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Terry McAuliffe

GREENSVILLE/EMPORIA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES

LOCAL BOARD MEETING

The Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services Administrative Board will meet on Thursday, August 21, 2017, at 3:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services located at 1748 East Atlantic Street.  The public is welcome to attend.

Governor McAuliffe Announces 55 New Jobs in Greensville County

~Oran Safety Glass to invest $4.45 million to expand manufacturing operation~

EMPORIA – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced that Oran Safety Glass (OSG), a manufacturer of specialty glass for buses, military vehicles, and trains, will invest $4.45 million to expand its manufacturing operation in Greensville County. Virginia competed against Wisconsin for the project, which will retain 75 existing jobs and create 55 new jobs. Governor McAuliffe successfully recruited this expansion for the Commonwealth during the July 2016 trade and marketing mission to Israel where he met with OSG executives.

“Oran Safety Glass' second expansion since opening its U.S. manufacturing facility in Greensville County ten years ago demonstrates the impact that Virginia’s industrial environment can have on the development of our existing businesses,” said Governor McAuliffe, speaking at the event. “The decision by an international corporate partner to reinvest in the Commonwealth is a major statement for the region, and we are proud that OSG’s operation in Southern Virginia can accommodate the company’s future growth. As we continue to diversify and build the new Virginia economy, we celebrate the addition of 55 new, quality jobs in a region that continues its economic rebound.”

OSG, an Israeli-headquartered specialist glass manufacturer, develops a wide range of glass products, including armored safety glass, such as bullet-resistant windows, curved, flat, laminated, and insulated. As a global company with an international client base, OSG provides customized glass solutions for various industry sectors. The company’s expertise covers all areas of glass processing for defense, security, and transportation sectors, as well as special applications for other industries, such as architecture and solar.

“More than 70 percent of all jobs created in Virginia come from existing companies expanding, that’s why retaining quality employers, like Oran Safety Glass, is critical to ensuring a healthy local, regional, and state economy,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore. “Home to more than 5,500 advanced manufacturing companies, the Commonwealth will continue to support this booming industry and the workforce that helps it thrive. OSG is a great example of the growth manufacturers can achieve in Virginia, and we look forward to a continued partnership as the company grows in Greensville County.”

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Greensville County, a member of Virginia’s Growth Alliance, and the Virginia Israel Advisory Board to secure the project for Virginia. Governor McAuliffe approved a $150,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist the County with the project. The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission approved $235,000 in Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds. The company is eligible to receive state benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Funding and services to support the company’s employee training activities will also be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

“OSG Inc. has had a very successful growth curve since launching our US operations in 2006,” said Louis Mitchener, Senior Vice President, North America Division, Oran Safety Glass. “Greensville County, Virginia has been a vital part of that growth so expanding here made good business sense. We are looking forward to our next 10 years and beyond!”

“Jobs and capital growth are a priority of Greensville County,” said Peggy Wiley, Board of Supervisors Chair, Greensville County.“We are honored that OSG has chosen to continue our partnership in the Greensville County Industrial Park. They have been a vital part of our community for over 10 years and we look forward to many more years of success.”

Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission Vice-Chair, Senator Frank Ruff, said, “This expansion shows that OSG is committed to our region and we are proud to have them as a partner as we work to bring jobs and investment to the area. We have the workforce, facilities and infrastructure to attract top employers, like OSG, and I'm confident that they will continue to build on the success they've seen here in Greensville."

"The Virginia Israel Advisory Board is proud to have played a significant role in the state’s efforts to secure OSG’s expansion in Greensville County. This project was a top priority and we look forward to the company’s continued investment and job creation in the Commonwealth," commented Mel Chaskin, Chairman, Virginia Israel Advisory Board.

“I congratulate Oran Safety Glass on this important expansion,” said Senator Louise Lucas. “As we work to bring new jobs to Southern Virginia, we are proud to support this leading international company that has positively contributed to Greensville County’s economy for more than a decade.”

"I am pleased Oran Safety Glass will invest $4.45 million to expand manufacturing operations in Greensville County,” said Delegate Roslyn Tyler. “The company has been an excellent community partner and provided job opportunities for the citizens of the 75th District for ten years. Job creation and expansion in Southside is a priority and necessity to boost and grow our economy."

Grants Enable Workforce Training at SVCC

RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe announced recently that, through the New Economy Workforce Credentials Grant program, Virginia’s Community Colleges provided workforce training that enabled 2,173 Virginians to secure industry-recognized credentials, licenses, and certifications needed for high-demand careers, in the first year of the grant program.

This milestone nearly triples the number of people who were credentialed last year, bringing the total to 4,268 Virginians.  More than half of the credential earners, 2,173, took advantage of the New Economy Workforce Credentials Grant program. Training for the remaining 2,095 credentials was funded by employers, federal grants, or other private sources. 

Nate Humphrey of Amelia Court House enrolled in the power line worker program at Southside Virginia Community College.

The retired U.S. Army Ranger served seven combat deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. When he came home, he was looking for that same camaraderie.

“When I retired, I missed it,” he said. “And I found it being a lineman.”

Just days after completing the program, he locked down a job at Southside Electric Cooperative.

“I think the course was just at $11,000, but with the grant, I didn’t pay anything,” he said. “The only thing I paid for was my boots and my belt.”

The Workforce Credential Grant Program is now in its second year. Right now, grants are available to support 146 training courses offered at 23 community colleges in the commonwealth.  At SVCC, the grant can cover the following programs for eligible students:  Welding, Power Line Worker Training, Truck Driver Training, Nurse Aide, Massage Therapy, Phlebotomy, Medication Aide and Precision Machining.

See class offerings and register at southside.augusoft.net

Gov. McAuliffe keeps a perfect veto record

By Julie Rothey, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Terry McAuliffe not only set a record for the number of bills vetoed by a Virginia governor. He also has a perfect record for the number of vetoes sustained.

Republicans in the General Assembly failed to override any of the 40 vetoes that the Democratic governor issued on bills passed during this year’s legislative session, including measures that sought to increase voting requirements and make it easier to carry concealed weapons.

During his four years in office, McAuliffe has vetoed a total of 111 bills – more than any of his predecessors. None of them have been overturned, Susan Swecker, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia, noted.

“Whether he is fighting for the rights of women, immigrants, or the LGBT community, Governor McAuliffe has promised to keep Virginia open and welcoming for all its citizens. Thanks to the Democrats who fought to sustain his vetoes, he was able to keep that promise,” Swecker said in a statement.

“With the help of Democrats in the General Assembly, the Governor has formed a wall of reason to protect Virginians from harmful legislation that would hurt our economy and working families.”

Republicans see it differently. They say McAuliffe and Democratic legislators have shunned bipartisanship and blocked common-sense legislation that would prevent voter fraud and let Virginians defend themselves.

For example, McAuliffe vetoed SB 1299, which would have allowed Virginians who are under a protective order to carry a concealed handgun while they wait for their concealed weapon permit to be issued. McAuliffe said, “The bill perpetuates the dangerous fiction that the victims of domestic violence will be safer by arming themselves. It would inject firearms into a volatile domestic violence situation, making that situation less safe, not more.”

On Wednesday, the General Assembly reconvened to consider the governor’s vetoes and legislative recommendations.

The Senate voted 23-17 in favor of overriding McAuliffe’s veto of SB 1299, with Democratic Sens. Chap Petersen of Fairfax and Lynwood Lewis of Accomack County joining the 21 Republican senators in voting yes. However, it takes 27 votes – a two-thirds majority – to override a veto in the Senate.

The bill’s sponsor – Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Winchester – was disappointed. She said the bill would have “allowed law-abiding victims of domestic violence, stalking and sexual abuse to carry concealed weapons on an emergency basis so they are not left defenseless while waiting carry permit paperwork. Many other states have passed similar emergency provisions and victims’ lives have been protected. “

Legislators also sustained McAuliffe’s vetoes of bills that would have required more identification for in-person and absentee voting and increased scrutiny of registration lists. Republicans said such measures would make it harder for people to vote illegally. McAuliffe said that voter fraud has not been a problem, that the bills could prevent qualified people from voting and that the legislation would put a financial burden on local governments.

In addition to the vetoes, the governor sent 85 bills back to the assembly with recommendations. More than 80 percent of the recommendations were accepted.

However, the General Assembly rejected McAuliffe’s recommendations to expand Medicaid and to reinstate a law limiting handgun purchases to one per month in Virginia.

“I remain disappointed that Republicans chose to block our efforts to expand Medicaid and reinstate the one-handgun-per-month rule,” McAuliffe said after Wednesday’s session. “Both proposals are common-sense measures that would save lives in Virginia.”

GOP rejects governor’s bid to expand Medicaid

By Maura Mazurowski, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe blasted Republican legislators Wednesday after they rejected his budget amendment to expand Medicaid in Virginia.

“Virginia Republicans block #Medicaid expansion once again,” McAuliffe tweeted after the General Assembly reconvened to consider legislation that the governor vetoed or wanted amended.

“400k Virginians remain w/o healthcare. We’re losing $6.6mil every day,” McAuliffe wrote after the GOP-controlled House of Delegates rebuffed his Medicaid proposal.

McAuliffe and other Democrats reiterated their call for Medicaid expansion after the U.S. House of Representatives last month failed to reach an agreement on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

That federal law, also known as Obamacare, encouraged states to expand Medicaid, the health coverage program for low-income Americans.

The proposed amendment would have given McAuliffe the authority in October to direct the Department of Medical Assistance Services to expand Medicaid if the Affordable Care Act is still in place. State officials say the expansion would cover about 400,000 low-income Virginians.

Every year since he was elected in 2013, McAuliffe has advocated expanding Medicaid. And every year, Republican lawmakers have voted against the idea.

“We rejected expansion in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and again in 2017 because it was the wrong policy for the commonwealth,” the GOP House leadership said in a statement Wednesday. “The lack of action in Washington has not changed that and in fact, the uncertainty of federal health policy underscores the need to be cautious over the long term.”

Under the Affordable Care Act, states can expand Medicaid to cover people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $16,640 for an individual. About half of the 31 states that accepted Medicaid expansion have Republican governors. Earlier in the session, Del. Jimmie Massie, R-Henrico, outlined the Republicans’ position on the issue.

“Our Republican caucus believes in minimal government, in government doing only what it must,” Massie said.

He said Medicaid is the largest entitlement program in the state and costs are rising.

“As such, we cannot prudently responsibly expand such an entitlement program at this time,” Massie said. “We must reform it and look for the Virginia way. And that is exactly what we’re doing in this house.”

Delegate Massie has since announced his resignation from the Virginia House of Delegates.

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a practicing pediatric neurologist, pushed for McAuliffe’s proposed amendment just before the veto session began Wednesday.

“We need to do the right thing here in Virginia. We need to go upstairs, both in the House and the Senate, and pass the governor’s amendment to move forward with Medicaid expansion,” Northam said.

Liberal organizations like Progress Virginia were angered by the GOP’s decision on the matter.

“Health care is a basic human right. It is beyond outrageous that House Republicans have prioritized petty partisan politics over real human lives by refusing to expand Medicaid,” Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia, said in a press release. “These politicians should look in the eyes of individuals they’ve denied health care access and explain their vote.”

The issue is likely to remain contentious as McAuliffe finishes his term and Virginia elects a new governor in November. Northam is competing with former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello for the Democratic nomination. Three candidates are seeking the Republican nomination: Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee; state Sen. Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach; and Corey Stewart, who chairs the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.

“I will continue to fight for access to quality and affordable healthcare for all Virginians along with the Governor and our administration,” Northam said in a statement.

Limit handgun purchases to 1 a month, McAuliffe says

By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe has proposed an amendment to restore Virginia’s “one handgun a month” law. The amendment would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor for anyone other than a licensed firearms dealer to purchase more than one handgun within a 30-day period.

Virginia limited handgun purchases to one a month in 1993 when Democrats controlled the General Assembly and Douglas Wilder was governor. Back then, McAuliffe said, Virginia had the reputation of being “the gun-running capital of the East Coast.”

The law was repealed in 2012 when Republicans controlled the House and Senate and Bob McDonnell was governor. As a result, McAuliffe said Monday, “Virginia is once again becoming the go-to state for criminals to purchase weapons in bulk.”

Earlier this month, 24 people, including 22 from Virginia, were arrested on gun-smuggling charges. They transported more than 200 weapons north on Interstate 95 to New York, law enforcement officials said.

According to prosecutors, one of the suspects was recorded as saying, “There’s no limit to how many guns I can go buy from the store. I can go get 20 guns from the store tomorrow. . . . I can do that Monday through Friday. . . . They might start looking at me, but in Virginia, our laws are so little, I can give guns away.”

New York officials have urged Virginia to take action.

“When you hear a trafficker boasting about the weak gun laws in Virginia, it is crystal clear that this needs to be addressed,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez told The New York Times.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, said he supports reinstating the “one handgun a month” law.

“This is a great step to restore a common-sense measure that never should have been repealed in the first place,” Herring said. “Virginia’s weak gun laws make it too easy for guns to get into the hands of criminals, making our families, communities, and especially our law enforcement officers less safe, not to mention the heartbreak and damage these guns cause in neighboring states.”

McAuliffe proposed amending Senate Bill 1023 to include a one-a-month limit on handgun purchases in Virginia. The bill would prohibit Virginia from sharing information about its concealed handgun permit holders with states that do not recognize Virginia’s permits as valid within their borders.

Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Stafford, sponsored SB 1023. He called the governor’s amendment disingenuous.

“He’s just making a game out of it,” Stuart told The Washington Post. “It’s disheartening to me that the governor is more concerned about the people in New York City than he is about Virginia citizens who are actually . . . playing by the rules.”

The General Assembly will reconvene on April 5 to consider McAuliffe’s vetoes and recommendations. Republicans control the House and Senate and are unlikely to agree to the “one handgun a month” proposal, Stuart said.

McAuliffe vetoes 6 more bills; GOP calls him ‘disengaged’

By Rodrigo Arriaza, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Monday vetoed six bills, including three Republicans said would help prevent voter fraud but the Democratic governor said would create barriers to voting.

McAuliffe has now vetoed 37 bills from the General Assembly’s 2017 session – and 108 during his four-year term as governor, surpassing any of his predecessors.

Republican legislative leaders say McAuliffe has broken his promise to be bipartisan, calling his office “the most disengaged administration we have ever worked with.” The governor’s supporters say he is a firewall to block bad bills passed by a gerrymandered legislature.

“This new record is the disappointing result of four years of failed leadership by a disengaged governor, and is certainly not something to be celebrated,” Speaker William Howell and other GOP House leaders said in a statement last week. “Divided government has been the norm over the past two decades of Virginia politics, but this governor has brought a new level of animosity and acrimony than we’ve ever seen.”

McAuliffe maintains that it’s Republicans who are playing politics – by sending him bills that he says are unnecessary or dangerous. On Monday morning, he vetoed:

  • SB 1253, sponsored by Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, which would have required electronic poll books to include photo identification of registered voters.
  • SB 1455, sponsored by Sen. Dick Black, R-Loudoun, which would have made it a Class 1 misdemeanor to solicit or accept payment in exchange for registering people to vote.
  • SB 1581, sponsored by Sen. Mark J. Peake, R-Lynchburg, which would have required voter registrars to contact the Social Security Administration to verify the name, date of birth and Social Security number of all voter applicants.

McAuliffe said that the state already has strict voter registration laws and that there is no evidence to suggest that voter fraud is a problem in Virginia.

On Monday afternoon, McAuliffe vetoed HB 2000, sponsored by Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Franklin, which stated that “No locality shall adopt any ordinance, procedure, or policy that restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws.” The bill, which took aim at so-called “sanctuary cities,” would “send a hostile message to immigrant communities,” McAuliffe said.

He also vetoed HB 2092, by Del. Dave LaRock, R-Loudoun, which sought more scrutiny of people seeking public assistance, including whether they have received undeclared winnings from the Virginia Lottery; and HB 1790, by Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William, which supporters said would streamline government regulations but McAuliffe said would do the opposite.

On Friday, the governor rejected five gun-related bills, including HB 1852, sponsored by Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, and SB 1299, sponsored by Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Winchester.

Under that legislation, people protected by a restraining order could carry a concealed handgun for 45 days after the order was issued, provided that they are not prohibited from purchasing, possessing or transporting a firearm.

“It provides petitioners of a protective order the ability to carry a concealed firearm for a limited period time in order to protect themselves as they see fit while they await the issuance of their permanent concealed carry permit,” Gilbert said.

In announcing his veto, McAuliffe said the legislation perpetuates a false narrative that victims of domestic violence are made safer by arming themselves.

“It would inject firearms into a volatile domestic violence situation, making that situation less safe, not more,” McAuliffe said. “I will not allow this bill to become law when too many Virginia women have already fallen victim to firearms violence at the hands of their intimate partner.”

McAuliffe also vetoed two other identical bills by Gilbert and Vogel: HB 1853and SB 1300. Under those bills, the state would have provided funding to businesses that offer free gun safety and training programs for victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, stalking or family abuse.

Moreover, anyone who gets a protective order would have received a list of firearm training courses approved by the Department of Criminal Justice Services.

The fifth gun-related bill vetoed by McAuliffe was SB 1362, sponsored by Black. It would have allowed military personnel who are not on duty to carry a concealed firearm in Virginia, as long as they have their military identification card.

McAuliffe called the bill an unnecessary expansion of concealed handgun carrying rights.

“The bill would create a separate class of individuals who do not require a concealed handgun permit,” he said.

The General Assembly will reconvene on April 5 to consider override McAuliffe’s vetoes.

Governor vetoes Republicans’ ‘educational choice’ legislation

By Mary Lee Clark, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Thursday vetoed several bills that Republicans say would have increased school choice but McAuliffe said would have undermined public schools.

Two bills, House Bill 1400 and Senate Bill 1240, would have established the Board of Virginia Virtual School as an agency in the executive branch of state government to oversee online education in kindergarten through high school. Currently, online courses fall under the Virginia Board of Education.

“In establishing the Virginia Virtual School outside of the jurisdiction of the Board of Education, and most importantly, local school boards, this legislation raises significant constitutional concerns,” McAuliffe stated in his veto statement.

HB 1400 was sponsored by Del. Dickie Bell, R-Staunton, and SB 1240 by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico. The bills were identical to legislation the governor vetoed last year.

McAuliffe also vetoed HB 2342 and SB 1283, which would have authorized the State Board of Education to allow local school boards to collaborate in establishing regional charter schools. Charter schools are public schools that operate independently and are exempt from certain policies regular schools must follow.

“In establishing regional governing school boards that remove authority from local school boards and their members, this legislation proposes a governance model that is in conflict with the Constitution of Virginia,” McAuliffe wrote in his veto statement. “Public charter school arrangements are already available to divisions at the discretion of the local school board.”

HB 2342 was sponsored by Del. Steve Landes, R-Augusta. Sen Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, sponsored SB 1283. Obenshain was disappointed in the Democratic governor’s decision.

“Florida has upwards of 500 charter schools; Virginia has just nine that serve 2,000 students,” Obenshain said. “If we’re serious about providing families with meaningful educational choices when faced with failing schools, then that has to change.”

Obenshain said charter schools provide parents with a choice when their local schools are failing.

McAuliffe also vetoed:

  • HB 1605, sponsored by Del. Dave LaRock, R-Loudoun. It which would have established “Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts.” The governor said such savings accounts would divert state funds from public schools and redirect them for educational services outside of the public school system.
  • HB 2191, introduced by Landes. It would have required school boards to notify parents of any material assigned to students that could be deemed as sexually explicit. Schools would have had to provide substitute materials if the parents requested.

Ed Gillespie, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor in this year’s election, criticized McAuliffe for vetoing the bills.

“I’ve never seen a governor so proud of everything he didn’t get done for the Commonwealth,” Gillespie said. “Unfortunately for Virginians, he’s added to his record by vetoing four pieces of legislation to expand opportunities in education. These were common-sense bills that would have helped all Virginia students.”

Virginia raises a toast to George Washington’s whiskey

By Megan Corsano, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – George Washington is recognized as the father of our country, but with a bill signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Washington also will be recognized under another title – distiller of Virginia’s official liquor.

SB 1261, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, adds a “state spirit” to the list of the commonwealth’s official emblems and designations and crowns George Washington’s rye whiskey with the title.

The bill, which McAuliffe signed last week, highlights George Washington’s contributions to the culture of Virginia as “a native son of Virginia born on February 22, 1732, in Pope’s Creek”; “the first American president, commander of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention”; and “a model statesman ... universally acknowledged as the father of our nation.”

According to the bill, Washington was also a “gentleman planter” who began distilling rye whiskey on his property at Mount Vernon in early 1797 at the suggestion of James Anderson, his farm manager.

Today, the staff at Mount Vernon continues to distill the whiskey for sale at the property’s gift shop.

In a speech on the floor of the Virginia Senate on Feb. 22, Washington’s 285th birthday, Ebbin explained the historical pairing of Washington’s political career and booze.

According to Ebbin’s speech, when Washington first ran for the House of Burgesses in Frederick County in 1755, he lost by a landslide, receiving only 40 of the 581 votes. Ebbin attributed this loss to his failure to provide “bumbo” – a common practice at the time to provide alcohol to voters.

Three years later, Washington tried once more to win over voters and won, but switched his campaigning technique.

“During that election, he supplied 28 gallons of rum, 50 gallons of rum punch, 34 gallons of wine, 46 gallons of beer and 2 gallons of cider (an impressive 160 gallons of liquor) to 391 voters,” Ebbin said during his commemoration speech. “That’s more than a quart and a half per voter. Washington had clearly learned his lesson, because a key to victory was ‘swilling the planters with bumbo.’”

After retiring from politics, Washington began distilling whiskey at his Mount Vernon property. In the year of Washington’s death – 1799 – the distillery produced nearly 11,000 gallons of whiskey.

The Mount Vernon distillery was reconstructed at the original location that Washington used and produces small batches of distilled spirit for sale on site, including the rye whiskey that now holds the state title. The distillery attempts to produce the whiskey through the same techniques that Washington would have used at the time.

Besides declaring the official state spirit, McAuliffe also signed a bill designating the TV show “Song of the Mountains” as Virginia’s official state television series.

SB 1332, sponsored by Sen. Charles Carrico of Galax, noted that “Song of the Mountains” is the first nationwide television program featuring the bluegrass music of Appalachia.

The show was founded in 2003 as a monthly stage concert series hosted by the Lincoln Theatre in Marion, Virginia. “Song of the Mountains” is broadcast on more than 150 PBS stations in about 30 states.

The program “continues to consistently present to the nation the unique musical and cultural heritage of not only the Southwest region of the state but the entire Commonwealth,” the bill stated.

McAuliffe OKs $1.6 million for wrongfully imprisoned man

By Maura Mazurowski, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – With a stroke of his pen, Gov. Terry McAuliffe has cleared Keith Allen Harward to receive nearly $1.6 million from the commonwealth of Virginia for the 33 years he spent in prison for crimes he didn’t commit.

McAuliffe last week signed House Bill 1650approving the compensation package for Harward.

“On April 7, 2016, the Supreme Court of Virginia granted Mr. Harward’s Writ of Actual Innocence, formally exonerating him of all the crimes for which he had been convicted,” the legislation stated.

Harward, now 60, was convicted of a 1982 rape and murder in Newport News. According to trial summaries, the rape victim was awakened around 2 a.m. by a loud thumping sound as her husband was being beaten by a man.

The woman was thrown out of bed and repeatedly sexually assaulted as her husband lay dying. Her assailant held a diaper over her head and threatened to harm her children if she did not cooperate.

In 1986, Harward was tried and convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life when two forensic odontologists testified that Harward’s teeth matched those of the bites on the woman.

He was released from prison on April 8, 2016 after DNA testing proved he was not the killer. Harward had always maintained his innocence.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Arlington, notes that because of his wrongful conviction, Harward “suffers from numerous painful physical injuries, systemic health conditions, and severe mental anguish and emotional distress and has lost countless opportunities, including the opportunity to marry and have children” and that he “is an impoverished man, with no job skills or career prospects and no savings or accumulated pension benefits, and does not qualify for social security benefits.”

The legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed by McAuliffe will take effect July 1. To receive the money, Harward must sign documents releasing the state of any present or future claims.

Then, within 60 days, Harward will receive a check for $309,688. By Sept. 30, the state treasurer will buy a $1,238,751 annuity for Harward. He also will be provided up to $10,000 for tuition for career and technical training from the Virginia Community College System.

During his ordeal in prison, Harward received legal support from the Innocence Project.

He is at least the 25th person to have been wrongfully convicted or indicted based at least in part on bite mark evidence, according to the project.

New laws target puppy mills and allow lifetime pet licenses

By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Virginia soon will have three new laws that will impact its furry residents and their owners. Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed bills that will bar pet stores from buying dogs from unscrupulous sellers, allow local governments to offer lifetime pet licenses and change the legal description of a “dangerous dog.”

McAuliffe signed the legislation last week. The bills will take effect July 1.

SB 852, introduced by Sen. William Stanley, R-Franklin, is aimed at brokers and breeders who sell dogs to pet shops. The new statute says the seller must have a valid license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Moreover, pet stores may not procure a dog “from a person who has received citations for one critical violation or three or more noncritical violations from the USDA in the two years prior to receiving the dog,” according to a summary of the bill by the Legislative Information System.

Violating the law will be a Class 1 misdemeanor for each dog sold or offered for sale. That is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Tabitha Treloar, director of communications at the Richmond SPCA, said the organization is grateful for the new law.

“SB 852 closed loopholes in a section of code that became law in 2015, making it clear that pet stores may not acquire pets either directly or indirectly from puppy mills,” Treloar said. “While adopting from a reputable shelter or humane society will always be the best way to get a new companion, this is a law that helps to protect Virginia customers, and we are grateful to Sen. Stanley for carrying this bill and to Gov. McAuliffe for signing it into law.”

McAuliffe also signed HB 1477, sponsored by Del. Robert Orrock, R-Caroline County. It will allow local governments to provide lifetime licenses for cats and dogs for a maximum fee of $50. (The cost of an annual pet license will remain at up to $10.)

The lifetime license will be valid if the animal’s owner continues to reside in the locality and keeps up the animal’s rabies vaccinations. If an animal’s tag is lost, destroyed or stolen, the legislation sets a $1 fee for getting a duplicate tag.

The bill also states that local ordinances can require an animal to have an identifying microchip.

Pet owners must get a license for any dog or cat that is 4 months or older. Guide dogs or service dogs that serve disabled people are exempt.

McAuliffe also signed HB 2381, sponsored by Del. Matthew Farris, R-Rustburg. It modifies the legal description of a “dangerous dog.” It’s a designation with big ramifications: If a dog is officially labeled as dangerous, it is listed in an online registry, and the owner must get insurance and pay a $150 annual fee.

Farris wanted to give a dog the benefit of the doubt if it bites a person or another animal. The bill will give animal control officers the option of determining whether a dog should be considered dangerous just because it inflicts a nip, scratch or minor injury on someone, or on another pet.

Matthew Gray, Virginia state director of the Humane Society of the United States, applauded McAuliffe for signing the bills but was disappointed that other legislation failed during the General Assembly’s 2017 session.

“We are grateful that these bills have been signed by Gov. McAuliffe, who has traditionally supported our agenda,” Gray said. “But the House of Delegates defeated nine of 11 bills that would have expanded protections for animals, including bills to protect dogs from living their lives at the end of a chainand to prevent indiscriminate euthanasia in animal shelters. That’s a dismal failure and a profound illustration of the challenge animal welfare advocates face in Virginia.”

McAuliffe vetoes bills he says could restrict voting rights

By Rodrigo Arriaza, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday vetoed a bill that he said could disenfranchise qualified voters but Republican legislators said could reduce voter fraud.

HB 2343, sponsored by Del. Robert Bell, R-Charlottesville, would have required the state Department of Elections to provide local registrars with a list of voters who, according to data-matching systems, have been found to be registered in another state.

In support of his proposal, Bell said it would have given localities direct access to information regarding possible voter fraud among residents.

“Information would be provided to the general registrars from each county or city when it’s found that one of their voters is also registered in another state, and it gives them the liberty to do what they want to with that information,” he said.

In a statement explaining his veto, McAuliffe said he believed the bill would have endangered the voting rights of some Virginians and increased the administrative burden on local governments.

“This bill would invite confusion and increase the possibility of violating federal law,” McAuliffe said. “Moreover, it would expose eligible and properly registered Virginians to the risk of improper disenfranchisement.”

The governor said that the measure would have generated confusion and unnecessary stress among localities throughout the state by decentralizing the commonwealth’s process for maintaining voter registration data.

“The commonwealth’s proven and efficient methods of list maintenance serve as a national model,” McAuliffe said. “We should focus on improving this system rather than needlessly increasing administrative burdens.”

HB 2343had passed the House, 68-30, and the Senate, 23-15, during the recent legislative session. To override the veto, supporters of the bill must muster a two-thirds majority in both chambers when the General Assembly returns for a one-day session on April 5.

Also Wednesday, McAuliffe vetoed SB 872, which he said would be an “unnecessary and impractical barrier” to Virginia voters. The bill, sponsored by Del. Amanda F. Chase, R-Midlothian, would have required voters to submit photo identification when applying to vote absentee by mail.

The bill was identical to HB 1428, sponsored by Del. Buddy Fowler, R-Glen Allen. McAuliffe vetoed Fowler’s measure last week.

“The right to vote is a fundamental tenet of our democracy, and we should be doing all we can to facilitate eligible citizens’ access to the ballot,” McAuliffe said. “The requirement would not in any way deter fraudulent voting since it provides no means of verifying the identity of the individual depicted in the submitted photograph.”

The vetoed bills were among about 200 pieces of legislation that McAuliffe acted on this week. He signed into law such bills as:

  • HB 2113, sponsored by Del. Mark Keam, D-Vienna, which would help the state Department of Taxation deter identity theft.
  • HB 2119, also by Keam, which would require laser hair removal to be performed under the supervision of a doctor, physician assistant or nurse practitioner.
  • HB 2217, sponsored by Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, which would aid victims of sexual violence and human trafficking.
  • SB 982, sponsored by Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin, which would extend tax breaks for motion pictures being produced in Virginia.
  • HB 1664, sponsored by Del. Thomas A. “Tag” Greason, R-Loudoun, which requires state universities to release reports regarding their graduates’ job employment rates.
  • HB 2258, sponsored by Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Springfield, which would create a task force to raise awareness of suicide prevention services.

Law ensures Virginians can resell tickets

By Mary Lee Clark, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – In a defeat for Ticketmaster, a new state law will allow Virginians to resell tickets they’ve bought for concerts, football and basketball games, and other public events.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed two bills that would protect people involved in reselling tickets – a practice critics call scalping. The law also says you can’t be turned away if you show up at an event with a ticket you received from someone else.

One of the measures – House Bill 1825– was sponsored by Del. David Albo, R-Fairfax. He had a personal reason for proposing the legislation. It stemmed from a secret that, for a while, he kept even from his wife, Rita.

“One thing she did not know about me when we got married is, she figured Republican, lawyer – you know, straight guy. She does not know I am a metalhead,” said Albo, 54.

One of his favorite bands is Iron Maiden. And when Albo found out they were coming to Virginia to play at Nissan Pavilion (now called JiffyLube Live) in Bristow, he bought two $200 tickets as soon as sales opened up on Ticketmaster.

Rita Albo later broke it to her husband that the Iron Maiden concert was the same week as the family’s vacation. Del. Albo decided he needed to bite the bullet and try to resell the tickets.

But he couldn’t do that on the Ticketmaster website because the show wasn’t sold out. And Ticketmaster prohibits reselling its tickets anywhere else.

Albo said he couldn’t even give the tickets to a friend because Ticketmaster’s policies require the concert-goer to show an ID or credit card of the original ticket purchaser.

After Albo told legislators about his ordeal, the General Assembly passed House Bill 1825 and Senate Bill 1425, sponsored by Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin. The bills state that:

  • Tickets to any professional concert, sporting event or theatrical production cannot be sold “solely through a delivery method that substantially prevents the purchaser of the ticket from lawfully reselling the ticket on the Internet ticketing platform of the ticket purchaser’s choice.”
  • “No person shall be discriminated against or denied admission to an event solely on the basis that the person resold a ticket, or purchased a resold ticket, on a specific Internet ticketing platform.”

McAuliffe signed the bills March 3. The law will take effect July 1. Violators could be fined up to $5,000.

Critics say the legislation opens the door for ticket scalping or “touting,” in which people, sometimes using computer software, buy tickets only with the intention of reselling them at a higher price to make a profit.

Ticketmaster did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment about Virginia’s new law. However, when Albo’s bill came before the House of Delegates in January, the company issued a statement saying, “This scalper friendly legislation is harmful to every sports and music fan in the Commonwealth, and the bill should be rejected just as it has been in other states across the country.”

Two other states – New York and Colorado – have adopted laws similar to Virginia’s.

On the other hand, ticket vendors like StubHub, a website owned by eBay designed for people to resell and buy second-hand tickets, applauded the new state law.

“This legislation protects Virginia fans and ensures an open and unrestricted ticket marketplace,” said Laura Dooley, senior manager of government relations at StubHub. “We are proud to advocate in support of legislation like the Virginia bills on behalf of our users.”

Gov. McAuliffe expected to sign marijuana reforms

By SaraRose Martin, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Virginia probably will ease up a bit in its laws against marijuana by making it easier for epilepsy patients to obtain cannabis extract oils and by relaxing the penalty for people caught with small amounts of marijuana.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe is expected to sign the handful of marijuana-related bills passed by the General Assembly during its recent session. They include SB 1027, which will allow Virginia pharmacies to make and sell marijuana extract oils for treating intractable epilepsy, and HB 2051andSB 1091,which will eliminate the state’s punishment of automatically suspending the driver’s license of adults convicted of simple marijuana possession.

Currently, it is illegal in Virginia to purchase THC-A or CBD oils. In 2015, the General Assembly carved out one exception – for people who suffer from intractable epilepsy. Epilepsy patients and their caregivers are allowed to possess the marijuana extract oils. But they face problems buying the medication.

SB 1027, sponsored by Sen. David Marsden, D-Fairfax, will allow “pharmaceutical processors” – after obtaining a permit from the state Board of Pharmacy and under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist – to grow low-THC cannabis, manufacture the oil and then provide it to epilepsy patients who have a written certification from a doctor.

“Virginia will only be the second state in the nation that has this type of program, the first being Missouri,” said Maggie Ellinger-Locke, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates liberalizing marijuana laws.

“It’s a far cry from an effective medical marijuana program, but it’s still a step in the right direction.”

Ellinger-Locke said 28 states and the District of Columbia have full-fledged programs in which people with cancer, glaucoma and other diseases can get a prescription to use marijuana.

Marsden’s bill includes an emergency clause. So when the governor signs it, the law will take effect immediately.

Del. Les. Adams, R-Chatham, and Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, carried the measures regarding driver’s licenses. Under the legislation, which would take effect July 1, judges will have the discretion to suspend the license of an adult convicted of marijuana possession – but the penalty would not be automatic. Juveniles would still be subject to an automatic six-month suspension of their driver’s license.

Ellinger-Locke said the laws are in step with reforms happening across the country.

“We are optimistic,” she said. “The polling shows that Virginians desperately want their marijuana policy changed and laws reformed in some capacity, and I think that lawmakers are starting to hear the call in Virginia as well as throughout the U.S.”

Those calls went largely unheeded during the 2017 legislative session, as about a dozen proposals, ranging from establishing a medical marijuana program to decriminalizing marijuana possession, failed.

For example, Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel of Winchester introduced bills to make marijuana products available to people with cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and several other diseases (SB 1298) and to create a pilot program for farmers to grow hemp (SB 1306). Both bills cleared the Senate but died in the House.

Marijuana likely will be an issue in statewide elections this year. Vogel, who is seeking the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, has vowed to be an advocate for medical marijuana.

“It has no psychotropic effects, and no one is dealing it on the illicit market. For the people that are sick and really wanted the bill to pass, it was heartbreaking,” Vogel said. “I think this is a little bit of bias and a little bit of lack of education ... The overwhelming majority of the voting public believes having access to that kind of medication is very helpful.”

Medical marijuana bills faced opposition from legislators afraid that expansion may become a slippery slope. Sen. Dick Black, R-Loudoun, recalled returning from serving in the Marines in Vietnam in the 1960s when, he said, marijuana use caused a collapse of “good order and discipline.”

McAuliffe suggests lowering fine for left-lane dawdlers

By Nick Versaw, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe wants the General Assembly to reduce from $250 to $100 the fine in legislation that would punish motorists for driving too slowly in the left lane on Virginia highways.

Under current Virginia law, driving in the left lane at less than the normal speed of traffic is illegal except when passing or when it is deemed “otherwise impractical,” but there is no fine for failing to obey the law. House Bill 2201, sponsored by a bipartisan team of legislators including Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol, Del. Kaye Kory, D-Falls Church, and Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, would change that.

O’Quinn said “left-lane bandits” have become a “particularly pervasive and ever-growing problem” on Virginia roadways. Supporters of the bill say fining drivers for abusing the left lane would help decrease traffic congestion on Virginia’s highways and reduce accidents and road rage incidents.

The bill, which specified a fine of $250, was passed by both chambers of the General Assembly and sent to the governor for approval. Rather than sign or veto the legislation, McAuliffe recommended Friday that lawmakers amend the bill by lowering the fine from the $250 to $100.

On Saturday, the House voted 89-8 to adopt the governor’s recommendation. The Senate is expected to act on the matter when legislators return to the Capitol for a one-day session on April 5.

If the amendment fails to receive a majority vote in the Senate, the bill would return to the governor with the $250 fine, and he could sign or veto it.

McAuliffe vetoes bill to disclose refugee records

By Nick Versaw, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill Friday that would have required the state Department of Social Services to publish non-identifying information for refugees resettled across Virginia.

“Many individuals and families placed in Virginia through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program are fleeing governmental oppression, persecution, and violence,” McAuliffe said in his veto statement.

“Many leave their countries because they are targeted by their home country’s government, often for helping to further American interests. Disclosing such information in this political climate not only sends a message of discrimination and fear, but it also poses a real danger to many of our newest Virginians.”

House Bill 2002, introduced by Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Franklin County, would have required immigrant resettlement agencies, such as the Catholic Diocese and the U.S. State Department, to report demographic information on refugees, including the total number of refugees, the localities in which they have been placed and other facts, to Virginia’s Department of Social Services. Those reports would then be forwarded to other government agencies, including the General Assembly and the governor’s office.

Supporters of the bill argue these reports would give government officials the ability to plan for benefits, health care and other related social costs, as well as lay out education-related expenses that would allow children of refugees to enroll in Virginia public schools.

McAuliffe said those requirements would instead put undue stress on the organizations in charge of resettling refugees.

“House Bill 2002 would create an unnecessary burden for already overworked nonprofit organizations and would limit these organizations’ ability to accomplish their mission of safely settling refugees in the commonwealth,” McAuliffe said.

The governor added that the regulations would also discourage those wanting to relocate from tenuous circumstances in foreign countries to the commonwealth.

“Refugees are in the United States legally,” he said. “They undergo a more rigorous screening process than anyone else allowed into the United States. Creating a publicly available list of these individuals would send a message of exclusion to people looking for the chance to rebuild their lives free of tyranny and oppression.”

“As Virginians, we know the many benefits and contributions that refugees bring to our communities and Virginia’s economy,” McAuliffe added. “House Bill 2002 sets us on the wrong path. It does not reflect Virginia’s values.”

The bill will now return to the General Assembly, where supporters will face an uphill battle in overriding the governor’s veto. In order to successfully countermand McAuliffe’s ruling, supporters would need to gather a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers.

With three Republican delegates already opposing the bill in the House and a 21-19 party-line split in the Senate, supporters would have to persuade more than a dozen legislators to flip their vote in order to enact the legislation.

House upholds veto of bill to defund Planned Parenthood

By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – On a party-line vote Saturday, the House of Delegates upheld Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s veto of a Republican bill to defund Planned Parenthood.

On the final day of the 2017 legislative session, the House voted 62-33, with five members not voting, to override the veto of HB 2264. The motion failed because an override requires a two-thirds majority.

The bill, introduced by Del. Ben Cline, R-Amherst, sought to “prohibit the Virginia Department of Health from granting funds or entering into contracts with certain health care providers that perform abortion.” It would have removed Title X funding for Planned Parenthood, which providesfamily planning, contraception, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and cancer screenings as well as abortions.

Earlier this month, Cline’s bill passed 60-33 in the House and 20-19 in the Senate. McAuliffe then vetoed the measure, saying it “would harm tens of thousands of Virginians who rely on the health care services and programs provided by Planned Parenthood health centers, by denying them access to affordable care.”

“Attempts to restrict women’s access to health care will impede the goal of making Virginia the best place to live, work, and run a business,” the governor wrote in his veto message.

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, issued a statement saying, “I thank Gov. McAuliffe for standing by his promise to be a brick wall against attacks on a woman’s access to reproductive health care, and I applaud members of the House of Delegates for standing with him and sustaining his veto today.”

For years, Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion groups such as the Family Foundation of Virginia have been pressing to cut off government funding for Planned Parenthood and divert the money to health clinics that they say offer more comprehensive services. McAuliffe vetoed a similar bill last year.

Also Saturday, the General Assembly approved a revised state budget that includes a 3 percent pay raise for state employees as well as increased funding for K-12 education and mental health services. Legislators managed to plug a $1.26 billion shortfall in the two-year budget – the top priority when the legislative session began on Jan. 11.

“We adjourned on time, adopted an amended balanced budget ahead of schedule and offered positive solutions on the issues that matter most to Virginians,” Republican leaders in the House said in a statement. “Our amended budget reflects the priorities facing the Commonwealth. The budget is conservative and responsible, reduces borrowing, eliminates new fees and charts a responsible course.”

McAuliffe also issued a statement, saying the legislative session “was marked by bipartisan cooperation on issues that are important to the people of Virginia.”

“We have had our differences, but we have found ways to work together on important issues that grow our economy and create opportunity for the people we serve,” said McAuliffe, who is serving his last year as governor.

“As our final session working together draws to a close, I want to express my sincere gratitude and admiration for the work the men and women of the Virginia General Assembly do every year. Sessions are grueling experiences that require you to leave your loved ones and your jobs. I know that work will not end when you return home.”

How they voted

Here is how the House voted Saturday on a motion to override Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s veto of HB 2264 (“Department of Health; restrictions on expenditure of funds related to abortions and family planning”).

Floor: 02/25/17 House: VOTE: SUSTAINED GOVERNOR’S VETO (62-Y 33-N)

YEAS – Adams, Albo, Anderson, Austin, Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Bloxom, Byron, Cline, Cole, Collins, Cox, Davis, Edmunds, Fariss, Farrell, Fowler, Freitas, Garrett, Gilbert, Greason, Habeeb, Head, Helsel, Hodges, Holcomb, Hugo, Ingram, Jones, Kilgore, Knight, Landes, LaRock, Leftwich, LeMunyon, Lingamfelter, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., Marshall, R.G., Massie, Miller, Minchew, Miyares, Morefield, Morris, O’Bannon, O’Quinn, Orrock, Peace, Pillion, Pogge, Poindexter, Ransone, Robinson, Rush, Stolle, Villanueva, Ware, Webert, Wilt, Wright, Speaker Howell – 62.

NAYS – Aird, Bagby, Bell, John J., Bourne, Boysko, Bulova, Carr, Filler-Corn, Hayes, Heretick, Herring, Hester, Hope, James, Keam, Kory, Krizek, Levine, Lindsey, Lopez, McQuinn, Mullin, Murphy, Plum, Price, Sickles, Simon, Sullivan, Torian, Toscano, Tyler, Ward, Watts – 33.

NOT VOTING – Campbell, Dudenhefer, Rasoul, Yancey, Yost – 5.

Loudoun vineyard wins Virginia’s top wine award

By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – While wines from the Trump Vineyard Estates in Charlottesville didn’t make it into the governor’s cabinet, Loudoun County was the big winner at the 35th Governor’s Wine Cup.

Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards won the 2017 Governor’s Cup for its 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon. This is the first time a winery from Loudoun County has won the award.

“We are honored to be among the Virginia wineries who have won the Governor’s Cup in previous years,” said Andrew Fialdini, the owner of the Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards. “After years in government service, my wife and I were looking to start a second career where we could work the land. This experience has surpassed all our expectations.”

Fialdini said that he and his wife Maryann weren’t looking to expand the vineyard in the future and that they wanted to keep their operation small.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe congratulated the couple. “The Barns at Hamilton Station Cabernet Sauvignon – one of many great products helping to make Virginia the preeminent East Coast destination for wine and winery tourism.”

During the ceremony at the John Marshall Hotel, McAuliffe bragged about the quality of Virginia wine. The governor said he told Californians their wine tasted like automotive fluid in comparison.

“By the time I’m done, they’re going to think Napa is an auto parts company,” McAuliffe said to a laughing crowd.

This year’s other winners were:

  • Barboursville Vineyards, 2013 Paxxito
  • Breaux Vineyards, 2012 Meritage
  • Horton Vineyards, 2015 Viognier
  • Ingleside Vineyards, 2014 Petit Verdot
  • Jefferson Vineyards, 2014 Petit Verdot
  • King Family Vineyards, 2014 Loreley
  • King Family Vineyards, 2014 Petit Verdot
  • Michael Shaps Wineworks, 2014 Meritage
  • Valley Road Vineyards, 2014 Petit Verdot
  • Veritas Vineyard and Winery, 2014 Petit Manseng
  • Veritas Vineyard and Winery, 2014 Petit Verdot Paul Shaffer 6th Edition

At the gala, the 12 highest-ranking white and red wines were showcased. The winners were decided by 40 “world-class” judges in blind tastings. Winners were ranked based on their average score for appearance, aroma, flavor, overall quality and commercial suitability. The preliminary judging went over the span of four weeks in Washington, D.C., with the final tasting the last week of January at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond.

Virginia officials said the Governor’s Wine Cup is one of the nation’s most stringent competitions, with 429 wine entries from 102 Virginia wineries. Only 23 wines won a gold medal this year. None of them, however, from President Trump’s winery.

Also during the gala, the Gordon W. Murchie Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to David King of the King Family Vineyards in Crozet. In his acceptance speech, King reminded the audience that there are challenges in growing a vineyard. They can include unpredictable weather and the difficulties selling wine directly to customers.

“There are still battles to come this year,” King said. “The one thing about the wine industry is, afterward we can have a glass of wine.”

McAuliffe vetoes legislation to defund Planned Parenthood

By SaraRose Martin, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed legislation Tuesday that sought to remove state and federal funding for women’s health providers such as Planned Parenthood and any other groups that perform abortions in Virginia.

In this veto statement, McAuliffe said the bill, HB 2264, “would harm tens of thousands of Virginians who rely on the health care services and programs provided by Planned Parenthood health centers, by denying them access to affordable care.”

Planned Parenthood held a veto ceremony on the steps of the Governor’s Mansion. According to the organization, more than 22,000 people in Richmond, Hampton, Virginia Beach, Charlottesville, and Roanoke rely on Planned Parenthood for health care, including cancer screenings, birth control, testing for and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, well-woman exams and legal abortions.

“We are proud to have a governor in Virginia who stands with the women of our commonwealth,” said Paulette McElwain, president and CEO of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood. She said McAuliffe “understands how vitally important access to comprehensive reproductive health care provided by Planned Parenthood is for women.”

Pro-life activists lined the steps of the Governor’s Mansion bearing signs reading “All Lives Matter” and “Say No to Planned Parenthood.” In a press release, the Family Foundation of Virginia rejected the assertion that women would no longer have access to health care if the bill had been enacted.

The foundation said the legislation would have redirected non-Medicaid taxpayer funding from organizations that provide abortions to hospitals and health centers that provide more comprehensive services for women.

“Nothing in Virginia right now is more predictable than Terry McAuliffe doing all that he can to ensure that taxpayers are forced to prop up the abortion industry,” said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation. “If there’s one issue on which Gov. McAuliffe has been ideologically rigid, it is his unwavering support and protection of the same $1 billion abortion industry that contributed nearly $2 million to his election.”

Del. Ben Cline, R-Amherst, sponsored HB 2264. He introduced identical legislation in the General Assembly’s 2016 session. Last year’s bill passed both the House and the Senate but was vetoed by McAuliffe. The House fell one vote short of overriding the governor’s veto.

HB 2264 passed the House 60-33 on Feb. 7 and the Senate 20-19 on Feb. 14.

For women’s rights advocates, McAuliffe’s veto comes as a relief. Republicans would have to muster a two-thirds majority in each chamber – 67 votes in the House and 27 in the Senate – to override the veto.

“Defunding Planned Parenthood is a blatant attempt to deny women access to the full range of reproductive health care services, and Virginia women won’t stand for it,” said Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia, a liberal advocacy group.

“Politicians in Richmond don’t get to decide where women get their health care and what kind of services they receive, and we’re glad that Gov. McAuliffe agrees.”

For Third year, governor vetoes ‘Tebow bill’

By Amy Lee, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Monday vetoed the so-called Tebow bill that would have allowed home-schooled students to participate in high school sports.

“Participation in athletic and academic competitions is a privilege for students who satisfy eligibility requirements,” McAuliffe wrote in vetoing HB 1578, sponsored by Del. Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville. “Opening participation in those competitions to individuals who are not required to satisfy the same criteria codifies academic inequality in interscholastic competition.”

This is the third consecutive year that Bell has shepherded such legislation through the General Assembly only to be stopped at the governor’s office.

The bill was nicknamed after former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who played football for a Florida high school while being home-schooled. The bill would have allowed high schools to join only interscholastic programs that welcomed home-schooled student athletes. If the bill had been enacted, the Virginia High School League would have had to implement policy changes to include home-schoolers alongside their public-school counterparts.

HB 1578 had passed the House 60-38 and the Senate 22-18. Earlier in the session, McAuliffe had announced his intention to veto the legislation. The governor has consistently joined opponents of the bill in saying that home-schooled students are not be held to the same academic expectations set for public school student athletes.

Bell’s latest bill had sought to address that concern. It said home-schoolers would have to pass standardized tests and demonstrate “evidence of progress” in their academic curriculum for two years before qualifying to play in a local high school’s sports team. They would also be expected to meet the same immunization standards set by public schools.

In addition, under HB 1578, each school district would have had the right to decide whether home-school students would be welcome in its high school sports programs. This measure was meant to accommodate schools critical of the change. But opponents like Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, said it would only complicate the system even more.

“The bottom line is, once Virginia High School League changes its policy, every school division is going to have to match up with it, because nobody is going to want to compete with half a loaf,” Petersen said. “I’ve got some coaches in the audience that are here for state-winning championship teams, and I know what they would say, not on the merits of the bill, but simply that everyone has to play by the same set of rules.”

As a result of McAuliffe’s veto, the bill heads back to the General Assembly. It will require a two-thirds majority vote from both the House and Senate to override the veto.

Bell has pushed similar legislation since 2005 and says his efforts are to make sure children who thrive in home-schooling environments are not punished for it.

“If you are a parent and your kid doesn’t fit into the public-school curriculum right now, you can go private or you can go home-schooling, except many places, including a county I represent, have very limited private school options,” Bell said. “Yet we’re forcing parents to say, ‘You can have football, or you can have the education that you want.’”

McAuliffe vetoes 2 concealed weapons bills

By Megan Corsano, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed two bills Monday relating to concealed weapons – one involving handgun permits and the other pertaining to switchblade knives.

The first bill, HB 1582, would have allowed members of the military over the age of 18 to apply for concealed handgun permits if they are on active duty or had an honorable discharge and had received basic training.

The current law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 to purchase a handgun from a licensed dealer.

The governor said in his veto message that the bill “reflects an incomplete understanding of weapons qualification practices within our military and is an unwarranted expansion in the number of people allowed to carry handguns in the Commonwealth.”

“It would do nothing to protect the safety of our citizens,” McAuliffe said.

HB 1582 ended up on the governor’s desk after a 78-19 vote in the House of Delegates and a 24-15 vote in the Virginia Senate.

The governor defended the veto by saying that under the bill, “An individual who has completed basic training but who subsequently was disqualified (for medical or other reasons) from having access to weapons could nevertheless apply for a concealed handgun permit.”

McAuliffe said the decision to veto the bill was made after consulting military leadership and isn’t a reflection of his respect and support for the members of the armed forces.

The second bill the governor vetoed, HB 1432, would have legalized the carrying of a concealed switchblade knife “when it is carried for the purpose of engaging in a lawful profession or lawful recreational activity the performance of which is aided by the knife.”

According to the governor’s veto message, “lawful profession” and “recreational activity” are not defined by Virginia law. As a result, McAuliffe said, enforcing the law would be a challenge.

The bill would have also removed switchblades from the list of weapons that are illegal to sell or trade in the commonwealth.

“Legalizing the concealed carry of switchblade knives would needlessly endanger the lives of Virginians,” McAuliffe said.

The bill had passed the House in a 57-39 vote and the Senate with a 23-16 vote.

McAuliffe seeks funding for mental health screenings in jails

By Tyler Hammel, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe urged Virginia legislators on Friday to include in the state budget funding to conduct mental health screenings in jails and to hire investigators to examine suspicious jail deaths.

In a meeting with reporters, McAuliffe addressed a topic that many law enforcement and mental health experts say is critical: About 16 percent of Virginia’s jail inmates were “known or suspected to be mentally ill,” according to a study last June.

“We need someone in those jails who can determine if someone has an issue with mental health,” McAuliffe said at a news briefing. In a letter to legislative leaders, he called on the General Assembly to approve his budget request for $4.2 million “to provide for training of jail staff in mental health screening and to provide grants to jails for mental health assessments.”

McAuliffe also asked for $200,000 for the Virginia Department of Corrections to hire two investigators “to review deaths and other major situations in local and regional jails.”

The request for the investigators was spurred by the death of Jamycheal Mitchell in 2015. Mitchell, who suffered from schizophrenia, was placed in the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth after stealing about $5 of snacks from a 7-Eleven. Although a judge ordered that Mitchell, 24, be sent to a psychiatric hospital, he ended up staying in the jail for four months, losing 40 pounds, until he was found dead in his cell.

McAuliffe had asked for money for jail death investigators and mental health services in jails in the proposed budget that he submitted to the General Assembly in December. Both the House and Senate eliminated the money for mental health screenings. The House eliminated both investigator positions; the Senate kept one.

To fund the requests, McAuliffe proposed cutting funding for an upcoming commemoration of historical events at Jamestown. In 2019, the state will mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of the House of Burgesses at Jamestown, as well as the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the English colonies.

The budgets being prepared by the House and Senate would provide $10 million for promoting and hosting the commemorative activities. McAuliffe suggested cutting that amount in half, to $5 million.

McAuliffe generally praised House and Senate leaders on the budgets they have crafted. Lawmakers still must work out differences in a conference committee and have both chambers approval a final budget before the legislative session ends Feb. 25.

Legislators must revise the second year of the $105 billion budget that the General Assembly adopted in 2016. That’s because tax revenues fell short of projections, causing a shortfall of more than $1 billion.

Both legislative bodies and McAuliffe agree that state employees and teachers deserve more compensation; however, they have proposed different ways to achieve this.

McAuliffe suggested a one-time, 1.5 percent bonus for state employees. The House and Senate proposed a 3 percent pay raise for state employees, with a targeted increase for state police, Capitol police and sheriff’s deputies.

The Senate budget sets aside about $83 million to give K-12 teachers a 2 percent raise. In contrast, the House proposed taking $62 million from the state lottery and giving to local school boards to use for teacher pensions or salaries.

“While each chamber has chosen its own method for addressing teacher compensation, I applaud both for keeping our teachers in the mix for discussion during conference,” McAuliffe wrote in his letter.

He said education was another area of agreement.

I am especially pleased to see that we agree on the need to protect public education from any programmatic reductions in funding,” McAuliffe’s letter said. “Public education is the backbone of a growing economy and our collective actions have demonstrated its priority and our shared commitment to protect public education from the effects of slow revenue growth.”

In his session with reporters, McAuliffe said Virginia’s budget situation is complicated by uncertainties in Washington over federal funding for Medicaid, the health care program for low-income Americans.

The federal Affordable Care Act encouraged states to expand Medicaid. But President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress have vowed to repeal the ACA. This might involve replacing Medicaid with block grants to the states.

Virginia did not expand Medicaid under the ACA. The non-expansion states might receive smaller block grants than the states that expanded Medicaid, McAuliffe said.

“If they block-grant Medicaid, that is very problematic for the commonwealth of Virginia,” he said.

Gov. McAuliffe vows to veto anti-LGBT legislation

By Megan Schiffres, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe vowed to veto any bill that discriminates against LGBTQ people at a reception hosted Tuesday night by Equality Virginia. McAuliffe has vetoed 71 bills during his two years as governor, none of which have been overturned.

“It’s not about doing the most vetoes of any governor in Virginia history,” McAuliffe said. “We’re stopping people from doing things that discriminate against people’s basic rights.”

The governor said he had slated another 35 bills for veto this session.

“They’ve slipped a few bills through, but they’re not going to slip through the governor’s office. I’m going to veto them,” said McAuliffe, a Democrat in the final year of his term.

Democrats criticized Republicans for approving SB 1324, which passed the Senate on a 21-19 party-line vote Tuesday.

The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Charles Carrico, R-Grayson. Supporters describe it as a religious freedom bill, saying it would protect people and organizations that oppose same-sex marriages. However, Democrats say the measure would give people and organizations the right to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples.

“Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity has absolutely no place in the commonwealth, and I am disappointed that a Republican-majority in the Senate approved SB 1324 today,” said Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor this year.

“I recently took a seven-city tour across the commonwealth that ended in Salem, where I was proud to welcome the NCAA soccer tournament. That championship was relocated from North Carolina, as was the NBA All-Star game and major businesses. To be economically competitive, we have to be open and welcoming to all. I will continue to advocate for equality for all.”

Clay Xix attended the Equality Virginia reception as a representative of Access AIDS Care and the LGBT Center of Hampton Roads. Earlier during Equality Virginia’s annual Day of Action, Xix tried to persuade legislators to oppose SB 1324 and a companion bill, HB 2025, sponsored by Del. Nicholas Freitas, R-Culpeper.

“It’s our people who have been constantly discriminated against time and again – barred access to jobs, one wrong hand motion in an interview and you’re out, one ‘hey, girl, hey’ in the office and you’re fired. I mean, this is what we live with,” Xix said.

Twenty-seven members of the Virginia General Assembly attended the reception, including Del. Mark Levine, D-Fairfax, whose bill prohibiting LGBT discrimination in public employment, public accommodations and housing (HB 2129) was recently defeated in the House. This was the second year in a row Levine has proposed the legislation, and he says it won’t be the last.

“I think it’s really important for the people I represent to know I’m out there fighting even when it’s not going to succeed, because if you give up before you try, you never succeed,” Levine said.

As one of two openly gay men in the Virginia House of Delegates, Levine said such bills are important even when they fail because they can change the way LGBT people are thought of and treated.

“It’s not just about the rare lawsuit,” Levine said. “It’s about having people be confident enough that if they do choose to come out, they’re not going to be kicked out in the street, they’re not going to lose their employment, they’re not going to lose their job.”

Del. Mark Sickles, D-Alexandria, the other openly gay Virginia delegate, also proposed pro-LGBT legislation this session that was defeated in committee. HB 1395would have repealed the statutory prohibitions on same-sex marriages and civil unions in the Code of Virginia, and given the public the opportunity to vote on same-sex marriage in 2018.

Even though the laws Sickles is trying to repeal are no longer valid after the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, his bill was defeated by the House Courts of Justice Committee.

“The only way we’re going to get fair treatment, gay and lesbian people, is to let the people speak out. And it’s not going to be through this gerrymandering system that we have here. The system is rigged – it truly is,” Sickles said.

Gov. McAuliffe addresses Virginia Jewish Advocacy Day

By Amelia Heymann, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Members of Jewish communities from across the state gathered in Richmond on Wednesday to talk to their elected representatives about issues such as religious freedom, anti-Semitism and support for Israel.

It was the 15th year that the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond has hosted Virginia Jewish Advocacy Day. As part of the event, Gov. Terry McAuliffe gave an afternoon speech to the group at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

“Our legislators thank us each year for voting and for caring about our system of governance in Virginia,” said Frances Goldman, co-chair of the federation’s Jewish Community Relations Committee.

“We are proud to continue this tradition with the current administration in Virginia, which has been very supportive of the matters of concern to the metropolitan Richmond Jewish community.”

McAuliffe used the opportunity to boast of his successes as a governor, such as reducing the state’s unemployment rate from 5.4 percent to 3.7 percent. He said the commonwealth would remain welcome and opening.

“I will not tolerate any discrimination against any individual based on religion, sexual orientation – nothing will be tolerated,” McAuliffe said. The governor said his position was not just about acceptance but also about the economy.

“I say this because as a key job creator for the commonwealth, you can’t bring jobs in if you discriminate,” McAuliffe said. “I just got back from the West Coast. I met with Apple, I met with Google, I met with Facebook. I’m going to be clear, folks: They are not bringing a facility to a state that discriminates.”

McAuliffe probably wanted to mention his work against discrimination because it falls within the four primary issues of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond. Those issues are:

  • Promoting religious freedom and the separation of church and state
  • Supporting a democratic, strong and peaceful Israel as the homeland and nation-state of the Jewish people
  • Eradicating all forms of racism and anti-Semitism
  • Ensuring the safety and well-being of Jewish agencies, organizations and individuals in the Richmond community and environs

McAuliffe is a supporter of the American Jewish Committee’s Governors United Against BDS campaign. (BDS stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions – economic pressures that some critics of the Israeli government advocating applying on Israel.) In 2016, the governor made a trip to Israel to promote business relations between the commonwealth and the nation-state.

In his speech, McAuliffe criticized President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning people from seven mostly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

“It’s not good for Virginia, and it’s clearly not good for Israel,” McAuliffe said. “Discrimination breeds hatred. You can color it any way you want, but when you do that, ISIS is now using this as a recruiting tool.”

However, the day wasn’t all speeches and one-sided listening. Jewish Advocacy Day is about members of the Jewish community meeting one on one with their governmental representatives.

“Overwhelmingly, the day is focused around discussion and cooperation – making sure we have a voice and a relationship that’s a two-way street,” said Doni Fogel, director of Jewish Community Relations and Israel and Overseas Programming for the JCFR.

Jewish Advocacy Day was organized by four groups: the JCFR, the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, the Virginia Office of the Jewish Relations Council of Greater Washington and the United Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula. The event was co-hosted by JCFR and the local Richmond chapter of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.

“I’d like to stress the cooperation that exists between the different communities across Virginia,” Fogel said. “There’s a certain impact that 50 people make when they attend meetings, but there’s a different impact when 200 people come together to support advocacy in a united way.”

Advocates applaud governor’s vow to veto anti-’sanctuary’ bills

 

By Rodrigo Arriaza, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Advocates for undocumented immigrants are praising Gov. Terry McAuliffe after his promise to veto Republican-backed legislation prohibiting local governments from becoming “sanctuary cities.”

Progress Virginia and New Virginia Majority, which advocate for the rights of undocumented immigrants, criticized bills passed by the House and Senate on party-line votes this week. The bills state that localities must not restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws and must cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The governor’s spokesman, Brian Coy, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that McAuliffe would veto any measure forcing localities to enforce federal immigration laws. Coy said the governor views the bills as “attempts to divide and demonize people.”

Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority, praised that statement.

“In the face of attempts from D.C. to divide our communities, it’s more important than ever that we celebrate diversity and remain open and welcoming to immigrants,” Nguyen said.

“People come to America from around the world to seek a better life and flee war, persecution, poverty and so much more. Thank you to Gov. McAuliffe for standing up for every Virginian and pledging to veto these outrageous attacks.”

McAuliffe vowed to veto two immigration-related bills:

  • HB 2000, sponsored by Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Franklin County, would prohibit any city in the state from declaring itself as a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. Sanctuary cities like New York City, Chicago and San Francisco have promised not to cooperate with ICE in detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants. The House passed the bill, 66-33, on Tuesday.
  • SB 1262, sponsored by Sen. Richard Black, R-Loudoun, would make a sanctuary city liable for “tortious injury to persons or property caused by an illegal alien within such locality.” The Senate approved the measure, 21-19, on Monday.

In defense of his bill, Black said that he believes sanctuary policies serve as a “shield” for undocumented criminals.

“Under this bill, if you have a jurisdiction that’s deliberately gone out to harbor whatever murderers, robbers, drunk drivers – people who are subject to deportation by federal immigration law, and they set up a shield for them to avoid federal law – then the victims who suffer from that policy will have the opportunity to be reimbursed by that locality,” Black said.

Democratic Sen. Richard Saslaw of Fairfax County disputed Black’s statement.

“The reference that all these counties are harboring all these murderers and armed robbers and rapists and the variety – implying that basically that’s what undocumented people are – to put it mildly is sheer nonsense,” Saslaw said.

Black said the intent of his bill is to make sure federal laws are being enforced.

“What it does is, it prevents the situation that is becoming increasingly common throughout the country, where you have localities that say, ‘We don’t care what the federal law says, we don’t like federal immigration law, and we invite people to come here and we’re going to shield you from legal process,’” Black said.

The governor’s statement to veto such legislation comes days after Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, former secretary of the commonwealth under McAuliffe, signed a directive affirming that the Richmond Police Department will not consent to participate with ICE and will not ask suspects and detainees about their immigration status.

“In our interactions as representatives of our city, all employees will focus on the needs and safety of our residents, not on their legal status, and will advocate and promote their wellbeing,” Stoney said in his mayoral directive.

Anna Scholl, executive director for Progress Virginia, said McAuliffe’s promise to veto the anti-sanctuary legislation shows that Virginia will not follow in the footsteps of anti-immigrant policies being put in place by the Trump administration.

“While politicians in D.C. try to slam the door shut on immigrants and refugees, Gov. McAuliffe is clearly standing up to say, ‘You are welcome here,’” Scholl said. “We applaud the governor for rejecting divisive proposals born out of fear that would close our doors to friends and neighbors.”

First veteran hired for Military Medics Program

By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe celebrated Monday the announcement of Virginia Military Medics and Corpsmen Program’s first hire, Jeffery Filler.

The Virginia MMAC program is the first of its kind in the nation. The program employs veterans, giving them the opportunity to utilize their medical training acquired during active duty service.

“This is important, this is the next step when we talk about what we need to do to make Virginia the most veteran friendly state in American,” McAuliffe said.

This is not a partisan issue, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam said. The bill creating Virginia MMAC was introduced by Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria, and passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate during the 2016 General Assembly session.

This is part of a larger effort to make Virginia a veteran- and military-friendly state.

Northam cited previous efforts including the Virginia Values Veterans Program, which aims to train employers on how to recruit, hire and retain veterans.

Virginia’s full-time veteran employment rate is 87.2 percent – the highest in the nation, state officials said. Virginia is also first in veteran labor growth rate, according to the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs and Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“This is a new, innovative pathway, and this is just the beginning,” McAuliffe said.

Chesapeake Regional Healthcare is the first health care system to hire a veteran through the program.

“We understand the value veterans bring to the health care field, and we’re very proud to be a part of that,” said Dr. Alton Stocks, former interim CEO of Chesapeake Regional Healthcare and a former U.S. Navy Medical Corps officer.

Stocks said that when he heard about the program, he knew Chesapeake Regional Healthcare was the perfect place to launch it. The medical center’s staff is about 9 percent veterans, Stocks said.

Filler’s chosen path will be in anesthesia. He will work as an anesthesia technician while earning his civilian certification. Filler served in the United States Navy with distinction. He was honorably discharged in April 2016 just after the governor signed the bill.

“Politicians – a lot of times you see them roll out, they’re at military events, they’re with veterans. A lot of them love to be able to use the flag, our veterans and our active duty at different events. But here in Virginia, we love and honor and respect those who’ve served,” McAuliffe said.

The governor said the program holds special importance to him. He is the father of a Marine and the son of a World War II veteran.

Northam attended Virginia Military Institute and served eight years active-duty in the U.S. Army.

Governor McAuliffe Announces Construction of Virginia’s Largest Solar Farm

~New 100MW solar facility to be built in Southampton County~

RICHMONDToday Governor McAuliffe announced a new utility-scale solar facility to be built in Southampton County. The 100MW project, under development by Community Energy Solar, will avoid the release of 134,377 tons of carbon dioxide, 631 tons of sulfur dioxide, 315 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 12 tons of particulate matter annually.

“Once complete, the new Southampton facility will be the largest solar farm ever constructed in Virginia,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe. “The pace of solar deployment has increased exponentially in recent years and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. With projects like this, we’re building both the new Virginia economy and a better future for our children.”

Since 1999, Pennsylvania-based Community Energy Solar has developed more than 1,500MW of solar and wind power. The developer’s past projects include, what was until this point, Virginia’s largest solar installation, the 80MW Amazon Solar Farm U.S. East in Accomack County. Amazon Web Services, a leader in the growing field of cloud computing, will purchase power from both facilities as part of their global effort to achieve carbon neutrality.

Community Energy Solar builds long-term relationships by delivering energy options that work for customers, investors and utilities. Their projects build on community trust and utility expertise to bring reliable, high-quality solar energy projects to market. Community Energy has a ten-year plus track record of renewable energy development, resulting in $1.5 billion of new energy investment.

"Amazon Web Services’ leadership and continued commitment to large scale solar energy is a key catalyst for this exciting new industry in Virginia.” said Brent Beerley, Executive VP of Community Energy Solar. “Community Energy Solar is thrilled to join forces again with partners AWS and Dominion for this second project, following the path created with Virginia’s first large scale solar farm - the Amazon Solar Farm US East in Accomack County.”

McAuliffe boasts Virginia employment records

By Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – After giving a report at a meeting of the National Governors Association this week, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he is proud of how well Virginia is doing economically.

“I just gave the State of the State, and I almost feel bad for those other 49 governors. I don’t know what they do every day because we live in the greatest state in the greatest nation on Earth,” McAuliffe said at the Virginia Municipal League Day at the Capitol.

Virginia has reached its highest level of employment in history, with more than 4.2 million workers in the commonwealth, McAuliffe said.

The state’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.1 percent in December, and in 2016, it hit a 40-year low.

“I’m most proud that when I took office, our unemployment rate was 5.4 percent, and we got it all the way down to 3.7,” McAuliffe said. (The unemployment rate was 3.7 percent from May to July in 2016.)

But not every locality has benefited from job growth. While the statewide unemployment rate has been low, areas like Dickenson and Buchanan counties still face jobless rates above 9 percent. Northern Virginia accounts for 37 percent of all employment in Virginia.

A report issued by Old Dominion University in December found that while Virginia’s economy is improving, it has not kept pace with national growth.

McAuliffe said he maintains his commitment to bringing jobs to the state, and there are even jobs that are not being filled. There were 149,000 technology jobs open last year, and currently 36,000 cybersecurity jobs are available.

The governor told parents to guide their children toward the open technology jobs, which have a starting salary of $88,000.

“Next week I have a major announcement, out of a major California corporation that is deserting California and moving their corporate headquarters here,” McAuliffe said in Wednesday’s speech.

He did not reveal the name of the company because of a non-disclosure agreement, but insists it’s a name everyone will know.

Republicans don’t think the governor has done such a good job with the economy. They note that Virginia has fallen on the list of the best states for business. GOP lawmakers have called for legislation that they say would help restore the commonwealth’s No. 1 ranking.

McAuliffe says the key to bringing jobs to Virginia is to ensure that Virginia remains an open and welcoming state.

“I hope we have a good General Assembly session here. I’m going to veto some bills. Obviously I’m going to veto any bill that discriminates anybody. You know there’s an abortion bill – I’m going to veto that,” McAuliffe said.

This is not the first time McAuliffe has vowed to veto discriminatory or divisive bills. He previously stated his commitment to vetoing the HB 1473, which would ban most abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation. The bill is pending before a House committee.

McAuliffe boasts a 71-0 record on vetoes. He said this will not be the year the General Assembly starts overriding his vetoes.

“I will be very clear, folks, you have zero chance of getting a business to come to your state if you put walls up around your state. Leave people alone. Be open and welcoming to everybody,” McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe Vows to Veto Anti-Abortion Bills

By Jessica Nolte and Megan Schiffres, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe spoke Thursday in support of legislation proposed by members of the Women’s Health Care Caucus and vowed to veto bills he believes would endanger women’s reproductive rights.

McAuliffe said legislators should learn from controversies in North Carolina following the passage of what he called “socially divisive bills.” McAuliffe said he told the General Assembly not to send him these types of bills because they have no chance of becoming law.

“I have sent a strong message already. They have an abortion bill, a 20-week abortion bill, that was signed on by, I think, eight members of the General Assembly. I have made it very clear I will veto it. That bill has zero chance of becoming law in the commonwealth of Virginia,” McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe also criticized the “Day of Tears” resolution, passed by the House on Wednesday, to make the anniversary of Roe v. Wade a day of mourning in Virginia.

The governor said the resolution signals that Virginia is not open or welcoming. He said it alienates women and sends a message around the United States that Virginia does not treat women with respect. The Day of Tears resolution is not a law so it cannot be vetoed by the governor.

Members of the Women’s Health Care Caucus thanked the governor and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a fellow Democrat, for their continued support of women’s health care rights.

Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, recalled when Republican legislators proposed a bill requiring women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound exam before having an abortion. Favola said it was Northam, a physician, who gave senators a health lesson and helped show that the bill met the state’s definition of rape.

“It sure is terrific to have a wall in the governor’s mansion, but we can’t be sure that’s going to continue so we have to do everything we can now,” said Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax.

The Virginia General Assembly has proposed more than 75 restrictions on women’s reproductive health care since 2010, said Democratic Del. Jennifer Boysko, who represents Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

“Laws that restrict a woman’s access to abortion harm the very women they claim to help,” Boysko said.

Safe and legal abortions are vital to comprehensive reproductive health care for women and must be protected, Boysko said.

“Virginia laws restricting access to abortion create sharp disparities in access to care that are troubling, reminiscent of the time before Roe v. Wade,” Boysko said. “A time when access depended on a woman’s economic status, her race, where she lives or her ability to travel to another state.”

The caucus has proposed several bills to protect women’s reproductive health, including:

  • HB 1563, which would remove classifications that require facilities that perform at least five first-trimester abortions a month to comply with minimum standards for hospitals.
  • HB 2186, which would ensure that women have a fundamental right to a lawful abortion and that no statute or regulation would prohibit an abortion prior to the fetus’ viability or to protect the health or life of the woman.
  • HB 2267, which would require health benefit plans to cover up to a 12-month supply of hormonal contraceptives to be dispensed at one time.

Republicans are pursuing measures reflecting their pro-life stance. The House is considering a bill (HB 1473) that generally would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks. The 20-week cutoff was chosen because that’s approximately when a fetus begins to feel pain, said Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock.

“I know that there’s always an attempt to frame this as purely a women’s health issue, but for those of us who are adamantly pro-life, this is also a baby’s health issue,” Gilbert said.

The bill provides exceptions only for a medical condition that could cause death or substantial and irreversible physical impairment, not including psychological or emotional conditions.

When asked about the bills supported by the Women’s Health Care Caucus, Jeff Ryer, spokesperson for the Senate Republican Caucus, said that he could not comment without knowing the specifics of the legislation.

“All that being said, generally speaking the 21 members of the Senate Republican Caucus are pro-life and vote accordingly,” Ryer said.

Gov. McAuliffe to Join March on Washington

By Jessica Nolte and Megan Schiffres, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe plans to attend the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, when thousands of people are expected to protest Donald Trump’s presidency.

McAuliffe said that he will not attend Trump’s inauguration on Friday but that he has written a letter to the incoming U.S. president and looks forward to working with him on issues that matter to Virginia.

“I will be here working all day doing what the taxpayers are paying me to do, and on Saturday I do have a little free time in the morning, so I will use that time to go up to Washington to do the march,” McAuliffe said Thursday.

McAuliffe said he hopes his presence at the march will send a strong signal to everyone that Virginia is open to everyone. He hopes it will encourage people to move their businesses and their families to the commonwealth.

“Women’s rights have been something that have been fundamental to the core of my being,” McAuliffe said.

His announcement came during a press conference for the Women’s Health Care Caucus. At the event, the governor vowed to veto any bill that he believes would undermine the reproductive rights of Virginia women. McAuliffe criticized Republican proposals that would restrict abortion rights and a resolution passed by the House to declare a day of mourning in Virginia on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

McAuliffe said he will be marching in Washington alongside his wife Dorothy, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington say they hope to “send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights.”The permit application for the march estimated that the event would draw about 200,000 participants.

Governor McAuliffe Pushes for Easier Voting

By Julie Rothey, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Currently, to vote absentee in Virginia, you must cite a specific excuse, such as attending college or having a disability.

But if Gov. Terry McAuliffe has his way, the state would expand the list of excuses to include people caring for children or for an ill or disabled individual and anyone without reliable transportation. Better yet, McAuliffe says, Virginians should be able to vote absentee without having to give an excuse.

McAuliffe is urging the General Assembly to approve those proposals during the legislative session that began Wednesday.

The Democratic governor, in the final year of his term, discussed the proposals at a news conference Tuesday. “These reforms will make it easier for Virginians to have a say in their democracy and boost their confidence that politicians are working for the public good, not their own,” he said.

Right now, to vote absentee in person, a voter must meet one of “13 arbitrary rules” that also apply to mail-in absentee voting, McAuliffe said. For example, caregivers must be related to the individual they care for to vote absentee under current law.

Besides expanding the list of excuses to vote absentee, McAuliffe urged lawmakers to approve “no-excuse, in-person absentee voting.” He called for “legislation that permits any registered voter of the commonwealth to vote absentee in-person beginning 21 days before an election until 5 p.m. on the Saturday before the election,” with the same check-in procedures as on Election Day.

McAuliffe also said he wants to repeal Virginia’s photo identification requirements for voters.

Those who passed this law “hung on the charade of voter fraud,” McAuliffe said. But he added, “Here in the commonwealth of Virginia, there is not a shred of voter fraud evidence.”

Republicans have strongly supported requiring voters to show a photo ID. Ed Gillespie, a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor in this year’s election, criticized McAuliffe’s proposal to eliminate the photo ID mandate.

McAuliffe’s recommendation “is out-of-step with the people of the commonwealth,” Gillespie said in a news release Tuesday.

The photo identification requirement “secures the integrity of our elections and guarantees fair and equitable ballot access for all voters, despite the alarmist and false rhetoric of some,” Gillespie said. He promised to protect the existing law if he were elected governor.

Several Democratic lawmakers have submitted legislation to carry out McAuliffe’s proposals to make voting easier:

●     Del. Richard “Rip” Sullivan of Arlington is sponsoring House Bill 1603, which would entitle “a person to vote absentee if the person is unable to go in person to the polls on the day of the election because he is primarily and personally responsible for the care of an ill or disabled individual who is confined at home.”

●     Del. Betsy Carr of Richmond is sponsoring HB 1935, to establish no-excuse, in-person absentee voting.

●     Sen. Janet Howell of Reston has filed Senate Bill 845, to expand absentee voting for caregivers, and SB 844, to provide for no-excuse, in-person absentee voting.

●     Del. Steve Heretick of Portsmouth has submitted a bill (HB 1904) to repeal the requirement that voters show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot.

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, thanked the governor for pushing to end the voter identification requirement. But she asked for a greater reduction in absentee voting restrictions.

“If Virginia law limits no-excuse absentee voting to in-person only, qualified voters may be excluded from participating based upon a lack of readily accessible transportation, geography, income status, physical disabilities, and the constraints of modern-day individuals and families," she said in a letter to McAuliffe.

First lady Dorothy McAuliffe and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam also spoke at the news conference. Northam, who is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, stressed his desire for a bipartisan effort to make it easier to vote.

However, this cooperation seems unlikely as two Republican lawmakers are seeking to expand the photo identification requirement to Virginians who want to vote absentee by mail.

HB 1428 by Del. Buddy Fowler of Ashland and SB 872 by Sen. Amanda Chase of Midlothian would require “any voter submitting an application for an absentee ballot by mail or by electronic or telephonic transmission to a facsimile device to submit with his application a copy of one of the forms of identification acceptable under current law.”

“The bill also requires any voter to submit a copy of such identification with his voted absentee ballot. The bill exempts military and overseas voters and persons with a disability from these requirements,” according to the Legislative Information Service.

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