Friday September 30, 2016
By AUDREY THOMASSON, Rappahannock Record (Paywall)
“We’ve got to open up all of our communities to make sure we have broadband,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Monday in his address at the governor’s annual Summit on Rural Prosperity at the Tides Inn. While Gov. McAuliffe focused on the challenges and solutions for growing rural Virginia’s economy, central to his message is the need for broadband, which he said is key to making sure 21,500 jobs created in Virginia in the past two months reach rural areas.
By NOLAN STOUT, Daily News Record (Subscription Required)
Rockingham County wants the General Assembly to grant counties the same tax privileges as cities. The Board of Supervisors passed a resolution at its meeting Wednesday requesting counties receive the same ability to change meals taxes without a referendum, a power Virginia cities already possess.
By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)
Republican businessman Pete Snyder said Thursday that he will not run for office in 2017 and will instead back former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie for governor. Snyder, a Northern Virginia technology entrepreneur mentioned as a possible candidate for governor or the U.S. Senate seat that would come open if Democrat Tim Kaine becomes vice president, announced his intentions during a radio interview with conservative talk-show host John Fredericks and in an online video released simultaneously.
By BROOKE BLANEY , The Breeze
A JMU student allegedly committed voter fraud recently using the identities of deceased people while working to register voters through HarrisonburgVOTES. “He turned in 19 voters to the registrar [of] folks that were deceased,” said a source with HarrisonburgVOTES, who wished to remain anonymous to avoid connecting the accused student with any campus organizations.
By TONY BROWN , Daily News Record (Subscription Required)
A James Madison University student under federal investigation for turning in voter-registration applications in the names of 19 dead people is now accused of having made a dumb mistake: using the identity of a prominent citizen, which was immediately recognized by an assistant city registrar in August.
By LAURA VOZZELLA, Washington Post
RICHMOND — The FBI and local police are investigating how at least 19 dead Virginians were recently re-registered to vote in this critical swing state. One case came to light after relatives of a deceased man received a note congratulating him for registering, Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha Garst said Thursday.
By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)
Harrisonburg officials and the FBI are investigating allegations of voter registration fraud after officials say almost 20 voter applications were turned in under the names of dead people. Harrisonburg Registrar Debbie Logan said Thursday that investigators have found from 18 to 20 potentially fraudulent registrations. The Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office confirmed Thursday that an investigation is underway, but offered no additional details on the case.
By TRAVIS FAIN, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)
House Republicans pointed to a voter registration fraud investigation in Harrisonburg Thursday as evidence that Virginia's voter ID law is needed. A James Madison University student, according to local media reports, turned in false registration forms, prompting an inquiry from local police and the FBI.
By NORMAN LEAHY AMERICAN MEDIA INSTITUTE, Sun Gazette
Republican leaders told reporters on Thursday that an alleged case of voter fraud in Harrisonburg, Virginia proves that those who say voter fraud is a myth are "being naive." Earlier this month, Andrew Spieles, a student at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, confessed to authorities he had filed voter registration forms for as many as 19 deceased individuals, including the father of a retired Virginia judge.
By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE AND RACHEL SHOREY, New York Times
Democrats denounced it as an assault on democracy and a sop to billionaires when the Supreme Court issued a ruling two years ago that loosened limits on campaign giving. But Hillary Clinton and Democratic Party leaders are now exploiting the decision, funneling tens of millions of dollars from their wealthiest donors into a handful of presidential swing states. ...The shift has allowed the national Democratic Party to overcome a cash shortage and provide Democrats in key states like Virginia and North Carolina with money for early voting drives, additional staff and canvassing aimed up and down the ticket.
By CHRIS SUAREZ CHRIS SUAREZ , Daily Progress
Candidates at Wednesday’s 5th Congressional District debate expressed some reservations about lawmakers’ decision to override the president’s veto of a bill that will allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue a sovereign nation they believe may have had a role in the attacks on American soil 15 years ago. ... “I think there should be legal recourse,” said 5th District candidate and state Sen. Tom Garrett Jr., R-Buckingham. “However, I think President [Barack] Obama’s grounds for having vetoed that legislation are sound.”
By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)
The Virginia Department of Corrections has agreed to pay a secret supplier of lethal injection drugs $16,500 per execution under a new state contract, more than 30 times higher than what prison officials say they would have had to pay last year for a supply of chemicals sufficient for one execution. In early 2015, an equivalent batch of drugs would have cost $525.14, according to the Department of Corrections. In 2013 and 2014, a batch would have cost a little less than $250, according to the agency, which calculated the costs by reviewing past invoices.
By SARAH KLEINER , Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)
Correctional officers in the unit at Hampton Roads Regional Jail where Jamycheal Mitchell was held last year were required to check on the inmates every 30 minutes. The day Mitchell died, more than 90 minutes elapsed between his last check and the moment a guard found his lifeless body on the concrete floor of his cell, according to video released last week by Norfolk Sheriff Robert McCabe, the interim superintendent of the Portsmouth-based jail.
After a preliminary injunction was held last Tuesday, September 20, following a complaint filed by Kristin M. Hicks to the Westmoreland County Circuit Court concerning her removal as the county’s General Registrar and Director of Elections, the Honorable Judge Herbert M. Hewitt declared Wednesday, September 21, that Hicks be reinstated to her position—effective immediately.
By LELAND SCHWARTZ, Fauquier Times
You can imagine how surprised and chagrined Fauquier County General Registrar Alex Ables was when he got a letter at home saying he might not be registered to vote. “You may not realize it, but voter registration records in Virginia are public. A member of our staff has reviewed them and found that you may not be currently registered to vote in this year’s election,” a letter from America’s Future Inc. warned.
By EMILY BROWN, Nelson County Times
While an ounce doesn’t seem like much to the average person, to Nelson County distilleries, the tiny volume makes all the difference. Identical Virginia Senate and House of Delegates bills, SB 536 and HB 1350, were passed by 91-7 and 33-6 votes, respectively, during the 2016 General Assembly. They allow distilleries to sell up to 3 ounces of spirits per person per day. Previously, the limit was 2 ounces. More importantly, the owners and CEOs of two local distilleries say, is the ability to sell full cocktails
By JANE HAMMOND, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)
The state is set to soon unveil a new tool for parents to learn more about their child's school. The "School Quality Profiles" will replace the "School Performance Report Card," a measure that was first used in 1999. "Report cards" are posted online and include data about each school, school division and the state overall. The redesigned profiles, required by 2015 legislation, include the same data as the report cards: Standards of Learning pass rates, accreditation ratings, enrollment figures.
By MORIAH BALINGIT, Washington Post
More than 90 percent of Virginia’s high school Class of 2016 graduated on time, the highest rate recorded since the state changed how it tracks high school graduations nearly a decade ago. The on-time graduation rate rose from 90.5 percent last year to 91.3 percent this year, continuing an upward trend since the state started keeping more accurate data in 2008, keeping closer tabs on transfer students and dropouts who were sometimes miscategorized in state data.
By BRIAN TROMPETER, Sun Gazette
It seemed like a storybook reunion: A former chamber of commerce president is rehired at his old stomping grounds in an effort to revitalize the group. But Francis Gary Powers Jr., hired in January as acting president of the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce, was fired by the group’s board in April and has filed a lawsuit claiming chamber leaders dismissed him after he blew the whistle regarding practices he believes are dubious.
By JOHN REID BLACKWELL, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)
One of the Richmond area’s homegrown craft beer makers is expanding its operations into another region of the state. Strangeways Brewing, which opened a brewery and tasting room in Henrico County in 2013 that now gets about 100,000 visitors a year, is planning to invest more than $2.5 million over the next three years to open another production site in Fredericksburg, state officials announced Thursday.
By CATHY JETT, Free Lance-Star
Gov. Terry McAuliffe pulled a temporary tap inside a Fredericksburg warehouse Thursday, filled a Strangeways Brewing glass with beer and took a sip. “Ah, that’s good,” he exclaimed. “It’s good to be governor!” McAuliffe was at the former Burton’s Menswear warehouse at 350 Lans-downe Road to give Neil Burton, founder of Strangeways Brewing in Henrico County, $150,000 from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Forestry Industries Fund toward opening Strangeways Brewing Fredericksburg.
By THERESA CLIFT, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)
Hampton Roads residents want to see a light rail system serve the Peninsula more than they did two years ago, a new survey found — a good sign for the "light rail on wheels" system being proposed here, officials say. According to Old Dominion University's Life in Hampton Roads survey on transportation, released Thursday, more than one-third of the region's residents now want to see light rail expanded to Newport News and Hampton.
By QUINTON SHEPPARD , Gazette-Journal
One member of the Gloucester County Board of Supervisors is behind an initiative to push for the elimination or restructuring of the tolls on the Coleman Bridge, making the trip home across the bridge less costly to local commuters. York district supervisor Phillip Bazzani, who represents Gloucester as a legislative committee member and voting member on the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization, is encouraging state legislators to ask VDOT to refinance the current debt
After the public comment portion of the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) meeting closed Sept. 21, secretary of transportation and chairman of Aubrey Layne addressed the crowd, offering to work more closely with the communities who would be impacted by DC2RVA construction. During the public comment period, representatives from Ashland Town Council, Families Under the Rail, No Third Rail, Ashland Main Street Association, Randolph-Macon College and the Board of Supervisors spoke in opposition to the proposed third rail and western bypass options.
By CEILLIE SIMKISS, Danville Register & Bee
The Mountain Valley Pipeline is set up to connect the West Virginia natural gas production fields to the Transco station in Chatham with 301 miles of pipe — including 20 miles in Pittsylvania County. The project is one step closer to being built after the draft environmental impact study was published by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday.
By KELLY CLARK, Shenandoah Valley Herald
The first state-sanctioned harness races at Shenandoah Downs were a success, with more races expected at the Woodstock track during the coming weeks, according to officials. Darrell Wood, communications director of the Virginia Equine Alliance, said 750 people attended the first day of racing on Sept. 10, with 400 attending on Sept. 11.
By FENIT NIRAPPIL AND AARON GREGG, Washington Post
About the time the Maryland legislature’s longtime champion for medical cannabis joined a company looking to dispense the drug, he urged state regulators to remove a restriction on the sale of edible marijuana products. Two months later, Del. Dan K. Morhaim (D-Baltimore County) sought feedback from regulators for his plans to introduce legislation allowing dentists, podiatrists and certain nurse practitioners to join physicians in recommending cannabis to patients.
By SYDNEY KASHIWAGI, Loudoun Times
Nearly three months ago, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted to overturn a controversial commission permit that would have given the green light to telecom giant AT&T to expand a so-called telephone transmission utility substation on top of Short Hill Mountain in western Loudoun. But months after the board’s decision -- and with at least one application filed by AT&T a day after the vote still pending county approval -- many in the community are left wondering: What’s really going on on the scenic mountaintop?
By TREVOR BARATKO, Loudoun Times
Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) says she turned down an invitation to fly with the Washington Redskins and accompany the team to events during their voyage to London for a week eight match-up with the Cincinnati Bengals. “It's a very, very kind offer, and I really appreciate it. They are a great business here in Loudoun,” Randall told the Times-Mirror in a Sept. 26 interview. But, she added, “I don't know how me attending the game with them helps the citizens of Loudoun.”
By VICTORIA BOURNE , Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)
A rookie mistake. That’s what Ben Fitzgerald, a candidate for Suffolk’s Nansemond Borough City Council seat, calls his decision to hire two actors to re-enact testimonials from supporters who didn’t want to appear on camera. “I’m a 35-year-old kid,” said Fitzgerald, a first-time candidate for elected office. “I’d never done this before.”
By STAFF REPORT, Independence Declaration
The Town of Fries alerted residents this month that a recent test of the water system found elevated levels of lead in drinking water in some homes and buildings. ... According to a press release from the town, lead above the action level was detected in water samples collected during a routine sampling in 2015 and again during special sampling in July 2016.
By MARGO OXENDINE, The Recorder (Paywall)
Williamsville district supervisor Stuart Hall surrendered to the Bath County Sheriff’s Office about 10 a.m. last Thursday. Hall was indicted by a Bath County grand jury Monday, Sept. 19, and is charged with six felony counts of perjury and election fraud.
By CHRISTINA DIMEO, Fluvanna Review
In an unusual move, members of the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors spoke in favor of slashing the county’s personal property tax rate at a work session Wednesday afternoon (Sept. 21). The stated purpose of this move would be to encourage more businesses to locate in Fluvanna rather than Louisa or other counties.
Virginian-Pilot Editorial (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)
From its earliest days, even before it existed as a commonwealth, Virginia placed tremendous importance on public education, especially the learning available at its colleges and universities. ... For too long, Virginia’s taxpayers, due to the misguided stewardship of the General Assembly and a series of governors, have shirked their responsibility to support higher education at a level befitting the commonwealth’s reputation and history.
Free Lance-Star Editorial
“Rural prosperity,” the theme of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s recent summit held in the Northern Neck, will remain something of an oxymoron in Virginia until the less developed areas of the commonwealth gain access to the internet—and high-speed internet at that. The governor knows that, and sees the problem as an inhibitor to boosting education, economic development and, in turn, employment in sparsely populated areas of the state. In today’s technologically advancing world, access to the internet is as basic and important as access to electricity or a public library was in years past.
Roanoke Times Editorial (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)
How much is The Crooked Virginia, aka “Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail,” worth? We can now tell you. All that pickin’ and grinnin’ is worth $9.1 million a year. Or, in more technical terms, that’s the estimated economic impact of all the visitors each year who attend events along The Crooked Road, which rambles — crookedly, of course — from Rocky Mount to the Breaks Interstate Park in Dickenson County.
Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)
The front page of Wednesday’s Washington Post featured a story on Joe Morrissey. “In Virginia’s capital a political ‘bad boy’ upends race for mayor,” the headline screamed. The piece discussed Morrissey’s campaign, his personal life and his lead in the polls. Two days after the first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, The Post reported, “At a time when American politics is dominated by two presidential candidates with mountains of personal baggage, Morrissey, now 59, is starring on his own stage with enough proverbial Samsonite to fill a fleet of cargo planes.”
By JESSE RICHMAN, Published in the Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)
State-level and regional polling this election season reveals an intriguing transformation. Virginia is leaning more toward Democrat Hillary Clinton than many other swing states. Indeed, the Clinton campaign pulled major advertising buys because its standing had climbed so high. What is going on?
Jesse Richman is an associate professor of political science and international studies at Old Dominion University.
The Friday Read
By DENISE M. WATSON , Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)
In the early 1770s, slave Rachel Findlay sued her master for her freedom. She knew the law. Her maternal grandmother had been an illegally enslaved Native American, and Findlay’s mom likely had some African blood. Being a descendant of a Native American was one of the few circumstances under which blacks could sue to be emancipated.
The Virginia Public Access Project
A recent report in the Wall Street Journal says lobbyists are swarming into state capitals. One veteran statehouse lobbyist asks if that is the case in Richmond.