A middle schooler from Hanover County and a high school junior from Patrick County were the first place winners in the Virginia War Memorial’s 2019 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest. The winners were announced at the Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony held November 11 at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond.
The annual contest was open to middle and high school age students throughout Virginia in public or private schools or homeschooled. The essay topic was “A Virginian Who Served in The Military in The 20th or 21st Century Who Inspired Me.”
The student writers of the winning essay in each category won a cash prize of $250 and were invited to read aloud their essay during the 2019 Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony. Their teachers were also invited to Richmond and each received a $100 prize to be used for classroom supplies.
The winner in the middle school category was Brooke Eubanks, a 6th grader at Chickahominy Middle School in Hanover County. Her essay was about her uncle, Army Sergeant First Class Eddie O. Johnson. Her teacher is Cheryl Clarke.
The winner in the high school category was Caroline Vernon, an 11th grader at Patrick County High School in Stuart. Her essay profiled her brother, Justin Vernon. Lisa Belcher is her teacher.
Brooke and Caroline read aloud their winning essays as part of the Commonwealth’s Veterans Day Ceremony. They were congratulated by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who was the keynote speaker for the annual program.
Runners-up in the Veterans Day Student Essay Contest were also announced. These were:
- Clarke Canova, Homeschooled, 8th Grade, James City County
- Jaqulynne Stewart, Edward Drew Middle School, 6th Grade, Falmouth (Stafford County)
- Rashad Seaborne, Maggie Walker Governors School, 11th Grade, Richmond
- You Jin Lee, Douglas Freeman High School, 12th Grade, Henrico County
All of the first place and runner-up essays are posted online on the Virginia War Memorial Foundation website at www.vawarmemorial.org/learn/contests-scholarships/essays/.
About the Virginia War Memorial
The mission of the Virginia War Memorial is to Honor Veterans, Preserve History, Educate Youth and Inspire Patriotism in All. Dedicated in 1956, the Memorial includes the names of the nearly 12,000 Virginia heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and the Global War on Terrorism. Located in downtown Richmond at 621 South Belvidere Street, the Virginia War Memorial is open to the public seven days a week for tours and visitation. The Memorial is a division of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services and serves as an integral part of its mission in support of all Virginians who have served in our military. For more details, visit www.virginiawarmemorial.org or www.dvs.virginia.gov.
About the Virginia Department of Veterans Services
The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (DVS) is a state government agency with more than 40 operating locations across the Commonwealth of Virginia. DVS traces its history to 1928 and the establishment of the Virginia War Service Bureau to assist Virginia’s World War I veterans. Today, DVS assists veterans and their families in filing claims for federal veterans benefits; provides veterans and family members with linkages to services including behavioral healthcare, housing, employment, education and other programs. The agency operates two long-term care facilities offering in-patient skilled nursing care, Alzheimer’s/memory care, and short-term rehabilitation for veterans; provides an honored final resting place for veterans and their families at three state veterans cemeteries. It operates the Virginia War Memorial, the Commonwealth’s tribute to Virginia’s men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice from World War II to the present. For more information, please visit www.dvs.virginia.gov.
Imported fire ant quarantine expands
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) announced today that Virginia’s Imported Fire Ant Quarantine has been expanded to include the counties of Brunswick, Greensville, Isle of Wight, Mecklenburg and Southampton and the independent cities of Emporia and Franklin. Expansion of the quarantine became necessary after survey data indicated that imported fire ant populations were widespread in these localities.
The imported fire ant is not native to the United States and is known for its aggressive behavior and ferocious sting. Once established, the imported fire ant has the potential to spread to uninfested areas, either through natural means or through the movement of infested articles (artificial spread).
Under the terms of the quarantine, articles that are capable of transporting the imported fire ant (regulated articles) are prohibited from moving out of the quarantined area unless certified as free of imported fire ant. Regulated articles include, but are not limited to:
- Any life stage of imported fire ant
- Soil, except soil shipped in original containers after commercial preparation
- Plants with roots with soil attached and rhizomes with soil attached
- Grass sod
- Used soil-moving equipment unless free of all non-compacted soil
- Used farm equipment, unless free of all non-compacted soil
- Hay and straw stored in direct contact with the ground
- Honey bee hives stored in direct contact with the ground
- Logs and pulpwood with soil attached
Individuals who plan to move regulated articles out of the quarantined area should contact VDACS’ Office of Plant Industry Services to determine options for certifying regulated articles as free of imported fire ants.
With the recent expansion, Virginia’s Imported Fire Ant Quarantine now includes the counties of Brunswick, Greensville, Isle of Wight, James City, Mecklenburg, Southampton, and York and the independent cities of Chesapeake, Emporia, Franklin, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg.
For additional information regarding the Virginia Imported Fire Ant Quarantine, visit the VDACS website at vdacs.virginia.gov/plant-industry-services-fire-ant-suppressioneand-eradication.shtml or contact VDACS Office of Plant Industry Services at 804.786.3515.
Seven lives lost on Virginia highways during 2019 Thanksgiving weekend
Of the seven people killed in Virginia traffic crashes during the 2019 Thanksgiving weekend, two were teenagers and three were not wearing seat-belts. Though this past holiday statistical counting period saw fewer fatal crashes than in previous years, even one fatality is one too many.
During the five-day period which began at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 27, 2019, and concluded at midnight Dec. 1, 2019, seven men and women lost their lives in seven traffic crashes on Virginia highways. The fatal crashes occurred in the City of Virginia Beach and the counties of Bedford, Henrico, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Rockbridge and Stafford. Six of those killed were drivers and alcohol was a factor in at least two of the fatal crashes. A 19-year-old female was killed in the Bedford County crash and an 18-year-old male lost his life in the Stafford County crash.
There were 12 traffic fatalities during the 2018 five-day Thanksgiving statistical counting period and 14 traffic fatalities during the same period in 2017. *
In an effort to prevent traffic deaths and injuries during the Thanksgiving holiday, the Virginia State Police participated in Operation C.A.R.E., an acronym for the Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort. Operation CARE is an annual, state-sponsored, national program during which state police increases its visibility and traffic enforcement efforts during the five-day statistical counting period.
The 2019 Thanksgiving Holiday C.A.R.E. initiative resulted in troopers citing 5,221 speeders and 1,798 reckless drivers statewide. Virginia troopers charged 83 drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and cited 490 drivers for failing to buckle up themselves and/or juvenile passengers.
State police responded to 1,312 traffic crashes across the Commonwealth, with 178 of those resulting in injuries and seven in fatalities. State police also assisted 2,294 disabled/stranded motorists during the Thanksgiving weekend.
“With only 27 days left in 2019, the Virginia State Police reminds all drivers to do their part to keep the winter holiday season as safe as possible on our highways,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Let’s end this decade by working together to save lives on our roadways, instead of putting them at risk by engaging in reckless driving behaviors. Make the right choice by always wearing a seat-belt, safely sharing the road with all vehicles and pedestrians, and by not driving intoxicated or ‘intexticated.’”
*Source: Virginia Highway Safety Office, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
Attorney General urges Federal Trade Commission to stop deceptive marketing practices
Attorney General Mark R. Herring has urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to adopt expanded regulations that would require businesses to provide adequate notification before enrolling consumers in their subscription services following a free trial period and regarding how consumers can cancel these subscriptions before actually being billed. Attorney General Herring and a coalition of 17 attorneys general have sent a letter to the FTC urging them to expand existing negative option regulations to cover these “free trial” business models.
With negative option marketing, a marketer presents consumers with an offer and the consumers’ silence or failure to take action in response is deemed acceptance of the offer. One especially problematic type of negative option offer involves a so-called “free trial”. Consumers are offered a free trial period for a product or service but have to submit their billing information to receive the promotion. However, the free trial has additional terms, which are not clearly disclosed, stating that unless consumers cancel the goods or services, they are agreeing to continue to receive and pay for them once the free trial is finished.
“These free trial subscription services are becoming more and more common but folks need to pay close attention to what they’re really signing up for,” said Attorney General Herring. “Right now, companies have the ability to lure consumers into subscription services through free trials and bill them without any kind of adequate notification process. It’s important that the FTC cover these types of businesses under these existing regulations so we can protect consumers from paying for a service they did not consent to purchasing.”
The current regulations, adopted in 1973, regulate only one type of negative option marketing – the delivery of merchandise where consumers receive periodic announcements that merchandise will be delivered unless they decline within a set time frame (e.g., book-of-the-month clubs).
The letter recommends the FTC expand its regulations to achieve the following:
• Informed Consent – In addition to consenting to any trial offer, sellers should have to obtain a separate consent to be charged for goods or services after the trial period has ended.
• Periodic Notices – Sellers should be required to send regular notifications that consumers are enrolled in a negative option plan, disclose the timing, amount, and method by which the seller bills the consumers for the renewal, and provide a convenient method to cancel the goods or services.
• Define Simple Cancellation Processes – Consumers should be allowed to cancel their memberships by the same method as enrollment.
• Refunds – Consumers who are unwittingly enrolled in negative option plans should be entitled to a refund from the date of enrollment.
Joining Attorney General Herring in sending the letter are the attorneys general of Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
Governor Northam releases recommendations to protect Virginia workers from misclassification, payroll fraud
RICHMOND—On November 22, Governor Ralph Northam released the final report of his Inter-Agency Taskforce on Worker Misclassification and Payroll Fraud, which outlines 11 recommendations to ensure Virginia workers receive the pay, workplace protections, and benefits they have earned. The report is the result of Executive Order Thirty-Eight signed by Governor Northam in August, which directed the Taskforce to produce updated recommendations to measure and combat misclassification ahead of the 2020 General Assembly session.
An estimated 214,000 Virginia employees are currently misclassified as “independent contractors” by their employers. Among other remedies, the Taskforce recommends increased education for employers and employees, additional funding for investigations into possible wrongdoing, and harsher penalties for businesses that illegally misclassify their workers.
“It’s clear that misclassification is robbing Virginia workers of the pay, benefits, and protections they have earned,” said Governor Northam. “These concrete policy changes will make a tremendous difference for thousands of Virginians and their families, and I look forward to working with the General Assembly to turn these recommendations into law.”
Misclassification keeps workers from receiving fair workplace protections and benefits, creates a competitive disadvantage for Virginia businesses that follow the law, and deprives the Commonwealth of an estimated $28 million in tax revenues each year. The General Assembly has considered the harm of worker misclassification for over a decade.
“After engaging with workers, businesses, and stakeholder groups over the last year, it’s clear that worker misclassification needs to be addressed,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. “I am ready to take action to support all workers in Virginia.”
The Taskforce is co-chaired by Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball and Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy. Members include representatives from the Virginia Employment Commission, the Workers’ Compensation Commission, the Department of General Services, the Department of Labor and Industry, the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, the Department of Taxation, and the Office of the Attorney General.
“Virginia expects its businesses to treat their workers fairly,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “These recommendations will not only support Virginia workers, they will level the playing field for businesses that play by the rules and follow the law. No one should be wrongly excluded from our growing economy.”
The full report from the Inter-Agency Taskforce on Misclassification and Payroll Fraud is available here.
Virginia State Police urging motorists to drive safe and make it to the holiday table this Thanksgiving
As Virginians take to the roads this Thanksgiving to celebrate the holiday with family and friends, Virginia State Police is urging motorists to put down their phones and buckle up so everyone makes it safely to the holiday table.
With the onset of the 2019 winter holiday season, state police is proud to support the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Highway Safety Office and AAA Mid-Atlantic with its new traffic safety campaign aimed at heightening awareness of the deadly dangers of distracted driving. Earlier this month, Virginia State Police Superintendent, Col. Gary T. Settle, and Trooper-Trainees of the 131st Basic Academy Session signed a banner to pledge their support to the “Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated” campaign and its life-saving messaging.
“The choices you make as a vehicle driver impact not only you and your passengers, but everyone else you happen to be sharing the road with at that given moment,” said Settle. “Avoid distractions, ensure everyone in your vehicle is buckled up, comply with speed limits and never drive drunk. If we drive like every car is filled with our friends and family, we can make sure there are no empty chairs at the Thanksgiving table this year.”
To further prevent traffic deaths and injuries during the Thanksgiving holiday, the Virginia State Police will once again be participating in Operation C.A.R.E., an acronym for the Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort. As part of the state-sponsored, national program, state police will be increasing its visibility and traffic enforcement efforts during the five-day statistical counting period, Nov. 27, 2019 through Dec. 1, 2019.
The 2018 Thanksgiving Holiday C.A.R.E. initiative resulted in troopers citing 599 individuals who failed to obey the law and buckle up, as well as issuing 199 citations for child safety seat violations on Virginia’s highways statewide. In addition, state police cited 7,629 speeders and 2,192 reckless drivers. A total of 102 drunken drivers were taken off Virginia’s roadways and arrested by state troopers.
There were 12 traffic fatalities during the 2018 five-day Thanksgiving statistical counting period and 14 traffic fatalities during the same period in 2017.*
With increased patrols, Virginia State Police also reminds drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road. If unable to move over, drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.
*Source: Virginia Highway Safety Office, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
Law Enforcement leaders announce Project Guardian-DMV
A new illegal firearms initiative announced November 15th, Project Guardian-DMV, is designed to reduce violent crime and further enforce federal firearms laws across the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV).
The new initiative builds on the Justice Department’s national effort, Project Guardian, announced by Attorney General William P. Barr on Wednesday.
“Gun crime remains a pervasive problem in too many communities across America,” said Attorney General Barr. “The Department of Justice is redoubling its commitment to tackling this issue through the launch of Project Guardian. Building on the success of past programs like Triggerlock, Project Guardian will strengthen our efforts to reduce gun violence by allowing the federal government and our state and local partners to better target offenders who use guns in crimes and those who try to buy guns illegally.”
Project Guardian-DMV will localize the effort to the DMV region, and expands upon the current partnership between the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the District of Columbia and the Eastern District of Virginia, the ATF, and Metro Police Department, and now also includes the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Maryland and the Western District of Virginia, and the Virginia State Police.
“Through this partnership, we hope to stanch the flow of illegal guns from the Commonwealth of Virginia to Washington, Baltimore, and other cities in the Northeast, where, too often, they are used to commit violent crimes,” said Thomas T. Cullen, U.S Attorney for the Western District of Virginia. “We will work closely with our U.S. attorney partners, the ATF, the MPD, and the Virginia State Police to identify individuals and groups in Western Virginia engaged in this deadly enterprise and put them in federal prison.”
“The public is on notice that we are deadly serious about illegal firearms offenses,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Now with leadership of Attorney General Barr, all the tentacles of the Department of Justice, including the ATF and its Crime Gun Intelligence capabilities, and the amazing men and women in blue on the beat, we are doubling down on illegal firearms with Project Guardian.”
Reducing gun violence and enforcing federal firearms laws have always been among the Department’s highest priorities. In order to develop a new and robust effort to promote and ensure public safety, the Department reviewed and adapted some of the successes of past strategies to curb gun violence. Project Guardian draws on the Department’s earlier achievements, such as the “Triggerlock” program, and it serves as a complementary effort to the success of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN). In addition, the initiative emphasizes the importance of using all modern technologies available to law enforcement to promote gun crime intelligence.
“Working together with our federal and local partners is key to reducing gun violence and violent crime in the region,” said Jessie K. Liu, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. “Project Guardian will allow us to identify specific incidents and trends, thereby enabling us to move quickly in investigating and prosecuting violent crime in the most appropriate venue. The correlation between the availability and use of illegal guns and violent crime is undeniable, and we will continue to work closely with our partners in the law enforcement community in the promotion of public safety and the pursuit of justice. “
“We are committed to working with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to get guns off of our streets, in order to reduce violent crime in our neighborhoods,” said Rob K. Hur, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland. “If you use a gun, you could face federal time, where there is no parole—ever. Please, put down the guns and save a life—maybe even your own.”
“Straw purchasers and firearms traffickers do more than commit paperwork violations or illegally sell a firearm – they knowingly put firearms in the hands of people who should not have them, including violent offenders. These traffickers have no regard for the safety of D.C., Maryland, and Virginia communities,” said Ashan M. Benedict, Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Washington Field Division. “As part of Project Guardian, ATF will continue to work alongside our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners and U.S. Attorney’s Officers to ensure anyone committing these crimes is held accountable. We are putting all gun traffickers on notice that we will find you; you will be held accountable; and you will be punished under the law.”
“Criminals do not concern themselves with state line or jurisdictions, so we have ensured that our efforts to stop the illegal flow of guns into Maryland involves working closely with our neighboring ATF Field Division in Washington, as well as neighboring U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Virginia and D.C.,” said Rob Cekada, Special Agent in Charge of ATF Baltimore Field Division.
“Our focus is on identifying, investigating, and incarcerating anyone who uses firearms to commit violent crime, and those who traffic or straw purchase firearms are supplying these offenders.
Project Guardian serves to further strengthen our multi-state and District partnerships with law enforcements and prosecutors so we can brings these criminals to justice.”
Project Guardian’s national and DMV implementation is based on five principles:
1) Coordinated Prosecution. Federal prosecutors and law enforcement will coordinate with state, local, and tribal law enforcement and prosecutors to consider potential federal prosecution for new cases involving a defendant who: a) was arrested in possession of a firearm; b) is believed to have used a firearm in committing a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime prosecutable in federal court; or c) is suspected of actively committing violent crime(s) in the community on behalf of a criminal organization.
2) Enforcing the Background Check System. United States Attorneys, in consultation with the Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in their district, will create new, or review existing, guidelines for intake and prosecution of federal cases involving false statements (including lie-and-try, lie-and-buy, and straw purchasers) made during the acquisition or attempted acquisition of firearms from Federal Firearms Licensees.
Particular emphasis is placed on individuals convicted of violent felonies or misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, individuals subject to protective orders, and individuals who are fugitives where the underlying offense is a felony or misdemeanor crime of domestic violence; individuals suspected of involvement in criminal organizations or of providing firearms to criminal organizations; and individuals involved in repeat denials.
3) Improved Information Sharing. On a regular basis, and as often as practicable given current technical limitations, ATF will provide to state law enforcement fusion centers a report listing individuals for whom the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has issued denials, including the basis for the denial, so that state and local law enforcement can take appropriate steps under their laws.
4) Coordinated Response to Mental Health Denials. Each United States Attorney will ensure that whenever there is federal case information regarding individuals who are prohibited from possessing a firearm under the mental health prohibition, such information continues to be entered timely and accurately into the United States Attorneys’ Offices’ case-management system for prompt submission to NICS. ATF should engage in additional outreach to state and local law enforcement on how to use this denial information to better assure public safety.
Additionally, United States Attorneys will consult with relevant district stakeholders to assess feasibility of adopting disruption of early engagement programs to address mental-health-prohibited individuals who attempt to acquire a firearm. United States Attorneys should consider, when appropriate, recommending court-ordered mental health treatment for any sentences issued to individuals prohibited based on mental health.
5) Crime Gun Intelligence Coordination. Federal, state, local, and tribal prosecutors and law enforcement will work together to ensure effective use of the ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Centers (CGICs), and all related resources, to maximize the use of modern intelligence tools and technology. These tools can greatly enhance the speed and effectiveness in identifying trigger-pullers and finding their guns, but the success depends in large part on state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners sharing ballistic evidence and firearm recovery data with the ATF.