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Virginia cryptocurrency investors want lawmakers to create regulation



RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia cryptocurrency investors hope lawmakers will consider regulatory policies for the digital asset industry in the 2023 General Assembly, saying a framework is needed with the increasing number of investors and recent market volatility.

Cryptocurrency exchange FTX filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 11. It was one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges, valued at $32 billion in January. FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried released a statement on Twitter, saying he was “shocked to see things unravel the way they did.”

The company did not have enough emergency reserves to float the “bank run” of customer withdrawals, which led to bankruptcy, according to a statement released by Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, D-Massachusetts. Lynch is the chairman of the Task Force on Financial Technology.

At least $1 billion of FTX customer assets “are currently missing,” although multiple reports include the total could be much higher.

FTX was headquartered offshore, and Lynch pointed to the need for “thoughtful regulation” to protect U.S. investors and maintain stability in the digital assets industry.

Only a few Virginia bills related to cryptocurrency have been previously introduced. Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach, introduced House Joint Resolution 153 in 2018. The measure would have created a one-year subcommittee of 13 members — legislative and nonlegislative members — to study the potential implementation of blockchain technology in things such as government record keeping, delivery services, and information storage and also to study how blockchain technology could stimulate growth in Virginia’s information technology industry.

Del. Karrie Delaney, D-Fairfax, introduced a bill this year to create a two-year, 20-member subcommittee to identify opportunities and establish a potential regulatory framework for cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies.

The Virginia Blockchain Council is a tax-exempt trade organization based in Central Virginia. According to its website, its mission is to build community through education and blockchain-based web technologies. The organization was founded in 2017 by executive director Greg Leffel and has approximately 1,600 members, he said.

According to Leffel, cryptocurrency trade groups were organized in response to the rise of investors. He said he would like to see the General Assembly tackle sandbox regulation.

Sandbox regulation ultimately provides more consumer protections. According to the Financial Conduct Authority, or FCA, it improves business models in an isolated software environment such as cryptocurrency. The FCA regulates financial services firms and financial markets in the U.K.

Policy such as sandbox regulation helps companies innovate but with oversight. According to FCA, it can build cooperation between the regulator and the companies.

At least 20 other states, including Maryland, have passed blockchain technology legislation. Some states, including Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, have established sandbox regulations. Leffel said it is the newest policy being discussed at the state level.

Two bills were introduced in the past General Assembly session to create a Department of Regulatory Innovation to oversee a “Virginia Regulatory Sandbox Program.” The bills did not advance to the legislative floor, although a healthcare sandbox regulatory agency proposed by Davis made it through the House. Davis did not respond to multiple interview requests by phone or email.

The main purpose of sandbox regulation, Leffel said, is to let other companies and markets know Virginia is “open for business.”

“It’s a signal that we’re willing to support its [cryptocurrency] place in the marketplace,” Leffel said.

Cryptocurrency security is important, according to Leffel. The protection of the average investor is what matters most — knowing what the product is, and what they’re actually investing in, Leffel said.

“People need to understand that there are scammers, like the chance of rug pull,” Leffel said.

According to Leffel, rug pull is a cryptocurrency scam where people or companies hype up the product’s value to attract investors and obtain their digital coins before shuttering. “We want to ensure that there’s a framework there that protects [investors],” Leffel said. “I’m also a huge advocate for seeing how this technology will impact everyday life.”

According to Leffel, the Virginia Blockchain Council partnered with the Virginia Commonwealth University Blockchain club last year. The VCU Blockchain club is not student-exclusive, according to club president Francesca Bercasio. Bercasio is a senior seeking a finance technology degree.

“I chose to join because I believe this technology will disrupt so much due to its features,” Bercasio said. “Also, I think the culture the club promotes is inclusive; I’ve always felt seen and heard.”

Cryptocurrency will impact technologies such as engineering, marketplaces, and even art curation that rely specifically on third parties, Bercasio said

“For example, financial transactions are now settled in minutes rather than days,” Bercasio said.

VCU Blockchain plans to expand, and connect with more people off campus, according to Bercasio. She hopes the university will consider teaching blockchain to increase literacy.

“We want to encourage VCU to add a cryptocurrency curriculum,” Bercasio said. “And instituting a program either in lectures or through the da Vinci Center at VCU.”

The da Vinci Center for Innovation at VCU is an academic workshop space that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship through cross-disciplinary collaboration.

He said that Richmond local and VCU Blockchain member Dave Benz joined VCU Blockchain in 2021. Benz joined because he had been interested in cryptocurrency for “quite a while.”

Benz has learned many things from his VCU Blockchain members, and he is grateful that they are accommodating to his lack of knowledge of the new technology.

“They’re very knowledgeable and up-to-date folks,” Benz said. “I always learn something new when I go [to meetings].”

Benz said he is the oldest member of VCU Blockchain by decades but is grateful for how accepting everyone is.

“Everybody has been very friendly and helpful with my lack of understanding on certain things,” Benz said. “They’re also willing to listen to my thoughts and ideas, which is great.”

Virginia resident and college student Johnnie Walker III invests in cryptocurrency as a “safety net,” although he said he does not have other investments.

“Slowly investing throughout the years and into the future will set me up at a certain point when I don’t want to work anymore,” Walker said. “If something were to come up, I have that money.”

He said Walker began investing in cryptocurrency during his junior year of high school in 2017.

“I kind of just ride the waves of highs and lows in the market,” Walker said. “I have made a comfortable amount; it’s been good.”

Walker wants to see more preventative and security policies around cryptocurrency investing. He anticipates cryptocurrency “taking off” in the future, Walker said.

“I feel comfortable as an investor as long as they continue to develop it,” Walker said. “It would make me lean more towards putting my assets into crypto rather than banks.”


By Chloe Hawkins
Capital News Service

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for various media outlets in Virginia.

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Virginia’s Thanksgiving Roads: Safer This Year



Dramatic Drop in Fatal Traffic Crashes Over Thanksgiving 2023.

In a remarkable turn of events, Virginia has seen a significant decrease in traffic-related fatalities during the Thanksgiving holiday of 2023. Compared to the previous year, the state experienced a 53% reduction in fatal traffic crashes, a promising indicator of improved road safety. This development has brought relief to many and highlights the effectiveness of stringent traffic enforcement and public awareness campaigns.

A Safer Holiday Season

According to preliminary data, only nine people lost their lives in traffic incidents over the five-day holiday period, a stark contrast to the 19 fatalities recorded in 2022. A notable aspect of these tragedies was the absence of seat belts in most cases, underscoring the continued importance of basic safety measures.

Colonel Gary T. Settle, Superintendent of the Virginia State Police, expressed optimism about the reduction in traffic crashes. He emphasized the role of responsible driving in ensuring safety during the holidays and urged Virginians to maintain these habits as the winter season approaches.

Impact of Operation C.A.R.E.

A key element in this year’s traffic safety was Operation C.A.R.E. (Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort), an annual, state-sponsored initiative. During the 2023 Thanksgiving period, state troopers increased their presence and traffic enforcement, resulting in significant law enforcement activity. This included citing 4,520 drivers for speeding, 1,840 for reckless driving and arresting 89 individuals for driving under the influence. Additionally, 427 citations were issued for seat belt violations.

Traffic Statistics: A Positive Trend

The overall number of traffic crashes also saw a decrease, with state troopers responding to 1,359 incidents—a reduction of nearly a hundred compared to 2022. Out of these, 137 crashes resulted in injuries. This decrease is a testament to the heightened enforcement and public awareness efforts.

It’s also noteworthy that the fines collected from these summonses contribute to Virginia’s public welfare, with funds going towards court fees and the state’s Literary Fund, which supports public school construction, technology funding, and teacher retirement.

The 2023 Thanksgiving holiday has positively changed Virginia’s roads, marked by a significant decrease in fatal crashes and overall accidents. This improvement is a result of collective efforts in enforcing traffic laws and promoting road safety. As Virginia moves into the winter holidays, the lessons and successes of this period serve as a blueprint for continued vigilance and responsibility on the roads.

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Abortions Increase in State Since Roe Overturned; Virginia Border City Remains a Refuge 



RICHMOND, Va. – The twin Bristol cities share a name and a state line, but abortion accessibility changes just over a 1-mile span.

Abortion is illegal in Bristol, Tennessee, but down the road in Virginia, a clinic provides abortions. The Bristol Women’s Health Clinic relocated to Virginia after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn an almost 50-year decision that protected a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

The number of abortions administered in Virginia has increased since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022, according to analysis of data from the state health department and the Society of Family Planning.


“It was started because of the need,” said the clinic’s administrative director, Karolina Ogorek. “It wasn’t anything other than the fact that a mile and a half down the road, the services we provide are illegal.

The majority of the clinic’s patients are from out of state. All of the states that touch Virginia have completely banned or restricted abortion except Maryland, which drove travel to the last Southern state where access remains.

Reproductive choice also drove voters to the polls in Virginia and other states. Turnout was high in Virginia at almost 40%, though not as high as the last time in 2019 when all the Virginia General Assembly seats were on the ballot.

Kentucky and Ohio voters also signaled strong support for abortion access. Kentucky re-elected a Democratic governor whose opponent strongly opposed abortion, and Ohio voters supported a referendum to enshrine access in the state’s constitution.

Virginia Democrats picked up a slim majority they will have for the next two years. They delivered on their campaign promise and pre-filed an amendment to the state’s constitution on Nov. 20 that would secure reproductive freedom and protection — but it has a long, procedural way to go.

For now, Virginia remains a refuge for women whose choice has been restricted in other states.

The ‘hardship’ of travel for medical help

Tennessee had a trigger law to ban abortion, meaning they had a law in place to ban abortion weeks after Roe was overturned completely. It slipped through a budget negotiation late at night.

That led to an influx of patients from Southern states. People visit the clinic from as far away as Louisiana, according to Ogorek.

“There is not a single person that ever thinks they are ever going to make this decision until you have to,” Ogorek said.

She wishes more people understood the hardship of such a journey.

“Not just for the women but their entire family,” Ogorek said. “It has such a big effect on more than just one person.”

About 55% of women at Ogorke’s clinic are at or below the poverty line, she said.

“The decision to terminate a pregnancy is not for everyone, and we recognize, and we support that,” Ogorek said. “Unfortunately, people who are anti-choice will never support a choice.”

She said that abortion restrictions are not a good idea because a 12 or 15-week restriction usually turns into an outright ban.

Protesters outside of Ogorek’s work are nothing new. The office provides patient escorts and security to help women get into their clinics.

Other help offered

Anti-abortion protesters who gather almost every day outside of Bristol Women’s Health Clinic hope to connect women with other resources.

David Gerrells lives in Tennessee. He considers abortions a murder that goes against God’s will. His church hopes to convince women that they are already a parent and not to go through with the procedure.

“It makes us angry and sad and hurt for the ones that are lost – not just the babies but for the mothers, the fathers,” Gerrells said.

His church, Christ Bible Church, and other groups want to help through various ministries and organizations. They provide money, homes, support, and community to women, according to Gerrells.

“We want these people to raise their own children, but we’re very big on walking alongside them,” Gerrells said. “But, more importantly, they need to understand what it is to walk with Christ.”

Orville Fisher has spoken against abortion for about 15 years. He works with the international organization 40 Days for Life. An abortion ban would be positive for Virginia and its citizens, he said.

Fisher recommended the Pathways Pregnancy Resource Center across the Tennessee border, which helps pregnant women.

The resource center was contacted multiple times but said they could not do an interview until next year.

Enshrining abortion into the state constitution

Del. Rodney Willett, D-Henrico, is “absolutely in favor of choice of” and access to abortion.

“Anecdotally, we also know women are flying into Virginia or driving long distances into the state to get these services,” Willett said.

The option for medical services in Virginia is fortunate, he said, although anything but convenient.

“For a lot of women, it’s an absolute hurdle they can’t clear because of the expense,” Willett said.

He said they have to pay for transportation, take off time for work, and find someone to travel with them.

Willett voiced concerns about the state losing doctors and women’s health care providers if the 15-week restriction proposed by state Republicans went into effect.

“What you’re seeing in other states where abortion is heavily restricted or outright banned, a lot of the states are also putting criminal penalties in place for the providers,” he said.

Ogorek recalled how healthcare providers were “cautiously optimistic” before the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case that overturned Roe.

“After Roe fell, we were devastated,” Ogorek said. “Clinics closed.”

She shut down her Knoxville practice, which she said was “flourishing.”

“I think what is sad is that, just we’ve lost a lot more lately than we won,” Ogorek said. “That’s the hard part.”

Ogorek will keep her eyes on the General Assembly and continue to encourage people to vote.

“If they impose a 15-week ban, I will do whatever I have to do to keep us open for as long as we can stay open,” Ogorek said. It’s just not a question. Until that very last minute that somebody tells me I have to shut my doors, I won’t.”


VCU InSight journalist Brigette Kelly contributed to this report.

By Sahara Sriraman/Capital News Service

Video by Brigette Kelly/VCU InSight

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia. VCU InSight is the capstone broadcast news program.

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Virginia War Memorial and Navy League to Host 82nd Commonwealth’s Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance Ceremony



The Virginia War Memorial and the Navy League of the United States, Richmond Council, will co-host the 82nd Commonwealth’s Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance Ceremony at 11 a.m., Thursday, December 7, 2023.  The annual ceremony will be held outdoors in the Memorial’s Shrine of Memory – 20th Century at 621 South Belvidere Street, Richmond, VA 22330. The public is invited and encouraged to attend.

Keynote speaker will be Commander Dennis Bussey, U.S. Navy (Retired), the son of career Navy Chief Petty Officer Joseph Bussey, who was aboard the battleship USS California in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  Commander Dennis Bussey is a Civil Engineering graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.  After graduation in 1969, he found himself leading a group of “Seabees” in Da Nang, South Vietnam. He and his wife, a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps, retired to Richmond after active duty, where he founded the James River Hikers and is a noted historian.

The 82nd Commonwealth’s Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance Ceremony will include the presentation of wreaths in memory of the Virginians who died on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941 when the forces of Imperial Japan attacked U.S military bases in Hawaii. More than 2,400 Americans died and more than 1,100 were wounded during the surprise attack. Of those killed, 41 were listed as native Virginians.

“The name of each Virginian who perished on that fateful day will be read and remembered with the tolling of the ship’s bell from the guided missile cruiser USS Virginia (CGN-38), which was decommissioned in 1994,” said Dr. Adam J. “Jay” Fielder, president of the Navy League’s Richmond Council, who will serve as Master of Ceremonies for the annual program. The bell is on permanent display at the Virginia War Memorial.

“We are pleased to continue the tradition of co-hosting the Commonwealth’s Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance Ceremony with the Navy League here at the Virginia War Memorial for the 82nd consecutive year,” said Virginia War Memorial Director Dr. Clay Mountcastle. “We hope many of our fellow citizens will join us to honor and remember our fellow Virginians and all Americans who died during the surprise attack which led to the United States entering World War II. As the ceremony is an outdoor event, we suggest attendees dress accordingly.”

The Memorial will be open to the public from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on December 7.  The Virginians at War documentary film Pearl Harbor will be shown all day in the Reynolds Theater and visitors can visit the Medal of Honor Gallery, Veterans Art Gallery and other exhibits.

For more information about the 82nd Commonwealth’s Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance Ceremony, please call the Virginia War Memorial at 804.786.2060 or visit or There is no admission charge to the Memorial or for this event. Parking is available at the Memorial and visitors should arrive by 10:45 a.m. to attend the ceremony.

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Virginia is Banking on Data Centers, But Some Say Growth Should Be More Deliberate



RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia is home to the largest data center market in the world, but citizens and lawmakers have urged leaders to temper the onslaught of development and consider the impact.

Data centers have brought hundreds of millions in tax revenue and thousands of jobs to Northern Virginia and, increasingly, other areas of the state. However, among environmental groups, there is mounting concern that the industry’s rapid growth might offset climate goals laid out in past legislation.

Data centers are physical locations that power online activity “in the cloud,” according to the Data Center Coalition. According to the group’s president, Josh Levi, the centers support online activities that individuals, governments, organizations, and businesses of all sizes do every day.

The growth of the industry shows no signs of slowing. Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced a deal with Amazon Web Services in January to establish multiple data center campuses across the state. The company plans to invest $35 billion in Virginia by 2040.

Amazon Web Services filed in September to develop two campuses in Louisa County, including a seven-building data center campus, Lake Anna Technology Campus. The campus would occupy almost 2 million square feet of Lousia County’s land, including about an acre of wetland.

“These areas offer robust utility infrastructure, lower costs, great livability, and highly educated workforces and will benefit from the associated economic development and increased tax base, assisting the schools and providing services to the community,” Youngkin stated about the partnership with Amazon Web Services.

The state also developed a new incentive program to help clinch the deal. According to the recently passed budget, An amount not exceeding $140 million in grant money will go toward the company and end no later than 2044. The grants help with infrastructure improvements, workforce development, and other project-related costs. The grant awards $8,642 for each new full-time job and $3,364 for each $1 million capital investment made the year before.

Money and jobs

According to Levi, the two primary benefits of data centers are local revenue and job creation.

A Northern Virginia Technology Council report found that data centers provided approximately 5,500 operational and over 10,000 construction and manufacturing jobs in 2021. The report estimated that data centers were “directly and indirectly” responsible for generating $174 million in state tax revenue and just over $1 billion in local tax revenue around the state.

To date, every data center proposal in Virginia has been approved, according to Wyatt Gordon, senior policy and campaigns manager of land use and transportation with the Virginia Conservation Network.

According to Gordon, the high concentration of data centers in the state is a significant problem.

“If this is going to support global internet traffic, they need to be across the globe instead of just within one region of one state,” Gordon said.

Gordon said there is no future without data use, but the impacts of data centers need to be studied closely.

“I think our immediate concern is just, how are we making sure that the impacts of these data centers as they’re coming here are really being negotiated in a way that makes sense for Virginia,” Gordon said.

Del. Danica Roem, D-Manassas, and Sen. J. Chapman Petersen, D-Fairfax, worked with the Virginia Conservation Network on a bill this past session to have the Department of Energy study the impacts of data center development on Virginia’s environment and climate goals. The bill failed.

The legislators attempted to pass other bills with measures to regulate where the centers could be built and to employ conditional stormwater runoff management.

“It’s the biggest corporations in the entire world on one side, and then you have Virginia residents and a ragtag group of environmental folks on the other,” Gordon said. “So, I think you know who won.”

Environmental concerns

According to Gordon, data centers have three primary impacts on the environment: the space they take up, the groundwater demand for cooling, and their energy use.

According to Gordon, the facilities set to come out of Youngkin’s Amazon deal alone will be the size of 151 Walmart stores.

“That is massive amounts of land that are currently forests, farmland, wetlands, and are going to be bulldozed and converted into gigantic boxes hosting servers,” Gordon said.

Overall, Virginia's energy use has decreased due to increased energy efficiency, according to Gordon. However, according to a report prepared for the Virginia Department of Energy, data centers are a growing sector of electricity demand in Virginia.

According to the Energy Transition Initiative, data center electric sales will increase by 152% in the next decade, while other sectors will remain mostly the same. The forecast does not include projected electricity demand from electric vehicles.

The overall increase in Virginia electricity sales is forecasted to be 32% over 10 years and accounts for increased energy efficiency.

Dominion Energy filed an Integrated Resource Plan this year that anticipates a higher demand for electricity from data centers than originally planned. According to Gordon, Dominion recently filed permits for natural gas and coal power plants to meet data center energy demands.

According to Gordon, this contrasts the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which mandates that the state’s two largest utility providers, Dominion Energy and American Electric Power, produce 100% renewable electricity by 2045 and 2050, respectively.

“Despite being the only Southern state to pass such a huge climate law … that could all collapse because data centers are putting such a demand for power that there’s no way to supply them in a timely manner without relying upon dirty energy,” Gordon said.

Dominion Energy is “writing checks that Virginians can’t cash,” according to Julie Bolthouse, director of land use at the Piedmont Environmental Council. The group has looked at data center development in its service region since 2017.

Virginia is compromising its conservation and climate goals to meet in-service dates, with costs of development falling on utility ratepayers, according to Bolthouse.

“We have to, now, meet that in-service date that they committed to, and we have to build out this infrastructure with a rate schedule that’s unfair to us because we’re sitting here paying for all of this when it’s benefitting this one industry,” Bolthouse said.

A Dominion Energy representative did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

According to Bolthouse, the utility and data centers negotiate electricity contracts together and then determine an in-service date when the utility will begin providing power.

“The industry needs to wait for us to be able to provide that power in a sustainable manner,” Bolthouse said.

Powering Virginia’s data centers with renewable energy is a realistic goal “over time,” according to Levi. Amazon Web Services, for example, plans to fund 18 solar farms in Virginia that would provide enough energy to power 276,000 homes by 2025.

Though companies can pursue clean energy in many ways, Levi said the challenge is how fast they can provide it.

“I think that’s where some of the hand-wringing around this issue is really coming from,” Levi said.

Looking forward

According to Kyle Hart, the Mid-Atlantic program manager at the National Parks Conservation Association, Prince William Digital Gateway is the “epitome” of everything the data center industry is doing wrong.

“We wouldn’t be where we are today, in terms of broad calls for industry-wide reform, if this terrible proposal hadn’t existed and had never sort of marched forward under a Democratic board majority for the past two years,” Hart said.

The group became involved in the conversation because of data center projects like Prince William Digital Gateway, which would share a border with Manassas National Battlefield Park, according to Hart.

Most recently, the Prince William County Planning Commission voted to recommend denial of all three rezoning applications involved in the Digital Gateway project. The debate moves next to the board of supervisors for a vote.

Hart and Bolthouse offered policy suggestions in a paper that provides an overview of data center development from a land use perspective. They suggested a study on the various impacts of development, a grid impact statement by the State Corporation Commission for all new data center-related power demand requests, and a framework for a regional review board to evaluate these large project proposals.

The data center proliferation in Virginia has outpaced any other state, which ultimately left Hart and Bolthouse without much framework to work off, Hart said. The suggestions are based on what they would want to see.

Elena Schlossberg is executive director for the Coalition to Protect Prince William County, a grassroots effort at the forefront of the resistance against the Digital Gateway. Schlossberg encouraged people to educate themselves on why they should care about the issue.

“You can make a difference by telling your neighbors,” Schlossberg said. “You can make a difference by getting on a bus and lobbying your state legislators that there needs to be some real oversight for an industry that is, up until this point, pretty unregulated.”

The data center debate is apolitical, according to Schlossberg.

“Money knows no ideological boundary, nor does doing the right thing,” Schlossberg said.


By Emily Richardson
Capital News Service

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University's Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.


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State Representation Tilts Toward Diversity With Historic Numbers



RICHMOND, Va. — The votes are counted, the committees are set, and even the first bills are filed as Virginia’s General Assembly prepares to gavel in early next year. It’s a new slate of legislators more representative of the state’s citizens.

Major gains for Black History

Even in America’s longest-serving state legislature, many firsts are still coming with this next class.

The House and Senate will have Black leadership for the first time when it convenes on Jan. 10.

Del. Don Scott, D-Portsmouth, will be Virginia’s first Black House Speaker. Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears has been the presiding officer in the Senate since 2022. She was the first Black woman elected to a statewide office in Virginia and the second woman.

Del. Don Scott, D-Portsmouth, will be Virginia’s first Black House Speaker.

Virginia’s Black community makes up just under 21% of the state’s population, according to the 2020 U.S. Census. Legislative representation will be slightly higher at just under 23%.

Voters elected 32 Black legislators out of 140 seats: 25 delegates and seven senators. All but one is a Democrat. The total includes two delegates who identify as more than one race.

Virginia was once the “cradle of the Confederacy,” but that time is over, Scott said.

“Virginians are ready to move on,” Scott said. “They’re not looking at race, they’re looking at who’s the best candidate.”

Scott added that his nomination as speaker is a great milestone for Black people all across the state, and they “can be proud of this day.”

Jatia Wrighten is an assistant professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University. She conducts research on Black women, state legislatures, and leadership.

“It is absolutely fascinating to think about a state that was one of the most exclusionary in the South,” Wrighten said during a post-election event organized by the Virginia Public Access Project. “And yet we have a state legislature that is one of the most diverse in the entire country.”

Black women representation

The 20 Black women who won the election represent a historic number. This is a little over 14% of the General Assembly.

This comes after a long history of exclusion, according to Wrighten.

“They’ve had to work outside of these institutions in order to gain equal access to political, social, and even economic opportunities,” Wrighten said.

Black women are the voter block that helps Democrats win, she said. Black women have impacted elections throughout the South, in presidential and state races.

“Black women have always been here,” Wrighten said. “It’s just the case that now Virginia actually allows Black women to actively participate.”

Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, in reference to a Martin Luther King Jr. quote, stated in an email that this new diversity is “neither automatic nor inevitable” — it was possible due to “tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

“There are many who worked to make this day happen, and the ancestors are proud of those who are making a difference in our communities,” Locke stated.

Increased diversity and inclusion

According to Wrighten, research shows people feel better served when their legislators look like them.

“For the very diverse demographics that exist in the state of Virginia, what you should expect are feelings of satisfaction with elected members,” Wrighten said. “Especially as the diversity actually represents the population in this state.”

The number of female representatives stayed the same as last year, although a decade ago, there were only 25 in the General Assembly. Women account for a third of state representation, although they are more than half of the state’s population.

A total of 48 female legislators will represent the state. Democrats elected 38. Republicans elected 10.

For the first time in at least recent history, the number of white representatives will dip below 100.

According to a Virginia legislative website, about 100 African-American men served in the General Assembly between 1869 and 1890. The backlash to gains made during Reconstruction led to changes to the state constitution in 1902. Black citizens were disenfranchised as a result, and representation was limited.

L. Douglas Wilder, in 1969, was the first Black representative elected to the Virginia Senate since Reconstruction. After a term as lieutenant governor, he became the first Black governor in the U.S.

All races will see gains in representation this upcoming session, most at historic numbers.

  • Almost a third of the upcoming state legislature will be people of color.
  • Eight Asian American legislators won their respective races, half were incumbents. Five will serve as delegates, three as senators. The total includes two delegates who identify as more than one race.
  • Four Latino legislators will serve in the House. Two nonincumbent Latino candidates won their respective races.
  • Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, has served since 2014 and is the legislature’s only Palestinian American.

Virginia will welcome its first Iranian American legislator. Delegate-elect Atoosa Reaser from Loudoun County won House District 27.

Reaser’s family fled Iran during a revolution. She stated that recent events propelled her to run for office to ensure Virginians have the “same freedom and opportunity that brought her family to America in the first place.”

“Sadly, women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and others are seeing their rights taken away,” Reaser stated.

At least three Muslim legislators were elected. Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Richmond, was the first Muslim legislator elected to the state Senate in 2019. That representation grew by one this election.

LGBTQ+ representation

The LGBTQ+ community also made gains.

All nine Democratic candidates won and were endorsed by the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, a national organization that helps elect candidates. Two will serve in the Virginia Senate, and seven in the House.

Del. Danica Roem, D-Manassas, will move from the House to the Senate. She is the first transgender member of Virginia’s upper chamber. She will be the South’s first transgender state senator.

Just under 4% of adults in Virginia are estimated to be LGBTQ+, according to the Williams Institute.

When Democrats held a majority in the General Assembly for two years, they ushered in several protections for LGBTQ+ citizens, including the Virginia Values Act that extended nondiscrimination laws to protect LGBTQ citizens better.

A constitutional amendment to repeal the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, though trumped by federal law, failed to pass its required second time when Republicans gained control in the House in 2022.

Virginia’s LGBTQ+ community has often been at odds with Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s updated model policies regarding transgender students in schools. These policies saw immense backlash from students, parents, and LGBTQ+ advocates — although many parents also supported the policies.

Advocates also criticized Youngkin’s administration for its quiet removal of the Resources for LGBTQ Youth page on the state department health website after an inquiry from a right-leaning media outlet.

“The legislature that takes office in January will look a lot more like Virginia than previous legislatures,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington.

Diversity in the Virginia Republican party does not match the Democrats, though that isn’t for a lack of recent commitment, according to Farnsworth. Republicans nominated the most diverse executive branch in history two years ago, with the first Black lieutenant governor and a Hispanic attorney general.

“The Republican Party nominated a very diverse slate of candidates, but many of them were running in places where Democratic candidates had a huge advantage,” Farnsworth said.

Diverse, but still mostly divided 

According to Wrighten, despite the steep learning curve that comes with the job, there is also an opportunity for change and new ideas.

“I think when you have all new freshmen legislators, I think we’re going to see some of these exciting parts of democracy actually come to realization,” Wrighten said.

Though more diverse, Virginia’s government remains mostly divided. Democrats have control, but with a Republican governor who holds a veto pen. They do not have the supermajority needed to overturn his vetoes.

Youngkin told reporters the day after the election that he was disappointed with the results but expressed optimism about working with what he described as a “pretty bipartisan-looking” General Assembly. He said legislators need to be dedicated to cooperation.

Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Henrico, a school teacher, said he is working with Youngkin on issues such as testing reform to help improve the quality of education for Virginia’s children. VanValkenburg will move to the Senate in January.

“I’m hopeful we can take the next step and get that testing reform put into law, and we can do right by our kids,” VanValkenburg said.

The issue of education rallied voters on both sides this year, according to Farnsworth.

“Polls show both Republican voters and Democrat voters were energized by education concerns,” Farnsworth said.

There are other opportunities for the parties to work together in a limited capacity, including education, mental health, and economic development, according to Farnsworth.

Incoming House Speaker Scott emphasized there is a chance for Youngkin to work with House Democrats.

“I think there are opportunities to work with the governor to continue to do the things that make it easier for everyday working-class Virginians to make a decent living,” Scott said.


By Vali Jamal
Capital News Service

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.

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State News

All Virginia Wildfires Except Matt’s Creek Contained, Say Officials



After an unusually active fall fire season that has seen responders struggle to get multiple blazes under control, all of Virginia’s wildfires except for the Matt’s Creek Fire in Bedford County have been contained.

The Quaker Run Fire in Madison County, Virginia. (Virginia Department of Forestry)

As of Monday night, the state had “no active wildfires” besides Matt’s Creek, said Virginia Department of Forestry spokesman Greg Bilyeu in an email.

Virginia’s fall fire season runs from Oct. 15 to Nov. 30, a period when dead leaves provide ample fuel for any spark. This year has proved especially challenging, with the Department of Forestry responding to 113 wildfires that have burned more than 12,000 acres since the season began. By comparison, the agency has said the average annual acreage affected by wildfires in Virginia is 9,500.

Madison County wildfire spreads to nearly 2,500 acres, including part of Shenandoah Natl Park

“We need no further proof that fall fire season has arrived with a vengeance,” said Chief of Fire and Emergency Response John Miller in a Nov. 16 statement. “We will remain vigilant to protect people and property.”

Among the more serious conflagrations was the Quaker Run Fire in Madison County, which broke out Oct. 24 near the community of Syria and burned nearly 4,000 acres, including roughly 700 in Shenandoah National Park, before it was declared contained Nov. 17. In Buchanan County, the Rocklick Fire affected over 2,200 acres, while the Tuggles Gap fire in Patrick County and Rachel’s Chapel fire in Dickenson County both burned more than 1,000 acres each.

The Matt’s Creek fire remains the largest blaze of the season, having spread to over 11,000 acres. Midday Wednesday, Bilyeu said the fire was 57% contained. Located in the Jefferson National Forest, that fire is under federal jurisdiction, with a large-scale response managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Significant rain across the commonwealth Tuesday helped dampen Matt’s Creek as well as other wildfires. The U.S. Forest Service reported an area in the fire’s range received 3.8 inches of rain yesterday.

“Did all this rain put the fire out?” the agency wrote in a Facebook update. “Not completely. But it helped! Firefighters continue to patrol and monitor the fire area and are working to put out the stumps and logs that are still smoldering.”

Bilyeu said Wednesday that “the rain was very important in helping weaken all fire activity and preventing flare-ups and new starts.”

“Virginia has experienced drought conditions, so the rain was extremely welcome,” he said.

In Richmond Wednesday, Gov. Glenn Youngkin, too expressed gratitude for Tuesday’s precipitation.

“I also want to stop for a minute and have a moment of appreciation, thanks and a big amen for the rain yesterday. It was a big moment. We needed it,” he said at the beginning of a traditional tribute ceremony involving Virginia’s Mattaponi and Pamunkey tribes. “It also allowed us to fully contain the forest fires and wildfires burning across Virginia. So we’re just going to have a moment of silence for rain.”

Bilyeu said Virginians should continue to take extra care and check with local officials for the latest burn ban information before planning any outdoor fires.


by Sarah Vogelsong, Virginia Mercury

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Thank You to our Local Business Participants:


Aders Insurance Agency, Inc (State Farm)

Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning

Apple Dumpling Learning Center

Apple House

Auto Care Clinic

Avery-Hess Realty, Marilyn King

Beaver Tree Services

Blake and Co. Hair Spa

Blue Mountain Creative Consulting

Blue Ridge Arts Council

Blue Ridge Education

BNI Shenandoah Valley

C&C's Ice Cream Shop

Card My Yard

CBM Mortgage, Michelle Napier

Christine Binnix - McEnearney Associates

Code Jamboree LLC

Code Ninjas Front Royal

Cool Techs Heating and Air

Down Home Comfort Bakery

Downtown Market

Dusty's Country Store

Edward Jones-Bret Hrbek

Explore Art & Clay

Family Preservation Services

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Independent Business Alliance

Front Royal/Warren County C-CAP

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Treatment Center

Front Royal Women's Resource Center

Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

Fussell Florist

G&M Auto Sales Inc

Garcia & Gavino Family Bakery

Gourmet Delights Gifts & Framing

Green to Ground Electrical

Groups Recover Together

Habitat for Humanity

Groups Recover Together

House of Hope

I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

Jean’s Jewelers

Jen Avery, REALTOR & Jenspiration, LLC

Key Move Properties, LLC

KW Solutions

Legal Services Plans of Northern Shenendoah

Main Street Travel

Makeover Marketing Systems

Marlow Automotive Group

Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

Merchants on Main Street

Mountain Trails

Mountain View Music

National Media Services

Natural Results Chiropractic Clinic

No Doubt Accounting

Northwestern Community Services Board

Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

Phoenix Project

Reaching Out Now

Rotary Club of Warren County

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

Royal Examiner

Royal Family Bowling Center

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Oak Computers

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

Shenandoah Shores Management Group

St. Luke Community Clinic

Strites Doughnuts

Studio Verde

The Arc of Warren County

The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Valley Chorale

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

Warren Coalition

Warren County Democratic Committee

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warren County DSS Job Development

Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

WCPS Work-Based Learning

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

Front Royal, VA
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Upcoming Events

5:30 pm Free Holiday Meal @ Trinity Lutheran Church
Free Holiday Meal @ Trinity Lutheran Church
Dec 6 @ 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Free Holiday Meal @ Trinity Lutheran Church
If one has read the Surgeon General’s 2023 report on America’s epidemic of loneliness and crisis of disconnection, one can then understand the significance that a Holiday Meal can have on the community at large. [...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Dec 6 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
8:00 am Breakfast with Santa @ Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department
Breakfast with Santa @ Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department
Dec 9 @ 8:00 am – 11:00 am
Breakfast with Santa @ Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department
Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department is having a Breakfast with Santa on Saturday, December 9th, from 8:00 a.m.- 11:00 a.m. Adults are $10.00 Kids are $5.00 Children 5 and under are free!
12:00 pm Christmas Lunch for Kids, Vets a... @ Front Royal Elks Lodge
Christmas Lunch for Kids, Vets a... @ Front Royal Elks Lodge
Dec 9 @ 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Christmas Lunch for Kids, Vets and Seniors @ Front Royal Elks Lodge
The Front Royal Elks Lodge will hold it’s annual Holiday Lunch for Kids, Veterans and Seniors on Saturday, December 9. Festivities will begin at 12 noon. Mr. and Mrs. Clause are said to be coming!
4:30 pm Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 9 @ 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Discover our International Dark-Sky Park! Our evenings begin with a half-hour children’s “Junior Astronomer” program, followed by a discussion about the importance of dark skies and light conservation. Then join NASA’s Jet Propulsion[...]
7:30 pm American Legion Community Band C... @ Boggs Chapel at R-MA
American Legion Community Band C... @ Boggs Chapel at R-MA
Dec 12 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
American Legion Community Band Christmas Concert @ Boggs Chapel at R-MA
The American Legion Community Band, located in Front Royal, Virginia, was formed in 1986 and has been playing concerts in the area ever since. The conductors and band members are all volunteer musicians from the local[...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Dec 13 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
10:00 am 10th Virginia Infantry Encampment @ Sky Meadows State Park
10th Virginia Infantry Encampment @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 16 @ 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
10th Virginia Infantry Encampment @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Journey back in time and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of a Civil War Encampment during the holidays. Interact with the 10th VA Infantry, also known as the Valley Guards,[...]