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Viviane Marie Louise “Brun” Morgan (Age 86)

Viviane Marie Louise “Brun” Morgan, 86, passed away on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, following an extended illness.

She was born on November 12, 1937, in France to the late Gaston Charles Brun & Simone Marie Rose Hebert. Viviane was married to the late George Edward Morgan. They resided in Marumsco Woods and Lake Caroline. They were members of the local DAV as well as members of Saint Mary’s of the Annunciation in Lady Smith, VA.

Viviane is survived by nieces and nephews who currently reside in France. Services will be held at a later date. Online condolences for the family may be sent and viewed by visiting www.blevinscares.com.

Blevins Funeral Home and Cremation Services has the honor of serving the Morgan family.

Blevins Funeral & Cremation Services
417 Lee St, Bristol, Vermont, 24201

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By Morgan Sweeney

[Photo by John Tuesday on Unsplash]
(The Center Square) — More school districts in Virginia are starting to implement school cell phone bans, prohibiting students from using their phones during the school day and, in some cases, even on the bus.

Many districts ban student cell phone usage at elementary schools, and some ban them at their middle schools, but until recently, high school policies have often been more permissive.

Some school districts like Virginia Beach City Public Schools have updated their policies within the past few years. The district revised its cell phone policy for the 2022-23 school year. The school board determined that students could have their phones with them during the day, but they needed to be off or silent, not on the student’s person, and not used in the bathroom or elsewhere during class. They are allowed to use them in the hallways during passing time or during lunch.

The city of Hopewell also updated its phone policy for its middle and high school students for the same school year, though it went a step farther than Virginia Beach. The district used federal COVID-relief funds to purchase locking pouches at a discounted price to hold students’ phones during the day; students cannot use them at all while at school.

“While we have attempted to accommodate student phones over the years and limit their use, we are finding that they are causing much more harm than help during the school day,” the district announced in a press release before the start of the school year.

Students are to store their phones in the pouches once they enter the school and can remove them when they leave. The pouches can only be unlocked using a magnetic unlocking base, which students can access at the end of the school day. If students’ pouches become damaged or go missing, they’re responsible for replacing them.

Richmond adopted a similar policy for three of its middle schools and three of its high schools in January for a trial period.

Fairfax, Franklin, Hanover and Stafford counties all have policies allowing at minimum older students to use their phones between classes and at lunch. But all of these districts are now considering stricter policies.

Fairfax and Hanover are considering the widespread use of locking pouches, as Hopewell has done and Richmond is piloting. Stafford, too, is looking at locking pouches, but only as a disciplinary measure for students who have violated its policies. Otherwise, it may adopt a similar policy to Virginia Beach – that students’ phones must be off or on silent and stored in a backpack or locker during class.

At its most recent board meeting, the Hanover County School Board listened to a presentation on the pouches for elementary and middle school students, revealing that Yondr pouches would cost the district $30 per student.

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Get ready for an enchanting afternoon of live music at The Winery at Sunshine Ridge Farm, featuring the talented Carleigh Jane.

The event, set to take place on Saturday, May 25, 2024, from 3 to 5 p.m., promises to be a delightful experience for all music lovers. Jane, a gifted acoustic musician and emerging songwriter, hails from Virginia and has captivated audiences with her musical prowess from a young age. Her journey began with piano lessons at age five, followed by professional vocal training at eight. By age ten, Jane had already taught herself to play the ukulele and acoustic guitar, and she seamlessly integrated the electric guitar into her performances.

At just 12 years old, Jane took the spotlight as a solo artist, charming audiences in local music venues and quickly becoming a well-known figure in Old Town Manassas. Her reach has since expanded to venues across Northern Virginia, Loudoun County, Richmond, and Washington, D.C.

Her diverse musical style spans from the hits of the 70s to today’s popular music, showcasing her versatility and genuine passion for music. In addition to performing covers of beloved songs, Jane is an aspiring songwriter. Attendees may even get the chance to hear some of her original compositions during the performance.

The Winery At Sunshine Ridge Farm sits at 15850 Sunshine Ridge Lane, Gainesville.

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Virignia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Stafford County Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas Taylor.

By Morgan Sweeney

(The Center Square) — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued an executive directive Thursday to assemble a task force to help address some controversial changes in the state’s latest budget to a decades-old educational assistance program for qualifying military families.

The task force would include veterans, families of service members killed in the line of duty, General Assembly members, and state public colleges and universities, who help fund the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program and approached the General Assembly due to rising program costs.

The program was established in 1996 to make higher education more accessible to spouses and dependents of those killed in military service, missing in action, prisoners of war, or who had sustained service-related injuries that left them 90% or more disabled by waiving tuition and mandatory fees. However, program participation has skyrocketed in recent years after eligibility was broadened, according to Youngkin, to a degree that may be unsustainable.

The just-passed budget narrows eligibility for the waiver component of the program to undergraduate programs, and people domiciled in Virginia, taking advantage of other benefits they might be eligible for and reaching specific academic benchmarks, jilting some military families and resulting in pushback from some lawmakers “on both sides of the aisle,” according to Youngkin.

“I am issuing this executive directive because it is vital that we study this issue and address it in a future budget to avoid any unintended consequences,” Youngkin said in a statement. “It is important that lawmakers review this issue so that we can provide a better path forward.”

The task force is to issue guidance on the changes to the program and make recommendations to the General Assembly on how it might be able to change eligibility language in the future while “balanc[ing] the need for long-term program sustainability with eliminating unreasonable barriers to the VMSDEP waiver or a survivor of dependents’ educational goals.”

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Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R)

By Morgan Sweeney

(The Center Square) — Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed Virginia’s budget for fiscal years 2025-2026 Monday after the state’s General Assembly voted to pass it in a special session convened for that purpose.

The $188 billion biennial budget was agreed upon at the tail end of last week after protracted and extensive negotiations between Youngkin and conferees.

Despite the Republican governor holding the line and not allowing taxes to be increased, he and the Democratic-majority General Assembly were able to reach a compromise due in large part to general fund revenues to date exceeding forecasts. They’re currently expected to surpass original projections for the year by over $1 billion.

“While Virginians’ elected officials can sometimes be far apart on policy, today demonstrates and reiterates that we can come together to deliver for the Commonwealth. This budget resolution was empowered by the strength of our labor market, with more Virginians working than ever before and investments by businesses large and small that have fueled record revenues for the Commonwealth,” Youngkin said in a statement.

Democrats tried to include a digital sales tax in the compromise budget – something they adopted from Youngkin’s December budget proposal – but the governor objected to the tax without the accompanying tax breaks he had included in his introduced budget.

While the sales tax would have increased revenues by over $1 billion, the budget passed Monday relies on $525 million from excess revenues to help implement some Democratic priorities.

Chair of the Senate finance committee Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth – one of the most vocal critics of some of Youngkin’s budget proposals and goals – lauded the conferees’ work and praised the final product.

“I want to take this moment to thank the conferees and the committee staff for their hard work and dedication,” Lucas said. “There’s a lot to love about this budget…. This is a win for the commonwealth.”

The budget includes 3% raises for teachers and state government employees each year and increased funding for K-12 schools and higher education. It also includes additional funding for law enforcement, mental health and substance abuse treatment services, transportation and conservation, among other initiatives.

Notably, the budget lacks one other item for which Democrats fought intensely: Looping Virginia back into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. On Youngkin’s first day in office, he issued an executive order to sever Virginia’s ties with the initiative, viewing it as a burden to Virginia’s pro-business environment and as a “backdoor tax” to residents whose energy bills could be raised by utilities trying to recoup costs.

Legislation making Virginia a part of the Initiative was passed in 2020. The Initiative attaches a cost to CO2 emissions. Participating states – a coalition of 11 Northeastern states before Virginia joined – place limits on how many CO2 emissions power plants can produce. Plants can purchase emissions credits if they need more allowable emissions or risk penalties and fines. A lawsuit claiming Youngkin acted outside the scope of his powers as governor by effectively repealing passed legislation through executive action is ongoing.

Del. Richard Sullivan, D-Fairfax, lamented the death of Democrats’ efforts to incorporate RGGI back into Virginia policy through the budget from the floor – while vowing to resurrect it in the future.

“I will vote today for the budget, Mr. Speaker, because of the long list of important advances it makes for the commonwealth. But my vote will be tempered by great disappointment at an opportunity squandered by our governor,” Sullivan said. “Also my vote will be filled with resolve to get Virginia back into RGGI just as soon as possible. This is not over.”

Republicans aren’t thrilled with many aspects of the freshly approved budget, but most voted to pass it.

“While the budget isn’t what a Republican House of Delegates would have produced, the document signed by the Governor today is a significant improvement over the budget sent to him at the end of the regular session,” said House Minority Leader Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, in a statement.

“Today’s budget contains no tax increases and does not require that Virginia rejoin the failed Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. It reflects compromise, with both sides dealing in good faith to meet our most basic responsibility,” Gilbert said

If lawmakers had not been able to compromise with the governor by June 30, Virginia would have been at risk of a government shutdown.

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Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R)

By Morgan Sweeney

(The Center Square) — Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed 100 bills into law on Tuesday and vetoed four, bringing his tally so far this session to over 360 bills signed and a record 132 vetoed.

In addition to his vetoes, this batch included more Democrat-sponsored legislation, several health care bills, and an anti-discrimination bill lauded by the governor.

With the Democratic majority in the General Assembly, the percentage of Democratic legislation the governor signs in each round of bill action will likely continue to grow. Youngkin is almost halfway through the legislation sent to him by the body, but both the House of Delegates and the Senate passed substantially more legislation patroned by Democrats than Republicans.

Thus far, signed Democratic legislation hadn’t drastically outpaced signed Republican legislation, but on Tuesday, the governor signed 62 more Democratic bills than Republican. All of the governor’s vetoes, however, have been Democratic legislation.

One of the health care bills responded to recommendations made by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, which conducts reviews on the effectiveness of state agencies and policies.

In December, the Commission released a report on Virginia’s state psychiatric hospitals, revealing turnover rates much higher than those for most state government employers. This was due to staff feeling unsafe at work, as well as some uncompetitive pay. House Bill 806, introduced by Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, partially addresses the problem by requiring nursing staff and psychiatric technicians who work at least 36 hours per week to be designated as full-time employees. The bill also attempts to add some employee pay and benefits protections.

HB 503, patroned by Laura Cohen, D-Fairfax, dictates that licensed behavior analysts be included in the commonwealth’s definition of “credentialed addiction treatment professionals,” to help meet the demand for addiction treatment. No organizations or individuals testified against the bill when it was presented to the committee or subcommittee.

House Bills 314 and 515 both concern state hospitals’ discharging practices.

Several others aim to improve Virginia’s health insurance landscape, updating reporting requirements and penalties for noncompliance for pharmacy benefit managers, prioritizing premium reduction targets for the Commonwealth Health Reinsurance Program, and regulating insurance companies’ interference with patients’ prescription drug coverage.

HB 1085, also patroned by Rasoul, establishes a PFAS Expert Advisory Committee to aid the state in reporting and containment of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or “forever chemicals.”

In the press release from his office regarding his latest signing session, the governor celebrated signing HB 18 and Senate Bill 7, companion hate-crime and discrimination bills, tying them into his efforts to combat anti-semitism.

“As one of my first executive orders, I formed the Commission to Combat Antisemitism, which issued a recommendation that Virginia revise its laws to ensure Jewish Virginians are protected from hate crimes, along with Muslims, Sikhs and other ethnic and religious groups. Today, after two years of hard work, I’m pleased to sign SB7 and HB18 which codify that recommendation,” Youngkin said.

The bills were sponsored by Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Orange, in the Senate and Del. Dan Helmer, D-Fairfax, in the House.

Youngkin vetoed bills requiring the state Board of Education to create and adopt model policies on climate change curriculum and enforcing penalties for retail sellers of unmarked invasive plant species, as well as a bill from Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Chesterfield, enabling academic research on aggregated district court case data.

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The mother of a former student at North Stafford High School has filed a lawsuit against the county school division seeking $15 million in compensatory damages, alleging failure to protect her child.

Court documents reveal that a female student, unnamed in this story due to her status as a minor, began spreading misinformation about the plaintiff’s child in December 2022, accusing her of making racist remarks, which the plaintiff Ashley Cain denies.

In January 2023, one of the two accused students confronted the plaintiff’s child, leading to the implementation of a “mediation resolution contract” by the school. This contract mandated no direct communication between the two and avoidance in various public settings, like hallways and the school cafeteria.

Despite this agreement, on April 24, 2023, the accused student attacked the plaintiff’s child in the school, resulting in injuries. A video of the incident surfaced online, further exacerbating the situation.

Court documents allege the child was again attacked in a gym locker room. Following that incident, on May 16, 2023, the plaintiff withdrew her child from North Stafford High School and relocated to a different county for their safety.

The school’s response to the escalating conflict was criticized in court documents, which allege inadequate separation measures and a lack of intervention despite ongoing threats.

The plaintiff’s attorney, James Frogale, noted that the incidents occurred when the students involved were freshmen in 2023.

The lawsuit seeks $5 million in compensatory damages from the students involved, $5 million from school staff named in the suit, and an additional $5 million from the School Board.

A spokesperson for the school division declined to comment on the matter.

The lawsuit also highlights a broader concern regarding school safety, referencing incidents at other schools within the division, including fights leading to suspensions and a lockdown at Brooke Point High School in January 2024 that led to the suspensions of 19 students.

In the weeks following the lockdown, the school division ended a county-wide program that allowed high school students a daily one-hour lunch and allowed them to walkabout campus. Parents who spoke to Potomac Local blamed the free period on increased fights in county high schools.

Kelly Sienkowski contributed to this story.

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By Sarah Roderick-Fitch

(The Center Square) — Virginia is beginning to experience some of the impacts from the cargo ship crash that brought down Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, closing a vital shipping lane leading to one of the eastern seaboard’s busiest ports.

Shortly after, on Thursday, Gov. Glenn Youngkin offered to assist neighboring Maryland. Within hours, the commonwealth’s ports were already preparing to absorb some of the diverted shipping traffic.

In 2023, the Port of Baltimore handled nearly 850,000 automobiles and light trucks, the most in the U.S. The port also ranks second in the nation for exporting coal, and sixth for importing coffee. The port leads the nation for roll-on/roll-off cargo. With most of its ports inaccessible, some ships are being diverted to other eastern ports.

Joe Harris, senior director of media relations for the Port of Virginia, told The Center Square within hours of the accident, one of the terminals at the Virginia International Gateway processed a rerouted container ship, saying they “anticipate these diverted volumes to increase.”

Harris doesn’t anticipate the increased cargo traffic will create any delays, saying the port has plenty of space to take on the extra loads. However, he acknowledged there is still a lot of “unknown” about how many ships they can expect.

“We have ample capacity in terms of container yards and berth space” for container vessels, Harris said. “Right now it’s unclear how many additional vessel calls/corresponding cargo volumes to expect here; one of the primary factors behind this ‘unknown’ is that we do not know how long the Port of Baltimore will remain closed to vessel traffic.”

In addition to the increased volume of cargo traffic, Harris is confident the Port of Virginia will be able to keep up with manpower.

“One thing of which we are certain is that we will maintain our service levels,” Harris said. “This is a modern, 21st-century port that has a significant amount of experience in handling surges of import and export cargo. Workforce size is not an issue.”

The Port of Baltimore is a bustling cargo and host port to two major cruise lines, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. One of Carnival’s cruise ships was scheduled to return to Baltimore on Sunday but will be rerouted to Norfolk.

“While rescue and remediation efforts continue in Baltimore Harbor following the collapse of the Key Bridge, it will temporarily move Carnival Legend’s Baltimore operations to Norfolk, Virginia,” the cruise line released in a statement.

They added that guests will be provided with bus service back to Baltimore, and next week’s scheduled cruise will operate from and return to Norfolk.

The Center Square reached out to Royal Caribbean requesting information on future cruises originating out of the Port of Baltimore but has yet to receive a response before publication.

One thing that remains uncertain is how the extra volume of truck and train traffic will impact the I-95 corridor, which is already one of the busiest and most congested in the nation.

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