Thursday, October 8, 2020

Political Headlines from across Virginia

October 8, 2020
Top of the News

House and Senate committees near informal agreement on budget, but Northam says he may not sign it

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

General Assembly budget leaders say they are near an informal agreement on a revised two-year state budget, but Gov. Ralph Northam warned them on Wednesday that he would not sign the spending plans the House of Delegates and Senate approved last week without major changes to preserve the state's flexibility to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Virginia lawmakers vote to limit use of chokeholds by police, but reject outright ban

By NED OLIVER, Virginia Mercury

The General Assembly sent a bill establishing rules for how police officers use chokeholds to Gov. Ralph Northam's desk Wednesday after the Senate rejected a blanket ban on the maneuver and felony penalties proposed by lawmakers in the House of Delegates. The legislation, introduced in response to the death of George Floyd under the knee of an officer in Minneapolis, stipulates that police may only use neck restraints in cases where it "is immediately necessary to protect the law-enforcement officer or another person."

Prince William schools commit to bringing Pre-K, kindergarteners back to classrooms first

Inside NOVA (Metered Paywall)

The Prince William County School Board gave its blessing to Superintendent Steve Walts' new phased approach to getting students back to the classroom, starting with pre-kindergarten and kindergarten in November. First, second and third grades would return in December and January. During a more than six-hour meeting with emotional pleas from parents, teachers and students on both sides of the debate, the school board peppered Walts with questions, but did not vote, saying instead they ultimately support the plan.

Teacher group pushes back as Newport News outlines plan to return to classrooms

By MATT JONES, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

The School Board decided the benefits of bringing some children back to classrooms is worth the risk — and some members suspect the relative lull in coronavirus cases might the kids' best chance to learn in-person this year. Some Newport News teachers, on other hand, see a decision that puts them and their families at risk, made by a board that isn't listening to them.

William & Mary stops all athletic activities after positive coronavirus tests

By MARTY O'BRIEN, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

William & Mary athletics activities were stopped department-wide Wednesday morning so coronavirus tests could be conducted after some student-athletes and staff tested positive for the virus. All athletes were scheduled to be tested at Kaplan Arena on Wednesday, and all staff members will be tested on Thursday.

Waterside operator, which wants its own casino, has been secretly funding opposition to tribal casino

By RYAN MURPHY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The operator of Waterside District — a real estate developer that wants to open a casino and has threatened to sue Norfolk to help make that happen — has been secretly backing a group urging citizens to vote down a planned casino elsewhere on the downtown waterfront. In a post Tuesday morning on Facebook first reported by WAVY, the Vote No Norfolk Casino group announced the D.C.-based public relations firm that's been helping them with communications is on a long-term monthly retainer with Cordish Companies.

Stafford supervisors will consider repealing latest cemetery provisions

By JAMES SCOTT BARON, Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

Feeling the pressure of an impending federal lawsuit for their handling of a proposed Muslim cemetery, Stafford supervisors agreed on Tuesday to explore changing the county's cemetery ordinance one more time. The latest decision marks the third time in five years that county cemetery rules have come to the board since the All Muslim Association of America paid $800,000 for 29 acres in the 1500 block of Garrisonville Road to build a cemetery in 2015.

The Full Report
40 articles, 24 publications


From VPAP Maps, Timeline of COVID-19 in Virginia

The Virginia Public Access Project

Our COVID-19 dashboard makes it easy to track the latest available data for tests performed, infections, deaths and hospital capacity. There's a filter for each city and county, plus an exclusive per-capita ZIP Code map. Updated each morning around 10:30 a.m.


Northam announces additional funding for rent and mortgage relief

Inside NOVA (Metered Paywall)

Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday announced he is directing $12 million in additional funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to Virginia's Rent and Mortgage Relief Program due to high demand for financial assistance. The program assists households and landlords with rent and mortgage payments to avoid eviction or foreclosure due to COVID-19.

Herring: Localities may not modify, extend FOIA deadlines

By ALLISON WRABEL, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Attorney General Mark Herring says that localities cannot modify or indefinitely extend the deadlines for responding to Freedom of Information Act Requests. In an advisory opinion, Herring said that the time limits for responding to requests for records "remain in place and must be complied with even during the current emergency." The opinion was issued in response to a request from Del. Sally Hudson, D-Charlottesville, online news outlet Charlottesville Tomorrow ...


Chesapeake Bay funding preserved in both state Senate and House budgets

By DAVE RESS, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

Before the pandemic hit state revenues, Gov. Ralph Northam called for multi-million-dollar increases in clean water projects to help the Chesapeake Bay. But even as the General Assembly cut other spending, those bay plans remain on the books. When he called the legislature into special session in August, seeking to revise the state's two year spending plan to account for lower revenue due to COVID-19, Northam asked that the spending increases he proposed late last year to protect the bay remain in place.

Compromise legislation banning neck restraints heads to Northam's desk

By MEL LEONOR, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Virginia lawmakers on Wednesday finalized legislation that would ban police officers from using neck restraints and punish officers for failing to intervene if they witness another officer using excessive force. The sponsors of the measures in the House, however, said the legislation represents a compromise with senators, and argued the resulting measures might not go far enough.


Virginia's 7th Congressional District race could be a close one

By RICH GRISET, Chesterfield Observer

Virginia's 7th Congressional District is a long, skinny puzzle piece made up of suburban and rural enclaves to the west of Richmond and Fredericksburg. It's here that political analysts say we're seeing one of the nation's closest election races taking shape. Six years ago, Dave Brat served up a shocking victory over then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 Republican primary for the district. Riding a wave of tea party energy, Brat stunned the GOP establishment with the win.

Spanberger, Freitas race outspends presidential campaign in Virginia


A closely contested congressional race has spent almost $1.7 million more on political advertisements in Virginia than the presidential campaign. More than $11 million has been spent on ads for the Congressional 7th District race. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, the incumbent Democrat, faces challenger Nick Freitas, a Republican state delegate. The district covers several counties including Amelia, Culpeper, Chesterfield, Goochland, Henrico, Louisa, Nottoway and a portion of Spotsylvania County.

Registrar, party officials express confidence in Fauquier County elections process

By COY FERRELL, Fauquier Times

Despite the heated rhetoric that surrounds the Nov. 3 general election, Fauquier County elections officials, along with a sheriff's office representative and the local chairs of both major political parties, said there have been no concerns about the integrity of the elections process this year. "So far, everyone has been perfectly mild-mannered," said Fauquier County General Registrar Alex Ables, the general registrar for the county.

Thousands in the historic triangle have already voted

By ALEX PERRY, Virginia Gazette (Metered Paywall - 4 Articles per Month)

York County resident Rebecca Capehart-Freire rarely misses an opportunity to vote and have her voice heard in a presidential election. The 36-year-old said that the one time she recalled missing such an opportunity in recent years was when she had to work long hours at her job that Election Day. But Friday, Capehart-Freire joined hundreds of Historic Triangle residents who have been voting on average each weekday since absentee voting in Virginia began Sept. 18.

High school government teachers in Martinsville and Henry County work to help students register to vote

By CARA COOPER, Martinsville Bulletin (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

One of the hallmarks of high school government classes is when students register to vote. Government teachers at Bassett, Magna Vista and Martinsville High Schools all said they help students each year understand how to register, to go through that process and then, ultimately, encourage them to vote. But although students are showing more enthusiasm to register and be part of the voting process during the days leading up to this year's presidential election, there have been challenges to helping them while they're out of the classroom this semester.

1,500-plus votes cast prior to Oct. 13 registration deadline

By RANDY ARRINGTON, Page Valley News

With one week left to register for the Nov. 3 general election, more than 1,500 votes have already been cast in Page County. That represents about 14 percent of the total ballots expected this fall. Page County Voter Registrar Carol Gaunt reported that as of Oct. 6, her office had processed 924 in-person ballots and mailed out 803 others by request. Of those 803 ballots sent to voters in the mail, 601 had been returned "marked" while five were returned "unmarked."


Suit by hospitals over Virginia Medicaid emergency budget cuts is dismissed

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

A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a suit filed in July by hospitals and physicians over emergency Medicaid budget cuts they said will cost them $55 million in reduced payments for emergency room visits this year amid the pandemic.

Lack of local authority hampering Virginia cities' clean energy efforts, report finds

By SARAH VOGELSONG, Virginia Mercury

A legal principle embraced by Virginia that strictly curtails local powers is hampering cities from making progress on clean energy goals, a report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy found. As a Dillon rule state — instead of a "home rule" one — Virginia bars cities and counties from exercising any powers not explicitly granted them by the state. That means that localities that want to experiment with new programs like stricter building energy codes or energy efficiency requirements can't do so without permission from the legislature, a process that can extend timelines by more than a year or cut off projects altogether.


Danish manufacturer opens first U.S. plant in Henrico

By GREGORY J. GILLIGAN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

A Danish-based manufacturer of bolts for the food and beverage, wind power and heat exchange industries has opened its first U.S. manufacturing plant in eastern Henrico County. Rose Holm is investing $1.35 million to establish the plant in the Eastport Business Center off South Laburnum Avenue and Charles City Road near Richmond International Airport, Gov. Ralph Northam's office announced Wednesday morning. Virginia successfully competed with Indiana for the project.

Amazon Donating $1 Million to Arlington and Alexandria Schools


Amazon is continuing a string of local donations with a $1 million commitment to Arlington and Alexandria public schools. The company's million-dollar donation to schools in HQ2's backyard follows a more than $2.5 million donation to schools near "HQ1" in the Seattle area.

Chesapeake manufacturing company plans $52.6 million expansion

By KIMBERLY PIERCEALL, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

A longtime Chesapeake-based manufacturer of railway maintenance equipment is planning to expand. Plasser American, which moved its headquarters to Chesapeake in 1970, plans to invest $52.6 million to build a 45,000-square-foot office building and an 82,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. It plans to buy three adjacent parcels of land to do so.


Federal permit needed to pave through wetlands for 28 bypass still 'a big question mark'

By DANIEL BERTI, Prince William Times

Work to design the Va. 28 bypass in Manassas is plowing ahead, but whether the project will receive a key U.S. Army Corps of Engineer permit to pave through wetlands and streams remains an open question. The proposed $300 million bypass would extend Godwin Drive to create a new, four-lane road between the West Gate and Loch Lomond residential subdivisions that will run parallel to Flat Branch Stream and cross Bull Run Creek before it reconnects with Va. 28 beyond the Fairfax County line.


Tribe Athletics pauses all activities after rise in COVID-19 cases


The College of William and Mary has paused all athletic activities and practice sessions after 12 people associated with Tribe Athletics tested positive for COVID-19. This update was communicated to student-athletes via an email sent out Wednesday, Oct. 7, though no specifics on which sports they were associated with were provided. According to the email, all student-athletes were contacted by their athletic trainers to schedule a COVID-19 test for today. Any staff member associated with Tribe Athletics will be tested Oct 8.

Radford University's spring semester to end a week early; COVID-19 precautions to remain

By SAM WALL, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Radford University's plans for its first 2021 semester include forgoing its traditional spring break format and ending a week early. Students will return to campus — following the end of the fall semester the week before Thanksgiving — on Tuesday, Jan. 19, according to an email President Brian Hemphill sent out to the campus community this week.


COVID-19 cases increase across Virginia by 509 from Tuesday

By STAFF REPORT, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

The Virginia Department of Health reported Wednesday that the statewide total for COVID-19 cases is 153,691— an increase of 509 from the 153,182 reported Tuesday. The 153,691 cases consist of 145,462 confirmed cases and 8,229 probable cases. There are 3,303 COVID-19 deaths in Virginia — 3,088 confirmed and 215 probable. That's an increase of 12 from the 3,291 reported Tuesday.

Danville City Jail dealing with dozens of COVID-19 cases

By CHARLES WILBORN, Danville Register & Bee

The Danville City Jail, overcrowded for more than a decade and even more jammed because the coronavirus pandemic, is now a hotspot for dozens of cases of COVID-19. As of noon Wednesday, 73 inmates and 10 staff members had tested positive for the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, Danville Sheriff Mike Mondul reported. Testing is ongoing for employees, but three results — including one for Mondul — have returned negative.


Caroline officials find cheaper way to move Confederate monument to Greenlawn cemetery

By TAFT COGHILL JR., Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

After Caroline County received four estimates to remove and relocate the Confederate monument on the courthouse lawn, supervisors and county staff were alarmed. The estimates ranged from $170,000 to $260,000. "I saw the bids and they're crazy dollars," said Kevin Wightman, the county's building official in the Planning and Building Department.


Students of color at Alexandria's T.C. Williams High speak out as name change is considered


Students of color at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, are sharing stories of their school experiences, with some reluctant to show themselves on camera during remote learning and others hesitant to enroll in school programs. Several spoke Wednesday night at the first of what will be three virtual student forums this month. The forums are part of a listening process as the Alexandria City School Board considers removing the name of former superintendent Thomas Chambliss Williams — a segregationist — from the school.

Judge rules in favor of Prince William supervisors accused of breaking FOIA law

By JILL PALERMO, Prince William Times

Five members of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors did not break Virginia's Freedom of Information Act by attending a meeting called by the police department in the wake of a May 30 protest against police brutality in Manassas, a retired Fairfax County judge ruled Wednesday. Judge Dennis Smith, formerly chief judge of the Fairfax County Circuit Court, granted a motion to strike a lawsuit filed by three Prince William County residents against Board of Supervisors Chair Ann Wheeler and her four fellow Democratic supervisors after a nearly five-hour hearing in Prince William County Circuit Court.

Loudoun supervisors strike deal to place St. Louis land in conservation

By NATHANIEL CLINE, Loudoun Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

A controversial housing project targeted for a historically Black area in western Loudoun appears to be coming to an end. The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted 7-0-2 Tuesday to begin the process of purchasing approximately 16 acres of land to end Mojax LLC's Middleburg Preserve Residential Development Project in St. Louis for $1.5 million. The 16 acres will be placed under conservation.

As students return, school officials report 22 staff and faculty COVID cases since August

By RICH GRISET, Chesterfield Observer

As Chesterfield County students begin heading back to the classroom for in-person instruction, school officials are reporting at least 22 documented COVID-19 cases since teachers returned on Aug. 31. According to school spokesman Tim Bullis, all cases reported so far involve faculty and staff. Still, the School Board's Public Health Committee informed the board last Monday that improving public health metrics allowed for the return of a second wave of CCPS students for hybrid in-person learning on Oct. 12.

Plans are hazy, but Norfolk could bring students back in person Nov. 4

By SARA GREGORY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Norfolk could bring some children back to school Nov. 4, but many details are up in the air. The timeline Superintendent Sharon Byrdsong and staff proposed to the school board Wednesday has all elementary school students back in classrooms for part of the week by mid-November, middle schoolers by the end of November and high schoolers in January.

Norfolk thinks casino could bring in $44 million a year

By RYAN MURPHY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe's proposed commercial casino could net Norfolk tens of millions in new taxes a year, according to a new city analysis unveiled Tuesday. City Manager Chip Filer ran through his latest analysis at a City Council work session, the first new official projections shared with the public since December.

Portsmouth's new mayor will inherit dysfunction and racial divides

By ANA LEY, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

The election of Portsmouth's next mayor will be a pivotal moment for this majority-Black city as it struggles to smooth the racial divide that has come to define its politics. First-term Portsmouth Mayor John Rowe, who is white, decided in January not to run for reelection, drawing six candidates — including two sitting councilmen and a former one — to the race for his seat. His successor will inherit a deeply dysfunctional city government whose relentless infighting has routinely made local and national headlines for years.

Williamsburg City Council to consider $1 million in COVID-19 relief for restaurants, hotels

By ALEX PERRY, Virginia Gazette (Metered Paywall - 4 Articles per Month)

Williamsburg City Council members will consider a resolution this week to adopt a program that would provide about $1 million in total funding to qualifying Williamsburg restaurants and lodging businesses, in response to the severe impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the Historic Triangle's tourism-dependent economy.

Supervisors divert $360K in CARES money from Culpeper schools

By ALLISON BROPHY CHAMPION, Culpeper Star Exponent (Metered Paywall - 20 articles a month)

Culpeper parents facing economic challenges due to the myriad implications of children being at home for virtual learning could, incredibly, get money from the county government to help out. That's if a loosely organized initiative pans out. At its meeting Tuesday, the Culpeper Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to divert nearly $360,000 in federal CARES Act pandemic relief from the public schools to support an unspecified aid program for county families.

Haas recommends more in-person classes for Albemarle students

By KATHERINE KNOTT, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

The Albemarle County School Board on Thursday will hear a proposal Thursday to move the division to Stage Three of its reopening plan, meaning preschoolers through third-graders could go to class twice a week starting Nov. 9. School Superintendent Matt Haas discussed his recommendation Wednesday at a news conference.

Harrisonburg-Rockingham Free Clinic To Permanently Close

By IAN MUNRO, Daily News Record (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The nonprofit Harrisonburg-Rockingham Free Clinic will cease operation on Dec. 30, according to a press release from the organization. Funding problems, fluctuations in the patient base, volunteer availability and knock-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were cited as reasons for the closure, according to the release.

Roanoke County plans to offer more in-person options to students

By CLAIRE MITZEL, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Roanoke County Public Schools' reopening plan will expand within the next month, paving the way for students to be in the classroom more often. Third grade students will be able to attend five days per week, fourth and fifth grade students with Individualized Education Plans who utilize daily services or use English language services will be able to attend four days per week, and middle and high school students can attend a half day on Wednesdays

Bristol, Virginia police officer suspended after traffic stop video

By LEIF GREISS, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)

A Bristol Virginia Police Department officer was suspended Saturday "based on a traffic stop" he was involved in Friday, according to City Manager Randy Eads. Eads, however, was mum about the details, including the officer's name and what occurred during the traffic stop, saying it's a personnel matter.


Don't reward politicians who avoid the hard questions about the economy

Roanoke Times Editorial (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

Regular readers of this space know that there is one topic we write about more than any other — the economy in rural Virginia and in rural America at large. We may be in Roanoke, which is decidedly not rural, but we are surrounded by vast swaths of countryside and our economies are all connected —this is where people will come for shopping, for entertainment, for medical services.

Leave sex ed to the educators in Virginia

Free Lance-Star Editorial (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

In the middle of a global pandemic, why is the Virginia Department of Health spending taxpayer dollars on an "anonymous sexual health textline for teens" run by an equally anonymous "certified health educator"? A Free Lance–Star reader and father of three teenagers told us that a postcard recently arrived in the mail promoting the BrdsNBz program. He texted the number provided and immediately received an auto-text directing him to a website that he said contained quite a bit of objectionable and highly explicit sexual content.

Rooting for success at William & Mary

Virginian-Pilot Editorial (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Samantha Huge is no longer the athletic director at William & Mary and that's just as well. Recent events underlined what a poor fit she was for an academic institution with a distinctive and well-developed ethos. W&M has a sports legacy, but of a particular variety — and if you don't get the "particulars," you're best gone.


Schapiro: In Virginia political novel, facts inspire fiction

By JEFF E. SCHAPIRO, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Access to this article limited to subscribers)

Frank Atkinson has been bumping around Virginia politics for more than 40 years. He's been a white-shoe lawyer in Richmond and Washington, serving Republican candidates and officeholders. He's a lobbyist with blue-chip clients whose needs often transcend party. When he's not on the clock for his firm — and sometimes when he is — Atkinson is a writer.


Webb: Expanding economic opportunity in VA-05

By CAMERON WEBB, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

I am writing today to respond to the questions posed by The Roanoke Times to the VA-05 candidates. Thank you to the paper for creating a space for this critical conversation. I hope that this is only the start of a much larger discussion about how we can expand opportunity across our district. Please visit my campaign's website,, to find out more about me and my views on policy.

Webb is the Democratic candidate for the 5th Congressional District.

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