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Retiring superintendent, school board members receive formal send-off

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Warren County School Board Chairwoman Catherine Bower (center) schmoozes with outgoing WCPS Superintendent Greg Drescher (left) and retiring School Board member Donna McEathron (right) during a December 4 School Board reception. Photos by Kim Riley, Royal Examiner.

FRONT ROYAL — Two outgoing members of the Warren County School Board and retiring Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) Superintendent Greg Drescher on Wednesday night received a formal goodbye from their School Board colleagues.

The School Board held a reception for the retiring public servants prior to their regular December 4 meeting at the government center and then during the meeting presented them with gifts and official resolutions recognizing the time they’ve worked for Warren County.

The last day for Drescher and the expiring terms for School Board members Donna McEathron and C. Douglas Rosen all fall on December 31.

Drescher, who has been the WCPS superintendent for five years following a 37-year career in education, on September 6 announced his retirement in a press release in which he cited his wife’s “serious health issues” as being a primary factor in his decision to leave WCPS early.

Shortly thereafter, the School Board during its regular October 2 meeting unanimously voted to put Drescher on paid administrative leave until his retirement after he was indicted along with more than a dozen other local individuals in the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) financial scandal. Those charges were all later dismissed when the presiding judge ruled there was no legal precedent making unintentional negligence a criminal offense in Virginia.

Drescher simultaneously was superintendent of schools and a member of the EDA Board of Directors. He served 12 years on the EDA board and was board chairman in 2017-2018 during the height of what has been shown to be when the financial scandal started to unravel. He resigned completely from the EDA board in March.

Meanwhile, both School Board terms for McEathron and Rosen are up at the end of the year and neither of them sought reelection during the November special elections.

Retiring Warren County School Board member C. Douglas Rosen has served on the board since October 23, 2014.

Retiring School Board members C. Douglas Rosen (left) and Donna McEathron (right) during the board’s reception honoring them last night.

Retirement reception revelers: (left to right) Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley, who attended the School Board reception and meeting as president of the Warren County Educational Endowment; outgoing WCPS Superintendent Greg Drescher; and interim WCPS superintendent Melody Sheppard.

The School Board noted during the presentations portion of its Wednesday meeting that since it was the final regular meeting for Drescher, Donna McEathron and Rosen, the board members wished to recognize their service to the citizens and students of Warren County.

A resolution in recognition and appreciation of their service was prepared for each of them and then adopted by the School Board. Chairwoman Bower read out loud each resolution to those in attendance at the meeting. Drescher received a standing ovation from the crowd following presentation of his resolution and gift.

Local resident warns School Board; extra special ed teacher approved

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Two days late! How July 4th became Independence Day

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Few people realize that the resolution for American Independence was actually approved on July 2, 1776. Here’s how it happened.

By June of that year, the colonies were seething with revolt. The English Parliament had forced them to endure “an absolute tyranny,” as Thomas Jefferson later wrote in the Declaration of Independence.

Grievances included: Taxation without representation; Parliament’s dissolving the Virginia House of Burgesses; a monopoly on exports and imports resulting in exorbitant prices; and British troops being quartered in the colonists’ homes.

As the Continental Congress debated in Philadelphia, there were still those who pushed for reconciliation with the powerful mother country.

On June 7, 1776, Henry Lee of the Virginia Assembly laid a resolution before the Continental Congress for the colonies to be free and independent states. After a ferocious debate, both sides decided that a declaration of independence should be drafted in case it would be needed.

Of the five men named to write it, the job fell to Thomas Jefferson. At age 33, he felt Ben Franklin should do it, but Franklin was ill. Or that John Adams should, but Adams won him over by saying gruffly, “You can write ten times better than I.”

On July 1, Congress met to reconsider Virginia’s resolution for independence. At first, a third of the colonies voted against it, and the resolution was tabled until the following day. There followed a frenzy of activity.

Sent for by messenger, Caesar Rodney of Delaware arrived after an 80-mile ride on horseback, pelted by rain all the way. He broke a tie, and Delaware voted for independence.

Patriots converged on delegates of the remaining demurring states and won them over. The vote for independence was carried on July 2.

On July 3, Jefferson’s declaration was read and passages felt to be overly inflammatory were removed.

On July 4, the declaration was finally signed and approved. BUT … independence was actually voted on July 2, 1776.

John Adams, who later served as President, said in a letter, “The second day of July 1776 … will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.” He was almost right.

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Minimum wage increases but doesn’t take affect until May 2021

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Here’s everything you want to know about the new minimum wage law than went into effect on July 1, 2020.

The new law increases the minimum wage from its current federally mandated level of $7.25 per hour to $9.50 per hour effective May 1, 2021; to $11.00 per hour effective January 1, 2022; to $12.00 per hour effective January 1, 2023; to $13.50 per hour effective January 1, 2025; and to $15.00 per hour effective January 1, 2026.

For January 1, 2027, and thereafter, the annual minimum wage shall be adjusted to reflect increases in the consumer price index. The measure provides that the increases scheduled for 2025 and 2026 will not become effective unless reenacted by the General Assembly prior to July 1, 2024. If such provisions are not reenacted prior to July 1, 2024, then the annual minimum wage will be adjusted to reflect increases in the consumer price index beginning January 1, 2025.

The measure creates a training wage at 75 percent of the minimum wage for employees in on-the-job training programs lasting less than 90 days. The measure also provides that the Virginia minimum wage applies to persons whose employment is covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act; persons employed in domestic service or in or about a private home; persons who normally work and are paid on the amount of work done; persons with intellectual or physical disabilities except those whose employment is covered by a special certificate issued by the U.S. Secretary of Labor; persons employed by an employer who does not employ four or more persons at any one time; and persons who are less than 18 years of age and who are under the jurisdiction of a juvenile and domestic relations district court.

Minimum wage does not apply to the following:

  • Any person employed as a farm laborer or farm employee;
  • Any person engaged in the activities of an educational, charitable, religious, or nonprofit organization where the relationship of employer-employee does not, in fact, exist, or where the services rendered to such organization are on a voluntary basis;
  • Caddies on golf courses;
  • Traveling salesmen or outside salesmen working on a commission basis; taxicab drivers and operators;
  • Any person under the age of 18 in the employ of his parent or legal guardian;
  • Any person confined in any penal or corrective institution of the Commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions or admitted to a state hospital or training center operated by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services;
  • Any person employed by a summer camp for boys, girls, or both boys and girls;
  • Any person under the age of 16, regardless of by whom employed;
  • Any person who is paid pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 214(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended;
  • Students participating in a bona fide educational program;
  • Any person who is less than 18 years of age and who is currently enrolled on a full-time basis in any secondary school, an institution of higher education, or trade school, provided that the person is not employed more than 20 hours per week;
  • Any person of any age who is currently enrolled on a full-time basis in any secondary school, an institution of higher education, or trade school and is in a work-study program or its equivalent at the institution at which enrolled as a student;
  • Any person who works as a babysitter for fewer than 10 hours per week;
  • Any person participating as an au pair in the U.S. Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program governed by 22 C.F.R. § 62.31;
  • Any individual employed as a temporary foreign worker as governed by 20 C.F.R. Part 655; and
  • Any person who is exempt from the federal minimum wage pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(3).
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Reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 5th at the Courthouse

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On July 5th at 2pm, Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Virginia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution will read the Declaration of Independence at the Warren County Courthouse. This event is open to the public.

Here is an overview of the Declaration of Independence taken from the National Park Service:

Looking back on the Declaration of Independence almost 50 years later, Thomas Jefferson explained that the document’s purpose was never meant to be thoroughly original; its purpose wasn’t to articulate anything that hadn’t been saying before but to make the case for the American colonies in plain terms and persuade the world to see common sense. “It was intended to be an expression of the American mind,” Jefferson explains. He goes on to claim that “[the Declaration’s] authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day.” (Jefferson to Henry Lee, May 8, 1825)

Jefferson finished his timeless defense of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in little more than two weeks, and like most writers, he was no stranger to the revision process. Between the Committee of Five and the Second Continental Congress, there were 86 edits to the document. The Second Continental Congress removed whole sections. Jefferson was most angered by the removal of one particular clause, a clause blaming the King for forcing the slave trade upon the American colonies.

The final draft of the Declaration of Independence contains a preamble, a list of grievances, a formal declaration of independence, and signatures.

Preamble
This first part of the Declaration contains an assertion of individual rights. Perhaps the most famous line states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” This part goes on to say that if the government tries to take these rights away, the people have the right to form a new government. Jefferson also addresses a counterclaim in this section, acknowledging that “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes…” He counters by reminding his audience of the “long train of abuses and usurpations” that makes it “…their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Grievances
The longest part of the Declaration begins with “He has refused his Assent to Laws” and goes on to list the unfair actions of the British king and Parliament. In their complaints, the colonists make it clear that they are angry with the British king and government for taking away their rights as English citizens. They point out that the king has ignored or changed their colonial governments, as well as their rights to a trial by jury. The colonists accuse the king of sending a hired army to force them to obey unjust laws. They say the king is “unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Note: The norms and structure of argumentative writing in the 18th century were different from they are in the 21st century. The list of grievances that serves as the Declaration’s evidence seems largely anecdotal by today’s standards. However, the Declaration’s claim and underlying assumption (big idea) are especially applicable to the writing standards of 21st-century classrooms.

A formal declaration of independence
The final paragraph, beginning with “We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America,” affirms that the 13 colonies are free and independent states. It breaks all ties with the British government and people. As independent states, they can make trade agreements and treaties, wage war, and do whatever is necessary to govern themselves. This formal declaration of independence ends with important words. The words tell us what the signers of the Declaration of Independence were willing to give up for freedom: “…we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Signatures
There are 56 signatures on the Declaration of Independence. Fifty men from 13 states signed the document on August 2 in 1776. The other six signed over the course of the next year and a half. As the President of the Second Continental Congress, John Hancock signed first. He wrote his name very large. Some of the men abbreviated their first names, like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. All the signers risked their lives when they signed the Declaration of Independence.

Legacy of the argument
Contrary to popular belief, the words of the Declaration of Independence did not gain immediate prominence. In fact, they remained obscure for decades. And yet the spirit of the Declaration caused ripples almost immediately, most famously with the French Revolution in 1789. The Haitian Revolution followed soon after, and the subsequent decades would see many Latin American countries continuing the fight for independence from colonial powers. In 1945, Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh also invoked the document when declaring Vietnamese independence from the French colonial empire.

Within the U.S., the women’s suffrage movement adapted the Declaration of Independence for their cause, asserting in the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments that “all men and women are created equal.” Meanwhile, the country’s celebrations of independence haunted enslaved people and abolitionists like Frederick Douglass, whose 1852 speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” pondered the nation’s shortcoming despite its dedication to values like liberty. As Douglass said, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.”

As World War I came to a close, leaders from Eastern Europe gathered inside Independence Hall on October 26, 1918, to sign the Declaration of Common Aims of the Independent Mid-European Nations. Those gathering in Independence Hall that day sought to bring autonomy to the nations of the former Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. The signers pledged their mutual support and their belief that “it is the inalienable right of every people to organize their own governments on such principles and in such forms as they believe will best promote their welfare, safety, and happiness.”

After the signing ceremony, Doctor Thomas Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia, read the Declaration of Common Aims on Independence Square, just as John Nixon read the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776.

Read more from the National Archives here.

Background of the Sons of the American Revolution

Chartered in 2007, Colonel James Wood, II Chapter has grown into one of the best chapters in the state of Virginia, being named the best chapter 8 times in 13 years and receiving numerous awards. Based in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, the Chapter covers a five-county area of Frederick, Clarke, Page, Warren, and Shenandoah Counties plus the City of Winchester.

The chapter continually supports the purposes of the Sons of the American Revolution which are patriotic, historical, and educational. They strive to ensure that the patriots who gave us the United States of America are not forgotten; to promote patriotism in support of our country and its modern-day heroes and; to support teaching the history and values of the American Revolution and our constitutional freedoms.

The Objects of this Society are declared to be patriotic, historical, and educational; to unite and promote fellowship among the descendants of those who sacrificed to achieve the independence of the American people, to inspire them and the community-at-large with more profound reverence for the principles of the government founded by our forefathers; to foster true patriotism; to maintain and extend the institutions of American freedom.

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Governor Northam applauds historic progress as new laws take effect in Virginia

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~ Sweeping measures include minimum wage increase, worker protections, gun violence prevention, expanding voting access, fighting climate change ~

Governor Ralph Northam highlighted new laws that take effect July 1, 2020, as Virginia begins a new fiscal year. The Governor worked closely with members of the General Assembly to take forward-looking and historic steps to protect vulnerable Virginians, increase equity, and position the Commonwealth for future growth and success.

New laws include commonsense gun safety measures, worker protections, improvements to voting accessibility, criminal justice reforms, and measures that advance the rights of women and the LGBTQ community. Governor Northam also signed legislation that removes discriminatory and racist language from Virginia’s books and includes actions to fight climate change and dramatically boost Virginia’s renewable energy production.

“I am proud of the bold legislation we championed with the General Assembly this year,” said Governor Northam. “From protecting civil rights to expanding voting access, to supporting workers, we have made generational progress on some of the most critical issues of our time. With these new laws, Virginia will be an even better place to live, work, visit, and raise a family.”

Key measures from the 2020 General Assembly Session that go into effect today include:

Advancing historic justice and equity with new laws that give localities authority over Confederate war memorials, remove discriminatory language from the Acts of Assembly and establish a commission to study slavery in Virginia and subsequent racial and economic discrimination. New measures also ban discrimination based on hair.

Enhancing worker protections with measures that increase the minimum wage, ban workplace discrimination, and combat worker misclassification and wage theft.

Commonsense gun safety laws that reinstate the restriction on handgun purchases to one per month, implement background checks on all firearm sales, require the reporting of lost or stolen firearms, and establish an Extreme Risk Protective Order.

Criminal justice reforms that include decriminalizing marijuana, raising the felony larceny threshold, and permanently ending the practice of driver’s license suspensions for unpaid court fines.

Expanding access to the ballot box by allowing early voting 45 days prior to an election without a stated excuse, extending in-person polling hours, and making Election Day a state holiday by repealing Lee-Jackson Day.

Accelerating Virginia’s transition to clean energy with the Virginia Clean Economy Act and measures to advance offshore wind and solar energy sources, establish renewable portfolio standards, and enter the Commonwealth into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Increasing protections for LGBTQ+ Virginians with the Virginia Values Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, public spaces, and credit applications. New laws also ban the harmful practice of “conversion therapy” for minors, increase protections for transgender students in public schools, expand the definition of a hate crime, and make it easier for LGBTQ+ individuals to obtain a birth certificate that matches their gender identity.

Restoring reproductive rights by repealing medically-unnecessary restrictions on women’s healthcare. The Reproductive Health Protection Act repeals Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound law and 24-hour waiting period prior to an abortion, and rolls back politically motivated “TRAP” restrictions on women’s health centers.

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AG Herring’s legislative package to go into effect July 1st

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~ Herring’s legislative package helped to make 2020 the most progressive legislative session in Virginia history, includes bills that will make Virginia’s criminal justice system more fair, equal, and just; protect vulnerable communities; protect consumers, and more ~

Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s legislative package, which helped to make the 2020 General Assembly session the most progressive in Virginia history, is set to go into effect tomorrow, July 1st. Attorney General Herring’s package includes bills that will make Virginia’s criminal justice system more fair, just, and equal; protect vulnerable communities; make Virginia an even more open and welcoming community; and more. Additionally, Attorney General Herring’s package included comprehensive consumer protection reforms that will go into effect in January 2021, after Attorney General Herring asked Governor Northam to move the effective date up earlier citing the need to better protect Virginians during these difficult financial times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Tomorrow, when these new, progressive bills take effect, it will be a new day in Virginia. I have fought for these measures and reforms for years, even when the General Assembly was led by Republicans who would block our every move,” said Attorney General Herring. “With things like decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, we are creating a more fair, just, and equal Virginia. We were able to pass comprehensive consumer protections so that Virginians can take out certain kinds of small-dollar loans without falling into a vicious cycle of debt and high-interest rates. Vulnerable communities can now feel confident in knowing that their Commonwealth is behind them and ready to protect them from hate or other threats.

“Virginians voted last November for commonsense gun reform and this year we were finally able to deliver. For too long, too many Virginians were losing their lives at the end of a gun and Republicans were okay with keeping that status quo. Our communities and our families and loved ones are now safer because of these new gun safety measures like the one-handgun-a-month law, that I successfully defended in court just last week; a red flag law; and universal background checks.

“I want to thank my colleagues in both the Senate and the House for helping to pass my priorities this year. And I look forward to seeing how much more we are able to accomplish next year.”

Criminal Justice
The General Assembly passed House Bill 972 (Delegate Charniele Herring) and Senate Bill 2 (Senator Adam Ebbin) that will decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.

“Virginia’s approach to cannabis hasn’t been working for far too long, needlessly saddling Virginians, especially Black Virginians and people of color, with criminal records. Those days are now behind us,” said Attorney General Herring. “With this historic legislation, we are making Virginia a more just, fair, equal, and progressive place. While decriminalization is an important first step on Virginia’s path, we cannot stop until we have full legalization in the Commonwealth.

“I want to thank my colleagues in the Senate and the House for helping me make this a top priority and I look forward to the progress that Virginia will make on this issue in the coming years.”

Attorney General Herring has become the leader on cannabis reform in Virginia following his call for decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, action to address past convictions, and a move towards legal and regulated adult use. In his call for cannabis reform, he cited the unnecessary negative impact of a criminal conviction for possession, the expense and social costs of enforcing the current system, and the disparate impact on African Americans and people and communities of color. In December 2019, Attorney General Herring held a cannabis summit for policymaking stakeholders in Virginia that focused on policy and included experts from attorneys generals’ offices, state agencies, and legislative operations in states that have legalized cannabis, as well as cannabis policy experts.

Protecting Vulnerable Communities
The General Assembly passed Attorney General Herring’s package of legislation that he says will better protect Virginians and vulnerable communities from hate crimes and white supremacist violence. The bills will update the Commonwealth’s definition of a hate crime, protect Virginians from violence and intimidation by hate groups and white supremacists, and make it harder for hate groups and white supremacists to threaten, intimidate, or hurt Virginians with firearms.

Additionally, the General Assembly passed House Bill 6 (Delegate Jeff Bourne) that added discrimination on the basis of a person’s income to the list of unlawful discriminatory housing practices and House Bill 1663 (Delegate Mark Sickles) that creates explicit causes of action for unlawful discrimination in public housing and employment under the Virginia Human Rights Act.

The General Assembly also passed House Bill 704 (Delegate Mark Keam) that provides that there will be a policy in Virginia that promotes environmental justice.

“It is so important to make sure that vulnerable communities throughout Virginia know that their elected officials and their state stands behind them, ready to protect them, their families, and their fundamental rights,” said Attorney General Herring. “It is incredibly gratifying this year to finally have my hate crimes and white supremacist violence legislation passed after many years of being held up in committee by Republicans in the General Assembly.”

“Preventing discrimination, both in housing and in unemployment, as well as putting policies in place that will promote environmental justice here in Virginia are all crucial elements to building stronger, more inclusive communities. I am proud I was able to help get this important legislation passed.”

Attorney General Herring’s hate crimes and white supremacist violence legislative package is below:

Updating Virginia’s definition of “hate crime”: This bill will create protections against hate crimes committed on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. (House Bill 618 Delegate Ken Plum)

Empowering the Attorney General to prosecute hate crimes: This bill will allow the Attorney General to prosecute hate crimes through the Commonwealth’s network of multijurisdictional grand juries. (House Bill 787 Delegate Lamont Bagby)

Prohibiting Paramilitary Activity: This bill will further restrict the kind of paramilitary activity by white supremacist militias and similar groups that were seen in Charlottesville in August 2017 (Senate Bill 64 Senator Louise Lucas)

Firearms at Permitted Events: This bill authorizes communities to ban firearms in a public space during a permitted event or an event that would otherwise require a permit. (Senate Bill 35 Senator Scott Surovell)

Protecting Virginia Consumers
This year, Attorney General Herring supported two bills (House Bill 789 Delegate Lamont Bagby and Senate Bill 421 Senator Mamie Locke) that were passed by the General Assembly that will enact comprehensive predatory lending reforms in Virginia. The legislation tightens the rules on exploitative predatory lenders and closes easily abused loopholes so that Virginia borrowers are afforded protections regardless of the type of loan they seek. It will also give Attorney General Herring’s Predatory Lending Unit more tools to enforce these new protections and better combat predatory lenders operating in the Commonwealth. These bills will go into effect January 2021 after Attorney General Herring asked Governor Northam to move the effective date earlier citing the need to better protect Virginians during these difficult financial times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attorney General Herring also supported House Bill 1553 (Delegate Rodney Willett) that will further protect Virginia borrowers by putting tighter restrictions and regulations on debt settlement service providers.

“This much needed comprehensive consumer protection legislation closes easily abused loopholes and tightens the rules on exploitative predatory lenders ensuring that Virginia borrowers do not have to worry about falling into a cycle of debt and high-interest rates if they take out certain kinds of loans,” said Attorney General Herring. “Virginia consumers deserve to be protected during every phase of the loan process and this comprehensive legislation will help with that.”

Firearms on School Property
Attorney General Herring’s bill House Bill 1080 (Delegate Patrick Hope) further clarifies that only trained, authorized individuals may carry a gun at schools. This bill follows an opinion Attorney General Herring put out that concluded that schools could not designate just anyone as a special conservator of the peace and allow them to carry a firearm on school property.

“Our kids deserve to go to school in a safe, secure learning environment. Adding guns and armed, unqualified individuals to our classrooms and our schools does not align with that goal,” said Attorney General Herring. “The last thing we need to do to keep our children safe is to put more guns in schools and in the hands of untrained, unqualified personnel. I hope we can all work together to continue to find safe, effective ways to make our schools safe and welcoming places for our kids to learn and grow.”

In-State Tuition for DREAMers
In 2014, Attorney General Herring sent a letter to the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia, the presidents of Virginia’s colleges and universities, and the chancellor of the Virginia Community College System advising that Virginia students who are lawfully present in the United States under DACA quality for in-state tuition.

This year, Attorney General Herring supported House Bill 1547 (Delegate Alfonso Lopez) that further clarifies that any student is eligible for in-state tuition, regardless of citizenship status, as long as they have fulfilled the necessary requirements.

“Every student deserves in-state tuition in their own home state, regardless of what their citizenship status is,” said Attorney General Herring. “I hope that knowing that their right to in-state tuition is now protected in Virginia code and no one will be able to deny them a higher education will give DREAMers peace of mind.”

Driver’s License Suspension
Attorney General worked with the General Assembly this year to ensure that there was a permanent fix that ended Virginia’s license suspension policy and strongly supported Senate Bill 1 (Senator Stanley).

“No one should have their license suspended just because they are unable to immediately pay their fines,” said Attorney General Herring. “This was a bad policy from the start and it disproportionately affected minority communities and I’m pleased we were able to change it.”

Confederate Monuments
Attorney General Herring has pushed for legislation that will give localities the ability to remove, relocate, or contextualize Confederate monuments and statues and Senate Bill 183 (Senator Mamie Locke) will do just that.

“These grandiose Confederate monuments memorialize one of the darkest periods in Virginia history and they represent oppression and injustice to so many who call our Commonwealth home,” said Attorney General Herring. “Giving localities the ability to remove or contextualize their monuments will allow these communities to tell their own stories – an important step on Virginia’s path to becoming even more open and welcoming.”

Marriage Records
Last fall, Attorney General Herring sent a memo to clerks of the court around Virginia explaining that state law “does not require a clerk to refuse to issue a marriage license when the applicant declines to identify his or her race and that clerks should issue a license regardless of an applicant’s answer or non-answer to that inquiry.” Along with the memo, clerks also received a newly updated marriage license form that gave applicants the option to decline to answer a question about the applicant’s race.

Since issuing the memo, Attorney General Herring has been advocating to have the question about an applicant’s race removed from the marriage license application altogether. House Bill 180 (Delegate Mark Levine) removes all requirements that an individual’s race be included on any kind of marriage record, divorce report, or annulment report.

“It was never clear why any of these records and forms included a question about the applicant’s race,” said Attorney General Herring. “I’m glad my office was able to initially find a solution by changing the forms and now this new legislation will change it in Virginia code.”

Protecting Animals
Attorney General Herring has made it a priority to strengthen enforcement of animal cruelty and other animal-related crimes. This year, Attorney General Herring’s Senate Bill 114 (Senator David Marsden) will put certain animal care statutes under the Virginia Consumer Protection Act and give the Office of the Attorney General even more tools to protect animals.

In 2015, Attorney General Herring created the nation’s first OAG Animal Law Unit to serve as a training and prosecution resource for state agencies, investigators, and Commonwealth’s Attorneys around the state dealing with matters involving animal fighting, cruelty, and welfare. Illegal animal fighting is closely tied to illegal gambling, drug, and alcohol crimes, and violence against animals has been shown to be linked to violence towards other people.

“Individuals who harm or kill animals are truly disgusting, and oftentimes these types of crimes can lead to other, more serious crimes as well,” said Attorney General Herring. “I am incredibly proud of the fantastic work my Animal Law Unit has done to crack down on animal abuse and cruelty and I am glad we will now have even more tools in our toolbox to go after these terrible crimes.”

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Hrbek prepares to turn FR Rotary presidency over to R-MA’s Derrick Leasure

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Bret Hrbek, the 2019-2020 president of the 94-year-old Rotary Club of Front Royal, completed a year in office last Friday (June 26) the same way he bowed in last year – at a real-life meeting as opposed to the weekly internet “Zoom” sessions he spent his last three months presiding over.

About 40 Rotarians sat down to lunch, the first since March 12, to hear Hrbek describe what became with the pandemic; a difficult but fruitful year in office; the club fundraising during his tenure of more than $126,000 for local and international projects.

During the meeting, Hrbek welcomed his successor, Derrick Leasure of Randolph-Macon Academy, who will formally assume his presidential duties at a meeting on Friday, July 10.  Whether that will be an online or in-person meeting has not yet been announced.

Outgoing FR Rotary President Bret Hrbek recognizes Tina Maddox (left) and Ginny Musil’s help during June 26 ceremony. Courtesy Photo/FR Rotary

Hrbek said of the dollar total raised that 75% stayed in Warren County and went to such entities as academic scholarships ($16,000), the Blue Ridge Educational Center ($8,000), the JDRF (juvenile diabetes) fund ($23,000), “End Polio Now” ($12,000), and various smaller amounts to, for example, the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, Ressie Jeffries playground fund, House of Hope, Little League Baseball, St. Luke Community Clinic, the Warren County Heritage Society, Samuels Public Library, and a host of others. The other 25% was earmarked for international projects such as Rotary’s years-long fight to eradicate polio.

He congratulated Rotarians who had won personal awards, including Fred Andreae, the Robert E. “Bob” Miller Award for community service; Doug Stanley, recipient of the Rotary District 7570’s Douglas A. Newton Excellence in Communications Award; and Rick Novak, a Skelton Fellowship Award.

Also at the annual Rotary District 7570 Conference earlier this year, the Front Royal club took top honors for “public image” and second place for club service and international service.

During the Christmas season, Front Royal Rotary distributed a record 128 baskets of food and gifts for needy Warren County residents, including 100 children who each received warm winter coats. More recently, club members headed by Hrbek delivered food to needy “shut-ins” during the COVID-19 crisis.

Additionally, members distributed 430 dictionaries to Warren County third-graders, a popular annual event that continues into the computer age. Also, individual members could be seen on Route 522/340 picking up trash, ringing bells for the Salvation Army, running golf tournaments as fundraisers for various projects, and serving meals to young cancer patients.

In the works for this and future years, partnering with other clubs in the U.S. and other countries, are projects providing water and sanitation for schools and hospitals in Africa.

In a letter to members, Hrbek wished his successor “the best of luck” adding, because of the pandemic, “He has a difficult task before him.”

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