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VaNews
February 28, 2024
Top of the News

Youngkin pitches $322 million Hampton Roads toll relief plan in arena bid

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Gov. Glenn Youngkin and his staff have privately pitched a $322 million plan for toll relief in Hampton Roads to legislators whose approval he is courting for a proposed professional sports arena and entertainment district in Alexandria, according to two sources close to discussions of the proposed arena for the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards. The proposal that Youngkin and Secretary of Transportation Shep Miller outlined privately for lawmakers would go beyond the $92 million toll relief plan that Senate Finance Chair Louise Lucas, D-Alexandria, inserted into the budget that the Senate adopted last week.


Proposed new Virginia ‘tech tax’ sparks backlash from business community

By SARAH RANKIN, Associated Press

Trade associations representing hundreds of companies that do business in Virginia have come out swinging against a proposal to expand the state sales tax to cover digital goods, something Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin proposed and Democrats endorsed in their budget legislation. Both chambers of the legislature included the new sales tax on purchases like streaming subscriptions, cloud storage and online downloads in the two-year budget plans they passed last week. The Senate went beyond the House of Delegates in also applying it to business-to-business transactions.


Philip Morris International criticizes proposed Va. tax on cigarette alternative

By DAVE RESS, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Now that two tobacco giants – Henrico-based Altria and its former global operation, Philip Morris International – canceled plans to team up on a cigarette alternative, PM International says a bill for taxing that alternative would put it at a competitive disadvantage. But the bill’s sponsor, Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott, and chief deputy attorney general Chuck Slemp say that without the measure, Virginia is at risk of losing some $140 million a year it receives from the 25-year-old Master Settlement Agreement of state claims against cigarette-makers.


Latest effort to take politics out of Virginia elections department dies in state Senate

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Virginia Mercury

Virginia lawmakers took an extra week to think about whether there was a way to depoliticize the process of hiring the state’s top election official, who is currently appointed by the governor. But that didn’t change the outcome as a Democratic-led Senate committee voted 8-7 Tuesday to delay consideration of the proposal until 2025, a gentler way of blocking the bill.


Frederick County School Board member bragged about drinking inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, FBI says

By CORMAC DODD, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Frederick County School Board member Miles Adkins, who allegedly bragged about drinking Coors Lite and Fireball inside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot, was arrested by federal authorities on Tuesday. Adkins, 40, faces four misdemeanor charges related to the insurrection, according to a criminal complaint filed by the FBI in the Western Virginia U.S. District Court ... Adkins appeared in federal court on Tuesday in Charlottesville and was granted a personal recognizance bond with conditions including that he not use alcohol excessively or possess a firearm.


Virginia General Assembly votes to scrap Robert E. Lee license plate

By SARAH VOGELSONG, Virginia Mercury

Legislation that would end Virginia’s issuance of two license plates that honor Robert E. Lee as “The Virginia Gentleman” and spotlight the Sons of Confederate Veterans is headed to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk. The bill is the second attempt by Del. Candi Mundon King, D-Prince William, to get rid of the Robert E. Lee plate, which was approved virtually unanimously by the General Assembly in 2007 but has become increasingly unpalatable to Democrats eager to cut ties between the modern state and its Confederate past.


Don Scott was a fiery partisan; as Va. speaker, he’s top negotiator

By GREGORY S. SCHNEIDER, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Soon after Republicans mounted a rare challenge to the authority of House Speaker Don L. Scott Jr. (D-Portsmouth) during a recent floor debate, GOP bills and delegates began suffering more setbacks. Several pieces of seemingly healthy Republican legislation — such as one increasing the number of free fishing days in the state, or another that changes the title of a department director to commissioner — “caught a cold,” in an old General Assembly euphemism, and wound up iced for the year. A couple of prominent GOP lawmakers lost plum assignments on House of Delegates committees.

The Full Report
37 articles, 22 publications

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Turf war widens between assembly, governor over state agencies, buildings

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

The seat of state government in Richmond is becoming a battleground in an expanding turf war between the General Assembly and Gov. Glenn Youngkin, with control of state agencies and buildings at stake. The budget the Senate adopted last week would challenge the Youngkin administration over control of the newly renovated Old City Hall — a national historic landmark facing Capitol Square — and a new state government parking garage at the corner of North Ninth and East Broad streets across from the newly opened General Assembly Building.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Bill to limit local restrictions on solar projects in Virginia paused for more study

By CHARLIE PAULLIN, Virginia Mercury

Legislation that would have limited Virginia localities’ ability to restrict development of solar projects is dead for the year after a House subcommittee voted Tuesday to carry the proposal over to 2025. But its patron, Sen. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Richmond, said he “will be back” with the proposal next year because he sees it as crucial to meeting the mandates of the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act, the state’s plan to decarbonize its electric grid by midcentury.


Bills for local sales tax surcharge for new schools head to governor

By DAVE RESS, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Bills that would let every locality in the state levy a 1% surcharge on sales taxes to fund school construction, if voters approve, are on their way to the governor. The House of Delegates and state Senate this week passed identical bills, Senate Bill 14 and House Bill 805, authorizing the surcharges and referendums, making statewide what has so far been case-by-case special permission for eight counties and one city. The bills passed with broad bipartisan support in both bodies


Bill for paid family, medical leave heads to Youngkin’s desk

By TANNOCK BLAIR, WRIC-TV

A bill to provide paid family and medical leave for workers across the Commonwealth was passed by lawmakers in both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly. The measure, submitted by chief patron Del. Jennifer B. Boysko (D-38), was approved by the Virginia Senate in a 21 to 19 vote on Feb. 13. Yesterday, it was also passed by the Virginia House of Delegates in a 50 to 46 vote.


Line of Duty bill amended to exclude private officers

By EMILY BARBER, News & Advance (Metered Paywall - 18 articles a month)

Line of duty benefits Nelson County officials sought for private police departments in the wake of a Wintergreen officer's shooting death were left out of an amended state Senate bill on Feb. 22, but protections for campus police were included. “I am disappointed by the result but encouraged that the private campus police officers are being included in the bill,” Dennis Russell, Wintergreen police chief, said about Senate Bill 466.


Virginia moves closer to dropping food-to-alcohol sales ratio for many restaurants

By BRAD KUTNER, WVTF-FM

It’s long been a law in Virginia that establishments that sell alcohol must sell nearly half their earnings in food. But Tuesday afternoon an effort to remove that requirement was endorsed in a House of Delegates subcommittee, a massive step in a fight that’s been decades in the making. “I haven’t told anybody this, my dad used to run a restaurant and I remember them struggling and I remember how every time they opened a business red tape was an impediment to them being successful,” Fredericksburg-area Senator Bryce Reeves told Radio IQ. “And if I can take a little bit of that red tape away?”


Bill to protect elephants passes Senate

By ANDREA PADILLA, University of Richmond Capital News Service

While it is too late to help Asha the elephant, the Senate passed a bill on Feb. 26 that would make cruelty against elephants a civil penalty and would ban unethical training. Del. Kathy Tran, D- Greensville, said she was motivated to sponsor her bill, HB 1531, after a whistleblower from the Natural Bridge Zoo handed over a document that outlined the unethical treatment of their animals, especially their elephant Asha, which triggered an investigation by Virginia State Police that ended with the seizure of 89 living animals and 27 deceased animals, according to the Roanoke Times.


Skill game opponents dissatisfied with General Assembly proposals

By THAD GREEN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

While the House and Senate have offered different approaches to legalizing electronic skill games in Virginia, opposition groups prefer an alternate option – an outright ban. On Tuesday, Virginians Against Neighborhood Slot Machines, faith leaders and community members gathered at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond to voice their concerns about the slot-like machines that have shown up in convenience stores, bars and gas stations.


Va. lawmakers push harder for cardiac emergency response plan after death of Menchville teen

By MICHELLE WOLF, WAVY-TV

Following the death of a 16-year-old girl at Menchville High School last week, Virginia lawmakers are pushing for a cardiac emergency response plan, or CERP, to be required by every school in the Commonwealth. SB181 was first introduced by State Sen. Aaron Rouse of Virginia Beach in January. It was inspired by the NFL’s response to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin going into cardiac arrest during a game last year. That swift response and immediate CPR saved his life. Rouse told 10 On Your Side after hearing about the death of Kaleiah Jones that it reinforces the importance of schools being prepared to handle a cardiac emergency.


Bill to grant racetracks economic and historic designations awaits House vote

By DEAN-PAUL STEPHENS, Cardinal News

Owners of motorsports facilities across Virginia have their eyes on Richmond, as a bill with historic and commercial implications makes its way through the General Assembly. Introduced by Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, SB 17 would designate a number of motorsport facilities as enterprise zones while also granting them historic landmark status.


9 marriage-related General Assembly bills in the state known for its lovers

By PARKER BARNES, VCU Capital News Service

Only a few bills out of the thousands introduced this General Assembly session tackle love. Lawmakers resumed the longstanding effort to codify same-sex marriage protection, but there are a handful of other bills that address marriage in the commonwealth.


Virginia senator starts Narcan training challenge during 2024 session

By BRAD KUTNER, WVTF-FM

As deaths from opioid overdoses continue to rise across the Commonwealth, a Virginia Senator is hoping to see as many elected officials get trained to use an emergency treatment as possible. Abingdon-area Senator Todd Pillion held a naloxone training session for the state’s elected officials Monday morning. The event, managed by the state’s Department of Health, included a challenge: “I feel like it’s important that we’re all trained to administer naloxone, so this morning I challenged the House and Senate, 140 members, to get trained,” Pillion said.


Bill banning cyanide in mining gets unanimous support

By BRIAN CARLTON, Farmville Herald (Paywall)

There is apparently one thing the entire General Assembly can agree on: cyanide should not be used in mining. A cyanide ban proposal first passed the Virginia House by a 100-0 vote last month and then this past Friday, the State Senate voted 39-0 to ban the practice as well. Specifically, HB85 would place a ban on using cyanide or any cyanide compound in mineral mining or processing. Now as far as what impact that would have on mining in Buckingham? The answer is not much. In fact, those involved in the mining business say cyanide isn’t used here and won’t be.

FEDERAL ELECTIONS

Trump to appear at Richmond rally on Saturday

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Former President Donald Trump plans to attend a rally in Richmond on Saturday, three days before the Republican presidential primary on Super Tuesday, March 5. Trump campaign adviser Steven Cheung confirmed the rally, which will be held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center in downtown Richmond. The rally is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.


Trump and his favorite fundraising platform face donor problems—and ensnarl Arlington in the process

By BRIAN SCHWARTZ, CNBC

Every so often, Matthew Hurtt receives concerning emails. The subject lines are each slightly different: “Stop charging my account,” “Urgent!” and “Donation not approved,” but the people who send them all want the same thing: to halt the Republican political contribution platform WinRed from making any more automatic, recurring withdrawals from their accounts. Hurtt is chairman of the Virginia-based Arlington County Republican Committee and says he’s reviewed a “few dozen” of these types of emails since the 2020 election. When WinRed processes a contribution to a Republican campaign, the charge shows up on the donor’s credit card or bank statement as a payment to “WINRED www.GOP.com, Arlington VA,” according to a statement provided by Hurtt and reviewed by CNBC.

ECONOMY/BUSINESS

Appalachian Power seeks state approval for battery storage project in Southwest Virginia

By MATT BUSSE, Cardinal News

Appalachian Power is seeking state regulatory approval to build a battery energy storage system in Southwest Virginia to improve service reliability on what the utility says is one of its worst-performing circuits. The $57.3 million project would create two battery energy storage sites, one each in Smyth and Grayson counties, totaling 7.5 megawatts of capacity, Appalachian said in a filing with the State Corporation Commission.


Pipeline protests continue as project price tag ticks up

By PATRICK LARSEN, VPM

As construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline nears completion in parts of Virginia and West Virginia, local residents and activists opposed to the project have continued speaking out against it, as the pipeline’s developers have further pushed back the expected in-service date. A group of activists with Third Act Virginia were removed from Attorney General Jason Miyares’ office in Richmond last Wednesday after staging a brief sit-in — they delivered a petition, but were barred from meeting with Miyares or his staff members. Activists also attended a Friday meeting of the state Water Pollution Control Board in Richmond to call for a stop work order.


Goodwill wins approval for first-of-its-kind residential project in Northern Virginia

By DOUGLAS FRUEHLING, Washington Business Journal (Subscription required for some articles)

Goodwill's plan to go big in Arlington got the go-ahead Saturday. The Arlington County Board unanimously approved the nonprofit's proposal to replace its flagship store on 1.4 acres at South Glebe Road and Route 50 with an all-affordable residential complex and new store. The organization, officially known as Goodwill of Greater Washington, will develop the project in partnership with affordable housing developer AHC Inc.


Plow & Hearth Shutting Down Madison Operations

By CHUCK JACKSON, MadRapp Recorder

A major Madison County business announced to its employees on Monday the facility will be closing its doors by the end of the year. Plow and Hearth, founded in 1980 as a brick-and-mortar retail outlet by Peter and Peggy Rice and Michael Burns, the company saw extreme growth including its first catalog mailer the following year. It currently has 107 fulltime employees at its Wolftown-Hood Road catalog sales office and warehouse but often ballooned to an additional 250 sales associates during the fourth quarter of every year.

HIGHER EDUCATION

UVa students vote on referendum calling on school to divest from Israel

By EMILY HEMPHILL, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Students at the University of Virginia are voting now on a referendum demanding the school divest any and all monies in its $13.6 billion endowment invested in “companies engaging in or profiting from the State of Israel’s apartheid regime and acute violence against Palestinians.” Israel has been at war with Palestinian terror group Hamas since Oct. 7 of last year ...


New details emerge in 2021 death of VCU pledge

By ERIC KOLENICH, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

At 2 a.m., fraternity students at Virginia Commonwealth University began discussing on their phones which pledge was the drunkest. The conversation turned to Adam Oakes, who was left lying on the dining room floor. “Adam is dead on my floor” right now, one member of the Delta Chi fraternity wrote on a night in February 2021, seeming to suggest Oakes was in a deep sleep. Seven hours later, the students found Oakes, 19, dead.

VIRGINIA OTHER

FBI: Frederick County School Board member bragged of drinking Fireball, Coors Light in Capitol on Jan. 6

By RYAN J. REILLY, NBCNews

An elected member of a Virginia school board — who allegedly bragged about drinking Fireball and Coors Light in the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack and said he was in touch with a member of the far-right Oath Keepers that day — was arrested by federal authorities Tuesday. Miles Adkins, a member of the Frederick County School Board in Virginia, faces four misdemeanor charges: entering and remaining in a restricted building, disruptive conduct in a restricted building, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building and unlawful picketing in a Capitol building.


Natural Bridge Zoo the target of state, federal criminal investigations

By MARK D. ROBERTSON, Cardinal News

Both state and federal criminal investigations are looking into the Natural Bridge Zoo, court discussion revealed Tuesday during the civil trial that will determine who should have custody of 100 animals seized from the roadside attraction in December. The jury trial involving civil animal abuse and neglect allegations against zoo owners Karl and Debbie Mogensen in Rockbridge County Circuit Court began with opening arguments and the start of state witness testimony Tuesday. But revelations of the ongoing criminal investigations overshadowed any facts involving the state’s case.

LOCAL

Loudoun schools to use drug-sniffing dogs for fentanyl as overdoses rise

By KARINA ELWOOD, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Loudoun County will begin sweeping high schools with drug-sniffing dogs in a new effort to fight a rising number of youth overdoses both on school grounds and in the community. Across the region, opioid overdoses among teens have drastically increased in recent years, fueled primarily by fentanyl, the highly potent and deadly synthetic opioid.


Drug-sniffing police dogs to be used at LCPS high schools

By EVAN GOODENOW, Loudoun Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Responding to a fentanyl-related overdose outbreak last year and an ongoing problem with student vaping, drug-sniffing police dogs will be used in Loudoun County Public Schools' 18 high schools beginning in March. “Working closely with law enforcement and leveraging this added layer of prevention helps to keep our spaces safe. By teaming up, we're making sure our schools stay focused on creating a positive environment for every student,” Superintendent Aaron Spence said in a Feb. 26 news release announcing the move.


Loudoun weighs huge capital fee hike for residential developers to offset impact

By DAN BRENDEL, Washington Business Journal (Subscription required for some articles)

Loudoun County lawmakers are considering broadly increasing a de facto fee the county imposes on residential developers, meant to offset increased public facilities costs, especially for schools, that new development drives. Some in the development community worry that increasing development costs could stifle new projects and exacerbate already high housing costs by passing the difference along to consumers.


Loudoun County employees vote in union representation election

By JESS KIRBY, Loudoun Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

An election began Feb. 7 and concludes March 6 to decide whether Service Employees International Union Virginia 512 will represent county employees in collective bargaining negotiations. “Labor and trades” and “general government” employees have the option to vote “yes” or “no” to the question, “Do you wish to be represented by SEIU Virginia 512 for the purposes of collective bargaining?” according to county spokesman Glen Barbour.


Civil Rights vigils keep marching on in Warrenton

By CHER MUZYK, Fauquier Times

For Kevin Berry, every weekly Black Lives Matter vigil in Warrenton is a small step forward in the long march toward equal rights spanning generations. Berry, 60, of Bealeton, who is Black, said he’s attended the vigils for almost three years because the fight for racial justice has not yet been won. “What’s bad is we’re fighting the same fight that we did 50 years ago, 100 years ago, 200 years ago,” he said. “It’s the same fight. We’re here to ask for equal rights. Nothing special.” In April, the group is expected to hold its 200th weekly vigil. And group members know there are critics who see them as an annoyance who wish they would just go away. It only strengthens their resolve.


Richmond Council appoints former police officer as Civilian Review Board manager

By EM HOLTER, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

A former FBI agent and Chesterfield County police officer is set to become the first Richmond Civilian Review Board manager following a unanimous City Council vote on Monday. Joseph Lowery, who served as a supervisory agent with the U.S. Department of Justice, will be in charge of overseeing and managing the board’s administration and operational functions. ... The board’s role is to oversee internal investigations conducted by the Richmond Police Department.


Richmond unveils 10-acre Shockoe Project

By EM HOLTER, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Richmond is dedicating 10 acres in the city’s historic Shockoe Bottom to preserve and develop a destination to acknowledge and teach about the city's sordid history with slavery. The announcement came Tuesday at Main Street Station when several key local and state officials, along with historians and community activists, met to unveil the Shockoe Project plans.


Richmond unveils master plan for Shockoe slavery commemorative site

By JONATHAN SPIERS, Richmond BizSense

Richmond’s decades-long effort to commemorate its history as the nation’s second-largest slave market reached a milestone Tuesday with the unveiling of a new master plan for the 10-acre project in Shockoe Bottom. City leaders and project stakeholders held an event at Main Street Station to present the plan for what’s now called The Shockoe Project, a relaunching of sorts of what was previously referred to as the Enslaved African Heritage Campus, and later, the Shockoe Bottom Heritage Campus.


Va. Beach School Board passes amendment to ban ‘sexually explicit content’ in elementary school libraries

By CONOR HOLLINGSWORTH, WTKR-TV

Big things were happening at the Virginia Beach School Board meeting on Tuesday night as parents and teachers voiced their feelings on how school libraries deal with materials that some consider inappropriate for children. At the board meeting on Feb. 13, board member David Culpepper issued an amendment that would create a content committee to make sure sexually explicit content in elementary school libraries is banned. Late on Tuesday night, the school board passed it in a six to four vote.


York County residents express concerns over new school board leadership

By NOUR HABIB, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

A recent school board shake-up in York County has sent the division into disarray. Dozens of parents and teachers showed up at Monday’s board meeting — only the second regular meeting since three new members were elected and sworn in — to express frustration that politics and power struggles are taking attention away from school problems such as transportation woes and a potential exodus of teachers.


Chicago company proposed donating hospital building to Patrick County — for a price

By EMILY SCHABACKER, Cardinal News

After more than a year of missed opening deadlines, Foresight Health now says it’s too expensive to renovate and restore health care access at the old hospital in Patrick County. Instead, the Chicago-based company has offered to donate the property to the county — if the county agrees to pay half of the expenses Foresight said it has incurred while working on the project. A spreadsheet compiled by the company and obtained by Cardinal News lists Foresight’s expenses as totaling $1.63 million, but not all expenses pertain directly to the hospital.

 

COLUMNISTS

Schapiro: Ever the consultant, Youngkin outsources hiring

By JEFF E. SCHAPIRO, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Before he picks a new tax commissioner, Gov. Glenn Youngkin will turn to his for-hire personnel adviser. Ditto that for a new lottery director, a new chief of the state liquor monopoly and a new boss for the buildings and purchasing department. That some of the people leaving these positions — or have already left — are doing so seemingly under duress may only elevate the administration’s sensitivity in choosing their successors. Friction between the governor’s office and the tax, alcohol and the general services agencies has been a source of intrigue for months.


Yancey: Bedford is one of the fastest-growing counties in Va. It also might have to close a school.

By DWAYNE YANCEY, Cardinal News

Bedford County has now joined the list of localities that are looking at closing schools. Franklin County has floated the prospect of closing two elementary schools this summer. Lynchburg has already moved to close one elementary school and possibly close another. Once again, we must ask the question: Why is this happening, especially in a county that’s been gaining population for half a century, and a county that has been one of the fastest-growing in the state? The answer, once again, comes back to the same one we’ve had in Lynchburg and Franklin County: demographics. Specifically, a declining birth rate.

OP-ED

Snow and Overbey: Young children deserve our support, not criminalization

By LOWRY SNOW AND DOUGLAS OVERBEY, published in Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

As Republicans and board members of Human Rights for Kids, a national nonprofit dedicated to the promotion and protection of children’s human rights, we work to reform how our country treats children in the justice system. We are proud to be part of an organization that seeks to find common ground between Democratic and Republican lawmakers, prosecutors, defense attorneys and a wide range of other diverse voices. Personally, we represent two of those groups: Republican lawmakers and prosecutors.

Snow is a former Republican lawmaker and prosecutor from Utah, and Overbey is a former Republican lawmaker from Tennessee and former U.S. Attorney appointed by President Donald Trump.