Oct. 7 to Oct. 13, 2019

Oct. 7 to Oct. 13, 2019
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Gordon Jones (from left) and Mountain Valley Watch members Martha Murphy and Karolyn Givens look at a Mountain Valley Pipeline project map of property in Craig County.

Summary

Federal: Supreme Court denies appeal of eminent domain for Mountain Valley Pipeline

State Executive: Northam announces $8.79M for community-based justice programs

State Legislature: Mass shooting takes center stage in Virginia Beach State Senate campaign

Economy: This county has the lowest unemployment rate in Virginia

Healthcare: VCU will halt lawsuits against patients for unpaid bills

Environment: For decades, maple syrup was one of Virginia’s best-kept secrets. Now climate change may spell its end.

Federal

Supreme Court denies appeal of eminent domain for Mountain Valley Pipeline

By Laurence Hammack

The Roanoke Times- October 7, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it will not hear an appeal from a group of Southwest Virginia landowners whose property was taken, before they were paid, for a controversial natural gas pipeline.

An order filed on the court’s first day of a new term gave no reason why it declined to consider the case, which involves land seized by eminent domain for the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

A group of about a dozen landowners had hoped the court would overturn a ruling by a Roanoke-based federal judge, who last year gave Mountain Valley immediate possession of about 300 properties in a decision that cleared the way for tree-cutting to begin.

State Executive

Northam announces $8.79M for community-based justice programs

Augusta Free Press- October 11, 2019

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday the award of $8.79 million in grants to support local enforcement agencies and community-based criminal justice programs.

The grants were approved by the Criminal Justice Services Board, the policy board for the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), at its Oct. 10 meeting in Richmond.

Included in these awards is $3,769,370 in federal funding from the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) program. Byrne JAG funds were awarded for a range of equipment needs and program support, including community-based gun violence prevention programs, trauma-informed care for local pretrial and probation officers and law enforcement officers, automated notification systems for court appearances, community policing, gang- and drug-related crime reduction, and youth engagement initiatives.

State Legislature

Mass shooting takes center stage in Virginia Beach State Senate campaign

By Mechelle Hankerson

Virginia Mercury- October 8,2019

Karen Havekost was in Virginia Beach’s Municipal Building 2 when a shooter opened fire in May.

“I walked out of the bathroom and saw the gunman on the other end of the hallway,” she says in a political ad released at the end of September. “I saw a coworker in the middle, and he looked at me and he yelled, ‘Go.’ So I was lucky, but not everyone was.”

Missy Cotter Smasal, Democratic candidate for the 8th State Senate District, sponsored and released the ad. She’s one of the first candidates in Virginia Beach to explicitly mention in campaign materials the mass shooting that left 13 people dead, including the gunman, and injured four more.

 

A majority of Virginia voters want Democrats to control legislature, CNU poll finds

By Laura Vozzella

The Washington Post- October 7, 2019

By a hefty margin, Virginia voters favor having Democrats take control of the General Assembly in November elections over leaving it in GOP hands, according to a poll released Monday by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University.

Fifty-three percent of likely voters say they want the Democrats to lead the legislature, the poll found, compared to 37 percent who’d like to keep Republicans in power.

The GOP is defending slim majorities in the state Senate (20-19) and House of Delegates (51-48), with one vacancy in each chamber. All 140 seats are on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Issues

Economy

This county has the lowest unemployment rate in Virginia

By Capital News Service

WTVR-October 7, 2019

The Staunton-Waynesboro area had the lowest unemployment rate in August of all metropolitan areas in Virginia — and one of the lowest in the country, according to data released this week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Unemployment in Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County was 2.5% in August. Of the approximately 390 metro areas in the U.S., only 21 had a lower unemployment rate.

All Virginia metro areas were below August’s national unemployment rate of 3.7%. Unemployment was below 3% in the Charlottesville, Winchester, Harrisonburg, Roanoke, Richmond and Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford metro areas.

Healthcare

VCU will halt lawsuits against patients for unpaid bills

By Kaiser Health News

Virginia Mercury- October 10, 2019

VCU Health, the major Richmond medical system that includes the state’s largest teaching hospital, said it will no longer file lawsuits against its patients, ending a practice that has affected tens of thousands of people over the years.

VCU’s in-house physician group filed more than 56,000 lawsuits against patients for $81 million over the seven years ending in 2018, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis of district court data. Those suits will end and VCU will increase financial assistance for lower-income families treated at the $2.16 billion system, according to Melinda Hancock, VCU’s chief administrative and financial officer.

Environment

For decades, maple syrup was one of Virginia’s best-kept secrets. Now climate change may spell its end.

By Sarah Vogelsong

Virginia Mercury- October 9, 2019

For years, the chirping of the spring peeper frogs was one of Valerie Lowry’s signals that the maple sugar season was coming to an end. Twice the frogs would emerge, filling the Highland County air with their familiar call, and twice they would quiet. On their third appearance, Lowry knew, the sap would stop running, and “you quit making syrup.”

But this past winter, that long-running pattern changed.

“This year, we heard the peep-frogs barely one time, and then the trees shut off,” she said. “It’s just a very different sequence.”

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