RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that CNBC has named Virginia America’s “Top State for Business” in 2019. CNBC unveiled Virginia as the top state for business this morning during a live broadcast from Shenandoah River State Park, and Governor Northam was on location to discuss the announcement. The top ranking is determined by CNBC following an extensive study of all 50 states based on 64 metrics in 10 categories of competitiveness. Virginia is tied with Texas for most years named top state for business by CNBC, with wins in 2007, 2009, 2011, and now 2019.
“I am proud to bring the title of America’s top state for business back to Virginia,” said Governor Northam. “One of my primary goals has been to make Virginia the number one place to do business, and to do it in a way that benefits all Virginians and every region of the Commonwealth. This recognition underscores our work to build an inclusive and diversified economy, invest in our workforce, and create quality jobs—and is proof that companies of many different sizes and industries can find a home in Virginia.”
Since Governor Northam took office in January 2018, the Commonwealth has secured more than $18.5 billion in statewide capital investment and created 50,000 new jobs. Governor Northam has announced $2.5 billion in new capital investment in Virginia’s distressed communities, including significant projects with Volvo and Microsoft. Virginia has attracted major investments from leading companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Micron, and many other prominent businesses are choosing to deepen their roots in the Commonwealth.
In its 2019 ranking, CNBC highlights Virginia’s highly educated workforce, strong economic growth, and stable business climate. The study also gives Virginia top scores for education, access to capital, and technology and innovation.
CNBC debuted its Top States for Business ranking in 2007. Information about the methodology used by CNBC to determine America’s Top States for Business in 2019 is available here.
Read more about Virginia’s business ranking here. Watch Governor Northam discuss how Virginia reclaimed the title of Top State for Business in this video.
Harrisonburg woman pleads guilty to fatal overdose distribution
HARRISONBURG, VIRGINIA – Iza Mar Rosario-Cruzado, 31, of Harrisonburg, Va., pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court to one count of distributing and possessing with the intent to distribute a mixture of heroin and fentanyl. Rosario-Cruzado further admitted her distribution of this drug mixture resulted in an overdose death. United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen made the announcement following the defendant’s guilty plea.
“Heroin laced with fentanyl is driving the opioid epidemic that has ravaged our district for the last several years,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today. “We will continue to work closely with our state and local partners to investigate and prosecute cases involving overdose deaths and hold dealers accountable under federal law.”
“This sentence is a great example of our efforts to keep our local communities safe from the spread of drugs. Heroin and fentanyl are extremely deadly substances and those who spread this poison across our cities, acting with blatant disregard for the lives of the people who live here, will not be tolerated,” said Special Against in Charge Jesse R. Fong of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Washington Field Division. “This case is a testament to the hard work DEA and our law enforcement partners do every day to keep these dangerous drugs out of the hands of our loved ones.”
According to court documents entered during yesterday’s hearing, on December 13, 2017, victim M.J.M. was found deceased following a heroin and fentanyl overdose. Investigators determined that the day prior, December 12, 2017, Rosario-Cruzado distributed a mixture of heroin and fentanyl to Richard Mansfield. Mansfield subsequently redistributed the same drugs to M.J.M., who ingested them, resulting in his overdose death.
On September 12, 2018, Mansfield pleaded guilty to one count of distributing a mixture of heroin and fentanyl.
At sentencing, scheduled for December 17, 2019, Rosario-Cruzado faces between 12-16 years in years in federal prison, as agreed to as part of her plea agreement.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Virginia State Police, and Harrisonburg Police Department, with the assistance of Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha L. Garst. Assistant United States Attorney Jeb Terrien is prosecuting the case for the United States.
September 24 is National Voter Registration Day
RICHMOND, VA – The Virginia Department of Elections is pleased to participate in National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) on Tuesday, September 24, 2019. Volunteers and organizations from all over the Commonwealth will encourage all eligible Virginians to register to vote and increase awareness of voter registration opportunities.
On that day, the Department, in coordination with OnTheSquareVA, will host an “Everything Elections” NVRD event. The table will be set up from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Capitol Square near the Bell Tower. At the table, the public can register to vote, update their voter address, request an absentee ballot, obtain voter photo ID information, or sign up to be an Officer of Elections.
Department employees will be on hand to answer any questions about elections and the voter registration process.
Every year, millions of Americans are unable to vote because they miss a registration deadline, do not update their registration information, or are not sure how to register. National Voter
Registration Day seeks to raise awareness of voter registration opportunities around the country.
“At the Virginia Department of Elections, we are committed to making the voter registration process as easy, convenient and transparent as possible,” said Christopher Piper, Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner. “We are thankful for all those who help us fulfill that mission.”
The deadline for registering to vote in the November 5, 2019 general election is Tuesday, October 15, 2019. All eligible Virginians can register to vote, update their voter address, or verify their registration status at vote.virginia.gov.
As of August 31, 2019, the Commonwealth of Virginia has 5,588,740 registered voters.You can find out more about National Voter Registration Day at NationalVoterRegistrationDay.org.
Former Director for Diversity Initiatives at Old Dominion University will join Northam Administration in newly-created role
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced that Dr. Janice Underwood, former Director of Diversity Initiatives at Old Dominion University, will serve as Virginia’s first-ever Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Governor Northam announced the creation of this senior-level position in May, kicking off an extensive candidate selection process that involved numerous state agencies, stakeholders, and highly-qualified applicants.
“I am committed to making Virginia more equitable and inclusive, and that starts with my administration and our state government,” said Governor Northam. “Dr. Underwood’s background as an educator, leader and collaborator, as well as her experience promoting inclusive policies and directing a variety of diversity initiatives, make her the perfect person to fill this role. I’m thrilled to welcome Dr. Underwood to our administration, and I look forward to having her as a partner in this important work.”
As the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Dr. Underwood will develop a sustainable framework to promote inclusive practices across Virginia state government; implement a measurable, strategic plan to address systemic inequities in state government practices; and facilitate ways to turn feedback from state employees, external stakeholders, and community leaders into concrete equity policy.
“I am deeply honored to serve the Commonwealth in this inaugural position,” said Dr. Underwood. “As I embark on this role I will be relying on my many personal and professional experiences as a teacher, an educational researcher, a parent and wife, and a diversity leader. I am dedicated to working with Virginians to promote lasting, institutional change at all levels of state government, and I look forward to working closely with Governor Northam and the rest of his administration to make the Commonwealth more diverse, equitable, and inclusive for all who live here.”
Dr. Janice Underwood earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Hampton University in 1998 (B.A. Psychology) and 2002 (M.A. Learning and Behavior Disorders), respectively. In 2015, she earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Old Dominion University (ODU), where her research focused on culturally relevant pedagogy.
Prior to her appointment, Dr. Underwood served as Old Dominion University’s Director of Diversity Initiatives and as the chair of the President’s Task Force on Inclusive Excellence. Dr. Underwood previously served as the Executive Director and Co-Principal Investigator for the ODU Teacher in Residence master’s program, a collaborative partnership between ODU, Norfolk Public Schools and Newport News Public schools. Dr. Underwood also served for a number of years as a national board certified teacher for students with exceptionalities, and has extensive expertise in the cultural contexts of our public education system.
In these roles, Dr. Underwood has worked to create inclusive work and learning environments, and has collaborated with outside groups—such as the Virginia Community College System, the Chesapeake Public Library, and more—on professional development related to racial and cultural diversity.
AG Herring recognized for his contributions to advancing cannabis law reform in the Commonwealth
RICHMOND(September 9, 2019) – Virginia NORML has honored Attorney General Mark R. Herring with the 2019 Vanguard Award for his contributions to advancing cannabis law reform in the Commonwealth. Attorney General Herring has called for the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana, action to resolve past convictions and a move towards legal and regulate adult use. In calling for reform, Attorney General Herring cited the unnecessary negative impact of a criminal conviction for possession, the expense of enforcing the current system, and the disparate impact on African Americans and people and communities of color.
“As attorney general, I have a special obligation to fight for justice, opportunity, and equality for all Virginians, which means I’m always thinking about whether we are living up to that standard, and it is clear to me that criminalizing marijuana possession isn’t working,” said Attorney General Herring. “We have a system where getting caught with one joint, or a small amount of cannabis can totally derail someone’s life. There are smarter, better ways we can approach cannabis, and that begins with decriminalizing simple possession of small amounts, addressing past convictions, and taking responsible steps towards legalization. I want to thank Virginia NORML for honoring me with this award and all the hard work they do to advocate for cannabis reform.”
“Virginia NORML is thrilled to honor Attorney General Herring with this years award,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, Director, Virginia NORML. “His advocacy for not only decriminalizing but legalizing and regulating adult-use marijuana has significantly elevated the conversation regarding the immediate need for legislative action and demonstrates his unwavering commitment to justice for all Virginians.”
In the last decade the number of first time marijuana convictions in Virginia has risen 53%, from 6,533 in 2008 to 10,000 in 2017. About 90% of marijuana arrests in 2018 were for possession alone and arrests for cannabis possession have increased about 115%, from around 13,000 in 2003 to nearly 28,000 in 2017. The cost of cannabis criminal enforcement is estimated to be up to $81 million each year.
The weight of the current approach to cannabis enforcement falls disproportionately on African Americans and people and communities of color. According to the Virginia Crime Commission, African Americans comprised 46% of all first offense possession arrests from 2007 to 2016, despite comprising just 20% of Virginia’s population and despite studies consistently showing that marijuana usage rates are comparable between African Americans and white Americans.
About Virginia NORML
Virginia NORML is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the decriminalization of the possession of cannabis and the regulation of in-state medical and adult-use production and sales for a safer Commonwealth.
Governor Northam declares State of Emergency in advance of Hurricane Dorian
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today declared a state of emergency in advance of Hurricane Dorian’s effects on southeastern Virginia, anticipated to begin Thursday.
“Hurricane Dorian is a serious storm, and current predictions indicate that it may affect parts of Virginia,” said Governor Northam. “I am declaring a state of emergency to ensure that localities and communities have the appropriate level of assistance, and to coordinate the Commonwealth’s response to any potential impacts from Hurricane Dorian. I encourage Virginians to take all necessary precautions to make sure they are prepared as well.”
Potential impacts from Hurricane Dorian include coastal and inland flooding, storm surge, damaging winds and prolonged power outages.
A state of emergency allows the Commonwealth to mobilize resources and to deploy people and equipment to assist in response and recovery efforts. The declaration also allows officials from Virginia to coordinate planning and evacuation resources with the state of North Carolina.
This action does not apply to individuals or private businesses.
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia National Guard, Virginia Department of Social Services, Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and other agencies are coordinating resources and information to prepare for the impact of this storm.
The Virginia Emergency Operations Center was activated this morning at 8 a.m. to monitor the storm and to coordinate preparedness efforts with local, state and federal officials.
Recommendations for Virginians
Coastal Virginians should learn their evacuation zone at KnowYourZoneVA.org. If internet or computer access is not available, call 2-1-1 to learn your zone. Residents not residing in a pre-identified evacuation zone would listen to evacuation orders from local and state emergency agencies to determine if and when to evacuate.
Virginians residing in eastern and coastal Virginia should continue to monitor the latest forecasts, follow official sources on social media and develop or update their emergency preparedness plan. Planning resources are available at VAemergency.gov/make-a-plan.
For a list of recommended emergency supplies to sustain your household before, during and after the storm visit VAemergency.gov/supply-kit. Additional preparedness information is available at VAemergency.gov/hurricanes and the Commonwealth’s hurricane evacuation guide for coastal Virginians is available at KnowYourZoneVA.org.
Virginians should follow the Virginia Department of Emergency Management on Twitter and Facebook for preparedness updates and their local National Weather Service office for the latest weather forecast, advisories, watches or warnings. Download the FEMA app on your smartphone to receive mobile alerts from the National Weather Service.
HEAT Program Honors Virginia Law Enforcement Agencies and Officers
RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia State Police (VSP) Help Eliminate Auto Theft (HEAT) program presented awards to three Virginia police departments and nine police officers to recognize their efforts in reducing vehicle theft and theft of vehicle parts in the commonwealth. The awards ceremony took place on August 26 during the annual conference of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and Foundation held in Norfolk.
The Henrico County Police Division was the winner in the agency category serving more than 100,000 citizens. The Roanoke City Police Department took the top prize in the agency category serving serving a population from 20,001 to 100,000, while the Salem Police Department was recognized in the same category as an agency finalist.
Officer Melissa Foster with the Roanoke City Police Department and Officer Shane Richardson with the Henrico County Police Division took the top honors in the individual category. Detective Mark Adkins with the Salem Police Department and Detective Christopher Gordon with the Henrico County Police Division were named individual awards finalists.
Certificates of merit were presented to Officers Aubrey Hughes, William Jenkins Jr. and Shawn Maxwell Jr. with the Henrico County Police Division. Also receiving certificates of merit were Detective Thomas Nash, Roanoke City Police Department and Officer Thomas Newman, Salem Police Department.
“We are grateful to law enforcement agencies and officers from throughout Virginia who join with the Virginia State Police in fighting vehicle theft,” said First Sgt. Thomas Molnar, HEAT Program Coordinator. “These annual awards are an opportunity to recognize outstanding efforts.”
The HEAT Awards program is an annual competition open to all Virginia law enforcement entities and employees who work in auto theft enforcement and prevention. Nominees must demonstrate excellence in at least two of the following four categories: enforcement, intelligence gathering, prevention and recovery.
“Virginia citizens also have an important role to play in preventing auto theft,” said First Sgt. Molnar. “By following a few common-sense tips, they can protect their vehicles.” The HEAT program recommends the following:
• Take your keys and lock your doors every time you leave your vehicle.
• Never leave valuables in plain sight in your vehicle. Place them in the trunk or somewhere out of sight.
• Be aware of your surroundings when out and about.
• Park in well-lit areas.
• Invest in an audible or visible deterrent.
• Install GPS or other tracking devices.
Learn more about the HEAT program at HEATreward.com.
The Virginia State Police Help Eliminate Auto Theft (HEAT) program was established in 1992 to educate citizens and law enforcement about the theft of vehicles and vehicle parts. For more information, visit HEATreward.com. Visit Virginia State Police online at www.vsp.virginia.gov.