Become a Member

By Tyler Arnold

(The Center Square) – More Virginians are entering into the workforce, but the unemployment rate saw a slight uptick last month.

There were more than 4.3 million workers in the commonwealth in October after an uptick of 1,162 workers. However, the number of employed residents went down by more than 2,500, which brought that number to slightly more than 4.2 million people. Additionally, the state’s unemployment rate increased by 0.1 percentage point, but is still well below the national unemployment rate of 3.7%.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin referred to the findings as mixed.

“We continue to see economic indicators at the state level and nationally delivering mixed messages, but we should be encouraged by the slight pickup in establishment jobs in October,” the governor said in a statement. “Policies from Washington creating inflationary pressure and keeping Virginians out of the labor force is ongoing, and we must remain vigilant in creating the environment for businesses to start, invest and grow in the Commonwealth and get more Virginians off the sidelines and into the workforce.”

Stephen Haner, a senior fellow for state and local tax policy at the free-market Thomas Jefferson Institute, told The Center Square the report could be a good sign.

“It is possible to add more jobs and still see the unemployment rate rise, and it probably means people who have been sitting out are now job hunting,” Haner said. “That could be a good sign. I think Virginia is now on a better track but we may not see it with all the headwinds from inflation and the Federal Reserve’s push on interest rates.”

There are 92,673 more employed Virginians than there were at the beginning of the year in January. According to estimates from the Virginia Employment Commission, there were 107,400 more jobs in Virginia establishments than there were at the start of the year. There were nearly 87,000 more private sector jobs and more than 20,000 more public sector jobs.

0 Comments
Rep. Abagail Spanberger talks with votes in Lake Ridge in March 2022.

By Meghan McIntyre
Capital News Service

All but one incumbent across Virginia’s 11 congressional districts will return to the U.S. House of Representatives after races were called in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

Republicans picked up one seat and now hold five seats in the U.S. House compared to the six seats Democrats hold. All races have been declared by multiple news outlets, although election officials are still counting some remaining absentee and provisional ballots.

Republican challenger Jen Kiggans unseated Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, a two-term incumbent, by almost 12,000 votes in District 2.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., a two-term incumbent, defeated Republican challenger Yesli Vega in District 7 by just over 11,000 votes.

“It seems to me overall in Virginia and around the country, this was a good night for incumbents from both parties,” said Stephen Farnsworth, director of the University of Mary Washington Center for Leadership and Media Studies and a political science professor.

Republican candidates pushed messaging around the economy and inflation, while Democratic candidates focused on abortion access and reproductive rights and threats to democracy, Farnsworth said. Read More

0 Comments

[Photo: Adriano Ruiz / Unsplash]
By Tyler Arnold

(The Center Square) – As much of Europe faces an energy crisis, some countries are shifting away from natural gas energy and toward coal energy, which could help bolster the Virginia economy through coal exports from the commonwealth’s ports.

“With the energy issues in Europe, we anticipate Virginia’s coal exports will likely increase further, but so will Europe’s demand for other sources of energy,” Suzanne Clark, a spokesperson for the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, told The Center Square.

Virginia is the country’s largest exporter of coal by far. The Port of Virginia in Norfolk accounts for about 60% of the country’s coal exports, which has effects on the statewide and local economies. The commonwealth exported about $3.2 billion worth of coal in 2021.

“These exports are an important driver of Virginia’s economy, which benefits not just from the jobs and investment supported by the coal-producing companies,” Clark added, “but also the indirect jobs supported by coal production, including transportation and logistics for transporting it to the point of export and loading it onto ships for export.”

Coal exports have already grown in recent years, but the recent problems in Europe could lead to another spike. From 2020 to 2021, Virginia’s coal exports increased by about 110%. Clark said much of these hikes were from global demand for metallurgical coal used for steel production and thermal coal used for heating.

As many European countries are running low on energy sources as their natural gas stockpiles are diminishing and Russia continues to significantly cut off the continent’s natural gas supply, some countries have already started to fall back on coal as their options are running low. This is a departure from previous attempts from the European Union to scale back coal production because of concerns about climate change.

0 Comments

There were some lucky Powerball winners from Virginia, albeit none in our backyard.

During the 41 drawings of the jackpot run that began in August and ended with the world-record $2.04 billion drawing this morning, Tuesday, November 8, 2022, sales of Powerball tickets in Virginia generated an estimated $42.3 million in profit. By law, all of that profit goes to K-12 public education in Virginia.

In this drawing alone, more than 303,000 Powerball tickets bought in Virginia won prizes ranging from $4 to $100,000. One ticket won $100,000, and three tickets won $50,000 each.

The $100,000 winning ticket was bought at:

  • Smile Gas, 5201 South Amherst Highway in Madison Heights.

The three $50,000 winning tickets were bought at:

  • Publix, 4660 Monticello Avenue in Williamsburg
  • 7-Eleven, 2712 North Armistead in Hampton
  • Go-Mart, 950 East Main Street in Wytheville

The drawing was delayed 10 hours due to one of the 48 participating lotteries needing additional time to process its sales and play data. As soon as the required pre-draw procedures were securely completed by the one outstanding lottery, the drawing proceeded at 8:57 a.m. today.

The winning numbers were 10-33-41-47-56, and the Powerball number was 10. One ticket nationwide matched all six numbers to win the jackpot. That ticket was bought in California. The jackpot is now $20 million for Wednesday’s drawing.

Powerball tickets can be purchased at any of more than 5,300 Virginia Lottery retailers statewide or online at valottery.com. You can also play Powerball using the Virginia Lottery app. Powerball drawings are held at 10:59 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Tickets can be bought up until 10:00 pm on the evening of the drawing.

Someone who purchased a Powerball ticket in Haymarket won during a previous drawing on Saturday, November 5. No one hit the jackpot in that drawing, however.

0 Comments
Photo: Stafford County Public Schools

Virginia’s teacher workforce is smaller, unhappier and less qualified than before the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia’s nonpartisan legislative watchdog agency said in a report Monday that urged the state to boost funding to address the issue.

Staffers of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, or JLARC, also told lawmakers that in addition to previously reported declines in academic achievement, school staff are experiencing more student behavioral problems and mental health issues.

Read More

0 Comments
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin

By Natalie Barr
Capital News Service

Abortion access is anticipated to push voters to the polls in the wake of a Supreme Court decision earlier this year.

Democrats have rallied voters around the issue for months, hoping to drive turnout in an election that will determine the balance of power in Congress. But, the issue has also galvanized Republican voters, according to Jatia Wrighten, a political science assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

A majority of voters say abortion is a very important issue, according to an August Pew Research survey. The issue increased 13 percentage points from March to August, with 56% most recently saying abortion is top of mind in their midterm vote.

“This is going to be an activating, like mobilizing, policy issue, but it will mobilize people in very different ways,” Wrighten said.

Republicans are reacting to President Joe Biden’s promise to codify federal Roe v. Wade abortion protections, but he needs a blue majority in Congress to pull it off. Meanwhile, state leaders across the nation are rolling back reproductive health protections. Advocates in Virginia, one of few Southern states where abortion remains legal, fear the state will no longer be a safe haven.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin has encouraged state lawmakers to send him a 15-week abortion ban in the upcoming legislative session.

Over 15,000 abortions were performed in Virginia in 2020, according to the most recent Virginia Department of Health statistics. Almost 7% of abortions, or 1,000, that year were provided to people from out of state, according to VDH data.

Abortions through the second trimester remain legal in Virginia, although there are restrictions. The procedure must be performed in a licensed hospital. After the second trimester, a physician and two consulting physicians must also determine if continuing the pregnancy could result in the death of the mother or harm the mother’s mental health, according to state law.

The governor last month called a 15-week abortion ban a compromise bill, during an interview on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper. Youngkin supports exceptions to a 15-week ban and would allow abortions in cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is at risk, he said.
Virginians “would like fewer abortions, as opposed to more,” Youngkin told Tapper, and said he wants lawmakers to deliver a bill next year.

“As governor, this is progress,” Youngkin said. “And this is a place that I would hope that they can deliver a bill on my desk in January that I can sign that would, in fact, recognize a 15-week limit, where a child can feel pain.”

Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said she is not willing to compromise with the governor’s 15-week ban.

“There is no common ground. The common ground is the law,” McClellan said. “A majority of Virginians either want Virginia’s abortion laws to just stay as they are or be even more.”
Reproductive health is like any health care decision, McClellan said. A decision to terminate a pregnancy should be between the pregnant individual and their provider. The government should not intervene, she said.

The senator and the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health, are exploring the introduction of a constitutional amendment for reproductive freedom in the upcoming General Assembly session, McClellan said.

McClellan is “ready to fight” to protect abortion and reproductive rights in the state, she said. The House of Delegates is held by a Republican majority, while the Senate has a slim blue majority — made even more narrow with one Democrat whose position somewhat aligns with the governor’s.

“We will fight tooth and nail on any bills that rollback the progress we’ve made, whether it’s a 15-week ban or 20-week ban, or any other efforts to put more restrictions in place,” McClellan said. “Not only on access to abortion but contraception or any other aspect of reproductive health.”

An October Wason Center poll found support for a 15-week ban with exceptions for rape, incest and harm to the mother. Just 26% of Virginians surveyed strongly support a 15-week ban with exceptions. Another 25% support such a ban, showing a combined narrow majority in favor.

McClellan introduced two bills that changed the abortion landscape in Virginia. She introduced Senate Bill 1276, in 2021, which removed the ban on abortion coverage through health insurance plans and a health benefits exchange. The 2020 Reproductive Health Protection Act SB 733 made Virginia the first state in the South to expand access to abortion. The bill removed requirements such as the mandatory ultrasound requirement and the 24-hour waiting period and required abortion providers to be regulated as hospitals.

“As other states move to restrict access and put abortion bans in place,” McClellan said, “I’m gonna fight to keep that progress.”

Jamie Lockhart, executive director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, or PPAV, worked with McClellan in 2020. The Reproductive Health Protection Act was one of the organization’s biggest achievements in recent years, she said. PPAV is a statewide organization that educates and also advocates for reproductive health care protection laws, Lockhart said.
“A top priority is defeating Gov. Youngkin’s abortion ban,” Lockhart said about the looming 2023 session.

The organization supports a constitutional amendment affirming Virginians can determine their own health care decisions, Lockhart said.

The nation is experiencing a “crisis moment” where many citizens have lost abortion and reproductive rights, which means they have lost access to essential health care needs, Lockhart said.
“I just want to be clear that any ban is a ban, plain and simple,” Lockhart said. “Banning abortion after 15 weeks denies a person the fundamental right to control their own body and health care decisions.”

Olivia Gans Turner is the president of Virginia Society for Human Life, or VSHL, an anti-abortion group founded in 1967. The organization offers public education and lobbies lawmakers to support anti-abortion laws, according to Gans Turner.

Gans Turner is upset that state lawmakers removed the need for consent before abortion procedures, she said.

Her empathy of the issue faced by women is drawn from her own previous abortion, Gans Turner said.

“No one should … ever feel that the only option they have when facing a complex pregnancy situation, whatever that complexity may be, that the only option they have is to have an abortion,” Gans Turner said.

A fetus can feel pain at 15 weeks, Gans Turner said. A proposed 15-week ban is “rational, smart and a reasonable law” to pass, she said.

“It’s definitely time for us to start having conversations like this in Virginia,” Gans Turner said.
VSHL and the National Right to Life Committee encouraged other anti-abortion groups to avoid legislation that does not allow medical exceptions for pregnancies that threaten the mother, Gans Turner said. The organization supports and understands the need for decisions to be made when abortions could be necessary to save the individual’s life, she said.

“Thankfully, we live in a society where that kind of truly dire life threatening or physical threat is much, much more minimized, now,” Gans Turner said.

A 2021 research study funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found there would be an increase in pregnancy-related deaths due to the “greater mortality risk of continuing a pregnancy rather than having a legal induced abortion” in some cases.

Non-Hispanic Black people would experience the greatest increase in deaths with an estimated increase of 33%. All races and ethnicities would experience an increase in estimated pregnancy-related deaths, according to the study.

Breanna Diaz is the policy and legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia. Roe was the “floor not the ceiling” for abortion and reproductive health access and protection, she said.

“I think we can expect many more [proposed bills] to come,” Diaz said. “We will be doing everything we can to oppose them and to ensure anti-abortion bans fail this General Assembly session.”

Individuals would suffer if access became restricted, she said, and it’s important to have “honest and difficult” conversations about abortion.

“It is, I think, far more powerful for members in our government to hear from their constituents about why abortion access is critical for them, their safety, their health and well-being,” Diaz said. “That is more powerful than any policy talking point.”

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.

0 Comments
Gov. Glenn Youngkin visits Tom Coen’s AP history class at Colonial Forge High School on September 1, 2022.

By Tyler Arnold

(The Center Square) – After a report found a decline in mathematics and reading proficiency among Virginia fourth graders, Republicans and Democrats are sparring over the cause of the results.

Virginia’s math and reading proficiency among fourth graders is declining at a rapid rate, much faster than the national decline, according to the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress report card. Over the past three years, the reading proficiency scores fell at three times the rate of the national average and the mathematics scores fell at twice the rate of the national average.

Prior to the last couple of years, the commonwealth’s scores had been well above the national average. Now, the reading proficiency scores have fallen to the same rate as the nation as a whole for the first time since the 1990s and mathematics scores are only three points higher than the national average, despite being 10 points higher just three years ago.

House Speaker Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said in a statement that the results were disappointing but predictable.

“Failure is a choice, and past Democratic leaders chose to fail our students by prolonged school closures and lowering academic standards,” Gilbert said. “Look no further than to states that reopened schools sooner and their student achievement during the pandemic. I look forward to working with Governor Youngkin’s administration and the General Assembly to correct these failures and give our students the education they deserve.”

A timeline of events shows the reading proficiency scores started sharply declining after the Board of Education, under former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, lowered its accreditation standards in 2017 and then declined even more rapidly after the board lowered its reading standards of learning cut scores in 2019. Mathematics proficiency began to rapidly decline after the board lowered its math standards of learning cut scores in 2019.

One of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s priorities, which has garnered support from GOP leadership, is increasing standards to curb the rapid decline in results.

Democratic lawmakers have accused Republicans of misdiagnosing the problem. Sen. L. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, who chairs the Senate Education and Health Committee, said lawmakers need to work on solutions, but criticized Youngkin for putting the blame on the previous Democratic administration.

Prior to the last couple of years, the commonwealth’s scores had been well above the national average. Now, the reading proficiency scores have fallen to the same rate as the nation as a whole for the first time since the 1990s and mathematics scores are only three points higher than the national average, despite being 10 points higher just three years ago.

House Speaker Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said in a statement that the results were disappointing but predictable.

“Failure is a choice, and past Democratic leaders chose to fail our students by prolonged school closures and lowering academic standards,” Gilbert said. “Look no further than to states that reopened schools sooner and their student achievement during the pandemic. I look forward to working with Governor Youngkin’s administration and the General Assembly to correct these failures and give our students the education they deserve.”

A timeline of events shows the reading proficiency scores started sharply declining after the Board of Education, under former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, lowered its accreditation standards in 2017 and then declined even more rapidly after the board lowered its reading standards of learning cut scores in 2019. Mathematics proficiency began to rapidly decline after the board lowered its math standards of learning cut scores in 2019.

One of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s priorities, which has garnered support from GOP leadership, is increasing standards to curb the rapid decline in results.

Democratic lawmakers have accused Republicans of misdiagnosing the problem. Sen. L. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, who chairs the Senate Education and Health Committee, said lawmakers need to work on solutions, but criticized Youngkin for putting the blame on the previous Democratic administration.

“In a time where we need proper leadership from the governor, instead of taking time off the road to find solutions to learning loss problems in Virginia’s schools, he’d instead placed the blame on previous administrations,” Lucas said in a statement. “While Youngkin is trying to prove he is fit for national leadership, he isn’t dealing with the problems in his commonwealth. We have staffing shortages in schools across Virginia, students aren’t receiving the proper resources to set every child up for success, and many schools need funding for structural improvements to increase the quality of education. Now is not the time to point fingers at those who are no longer in leadership.”

Republicans have a slim majority in the House and Democrats have narrow control of the Senate.

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

By Tyler Arnold

(The Center Square) – Although the Virginia Department of Education unveiled new guidelines on transgender issues they say give power back to parents, enforcing those rules in school districts could be a bumpy road.

In a shift away from the previous administration, the new guidelines direct schools to inform parents before they offer counseling services related to gender and provide parents with the opportunity to object. The schools are asked to designate a counselor to speak with both the parents and the student if requested by the parents.

Ultimately, the schools will need to defer to parents on these matters. Parents will have the final say on whether the student can officially change his or her name, gender or pronouns within the schools. Parents will also have a final say on whether the school can offer counseling services that encourage the student to identify with a gender that is different from his or her biological sex.

The rules also require that students use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their biological sex. When athletics teams have different categories for boys and girls, the guidelines state this will be determined by biological sex, rather than self-proclaimed gender identity.

When the new policies go into effect, school boards are required to adopt policies that conform to the VDOE guidelines, but some school districts have already indicated they might refuse to do so. This includes Falls Church City Public Schools and the City of Alexandria Public Schools.

Legislation from the 2020 session directed the the Virginia Department of Education to develop model policies on these transgender questions, but it did not state any consequences for school boards that refuse to comply, according to Charles Pyle, the director of communications for the VDOE.

However, Pyle told The Center Square the Virginia code states local school boards must see that school laws are properly explained, enforced and observed. The Virginia code also gives parents and students legal recourse if they are aggrieved by an action from a local school board. They would have the authority to bring the issue in front of the circuit court within 30 days of the school board’s alleged offense.

“Well, It’s the law,” Youngkin told a gaggle of reporters when asked about the possibility of some school boards refusing to comply.

“So I don’t really have a lot of patience for folks that see a law and don’t comply with it,” the governor continued. “And so we wanted to make sure that our model policy was introduced, as I said, there’s a 30 day comment period. And then local school boards need to go through the process of issuing their policy that is consistent with the model policy, it’s in the Virginia code. And just like everything else, protecting parents fundamental rights to make decisions for their children is in the Virginia code. And I fully expect that each one of the school divisions should comply.”

This would not be the first time school boards bucked the state guidelines. Several school districts refused to adopt the previous standards from former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration.

Parental rights in education was at the forefront of Youngkin’s gubernatorial campaign and has remained in the spotlight in the commonwealth. Many Republicans are backing more parental involvement, but some Democratic lawmakers are going in the other direction. Del Elizabeth Guzman, D-Dale City, for example, said she intends to introduce a bill that would change the definition of child abuse to include a parent’s refusal to acknowledge a child’s self-proclaimed transgender identity.

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list