On Tuesday, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) authorized an additional $11 million in statewide public transportation operating funding to be made available to all Virginia public transportation agencies suffering major ridership losses and additional operating expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Commonwealth of Virginia’s related public health response. Locally, just over $1 million in funding will be distributed.
“The onset and continued spread of COVID-19 has had extraordinary and disproportionate impacts on Virginia’s public transit industry and the communities they serve,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “As more social distancing is implemented, we recognize that reduced service and significant ridership losses lead to diminished revenue and more challenges ahead.”
The $11 million is equivalent to one-month of statewide operating revenues currently allocated to the Commonwealth Mass Transit Fund. The funding, allocated to local public transit agencies by formula, will be available by early April.
Specific information regarding amounts made to each agency is available on DRPT’s COVID-19 Pandemic Response and Mitigation website.
Additionally, the emergency funding was identified from prior years savings due to DRPT’s Making Efficient + Responsible Investments in Transit (MERIT) management program, creating no negative impact to current allocations.
“Transit agencies had to take immediate steps to minimize the risk to their employees, customers, and communities, far beyond anything envisioned in their operating budgets,” said DRPT Director Jennifer Mitchell. “Today’s action enables DRPT to respond quickly and equitably to help their agency needs.”
Some of the New Laws that Go into Effect on July 1st
Hundreds of new laws in Virginia go into effect Wednesday, July 1st. Here is a quick rundown of some that we thought you should know about.
- Ban on the possession of firearms by a person subject to a restraining order.
- Background check on all firearm sales and a limit on handgun purchases to one a month
- Lost or stolen guns will need to be reported within 48 hours.
- Tougher penalties for leaving a loaded, unsecured firearm in a reckless manner that endangers a child.
- Local governments will have more authority to ban guns in public spaces, such as public buildings, parks, recreation centers, and during permitted events.
- Extreme Risk Protective Order, allowing authorities to temporarily take guns away from people deemed to be dangerous to themselves or others.
- Rolls back provisions including a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion and a requirement that women seeking an abortion undergo an ultrasound and counseling.
- Removes the requirement that abortions be provided by a physician. This allows nurse practitioners to perform them.
- Removal of strict building code requirements on facilities where abortions are performed.
- Health insurers will be limited to charging a maximum of $50 per month for insulin.
- Creation of a state health insurance exchange, rather than relying on the federal marketplace.for people to buy health insurance.
- No person may be arrested, prosecuted, or denied any right or privilege for participating in the state’s medical cannabis program.
- The ‘Virginia Values Act which makes sexual orientation/gender identity protected classes of discrimination.
- Ban on conversion therapy (exemption for “faith communities”) for those under the age of 18.
- It will be easier to change name and gender on a birth certificate.
- VA Department of Education must create/implement policies for treatment of trans students.
- Picture ID is no longer required to cast a vote. Voters will be able to show voter registration documents, bank statements, paychecks or any government document that shows the name and address of the voter.
- Local governments across Virginia will have the authority to remove or contextualize Confederate monuments on their town, city, or county property.
Minimum Wage Increase
- May 1, 2021, increase to $9.50/hr – This May start date reflects a delay passed during special session due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- July 1, 2022, increase to $11/hr
- July 1, 2023, increase to $12/hr
- July 1, 2025, increase to $13.50/hr
- July 1, 2026, increase to $15/hr
- Citizenship no longer required for in-state tuition but still must meet Virginia residency standards.
- Removes the requirement that school principals report misdemeanors committed at school to police.
Governor Northam Extends Virginia State of Emergency as ACLU Requests Temporary Restraining Order Against RPD, VSP, and Richmond
Protests continue nearly nightly as people continue to speak out against police brutality and systematic racism.
Governor Northam has quietly decided that the city of Richmond is still in a State of Emergency due to protests. This despite nights of peaceful protest.
More from the amendment to Executive Order 64.
Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Article V of the Constitution of Virginia, by §§ 44-146.17 and 44-75.1 of the Code, and as Governor and Director of Emergency Management and Commander-in-Chief of the Commonwealth’s armed forces, I proclaim that a state of emergency continues to exist in the City of Richmond. Accordingly, I direct state and local governments to render appropriate assistance to prepare for and respond to this situation, to alleviate any conditions resulting from the situation, and to implement recovery and mitigation operations and activities so as to return impacted areas to pre-event conditions as much as possible. Emergency services shall be conducted in accordance with § 44-146.13 et seq. of the Code. In order to marshal all public resources and appropriate preparedness, response, and recovery measures, I continue to order the following actions:
A. Implementation by state agencies of the Commonwealth of Virginia Emergency Operations Plan, as amended, along with other appropriate state plans.
B. Activation of the Virginia Emergency Operations Center and the Virginia Emergency Support Team, as directed by the State Coordinator of Emergency Management, to coordinate the provision of assistance to state, local, and tribal governments and to facilitate emergency services assignments to other agencies.
C. Authorization for the heads of executive branch agencies, on behalf of their regulatory boards as appropriate, and with the concurrence of their Cabinet Secretary, to waive any state requirement or regulation, and enter into contracts without regard to normal procedures or formalities, and without regard to application or permit fees or royalties. All waivers issued by agencies shall be posted on their websites.
D. Activation of the Virginia National Guard to State Active Duty.
E. Authorization of a maximum of $350,000 in state sum sufficient funds for state and local government mission assignments and state response and recovery operations authorized and coordinated through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management allowable by The Stafford Act, 42 U.S.C. § 5121 et seq. Included in this authorization is $250,000 for the Department of Military Affairs.
The ACLU of Virginia was in court Monday, asking the judge to grant a Temporary Restraining Order to “stop the police from violating protesters’ rights.” No ruling has been made as of the writing of this post.
The complaint alleges violation of right to assemble, violation of right to freedom of speech, and violation of state code in declaring an unlawful assembly. Plaintiffs are seeking a declaration from the court that police have been operating unlawfully and an order prohibiting them from engaging in activities that violate protesters’ constitutional rights. Along with the complaint, plaintiffs filed a request for an immediate order to stop these violations.
On the night of June 22, a group of local university students hosted a “teach-in” in front of City Hall, attended by about 150 people with the intent to gather overnight, learn more about police brutality and racial inequality, hear from community advocates and participate in workshops. Without cause, police declared the event an unlawful assembly after midnight and attacked the group using tear gas, pepper spray, flash grenades and rubber bullets. Many people were injured during the unprovoked use of force.
“Since the tragic murder of George Floyd and the protests against police violence that have followed, state and local police operating in Richmond have shown a pattern of violence toward protesters who speak out against systemic and anti-Black racism,” said Eden Heilman, legal director for the ACLU of Virginia. “When these young people tried to educate their community about racism in Richmond and how to dismantle it, police stormed in and turned their positive space into a war zone. City leaders have a responsibility to protect our constitutional rights, instead they have encouraged the escalation of violence by police against protesters.”
Update from Courthouse News Service. The court has denied the injunction.
“Plaintiffs have not established that harm is certain or of such imminence that there is a clear and present need for such equitable relief,” Richmond City Circuit Judge Beverly W. Snukals wrote in an order released Tuesday morning.
“Placing these restrictions on defendants in the form of a preliminary injunction unnecessarily burdens the police and puts them and the public at risk,” she added. “On the other hand, plaintiffs have the option in the future to protest without unlawful force, without blocking roadways and without disrupting or jeopardizing public peace and order.”
Mayor Stoney Appoints New Police Chief
Gerald Smith, Deputy Police Chief in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, is the new Richmond Police Chief.
Interim Police Chief William “Jody” Blackwell announced on Friday that he was stepping down as Interim Police Chief. Blackwell’s brief term of 10 days was marked by violent actions towards peaceful protestors and extensive use of teargas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and other non-lethal methods.
In a move that surprised everyone Mayor Stoney the same day announced that he was appointing Gerald Smith, Deputy Police Chief in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, as the department’s new chief. In his prior position as Deputy Police Chief, Smith oversaw criminal investigations including domestic violence, crimes against children, sexual assault, and homicide.
“Deputy Chief Gerald Smith is who Richmond needs right now – a reform-minded leader with deep experience in community policing and de-escalation,” said Mayor Stoney. (Full Press Release Here)
The Charlottesville-Mecklenburg police department currently faces legal action over its use of “riot control” agents during a peaceful June 2 rally.
Meanwhile the very next day. This ad runs in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The lack of any community involvement in the hiring decision hasn’t sat well with many citizens.
The city paid for this ad in today’s newspaper… pic.twitter.com/PKd3CGLxcU
— Mark Robinson (@__MarkRobinson) June 28, 2020