Traffic Deaths Down in Virginia Over 2012 Labor Day Holiday

RICHMOND – Virginia has experienced a sharp decrease in traffic deaths over the 2012 Labor Day holiday when compared to the same statistical counting period in 2011. Preliminary data reports six people lost their lives in six traffic crashes that occurred between 12:01 a.m. Friday, Aug. 31, 2012, through midnight Monday, Sept. 3, 2012. During the 2011 holiday weekend, 16 people were killed in traffic crashes; 13 people were killed during 2010 and 2009 Labor Day weekends.

The fatalities occurred in the City of Hampton and Bedford, Fauquier, Rockingham, Russell and Stafford counties. One fatality in Rockingham County involved a pedestrian and the one in Hampton involved a motorcycle. Of the remaining four fatalities, the deceased was not wearing a seat belt. Alcohol was a factor in at least one of the fatal crashes.

During the 2012 weekend, Virginia State Police arrested 112 drunk drivers during the four-day Labor Day weekend. Troopers cited 8,187 speeders and 2,459 reckless drivers. They also issued 718 safety belt violations and 251 tickets to adults who failed to properly secure their infants and children. In addition, Virginia State Police responded to and investigated 715 total traffic crashes statewide.

“We asked Virginians to make a concerted effort this holiday weekend to make safe, responsible driving a priority,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “The fact that Labor Day traffic deaths were reduced by half from the year before is very encouraging in our struggle to make Virginia’s highways as safe as possible. We appreciate everyone who made an effort to share the road responsibly, buckle up, comply with speed limits, avoid distractions and drive sober. Now, let’s make this a habit worth keeping and continue to reduce traffic deaths for the remainder of 2012.”

To enhance the safety of Virginia’s highways over the holiday weekend, Virginia State Police had 75 percent of its uniformed workforce participating in the Operation Combined Accident Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.). Operation C.A.R.E. is an annual, state-sponsored, national program designed to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries caused by impaired driving, speeding and failure to use occupant restraints during major travel holidays.

Back to School Shopping Gets a Tax Break This Weekend

Under Virginia law, most purchases of tangible personal property are subject to both state and local sales and use taxes. The tax rate is generally 5% of the cost price except for food for home consumption which is 2.5%. However this weekend, August 3-5, 2012, many retailers will be observing a tax holiday in Virginia for purchases associated with back to school shopping.

During this three-day period, purchases of qualifying school supplies selling for $20 or less per item, and purchases of qualifying clothing and footwear selling for $100 or less per item will be exempt from sales tax. Retailers may also choose to absorb the tax on other items during the holiday period, but they are responsible for paying the tax on those items to the Department of Taxation.

The practice of providing tax holidays in the Commonwealth began with legislation enacted by the 2007 Session of the Virginia General Assembly. Virginia now has three annual sales tax holidays.

A full list of eligible items and guidelines can be downloaded here.

Virginia Wines Shine at International Wine Competition

RICHMOND – Virginia wineries stood out at the San Francisco International Wine Competition which is the largest international wine competition held in America, with more than 4,500 wines from 26 U.S. States and 29 countries competing.

Governor McDonnell congratulated the participants from Virginia saying, “Virginia wines continue to garner acclaim far and wide, which is just one reason why my administration is proud to promote them here in Virginia, across the country, and around the world,”

The Governor also recognized two wineries for their “Best in Show” performance. “In particular, we want to recognize Luca Paschina and Barboursville Vineyards for winning ‘Best of Show’ for their 2007 Malvaxia Passito and Doug Flemer and his team at Ingleside Vineyards for winning ‘Best of Varietal’ for their 2007 Petite Verdot.  Luca and Doug have been outstanding ambassadors for the Virginia wine industry for years, so it is incredibly gratifying to see their efforts so highly recognized by the discerning judges at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.”

Virginia is home to more than 200 wineries statewide and is fifth in the nation for wine grape production. A recent economic impact study shows that Virginia’s burgeoning wine industry contributes almost three-quarters of a billion dollars – or $747 million – annually to Virginia’s economy. Virginia wineries and vineyards support 4,800 jobs that provide $156 million total in wages. 1.6 million visitors include a visit to a Virginia winery on a trip. Wine travel in Virginia has gained many recent accolades. Virginia was recently named one of the ten best wine travel destinations in the world for 2012 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

Virginia Wineries that placed in the competition included:

Barboursville Vineyards – Best of Show Dessert Wine
·         Best of Show Dessert Wine, Double Gold Medal Barboursville Vineyards 2007 Passito, Malvaxia, Virginia $30.
·         Silver Medal Barboursville Vineyards 2009 Petit Verdot, Reserve, Virginia $25.
·         Bronze Medal Barboursville Vineyards 2009 Nebbiolo, Reserve, Virginia $22.
·         Bronze Medal Barboursville Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Franc, Reserve, Virginia $23.

Ingleside Vineyards – Best Petit Verdot
·         Best Petit Verdot, Double Gold Medal Ingleside Vineyards 2007 Petit Verdot, Virginia $20.
·         Gold Medal Ingleside Vineyards 2007 Petit Verdot, Reserve, Virginia $27.
·         Silver Medal Ingleside Vineyards 2007 Red Blend, Virginia Gold, Virginia $35.

Gray Ghost Vineyards
·         Gold Medal Gray Ghost Vineyards 2011 Late Harvest Vidal, Adieu, Virginia $24.
·         Silver Medal Gray Ghost Vineyards 2011 Vidal Blanc, Virginia $13.
·         Bronze Medal Gray Ghost Vineyards 2010 Chardonnay, Reserve, Virginia $25.

Keswick Vineyards
·         Double Gold Medal Keswick Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Monticello $40.
·         Silver Medal Keswick Vineyards 2011 Verdelho, Monticello $18.
·         Bronze Medal Keswick Vineyards 2010 Viognier, Reserve, Monticello.
·         Bronze Medal Keswick Vineyards 2010 Merlot, Monticello.

Michael Shaps
·         Bronze Medal Michael Shaps 2009 Viognier, Virginia $24.

Narmada Winery
·         Silver Medal Narmada Winery 2010 Chambourcin, Namada Vineyard, Virginia $25. [12%]
·         Silver Medal Narmada Winery 2011 Viognier, Virginia $23.
·         Bronze Medal Narmada Winery 2010 Red Bordeaux Blend, Yash-Vir, Virginia $23.
·         Bronze Medal Narmada Winery 2010 Tannat, Virginia $38.

Paradise Springs of Clifton
·         Silver Medal Paradise Springs of Clifton 2011 Petit Manseng, Virginia $25.

Pollak Vineyards
·         Gold Medal Pollak Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Reserve , Smuggler Vineyard, Monticello $35.
·         Bronze Medal Pollak Vineyards 2009 Premium Bordeaux Blend, Estate, Monticello $25.

Philip Carter Winery
·         Bronze Medal Philip Carter Winery 2010 Meritage, Virginia $29.

Veramar Vineyard
·         Bronze Medal Veramar Vineyard 2011 Seyval Blanc, Virginia $19.

DCR Makes Funds Available for Stormwater Management Programs

RICHMOND — Virginia Locality Stormwater Program Development grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 are now available to cities, counties, planning district commissions and soil and water conservation districts. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation has approximately $1.62 million to award through a mix of state and federal funds. Preliminary applications must be postmarked by midnight on Sept. 7, 2012.

DCR is making grant funding available in support of projects to build local government programs and capacity that will result in the development of local stormwater management programs consistent with the Virginia Stormwater Management Act and applicable state and federal regulations. The 2012 Virginia General Assembly passed legislation calling for all Virginia counties and municipalities to create local stormwater management programs. 

Specifically, development of local stormwater management programs will include local adoption of water quality standards for development and redevelopment that are equal to or more stringent than the state standard under the Virginia Stormwater Management Program (VSMP). 

Virginia Locality Stormwater Program Development grants are reimbursement grants. The sponsoring agency must be capable of financing the project in its entirety while requesting periodic reimbursement. 
For information about the application process, visit: http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/stormwater_management/wqnpsgrants.shtml

Entire Commonwealth Under Emerald Ash Borer Quarantine

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has expanded the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Quarantine to include the entire Commonwealth of Virginia. This action became necessary after the recent detection of EAB in the counties of Buchanan, Caroline, Giles, Hanover, Lee, Prince Edward, Stafford and Warren. The quarantine previously included Arlington, Charlotte, Clarke, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, Halifax, Loudoun, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Pittsylvania and Prince William counties and the cities of Alexandria, Danville, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, Manassas Park and Winchester.

Under this statewide quarantine, the regulated articles, which include ash trees, green (non-heat treated) ash lumber and ash wood products, as well as hardwood firewood, are no longer subject to localized movement restrictions and may now move freely within the state.

For additional information about the Emerald Ash Borer Quarantine call the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 804.786.3515.

Signed Legislation Puts Constitutional Amendment on Nov. 6 Ballot

RICHMOND — Four pieces of legislation to protect the property rights of Virginia citizens were ceremonially signed today. HB5 (R. Bell) and its companion SB240 (Obenshain) provide for a referendum for a constitutional amendment to protect private property rights on the Nov. 6, 2012 ballot. HB1035 (Joannou) and SB437 (Obenshain) provide clear definitions for the terms “lost profits” and “lost access” and how to determine the amount of just compensation.

Question 1 on the Nov. 6 ballot will read: “Shall Section 11 of Article I (Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of Virginia be amended (i) to require that eminent domain only be exercised where the property taken or damaged is for public use and, except for utilities or the elimination of a public nuisance, not where the primary use is for private gain, private benefit, private increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or economic development; (ii) to define what is included in just compensation for such taking or damaging of property; and (iii) to prohibit the taking or damaging of more private property than is necessary for the public use?”

Voters will be asked to choose “Yes” or “No.”

Governor McDonnell commented on the issue saying, “This legislation is an important step toward including necessary private property protections in Virginia’s constitution. Protecting the liberty and property of its citizens is a fundamental role of government, and this constitutional amendment makes those protections stronger in Virginia. The amendment that will be before Virginia voters this Nov. 6, sets clear boundaries on the ability of government to seize their property and will help ensure that when property is taken for a true public use, that the property owner will be fully compensated. I encourage our citizens to make their voices heard this November and support this important constitutional protection.”

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who helped to write the amendment, added, “It has been seven long years of effort, but with the passage of the property rights amendment, our citizens are one step closer to enshrining in the Constitution of Virginia the protections they deserve from overzealous governments and the developers who use them to take away Virginians’ homes, farms, and small businesses. We have fought every year since the 2005 Kelo decision to strengthen property rights in the commonwealth through various bills and three attempts at a constitutional amendment. A property rights amendment to Virginia’s constitution is the ultimate protection. Virginians need, and voters will finally have a property rights amendment to vote on in the November ballot.”

The Bills Signed Today Include:

HB5 (R. Bell)/SB240 (Obenshain) Eminent Domain Voter Referendum
·         Provides for a referendum at the Nov. 6, 2012, election to approve or reject an amendment that revises the prohibition on the enactment by the General Assembly of laws whereby private property may be taken or damaged without just compensation
·         The constitutional amendment
o   Requires that eminent domain only be exercised where the property taken or damaged is for public use and, except for utilities or the elimination of a public nuisance
§  Not where the primary use is for private gain, private benefit, private increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or economic development
o   Defines what is included in just compensation for such taking or damaging of property
o   And prohibits the taking or damaging of more private property than is necessary for the public use

HB1035 (Joannou)/SB437 (Obenshain) Eminent Domain Define Lost Access and Lost Profits
·         Provides definitions for the terms “lost profits” and “lost access” and how to determine the amount of just compensation, which includes lost profits and lost access resulting from the taking, that must be paid for property taken by eminent domain
·         The bill has a contingent effective date of January 1, 2013, provided that the voters approve an amendment to Section 11 of Article I of the Constitution of Virginia at the November 2012 election

UVA President Reinstated

Seventeen days of tumult at the University of Virginia, including threats by the Governor to intervene,  ended Tuesday with a unanimous vote by the board of visitors to reinstate Teresa A. Sullivan as president. The 15-member board voted to give Teresa Sullivan her job back during a  brief meeting that was broadcast live over the internet.

After the meeting Sullivan was greeted with wild applause by a large crowd on campus.

“While many believe that the past two weeks have threatened our great institution, I believe that we have been strengthened by the experience,” Sullivan said. “It has, in fact, propelled our academic community to a new place and made it ready to face a quickened pace of change.

“My goal is to harness the enthusiasm that has been generated and use it to the University’s competitive advantage.”

Since the announcement of Sullivan’s forced resignation, the Universtity has been under intense scrutiny on the national stage. The firestorm of criticism has spurred a public discourse on transparency and a opened up the debate about the best way to operate public universities in an era of tight finances.

Law Enforcement Releases Enhanced Composite Sketches in Morgan Harrington Murder Case

Today, federal, state, and local law enforcement launched a multimedia campaign that includes two enhanced composite sketches of a suspect in the 2009 murder of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington. The unknown murder suspect is also connected by DNA to a 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax City, Virginia.

Authorities recently enhanced the composite sketch created in 2005 from a description by the sexual assault victim. One of the composites shows the suspect with facial hair, as the suspect was described at the time of the attack. The second composite sketch features him without facial hair.

The two attacks were connected through DNA after a forensic profile was submitted by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science to the FBI’s national DNA database. The search found that the suspect in the Harrington murder investigation matched the DNA profile of the attacker in Fairfax City.

The multimedia campaign includes a public service announcement by Metallica lead guitarist James Hetfield appealing to the public to come forward with information concerning the Morgan Harrington investigation. The composite sketches of the suspect are being featured on bus shelters in Washington, D.C., as well as on digital billboards in Richmond, Virginia; Roanoke, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; and in 23 other states along the East Coast. Social media outreach and alerts via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, along with a website dedicated to the Harrington case were also launched Wednesday. Podcasts are now available on iTunes, and radio spots are airing to further raise awareness of the ongoing investigation. The multi-pronged effort is designed to develop new leads and renew the public’s attention in the attacks. The campaign implements techniques similar to those that have led to the arrests of the East Coast Rapist as well as Ten Most Wanted fugitive James “Whitey” Bulger.

The Jefferson Area Crime Stoppers is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Morgan Harrington’s murder. In addition, the band Metallica is adding $50,000 to the reward, for a total of $150,000.

Morgan Harrington Murder

On the evening of Saturday, October 17, 2009, Harrington attended a Metallica concert at John Paul Jones Arena on the University of Virginia (UVA) campus in Charlottesville, Va. At approximately 8:30 p.m., she left the arena and was unable to re-enter the facility. She was last seen hitchhiking for a ride from passing traffic.

Harrington was dressed that night in a black T-shirt with the word “Pantera” spelled out in tan letters and was wearing a distinctive Swarovski crystal necklace made of large crystal chain links, which investigators have yet to recover. Harrington’s “Pantera” T-shirt was found on November 11, 2009, in front of a row of apartments along 15th Street, NW near Grady Avenue in Charlottesville. Harrington’s skeletal remains were later discovered on January 26, 2010, in a remote field on an Albemarle County, Virginia farm along Route 29. A camera that Harrington had in her possession that night has never been recovered.

Sexual Assault in Fairfax City, Virginia

On the evening of Saturday, September 24, 2005, a 26-year-old victim was walking home from the Giant Food Store located on the 3700 block of Jermantown Road in Fairfax City, Virginia. The suspect grabbed the victim from behind as she walked down Rock Garden Drive toward her residence. He then carried the victim to a grassy area behind a maintenance shed, where he sexually assaulted her. The suspect was last seen running from the area.

The suspect is described as an African-American male with black hair and facial hair at the time of the attack. He is approximately 6’0” tall and was believed to be between the ages of 25 and 35 years old at the time of the attack.

The public is asked to review this information and consider whether they know someone who generally fits this description, who lived or had ties to the area around the times of the assaults, or who may have been known to spend considerable amounts of time in those areas.

People who know the suspect may not believe that he is capable of committing these crimes. He may not necessarily have a violent criminal history. Because investigators are in possession of DNA evidence that can either positively link the suspect to his crimes or exclude innocent parties, citizens should not hesitate to provide information, even if it is just the name of a potential suspect.

The following agencies are cooperating in the investigation of these crimes: the Virginia State Police, City of Fairfax Police, University of Virginia Police, Charlottesville Police, Albemarle County Police, Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Virginia Tech Police Department, George Mason Police Department, and the FBI.

Law enforcement agencies are asking anyone with information to contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) or the Virginia State Police Tip line at 434-352-3467.

UVA President Resigns Abruptly

Teresa A. Sullivan (Photo: Dan Addison)

University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan is leaving the institution just two years after taking the helm in what is being called a “mutually agreed upon resignation,” reached by the Board of Visitors and Dr. Sullivan. She will step down from her post on August 15th.

In an email message sent out on behalf of the Board of Visitors, officials informed students, families, and alums of the decision.

Rector Helen E. Dragas said, “We express our deep appreciation to President Sullivan for her effective stewardship of the University. She is a much respected educator, as well as a visible presence in the University community and a prominent voice in higher education.”

At a press conference later in the day, Ms. Drags went on to explain that the Board  made the decision based on University needs for a bold strategic, visionary leader to take us to the next level stating,  “For the past year, the board has had ongoing discussions about the importance of developing, articulating and acting on a clear and concrete strategic vision. In a rapidly changing and highly pressurized external environment in both health care and in academia,” Dragas said, “we believe that the University needs to remain at the forefront of change.”

Rumors have swirled of disagreements between the president and the board and Sullivan alluded to that tension in a press conference, stating,  “Although the board and I have a philosophical difference of opinion, I will always treasure having had the opportunity to work with so many gifted faculty and staff, talented students, and loyal alumni.  I am also grateful for the privilege to have worked with our extraordinary vice presidents and deans.”

Dragas said the board expects to move expeditiously to name an interim president and to begin the search for a new leader.

Sullivan was the first woman to hold the post of university president at UVA.

Redskins Will Stay in Virginia

After much speculation about a possible move to D.C. or Maryland, the Washington Redskins have announced that they will retain their corporate headquarters in Virginia and will continue to expand and improve the training facility in Loudoun County. In addition, the Redskins will begin working with the City of Richmond to identify a suitable training camp site to hold summer practice in Richmond, starting in 2013.

The Washington Redskins are the only national sports franchise based in Virginia, and the team has a major economic impact on the Commonwealth. Recent data shows that the team supports 1,832 jobs in the state, directly and indirectly. The squad generates nearly $200 million in economic activity in Virginia and over $100 million annually in player salaries, and provides $9.8 million annually in state and local tax revenue. Expansion of the training facility is estimated to support 393 jobs during construction, while generating $52.8 million in total economic activity. The existing corporate headquarters supports, directly and indirectly, 350 jobs and provides $2.2 million in state and local tax revenue, not including the corporate income tax paid by the team. The headquarters is visited by 20,000 individuals a year who spend approximately $3.4 million on goods and services during their visits.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell commented on the development at a press conference  today saying, “Virginia considers the Redskins our team. The team is based here. The team trains here. The players live here. Virginians root for the Redskins on the field, and off the field the team contributes greatly to the economy and culture of the Commonwealth. Virginia is committed to keeping the Redskins right here in our state for years to come, and today we’ve taken a significant step towards accomplishing that goal. This is a positive and exciting development for football fans from Loudoun County to Richmond to Virginia Beach. It will mean more jobs in our state, and more revenue for state and local coffers. More than anything, it means Virginia will remain ‘Redskins Country.’ In the years ahead I look forward to visiting the new expanded training facility in Loudoun County, and watching the team practice right here in our state capital of Richmond.”

Bruce Allen, Executive Vice President and General Manager of The Washington Redskins, added, “During the last two years the Washington Redskins have made significant improvements to modernize FedEx Field and Redskins Park, ensuring a best-in-class game day experience for our fans and an excellent training environment for our players.  We are very pleased to continue our relationship with the Commonwealth of Virginia that my father established 41 years ago.  We are proud to call Loudoun County the home of Redskins Park.  In conjunction with the governor’s office and the City of Richmond, we also look forward to finding a great summer training camp facility in the city for both our team and our fans to enjoy.”

Governor McDonnell approved a $4 million performance-based grant to support the retention and expansion.  The City of Richmond is considering a number of locations for Redskins summer practice and will make further announcements regarding that process in the days and weeks ahead. Governor McDonnell will join Redskins officials on Aug. 4th to further celebrate today’s announcement. Details will be released closer to the date of the event.