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In annual revenue speech, Governor Northam highlights historic $2.6 billion surplus, record reserve funding



On August 18, 2021,  Governor Ralph Northam addressed a Joint Meeting of the Senate Finance and Appropriations, House Appropriations, and House Finance Committees, where he highlighted Virginia’s record budget surplus and roaring economic outlook.

Thanks to fiscally responsible stewardship, Virginia ended the fiscal year 2021 with a historic $2.6 billion surplus—the largest in the Commonwealth’s history. All major general fund revenue resources exceeded their forecasts. The Commonwealth is on track to put nearly 15 percent of the general fund budget in reserves by the end of the Governor’s administration, nearly double the 8 percent goal he set at the start of his term.

In addition, Virginia’s economic recovery continues to outpace the nation. Virginia’s unemployment rate is 4.3, significantly below the national average and lower than all neighboring states. Virginia was again named America’s “Top State for Business” in 2021 by CNBC, becoming the first state to win back-to-back titles. Since Governor Northam took office in January 2018, the Commonwealth has created a record-breaking 90,000 new jobs and secured more than $45.4 billion in statewide capital investment.

The Governor’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

Good morning, Chairwoman Howell, Chairman Torian, Chairwoman Watts, Speaker Filler-Corn, Leader Saslaw, members of the General Assembly, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for the privilege of speaking with you this morning.

I would like to thank Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, First Lady Pam Northam, our Cabinet and staff, and all of our state employees for the work they do.

I think we all can especially appreciate that we are here together in person this morning.

Last year’s August revenue speech was held virtually, and so was the December budget address, and the January State of the Commonwealth.

It’s good to be together again.

We are here in person today because of one thing: vaccines.

The vaccines that scientists developed to fight covid-19 are incredibly effective, and for the bulk of this summer, Virginia—like other states—has seen dropping case counts, hospitalizations, and death tolls. It has been a relief to all of us.

We now have 74 percent of adult Virginians with at least one shot – one of the best performances in the country. And 66 percent of Virginia adults are fully vaccinated.

That’s good. But we need to keep working. Because covid is changing. The new Delta variant is much more contagious than previous versions—and it’s more dangerous for people who are not vaccinated. It’s causing our cases to go up again, and that’s not what we want to see.

But remember, cases are increasing mostly among unvaccinated people. Hospitalizations and deaths are almost all among unvaccinated people—nearly every single one.

That makes the solution more clear than ever: get vaccinated.

I hope all of you here today and watching are vaccinated, but if you’re not, please go out and get your shot today. And for you legislators, please urge your constituents to get the vaccine. It will save lives.

We’re going to talk a lot about good news today. But I want to start by recognizing that this has been a very difficult year and a half for everyone. It’s been especially challenging for people who have lost jobs or businesses to this pandemic—or, tragically, people they love.

And while we have a lot of positive news about our economy these days, we know that a lot of people are still struggling, and still hurting.

That’s why we have focused so much effort on investing in people. I want to thank all of you in the legislature for working with us, especially in the special session that just ended. Together, we’ve put money into programs and infrastructure that will help our neighbors and fellow Virginians, and that is what we’ll keep doing as we craft the next budget this fall.

Now, I am here today to update you on the Commonwealth’s revenues for the fiscal year that ended on June 30.

And it’s good news. Really good news.

We ended fiscal year 2021 with the largest surplus in the Commonwealth’s history—an historic $2.6 billion. Secretary of Finance Joe Flores will explain the details to you in a few minutes. Secretary Flores has been doing a tremendous job and I appreciate how you have all worked with him.

All of our major general fund revenue sources exceeded their forecasts.
Our payroll withholding and our sales taxes together account for 71 percent of revenues, and they’re the best indicator about current economic activity. Together, these two categories grew 6.4 percent this past fiscal year.

Revenue from personal income taxes—up 4.7 percent.

Revenue from sales taxes—up 12.4 percent.

Revenue from the recordation fees you pay when you buy a house – up almost 41 percent, a reflection of our strong housing market.

And revenue from ABC profits—up a remarkable 29.4 percent.

These tremendous results are among the best Virginia has ever delivered—and it’s thanks to the hard work of millions of workers across Virginia; entrepreneurs and employers in the private sector, and everyone in this room.

We need to be clear about how this has happened.
2020 was a profoundly difficult year. But Virginia is open for business – and business is good.

Thanks to the vaccine, we’ve been able to move beyond mitigation measures that were painful, even as they protected public health.

Thanks to recovery dollars from Washington, businesses have been able to keep going, and they’re hiring again. People have money in their pockets again, and the child tax credit is helping to lift families out of poverty.

Thanks to our strong national economy, the stock market is up. That’s good for families. It’s been profoundly good for the Virginia Retirement System that funds the retirement for police officers, teachers, and public workers all over Virginia.

Thanks to all of you, Virginians have made it through the past 18 months with tools to keep them safe—rent and mortgage relief, protection from eviction, and help paying for utility bills and child care.

And most of all, thanks to science, medicine, and good old-fashioned American ingenuity, we all now have access to vaccines that are safe and effective—and that’s helping drive this remarkable economic turnaround.

We accomplished all this during a pandemic that many expected to break our budget—and did exactly that to many other states.

Virginia has been different. Virginia has been a leader among the states—in policymaking, in our COVID response, and in the performance of our roaring economy.

We have been able to help Virginians who most need support through this pandemic while building our economy to be even stronger.

Now, before we turn to where we’re going, let’s take a moment to revisit how we got here—because the past 18 months have been unlike any other.

In early 2020, together we approved one of the most progressive budgets Virginia has ever seen. It included investments in important priorities, such as broadband access, early childhood education, clean air and water, and much, much more.

Then the pandemic hit. Not knowing what was to come, we froze that new spending and state hiring until we had a better picture of the pandemic’s impacts on our economy.

That was the wise, prudent, and fiscally responsible route to take.

We didn’t take the drastic measures some states were forced to take. Other states laid-off workers, cut services, and even borrowed money to pay the bills—actions that will weaken their financial pictures for years to come. We can all be proud that Virginia did not reduce services or lay anyone off.

This time last year, we were rewriting the budget to account for an anticipated drop in revenues.

But things improved last fall. And by the end of 2020, we were able to restore many of the investments we had hoped to make.

We launched free community college through the G3 program for people who need the support to get high-demand skills—so they can get the jobs they want for the lives they want to build for themselves.

We restored investments in broadband, early childhood education, higher ed, and financial aid. This means more children will get the best start possible, while people in every community will be able to get the Internet access they need to work and learn.

We gave educators a much-deserved pay raise, invested more in school counselors, and held K-12 schools harmless for enrollment drops during the pandemic.

We know our schools and educators had a very difficult year—and students most of all—but we’re grateful for how they handled the challenges of the pandemic.

We updated Virginia’s voting systems, revised an outdated formula for funding local health departments, and set aside money for the vaccination effort we knew was coming. Now more than half the state is fully vaccinated, and our local health departments are getting the support they need.

We invested in new rail infrastructure, and put money into the organizations working to better tell the full and accurate history of Virginia. That means a more comprehensive and inclusive story about where we’ve been, and where we’re going.

And we set aside money in our reserves. I had set a goal to have more than 8 percent of our budget in reserves during my term—more than any other governor and General Assembly have ever delivered.

Well, we’re on track to have almost 15 percent in our reserves by the time my term ends.

In fact, our revenues may be strong enough to trigger a “super deposit,” and Secretary Flores will explain that in more detail shortly.

But we can all be proud that we have been able to act prudently and set aside money in our reserves.

This action will protect Virginia when the next economic downturn comes—and we know one will come eventually.

Our budget provides targeted support to help the people who need it the most and lays the foundation for the economic recovery we have well underway.

We also used the federal funding we’ve received to support our local communities, our small businesses, and to save Virginians and landlords from the chaos of evictions.

Virginia was one of the first states to create a rent relief program, in June 2020. We directed $50 million in CARES Act dollars to it to start with, and this past February, we put another $524 million in federal funds into the program.

Virginia’s program stands out because we require tenants and landlords to work together to apply for funding. We understand that the pandemic has put people out of work, and through no fault of their own, they couldn’t pay the rent.

But we also understand that landlords had bills to pay too. That’s why we’ve had them work together.

Just last month, the United States Treasury Department published rent relief data that recognized Virginia as a top performer—and just last week, the White House praised Virginia’s work as being number two in the country for dollars out the door.

Also last week, we finalized legislation to spend $4.3 billion in federal American Rescue Plan funding.

I remain grateful to you for working with our administration to prioritize that funding so Virginia can be in a better position for the future.

We made a down payment on investments in behavioral health care, including strengthening our community-based services, and the valued staff who provide that care.

We’re giving schools the funding they need to improve their ventilation systems—a new priority in this pandemic era, but an issue that is likely to continue.

Together, we invested a record $700 million into bringing universal broadband access to every corner of the Commonwealth—that will be done in just a couple of years, far earlier than expected. This is a dramatic step forward for Virginia.

Previous legislatures have talked about broadband, but when we took office, we were spending only about $4 million a year on the effort. Coming from rural Virginia, I knew it needed to be a higher priority. We set the ambitious policy goal of getting every Virginian connected within ten years. And together, we kicked that number up to $50 million a year.

But we still have some Virginians without access, so I turned to my team and asked what it would take to hit the goal of universal access more quickly. They came back to me with a plan and said it will take about $700 million to get the job done. So together with you all, we have now committed to one of the most aggressive investments in broadband of any state in the country and we’ll do it in half the time we originally thought. We don’t want to leave any community behind.

We protected businesses from tax increases by making an historic investment of more than $800 million to refill our unemployment fund back to the right level. We had a clear policy goal—deposit enough money into that fund to ensure that our businesses, many of which have struggled in this pandemic, wouldn’t be hit with higher taxes to replenish the fund. Our economy continues to flourish, so between that and this investment, we are rebuilding that fund for the future.

While the Virginia Employment Commission is sixth in the nation for getting benefits to eligible people quickly, there have been times in the pandemic when VEC’s pace of resolving those difficult claims just hasn’t been acceptable.

We directed the VEC to dramatically expand their ability to process complicated claims, by adding 300 new adjudication specialists and make technology upgrades. As a result, VEC has now resolved 98 percent of complex claims. We know we have more to do. The ARPA investment will boost our chronically under-funded unemployment system, by improving its technology, increasing call center capacity, and ensuring highly qualified staff to help people, allowing VEC to continue to improve.

We also invested even more in our small businesses through the Rebuild Virginia Program. We launched Rebuild Virginia a year ago to give grants to small businesses and non-profits that were affected by the pandemic.

The response has been overwhelming—that fund has spent all its money three times and still has a number of applications in the pipeline.

So we used federal ARPA money to provide another $250 million. That will fund the needs for many more small businesses. All told, we’ll have put almost $400 million into that fund to help our small businesses all across Virginia.

We can all be proud of using federal support for these targeted investments to help Virginians. Some would have had us spend every ARPA dollar we received. But given the unpredictability of this pandemic—the rapid spread of the Delta variant is an example—it is most prudent to set some aside.

I want to thank Senator Janet Howell and Delegate Luke Torian for their strong commitment to this fiscally responsible decision. As we look to how to use the ARPA dollars we have set aside, rest assured, the 2022 General Assembly will have the final say.

Now, let’s talk a little bit about our economic recovery.

Last fall, there was considerable uncertainty about where we were headed on the pandemic and its impact on our economic outlook.

A vaccine was still months away, there was uncertainty about any future federal stimulus relief, and we were in the waning days of a tumultuous election season.

As I said, this time last year, we met with economic advisors, and we all expected the pandemic would reduce revenues.

But by December, those same economists were seeing that Virginia was on an upswing. We expected $1.2 billion in additional revenue. That was great news.

What’s even better news, however, is that we more than doubled that.

The top line is this: we forecast our total revenue collections to grow 2.7 percent. We based this on the conservative recommendations of experienced economists, and Virginia business leaders. This was the right and prudent course.
Instead, revenues soared 14 percent—and we can all celebrate that.

That tells us all that what we’ve been doing is working—making targeted investments for the future while helping people get through the pandemic.

Revenues are exceeding official forecasts, even during a pandemic.

Our finances are solid, and we have taken action to keep our triple-A bond rating secure. We are one of only 13 states that hold this rating, and it’s because we laid out a long-term financial plan, and we have stuck to it, in good times and bad. We must continue this work.

There is no doubt this past year and a half have been difficult in a variety of ways. That includes the worries we have all shared about our state’s revenues, and how the people and businesses behind those numbers were faring during the pandemic.

That is one reason why it was so heartening to have something good—really good—to celebrate last month.

Once again, Virginia was named the best state in which to do business by CNBC—the only state to get that rating back to back.

This is something we should all be proud of because it speaks to the work we have done together to make Virginia a better place, both for businesses and for workers.

I could not be prouder of what this says about the inclusive, commonsense policies that we have put in place, and how they encourage business investment.

It is a testament to Virginia’s workers, our education system, our commitment to diversity, and our strong business climate.

When we treat people right, it’s not just the right thing to do, it is good for business. And we know that if we stick with this philosophy, Virginia will grow even stronger.

Since I took office in 2018, we have secured $47.5 billion in statewide capital investment and created more than 90,000 new jobs.

We’ve done that while advancing policies that treat people equally and with dignity, recognize and celebrate diversity, tell our full and true history, and promote democracy.

And as a result of all this, our economy is roaring. We see that in these revenue numbers.

We know that we are taking the right steps to keep this momentum going.

At the same time, we don’t know what the future holds. If you’d asked me about the pandemic in June, I would have said we could have a fall that looked almost normal. But now we know that won’t be the case, thanks to the Delta variant.

So as we head into the fall, we will continue to be cautious and prudent in our budgeting. We want to be ready for any more surprises COVID may throw our way.

My administration will be working with you to craft a new two-year budget to leave in your hands. It will be one that continues prioritizing investments for the long-term and supporting people as they recover from the pandemic.

We have already committed to making strong investments in overcoming salary compression for our state police and many other public safety officials. And we’ve committed to continuing investments in our behavioral health system and in the staff who are on the ground, taking care of people.

Our goal as we build this budget together is to leave you all with the kind of roadmap that can continue the strong economic success that we are seeing. We will keep making the investments that Virginia needs. We will keep putting resources into supporting Virginians who need it. We have built a strong Virginia that works for more Virginians than ever before.

We can all be proud of Virginia’s position today. We have a strong economy, thanks to cooperative leadership, and we are well-positioned to continue seeing robust revenues and hiring going forward if we keep steering the ship along the same course.

We have laid out a path for economic prosperity, and it’s working.

Virginia is the best state in the best nation in the world. I am grateful to all of you for the work we have done together to benefit Virginians. And I am grateful to every Virginian who has played a part in making our Commonwealth the best place to live and work.

Thank you.

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Herring argues that Congress intended sentencing reform legislation to correct prior injustices, improve public safety, and save taxpayer money



RICHMOND (November 23, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined a coalition of 17 attorneys general in urging the Supreme Court not to restrict the resentencing relief that individuals serving harsh sentences can seek under the First Step Act, landmark criminal justice reform legislation passed by Congress in 2018.

Attorney General Herring and his colleagues filed an amicus brief in Concepcion v. United States, a case concerning what information a court may consider when deciding whether to reduce a harsh sentence for a prior crack cocaine offense under the First Step Act. Specifically, the coalition argues that courts should be able to consider intervening changes to the law since the original sentence was imposed, and intervening changes in a defendant’s factual circumstances, such as good behavior in prison or evidence of rehabilitation. The coalition points to a universal consensus that the former federal sentencing regime, which disproportionately punished crack cocaine offenders over powder cocaine offenders, was unjust and had a disproportionate impact on communities of color. The brief also explains how state-level sentencing reforms analogous to the First Step Act have improved public safety and saved billions of dollars and contends that limiting the scope of the First Step Act would deprive both states and the federal government of similar benefits.

“The passage of the First Step Act helped to create a more fair, just, and equal criminal justice system in this country, and we must ensure that those reforms remain in place,” said Attorney General Herring. “When resentencing eligible Americans under the Act, it’s so important for courts to be able to consider intervening changes in the law or in the individual’s factual circumstances to make the most accurate and fair decision. My top priority will always be to ensure justice, equality, and opportunity in Commonwealth and around the country.”

In the 1980s, states and the federal government responded to the prevalence of crack cocaine and public panic about its supposedly unique dangers with aggressive penalties and targeted criminalization. Federal sentencing laws treated crack cocaine much more harshly than powder cocaine, with 100 times as much powder cocaine as crack cocaine needed to trigger the same penalties.

Harsh penalties for crack cocaine exacerbated racial inequality in the justice system. Historically approximately 60 percent of crack users in a given year have been white, but the majority of people sentenced for crack cocaine offenses have been Black or Hispanic. For example, in 2006, around 80% of those convicted of crack offenses were Black. In part because of dramatically harsher treatment of crack cocaine offenses, the average prison time for Black people convicted of drug offenses increased by more than 77% from 1994 to 2003, compared to an increase of less than 33% for white people convicted of drug offenses.

In 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act to reduce the disparity between sentences for crack cocaine and powder cocaine. The First Step Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill passed in 2018, included a provision that made the Fair Sentencing Act’s reforms retroactive, allowing those serving harsh sentences imposed under the former federal law to seek relief.

In their amicus brief filed in Concepcion v. United States, the attorneys general urge the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court’s decision dramatically limiting what courts may consider when resentencing otherwise eligible individuals under the First Step Act. Relying on their historical experience addressing the crack cocaine crisis and their unique authority as the primary enforcers of criminal law, the states argue that during First Step Act resentencing, courts should be allowed to consider intervening changes in the law and facts because:

There is consensus that applying dramatically harsher sentences for crack cocaine offenses over powder cocaine offenses was unnecessary and unjust: When Congress was drafting the First Step Act, states had uniformly concluded that the extreme differential between sentences for crack cocaine and powder cocaine was both unwarranted and unwise. Assumptions about crack cocaine’s unique danger and addictiveness—which informed the original decisions to impose harsher sentences—have been discredited, and there is now widespread consensus that crack cocaine and powder cocaine have similar effects.

Sentencing reform has been shown to improve public safety and save tax dollars: States have experimented with sentencing reforms and reduced sentences for drug-related offenses for decades and have seen these reforms improve public safety, strengthen communities, and decrease recidivism. These reforms have also saved states billions of dollars. Congress passed the First Step Act to realize these benefits at the federal level, and the Act should be interpreted in a manner consistent with that aim.

The First Step Act was intended to right historic wrongs: Congress passed the First Step Act in part to correct fundamental injustices in federal cocaine sentencing laws and address the severe racial disparities created by the prior sentencing regime. Sentencing reform is a powerful tool to help correct the extreme over-incarceration of racial minorities for drug-related crimes and promote racial justice. So far, 96% of those granted sentence reductions under the First Step Act have been Black or Hispanic. It would make little sense to require courts to limit the factors they consider in resentencing and apply old rules no longer on the books—including rules rejected by Congress, the courts, and the Sentencing Commission—when Congress passed the First Step Act specifically to correct the unjust and racially disparate sentences brought on by the old regime.

Joining Attorney General Herring in filing the amicus brief are the attorneys general from Colorado, Colorado, Guam, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

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Virginia State Police urging motorists to be patient and put safety first this Thanksgiving



For many Virginians, Thanksgiving is time to gather with friends and family, commiserate over the trials and tribulations of the previous year and to be truly thankful for blessings around us. These wonderful family moments often start with loading up the car and heading down the road. AAA predicts that 1.4 million Virginians will be traveling for the holiday, which is 11% more motorists than in 2020. With many of those travelers taking to the roadways, patience might be the most important thing to pack.

“With traffic on the roads increasing and many people anxious to get to their destination, I encourage all Virginians to be patient. Buckle up and take your time,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Your family wants you to arrive safely and in a frame of mind to enjoy all the holiday has to offer. Making sure you are driving the posted speed limit, driving for conditions and wearing your seatbelt are the best ways to stay safe on the road, so you can enjoy the holiday.”

To further prevent traffic deaths and injuries during the Thanksgiving holiday, the Virginia State Police will once again be participating in Operation C.A.R.E. – Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort. As part of the state-sponsored, national program, state police will be increasing its visibility and traffic enforcement efforts during the five-day statistical counting period that begins at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, and concludes at midnight Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021.

The 2020 Thanksgiving Operation C.A.R.E. initiative resulted in troopers citing 4,930 speeders and 1,706 reckless drivers statewide. Virginia troopers charged 67 drivers for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and/or drugs, and cited 498 drivers for failing to buckle up themselves and/or juvenile passengers.

There were 12 traffic fatalities during the 2020 five-day Thanksgiving statistical counting period and eight traffic fatalities during the same period in 2019.

This year, the Thanksgiving Holiday C.A.R.E. initiative falls within the annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign. This helps to further emphasize the lifesaving value of seat belts for every person in a vehicle.

With increased 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, drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.

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Port moves ahead with rail capacity expansion at NIT as board approves $61M construction bid



The Port of Virginia® is embarking on an expansion of its double-stack, on-dock rail operation that when complete will allow the port to handle 1.1 million containers a year via rail.

The process of doubling the size of the Central Rail Yard at Norfolk International Terminals moved ahead Tuesday when the Virginia Port Authority (VPA) Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the project’s $61.5 million construction bid. The work will be done by Allan Myers Virginia Inc., the same company that handled the optimization projects at NIT and Virginia International Gateway (VIG).

 Central Rail Yard. Photo / Virginia Port Authority 

Additionally, the VPA board approved moving forward on an $18 million contract with Konecranes for up to three cantilever rail-mounted gantry cranes and their support systems.

When complete, NIT’s Central Rail Yard will be able to accommodate 610,000 annual container lifts; current lift capacity is 350,000 at NIT and 480,000 at VIG. The construction encompasses demolition, pavement work, utilities infrastructure and installation of new railroad track. The work begins in February 2022 and will be complete in late 2023.

The completion of the rail expansion project is timed to support opening of the port’s deeper and wider commercial ship channel. The dredge work to take Virginia’s channel depth to 55 feet is underway and scheduled for completion in mid-to-late 2024 – the wider channel will make way for safe, two-way traffic of ultra-large container vessels.

“In a little more than two years The Port of Virginia will be served by the deepest and widest ship channel anywhere on the US East Coast,” said Stephen A. Edwards, CEO and executive director of the VPA. “Pairing that channel depth with modern terminals and significant rail capacity is going to attract big ships and more cargo volume. We are going to need the rail capacity to support the additional cargo we’ll be getting from this shift of big vessels to Virginia.”

The project will also support further optimization of NIT as the port begins its preliminary planning for expanding the container capacity at the terminal’s North Berth. That project, when complete, will create the throughput capacity to handle 630,000 containers annually. The design work is scheduled for completion by the end of 2022 with construction to begin in the spring of 2023.

“We have a clear roadmap for investment to stay ahead of the curve,” Edwards said. “These projects will help meet the needs of our customers and the cargo owners while giving us the capacity and capability to be the premiere US East Coast destination for rail cargo and big ships.”

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Virginia State Police trooper selected for IACP Leadership in Looking Beyond the License Plate award



The Virginia State Police (VSP) is proud to announce the selection of Virginia State Police Trooper Jonathan R. Davis as the recipient of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) 2021 Leadership in Looking Beyond the License Plate Award. Trooper Davis, who is assigned to the Area 22 Office in the VSP Appomattox Division, was recently presented his award by Colonel Gary T. Settle at the VSP Superintendent Awards Ceremony in North Chesterfield County.

“The Virginia State Police is extremely proud of Trooper Davis for being the only law enforcement officer in the nation to be selected for this esteemed recognition,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Trooper Davis’s extraordinary efforts not only disrupted a major credit card theft operation, but also prevented countless, innocent people from being victimized by these suspects. Virginia, and especially Mecklenburg and Lunenburg counties, are fortunate to have Trooper Davis on patrol and protecting their communities.”

Photo / Virginia State Police

The IACP award announcement described the investigation as follows: Trooper Davis has pursued a path of valor, service, and leadership. Trooper Davis’s traffic stop on a minivan and the legal search of the vehicle ultimately uncovered a credit card theft ring that was operated by two foreign nationals residing in New York. The search of the vehicle yielded the discovery of a large bag containing a credit card skimmer, 14 debit/gift cards, and $140,000 in US currency. Trooper Davis proactively contacted the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to determine if the agency had any intel or interest in these two individuals. An agent was dispatched to respond to the scene. The DHS agent ran all the cards through a mobile scanning device and determined that seven of the cards had been rewritten with stolen credit card identifications. Trooper Davis also contacted the VSP High-Tech Crimes Division for analysis of cell phones and other electronics seized from the vehicle to bolster his case and assist the federal agents with their investigation. Trooper Davis pursued state charges while a grand jury indicted both individuals on more than six felony charges.

The traffic stop took place April 23, 2020 along the southbound lanes of Interstate 85 near South Hill, Va. The purpose for the traffic stop was initially for a speeding violation of 84 mph in a posted 70 mph zone. Upon his approach of the vehicle, Trooper Davis observed a homemade, paper license plate taped to the upper left hand corner of the rear window. The license plate information and title the driver presented to him did not match nor were valid, which led Trooper Davis to further investigate and uncover the illegal credit card theft and skimming operation.

The IACP Leadership in Looking Beyond the License Plate Award recognizes the dedication and initiative of individual police officers whose daily efforts during traffic stops play a large part in preventing additional, more severe crimes. This award is designed to substantiate and document the importance of license plates as law enforcement tools and recognize officers who use license plates to prevent and detect both civil traffic violations and further criminal conduct.

Trooper Davis, 32, joined the Virginia State Police in July 2018 as a member of the 129th Basic Session Academy Class. He has been assigned to Area 22, which encompasses South Hill and the counties of Mecklenburg and Lunenburg, since graduating from the academy.

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Court of Appeals of Virginia denies appeal by James Fields of convictions after he ran a car into a group of pedestrians in Charlottesville killing one and injuring others



RICHMOND (November 16, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring and his team have successfully defended the convictions of James Fields, who was convicted of running his car into a group of pedestrians during the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville killing one and injuring others. In a unanimous decision issued this morning, the Court of Appeals of Virginia rejected efforts by Fields to overturn his convictions.

By Anthony Crider; cropped by Beyond My Ken (talk) 20:37, 9 April 2018 (UTC) – Charlottesville “Unite the Right” Rally, CC BY 2.0,

“We will never forget the mayhem, violence, hate, and death that white supremacists brought to Charlottesville for their Unite the Right Rally, and we must ensure that every individual who broke the law or incited violence on that fateful day is brought to justice,” said Attorney General Herring. “My team and I will continue to do everything we can to put a stop to the white supremacist violence that we are seeing in the Commonwealth and across the country, and I will hold any racist or white supremacist accountable if they act on their hate.”

In December 2018, a jury found Fields guilty of one count of first-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, and one count of leaving the scene of an accident. Following the guilty verdicts, Fields was sentenced to life in prison plus 419 years and an additional fine.

“Appellate review of criminal convictions is an important part of the legal process and our office is pleased that all of Mr. Fields convictions and sentences were unanimously affirmed. I want to thank Attorney General Herring and his team for all of their hard work and dedication on this important case,” said Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania.


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Attorney General Herring holds gas station accountable for price gouging



RICHMOND (November 17, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring is holding Richmond-based 7HC Inc. d/b/a 7 Heaven BP accountable for alleged violations of the Virginia Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act. The agreement relates to allegations that the gas station on Williamsburg Road in Richmond charged unconscionable prices on gasoline, a necessary good, after Governor Northam declared a state of emergency on May 11, 2021, in response to a temporary shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies motor fuels and other petroleum-based products to a large portion of the east coast.

This is the third enforcement action Attorney General Herring has taken regarding price gouging following the Colonial Pipeline emergency. Additionally, he has taken enforcement actions against price gouging in relation to the state of emergency declaration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s unfortunate that bad actors will take advantage of emergencies, natural disasters, or other times of crisis just to line their own pockets,” said Attorney General Herring. “My Consumer Protection Section has been committed to pursuing and investigating allegations of possible price gouging, and we will continue to take action against those businesses that have preyed on consumers and overcharged during an emergency. Virginians should never have to worry about paying too much for gas and other necessary goods during a crisis when they are focused on taking care of themselves and their families.”

Attorney General Herring’s complaint alleges that, during the ten days immediately preceding the Governor’s emergency declaration, the gas station was charging $2.649 per gallon for regular unleaded fuel, $3.199 per gallon for plus (midgrade) fuel, and $3.549 per gallon for premium unleaded fuel. Then, in the evening of May 11, immediately after the state of emergency was declared, the business elevated its prices on all grades of gallons of gasoline several times – eventually topping out at $6.99 per gallon on regular and premium gasoline. A violation of Virginia’s price gouging law is also a violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.

Under the terms of the settlement, 7 Heaven BP agrees to be enjoined from engaging in further violations of Virginia’s price gouging law and the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. The business also has agreed to pay $2,000 in attorneys’ fees and has distributed $2,858.70 in refunds to 152 consumers through credit card reimbursements and direct cash refunds. Consumers who purchased gasoline from 7 Heaven BP on May 11, and who have not received a refund, should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section. Complaints should include documentation of the purchase and be submitted to the Attorney General’s Office by no later than February 22, 2022.

The settlement, in the form of an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, has been filed for approval with the Richmond City Circuit Court.

During Governor Northam’s state of emergency that was issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Virginia Attorney General’s Office received more than 500 complaints and e-mails alleging possible price gouging activity and sent more than 150 investigative letters to businesses. Investigation of these complaints largely revealed that many price increases occurred further up the supply chain with manufacturers or distributors that were beyond the reach of the state’s price gouging laws, and this prompted Attorney General Herring to successfully seek amendments to the state’s price gouging law during the 2020 General Assembly special session.

Additionally, in April 2020, Attorney General Herring led a national effort to address price gouging in the PPE supply chain, urging 3M as one of the largest manufacturers of PPE, particularly masks, to do more to address price gouging within its supply and distribution chains that were causing hospitals and healthcare providers to pay exorbitant prices for PPE.

If a Virginia consumer suspects they are a victim of price gouging, they can call the Consumer Protection Hotline or download a complaint form from the Attorney General’s website and submit it in-person, by mail, or by fax. Consumers are encouraged to keep any relevant documentation and submit copies with their complaints. If consumers believe they are a victim of price gouging specific to motor fuel they should file complaints with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Consumers can contact Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section for information or file a complaint:
• By phone: (800) 552-9963
• By email:
Online Contact Form/Online Complaint Form



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