In Wake of Beef Supplier Attack, Wittman Co-Signs Agriculture Intelligence Measures Act

Rob Wittman and Tom Cotton

Congressman Rob Wittman (R-Virginia-01) was one of six Republicans last week who cosigned a bill that would create an Office of Intelligence in the Department of Agriculture. The bill was originally introduced by Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Congressman Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas-02) last fall, but the current House version, HR 1625, has gradually gained Republican cosigners this spring.

“Two weeks ago, JBS, an international meat supplier, fell victim to a severe cyber attack,” Wittman explained in a Friday newsletter. “This marks the second attack targeting the production of American commodities, such as gasoline and food. This attack highlights the threat cyberattacks potentially pose to the American food supply chain.

Read More

Chain-of-Custody Documents: View All the Ballot Transfer Forms from the November 2020 Election Provided by Fulton County to The Georgia Star News

On May 3, 2021, six months after the November 3, 2020 presidential election, Fulton County election officials provided The Georgia Star News with a thumb drive containing 30 files those officials said complied with an Open Records Request made by The Star News. The request made to Fulton County was one in a series of Open Records Requests made to all 159 counties in Georgia to produce all chain of custody documents, known as absentee ballot drop box transfer forms, from that election.

Read More

Emergency SNAP Benefits Extended into June for Virginians

Virginians who receive food stamps will continue to be eligible for higher pandemic-era benefits through June, the Virginia Department of Social Services announced.

Families receiving food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will see additional benefits automatically loaded onto their EBT cards. The funds will be added n June 16.

A household of one will be eligible for up to $234 monthly while the emergency funding continues. A family of two could receive up to $430, a family of three up to $616 and a family of four up to $782. The funding gradually increases for every additional member of a family.

Read More

Northam Announcements: Record May Revenue Increase, New Secretary of Finance, and Return to Earn Grant Program

Virginia saw a 66.2 percent General Fund revenue increase in May according to a Friday announcement from Governor Ralph Northam. He also announced the appointment of Joe Flores as the new Secretary of Finance, and a Return to Earn Grant program to help provide bonuses to new hires at small businesses.

“Virginia’s economy is roaring back to life thanks to hard work following the science and one of the strongest pandemic responses in the country,” Northam said in a press release.

Read More

FBI Provides Final Briefing on Virginia Beach Mass Shooting, Says it Was Motivated by Perceived Workplace Grievances

In its final briefing on the Virginia Beach Municipal Center shooting, the FBI told the Virginia Beach Police Department (VBPD) that the shooter was motivated by perceived workplace grievances.

Read More

Turnout in Virginia Democratic Primary Dropped About 11 Percent

Ralph Northam

Voters from around the commonwealth cast their ballots Tuesday to determine which candidate will represent the Democratic Party in Virginia’s 2021 race for governor, but the turnout dropped by about 11% compared to the 2017 primary.

In total, more than 488,100 people voted in the party’s five-candidate primary, compared to 542,858 in 2017’s two-candidate primary. This shows an 11% drop and more than 50,000 fewer votes cast in 2021.

About 8% of Democratic voters turned out for the primary, which is lower than 2017 when about 10% turned out to cast a vote. However, despite the numbers being low compared to the previous election, they are still higher than average when compared to the other most recent gubernatorial primaries.

Read More

Virginia Employment Commissioner Says Commission on Track to Address Claims Backlog; Legislators Still Receiving High Volumes of Complaints

The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) is on track to finish adjudicating outstanding unemployment insurance claims that were pending as of May 10th, Commissioner Ellen Hess said on Thursday. A settlement in a lawsuit against the VEC requires the backlog of 92,158 claims to be resolved by Labor Day.

“As of June 5, 66,966 claims remain in this effort,” Hess told the Commission on Unemployment Compensation, a joint commission with legislators from both chambers.

Read More

Virginia Department of Health Nominated for Emmy for ‘Students for COVIDWISE’ Video

Call it the Emmy-nominated Virginia Department of Health (VDH) now. On Tuesday, the VDH announced that a short video advertising the state’s COVID-19 tracking app has been nominated for a regional Emmy and won a Silver Telly Award.

Read More

Glenn Youngkin Inches Closer to Terry McAuliffe in New Poll

Virginia’s Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin is two points below former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe in a new WPA Intelligence poll. This, according to an article that The Republican Standard published Thursday. The poll said Youngkin had 46 percent while McAuliffe had 48 percent.

Read More

Fredericksburg City Council Considering Plastic Bag Tax

The Fredericksburg City Council directed city staff to prepare a draft ordinance for a five-cent single-use plastic bag tax. In its Tuesday meeting, most of the city council expressed support for the proposal, introduced by Council Member Kerry Devine.

“The reality is I hope this is a tax we never collect,” Devine told the Council.

Read More

121 People Register to Speak at Loudoun County School Board Meeting

The public comment period at Tuesday’s Loudoun County Public School Board meeting lasted about three hours after 121 people registered to speak. Several factors contributed to the high participation, according to LCPS citizen reporter Julie Sisson.

“It was insane,” Sisson said. “A combination of the first in-person audience in over a year, the fact that LCPS suspended Tanner Cross after the last one and the court ruling in his favor had come out earlier that day, last meeting of the school year, and the SB was supposed to discuss Policy 8040 (rights of transgender students) but they pushed it back to Committee.”

Read More

Michael Bills and Clean Virginia Biggest Losers in Virginia Democratic Primary

Democrats nominated former governor Terry McAuliffe, Attorney General Mark Herring, and Delegate Hala Ayala (D-Prince William) for governor, attorney general, and lieutenant governor respectively. Progressive candidates lost both in those races, and down-ballot in the House of Delegates.

Read More

Virginia Democratic Ticket for November: McAuliffe, Herring, and Ayala

Former governor Terry McAuliffe will again be Virginia Democrats’ nominee for governor, according to the Virginia Public Access Project which called the race on Tuesday evening. Incomplete unofficial results showed McAuliffe soundly beating all four of his challengers.

Read More

Court Approves Emergency Injunction Reinstating Tanner Cross in Loudoun School Board Lawsuit

The Loudoun County Circuit Court ordered Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) to reinstate teacher Tanner Cross in a decision Tuesday. Cross is suing the Loudoun County School Board after he spoke at a school board meeting saying he would not use students’ preferred pronouns.

On Friday, the case had a lengthy hearing in the court where the defendants asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit; Cross’ team asked the court to issue a temporary injunction to allow him to return to work while the case proceeds.

Read More

Virginia Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Lee Monument Removal Lawsuits

The Virginia Supreme Court heard arguments for two lawsuits blocking the removal of the Lee statue in Richmond on Tuesday.

A year ago, protests sparked by Minneapolis’ police treatment of George Floyd spread across the country. In Virginia, those protests spurred politicians to start removing controversial Confederate monuments. Although Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney was able to quickly remove most of the monuments on Monument Avenue, the most famous monument — a huge statue of Robert E. Lee — sits on state property ceded to the state under conditions that have complicated efforts to remove the bronze general.

Read More

Biden Budget Proposal Includes $83.7 Million for Norfolk Harbor Widening and Deepening Project

Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay-area U.S. representatives and senators are highlighting $83.7 million for the Norfolk Harbor widening and deepening project in President Biden’s recently unveiled $6 trillion budget proposal. The budget provision is a response to a letter Virginia’s congressional and senate delegation sent to Biden in March requesting the funds.

Read More

Primary Day: Democrats Pick Their Ticket, GOP Watches House Primaries in Districts 9, 83

Virginia Democrats have been voting for months, but Tuesday is the final day of voting in the Democratic primaries for governor, attorney general, and lieutenant governor. The races have highlighted a contrast between progressive and establishment wings of the party, with battles over identity, past scandals, and private versus corporate campaign funding. But Tuesday’s voting includes both Democratic and Republican primaries for House of Delegates districts across the state.

Read More

Virginia DMV Expands Appointment Opportunities Reduced During Pandemic

People at windows of DMV

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles is gradually expanding its appointment opportunities this month and next month now that most of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have come to an end.

Starting June 1, the DMV opened 184,000 additional appointment opportunities  and the department will open up more appointments June 15 and again in July. Residents can secure their slots for the June 15 appointment expansion at this time. The department is hiring and training new employees to keep up with the higher number of appointments.

“Virginians have told us they appreciate the convenience and high quality service the appointment system affords,” Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb said in a news release at the time of the announcement. “The Governor’s announcement … enables us to open more windows so customers can secure appointments sooner, but we are still taking great care to offer service that is safe for everyone.”

Read More

VMI Independent Investigation Finds ‘Racial and Gender Disparities’ and Risk of Sexual Violence

A new report on the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) says the school has refused to change or question traditions and that “racial and gender disparities persist.” Recommendations include a call for accountability from the General Assembly; increasing diversity in leadership and corps; adjusting institutes and traditions; tempering associations between the school, the Civil War, and the Confederacy; addressing racist and sexist speech and actions; improving transparency; celebrating other cultures; and addressing tensions between athletes and non-athletes.

Read More

Colonial Downs Group Launches Petition to Bring Gaming to Amherst County

The Colonial Downs Group is circulating a petition to bring slot machine-style gaming to Amherst County, according to a Wednesday press release. If five percent of qualified voters sign the petition, county residents will have the opportunity in November to vote to approve a Rosie’s Gaming Emporium.

Read More

Virginia NFIB Director Calls for Back-To-Work Bonuses

Worker in restaurant kitchen

A May survey from the NFIB found that nationally, seasonally-adjusted 48 percent of small businesses reported unfilled job openings for the fourth consecutive month.

“Virginia small businesses are having a historically hard time hiring workers and getting back to pre-COVID levels,” NFIB Virginia State Director Nicole Riley said in a press release.

Read More

King George County Evaluating Moving Confederate Monument to Cemetery

King George VA courthouse

King George County is evaluating a plan to move a Confederate memorial from the lawn in front of the courthouse to a cemetery. On Tuesday evening, the Board of Supervisors went into a closed meeting with the county attorney and county administrator for about an hour. When they came out of the closed meeting, Chairman Ann Cupka read a brief statement before the meeting adjourned.

Read More

Joe Morrissey Commentary: This Democrat Will Not Be Voting for Mark Herring on June 8

I am a proud Democrat who has had the honor of serving the Commonwealth in three different offices including Commonwealth’s Attorney, House of Delegates and, currently, the Virginia State Senate. However, on Tuesday June 8th, I will not be voting for Democrat Mark Herring. There are three (3) primary reasons why Mark Herring has lost the trust of the Electorate and does not deserve re-election. Please consider the following and decide for yourself whether or not Attorney General Herring deserves a third (3rd) term in office.

Read More

Mueller to Help Teach UVA Law Class on Russia Investigation

Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller will help teach a class on that investigation and the role of a special investigator at the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Law, UVA announced Wednesday. Deputy Special Counsel Aaron Zebley and two other senior members of the team will teach the six-session in-person class next fall, with Mueller leading at least one class.

Read More

Ayala Takes $100,000 from Dominion Energy After Taking Funds from Clean Virginia

Dominion Energy gave lieutenant governor candidate Delegate Hala Ayala (D-Prince William) $100,000 at the end of May, according to new campaign finance reports published by The Virginia Public Access Project. That angered anti-utility activist group Clean Virginia which had contributed $25,000 to Ayala’s campaign; Ayala had committed to not accept money from the utility.

Read More

Virginia on Track to be Fastest State to Reach $1 Billion in Sports Betting

Sports Book Betting

Sports betting in Virginia launched January 21, and Virginians have already wagered $865 million, according to press releases from the Virginia Lottery. In April, Virginians wagered $236.43 million according to a May 28 press release.

Read More

Lawsuits Pile Up in Loudoun County Battle Between School and Activists

The Loudoun County School Board is being sued over its Equity Ambassador program. Scott Mineo, founder of activist organization Parents Against Critical Theory (PACT), has said the program is discriminatory since last fall. Now, Mineo, Loudoun County Republican Women’s Club President Patti Menders, and several anonymous plaintiffs are suing the school board.

Read More

Virginia Gubernatorial Candidates Discuss Direction and Values of Democratic Party in Final Debate

The final day of voting in the Democratic primary is June 8, less than a week away. On Tuesday evening, the gubernatorial candidates met for a final debate where they discussed issues including criminal justice, educational policy, and health care. One moment during the debate was sparked when moderators directed a question to Terry McAuliffe, and several of his opponents used rebuttal opportunities to weigh in on the post-Trump future of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

Read More

The University of Virginia Lets Illegal Immigrant Students Skip Out on Enrollment Deposit

University of Virginia

The University of Virginia is permitting “undocumented” students to waive their $400 enrollment deposits.

On April 27, undocUVA — a student activist group — called on the university to “do better” in extending financial aid to classmates illegally present in the United States.

“Matriculating marginalized students without providing adequate resources for them is a strategy of exclusion,” said an undocUVA statement.

Read More

Third Virginia Sheriff Switches from Democrat to Republican over Policing Reforms

Police lights on top of car

In response to legislative Democrats enacting a series of police reforms, three Southwest Virginia sheriffs elected as Democrats have changed their party to become Republicans.

Sheriff Chip Shuler of Smyth County, who was elected as a Democrat in 2015, was the most recent addition to the Republican Party. In a news release, Shuler said law enforcement has faced relentless attacks from Democrats in Washington and Richmond.

In 2015, Shuler was elected with slightly more than 59% of the vote and was re-elected in 2019 with slightly more than 60% of the vote. Smyth County is a mostly Republican district in which more than three-fourths of votes backed former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

Read More

Glenn Youngkin Calls for Reinstatement of Loudoun Teacher Placed on Leave for Opposing Use of Preferred Pronouns in School

GOP gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin has called for Loudoun County Public Schools to reinstate a teacher who was placed on leave after opposing a potential policy requiring staff to use students’ preferred pronouns.

Read More

Ralph Northam Signs Bill Forcing Some Virginia Universities to Start Reparations Scholarships

Ralph Northam

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill requiring several universities to start programs benefiting descendants of slave laborers.

The “Enslaved Ancestors College Access Scholarship and Memorial Program” was established “for the purpose of reckoning with the history of the Commonwealth” and “acknowledging that the foundational success of several public institutions of higher education was based on the labor of enslaved individuals.”

The bill — signed by Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) on May 5 — forces Longwood University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Virginia Military Institute, and the College of William and Mary to implement the program “with any source of funds other than state funds or tuition or fee increases.”

Read More

Newport News Moves Elections to November Under Duress

Downtown Newport News

The City of Newport News has voted to move its municipal elections from May to November, but even as they passed the ordinance, the city council members made it clear that they don’t think the change is a good idea. The change is required by legislation passed in the 2021 General Assembly session that goes into effect January 1, 2022.

“I think it really puts us in a tenuous situation. We have always worked as a council without being concerned about party lines and it seems like something of this nature may cause us to begin to look at things based on  party and not based on what’s best for the City of Newport News,” Vice Mayor Saundra Cherry said.

Read More

Starkist Moving Headquarters from Pennsylvania to Virginia

Starkist Tuna

Packaged tuna manufacturer Starkist is closing up its headquarters in Pittsburgh and moving to northern Virginia, but most of the details about the move have not been revealed.

Starkist will close its office in the North Shore of Pittsburgh on March 31, 2022, but will maintain a presence in the area. Its new headquarters will open in northern Virginia in 2022, but the company did not say in which locality.

The company did not announce the reasons for its relocation. No announcements have been made related to taxpayer-funded subsidies or other incentives, which could be part of a deal.

Starkist has been owned by South Korea-based Dongwon Industries since 2008. It employs about 2,630 people and generates more than $24 million in revenue, according to Zippia.

Read More

Congressional Candidate Kiggans Signs Pledge to Support Term Limits Amendment

Senator Jen Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) has signed a pledge to support a term limits Constitutional amendment if she is elected to Congress. The proposed amendment would limit U.S. representatives to three terms, and U.S. Senators to two terms. Of Virginia’s current federal legislators, only Congressman Bob Good (R-Virginia-05) has signed the pledge. Good is also a cosponsor of HJR 12 in the current Congressional session.

“Term limits on elected officials will help guarantee the will of the people, not special interests or career politicians, are being heard,” Kiggans said in a press release.

Read More

Portsmouth City Council Approves Casino Rezoning, But Race Is on to Compete with Pending Norfolk Casino

The Portsmouth City Council approved rezoning and use permits for the Rivers Casino project in several five-to-two votes on Tuesday. Vice Mayor DeAndre Barnes and Councilman Mark  Whitaker opposed the changes. The council will have to confirm the votes in a follow-up meeting in June, and licensing from the Virginia Lottery is still pending according to WAVY.com. But pressure is on, since Norfolk has its own new casino project, the Headwaters Resort and Casino, expected to open in 2023. The Portsmouth casino is expected to open sometime in 2022 or 2023.

Read More

Biden, Northam Celebrate New COVID-19 Case Lows, End of Virginia’s Social Distancing and Capacity Restrictions

Virginia’s COVID-19 social distancing and capacity restrictions ended Friday morning at midnight. On Friday afternoon, President Joe Biden and Governor Ralph Northam highlighted Virginia’s progress on COVID-19 case numbers and vaccinations in a stop at Sportrock Climbing Center in Alexandria.

Read More

President Biden Gives Memorial Day Weekend Address in Hampton

President Joe Biden gave a Memorial-Day-weekend speech at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton on Friday afternoon. He highlighted the humility and sacrifice of the military and their families and emphasized that they defended the American principle that all men and women are equal. He also mentioned the service and death of his son Beau Biden.

“He was like a lot of you. You do your duty. You don’t expect anything for it except people having a general respect,” Biden said.

Read More

Roundup: Democratic Lieutenant Governor Candidates Debate, Gubernatorial Candidates Spent Nearly $5.6 Million on TV/Radio

The last day of voting in the Democratic primary is June 8, a week and a half away, but 53,562 people have already voted, exceeding total 2017 turnout of 35,390, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. As the final days of the campaigns approach, gubernatorial and attorney general candidates have had plenty of opportunities to define their public image. However, the six remaining candidates for the Democratic lieutenant governor nomination haven’t had as much time in the spotlight. On Tuesday, the candidates met for a debat

Read More

82nd House District Candidate Cries Foul over Location and Time of Firehouse Primary

Kathy Owens and Anne Marie Tata

The 82nd House of Delegates District Republicans are holding a firehouse primary, and one candidate’s leveraging of the rules has her opponent crying foul. The seat, which is currently occupied by the Republican nominee for Attorney General, Delegate Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach), will allow Republicans to choose between Anne Marie Tata and Kathy Owens for the next Delegate from the 82nd District.

Read More

Virginia Politicians Call for Action to Make Sure Unemployment Benefits Don’t Keep People from Getting Jobs

bluecollar

Virginia politicians are calling on Governor Ralph Northam to take steps to make sure unemployment benefits aren’t preventing potential employees from returning to work. Senate Republicans want to use American Recovery Plan funds to create “Back-to-Work” bonuses to incentivize current unemployment recipients to re-enter the workforce. Congresswoman Elaine Luria (D-Virginia-02) is calling for better enforcement of unemployment benefit eligibility rules.

Read More

Settlement Reached in Virginia Employment Commission Lawsuit

Eastern District Court Judge Henry Hudson issued an order on Tuesday with details enforcing the settlement between the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) and plaintiffs who sued over delays while processing unemployment claims flagged as potentially ineligible.

Read More

New Method Allows Loudoun County, Virginia Students to Make False Hate Reports, Parents Warn

Administrators within the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) are calling on students to report — anonymously — any acts of bias, discrimination, harassment, or intimidation motivated by prejudice. LCPS spokesman Wayde Byard told The Virginia Star Wednesday that students may use what they call the Share, Speak Up, Speak Out: Bias Reporting Form to report instances of prejudice or bias.

Read More

Clean-Virginia-Funded Commonwealth Forward PAC Working to Primary Candi King, Steve Heretick

The Commonwealth Forward PAC is a new Democratic PAC founded to fight lobbyists and corporate interests, even within the Democratic Party, and is funded primarily by $525,000 from the Michael Bills-funded Clean Virginia Fund. Bills has donated $3 million to the fund in 2021, according to the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP.)

Read More

Virginia Community College State Board Wants Patrick Henry Community College to Change Its Name

Virginia’s State Board for Community Colleges (VCCS) wants officials at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College (DSLCC) and Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) to revisit decisions to not change their names, according to a press release. According to PHCC Board Chair Janet Copenhaver, the VCCS board will change the name if the PHCC board does not.

“They sent us a letter back last week saying that they voted unanimously not to accept that name and that we had ‘x’ amount of time to come up with a new name or they would rename it.

Read More

Warner, Wexton Highlight American Rescue Plan Opportunities for Broadband Expansion and Small Business Relief

Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-Virginia-10) made two stops in northern Virginia on Friday and Monday discussing impacts of COVID-19 and financial opportunities from federal relief.

Read More

Youngkin, Miyares, and Sears Call on Northam to End State of Emergency, Relax COVID-19 Business Requirements

Governor Ralph Northam has rescinded most mask requirements for fully-vaccinated people and is expected to end all social distancing and capacity restrictions on Friday, but Virginia’s GOP candidates for governor, attorney general, and lieutenant governor are calling for an end to the state of emergency and COVID-19 workplace safety regulations.

Read More

Virginia Congressional Delegation Asks Navy to Keep Ships Homeported in Hampton Roads

Virginia’s congressional delegation, led by Congressman Rob Wittman (R-Virginia-01), is warning the Navy not to forget the East Coast and Norfolk Naval Shipyard as international military and commercial dynamics draw attention to China and Russia.

“As we pivot towards the Indo-Pacific in our global force posture, it comes as no surprise that we’ve bolstered our presence on our Western Seaboard through increases in homeported ships. This increased presence is of such magnitude that San Diego has eclipsed Norfolk in the sheer number of homeported ships,” the delegation wrote in a letter to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday.

Read More

Virginia Directs Nearly $136 Million for State and Local Criminal Justice Programs

Arlington Police motorcycles

Virginia awarded $135.8 million worth of grants to support state and local criminal justice programs, primarily to support those who have been the victims of a crime, Gov. Ralph Northam announced late Thursday afternoon.

Nearly 63% of the funding, $85.5 million, will be used to provide services for victims. Many organizations receiving money provide direct services for traditionally underserved populations and for victims of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault.

“Each of these grant recipients play an important role in keeping our communities safe and supporting victims and survivors of crime,” Northam said in a statement. “This funding will sustain the operations of a variety of critical programs and help expand the reach of services to underserved areas of the Commonwealth.”

Read More