutenant Governor supports the Governor’s actions to ensure the safety of the Supreme Court justices and their loved ones. “We support the First Amendment and the right to protest peacefully but not at the expense of the safety of others. We are a civilized society. The baby in the womb wants to live. We ask for God’s protection for our commonwealth and our country”, stated Winsome Earle-Sears in the decision for Dobbs v. Jackson.
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization argued this term before the Supreme Court, will determine the constitutionality of a state’s right to make laws allowing or prohibiting abortion. This case was heard in reference to legislation passed by the state of Mississippi: the Gestational Age Act (HB 1510), prohibiting most abortions at 15 weeks of pregnancy.
“Today, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Dobbs, giving power back to the states to make decisions on abortion. The court has recognized that the 1973 decision was an example of judicial and federal overreach. The important question of abortion has now been returned to statehouses across the country, in order for them to make their own policy decisions- which is exactly what the founding fathers envision when they wrote the 10th amendment to the Constitution. I applaud the Court for recognizing this wrong and having the courage to correct it. I look forward to working with the Governor and the General Assembly in the next legislative session on legislation that respects life,” the Lieutenant Governor added.
“The 10th Amendment to the Constitution says, ‘The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.’ This ruling supports this amendment.”
Governor Glenn Youngkin statement on Supreme Court’s Dobbs Ruling announcement
RICHMOND, VA – Governor Glenn Youngkin released the following statement today on the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling announcement:
“The Supreme Court of the United States has rightfully returned power to the people and their elected representatives in the states. I’m proud to be a pro-life Governor and plan to take every action I can to protect life. The truth is, Virginians want fewer abortions, not more abortions. We can build a bipartisan consensus on protecting the life of unborn children, especially when they begin to feel pain in the womb, and importantly supporting mothers and families who choose life. That’s why I’ve asked Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, Senator Steve Newman, Delegate Kathy Byron and Delegate Margaret Ransone to join us in an effort to bring together legislators and advocates from across the Commonwealth on this issue to find areas where we can agree and chart the most successful path forward. I’ve asked them to do the important work needed and be prepared to introduce legislation when the General Assembly returns in January,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin.
Attorney General Miyares argues Congress to take action to protect children on THC look-alike products
Attorney General Jason Miyares submitted a bipartisan letter to Congress, joined by 21 other attorneys general, urging them to take action regarding copycat tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly knowns as THC, food, and edibles. These products are designed to look like popular snack items and have increased accidental THC consumption by children.
On June 16, the FDA issued a warning that between Jan. 1 – May 31, 2022, the National Poison Control Center received 10,448 single substance exposure cases involving edible products containing THC. Of these cases 77% involved patients 19 years of age or younger.
THC is a psychoactive substance found in Cannabis plants. Widely available, and easily mistaken for name-brand snacks such as Oreo cookies, Doritos chips, Cheetos, NERDs, and more, THC copycat products often are unintentionally given to children or mistaken by children for the brand name snack products, resulting in unsuspecting children ingesting large amounts of THC.
“As THC-infused edibles become commonplace, some distributors have started advertising their products to look like popular candy and snack items. Their deceiving appearance and packaging can confuse young children who come across them and have led to an increase in accidental consumption, putting their health at risk. To address this growing issue, I’m urging Congress, with a bipartisan coalition, for a comprehensive legislative solution,” said Attorney General Miyares.
“As states across the country, including my own, take steps to legalize and regulate cannabis, rules have been put in place to protect children from unwitting consumption,” said co-lead Nevada Attorney General Ford. “However, there are those who attempt to work around these rules. Copycat products that mimic snacks and candy trademarks can entice children, leading to situations that can threaten their health and safety. We urge Congress to pass legislation granting these trademark holders the legal tools needed to hold these counterfeiters accountable.”
“Tackling the proliferation of online THC copycat edible sales and their potential harm to children requires a layered approach from all stakeholders, from law enforcement and policymakers to regulators and consumer groups, to be effective in reining in this health and safety issue. Consumer Brands welcomes the dedicated efforts of Attorney General Miyares to be a leader in bringing attention and action to this issue,” said Stacy Papadopoulous, Consumer Brand Association.
The attorneys general state that while they do not all agree on the best regulatory scheme for cannabis and THC, they all agree on one thing: copycat THC edibles pose a grave risk to the health, safety, and welfare of our children.
The attorneys general believe that Congress should immediately enact legislation authorizing trademark holders of well-known and trusted consumer packaged goods to hold accountable those malicious actors who are marketing illicit copycat THC edibles to children.
Attorneys General from Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington joined Attorney General Miyares’ letter.