Virginia ‘Meets Requirements’ for Compliance with Federal Special Education Requirements

Virginia earned the top rating — “Meets Requirements”–  for the 11th consecutive year on a federal report card looking at outcomes for students with disabilities.

“Results-driven accountability looks beyond compliance with the provisions of IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] to see whether the efforts of special educators at the state and local levels are actually improving outcomes for students with disabilities. This latest federal rating shows that Virginia’s special educators continue to do just that,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said in a Virginia Department of Education [VDOE] press release. “I think every school in the Commonwealth can take a page from the special education playbook by providing individualized instruction plans and tailored interventions for all students.”

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City of Richmond Officials, Casino Developers Threaten Legal Action After General Assembly Blocks 2022 Casino Referendum

The recently-passed Fiscal Year 2023-2024 budget includes language blocking the City of Richmond from holding another casino referendum until November 2023. Richmond officials have called for a 2022 referendum after voters rejected a casino in 2021, but Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) is instead pushing for Petersburg to be granted a casino license, and on Thursday afternoon, Richmond officials and the casino developers suggested they were considering legal action.

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Budget Proposal Includes New Marijuana Misdemeanor, Blocks Richmond Casino License for Now

The General Assembly is expected to vote Wednesday on a budget compromise hammered out by top money legislators from House Republicans and Senate Democrats. The proposal includes tax and spending policy, but also includes legislation that would fund lab schools, block a Richmond casino for now, and create new marijuana misdemeanors for possession of more than four ounces of marijuana in public.

Executive Director of Virginia NORML JM Pedini said in a recent update that there had been the potential for three class six felonies.

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Virginia’s Office of the Children’s Ombudsman Opens to Oversee Social Services

Virginia’s Office of the Children’s Ombudsman (OCO) officially launched Tuesday, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced. The office provides oversight of Virginia’s child welfare system and can receive complaints about the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS).

“I am excited that, after several months of preparation and with the support of the Administration and our partner agencies, information about the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman and the services we provide will finally be made publicly available to Virginians across the Commonwealth. My staff and I are looking forward to helping families navigate the child welfare system and ensuring that child safety and family preservation remain top priorities for our local and state agencies that serve Virginia’s children and families,” OCO Director Eric Reynolds said in an administration press release.

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Virginia Employment Commission Agrees to Pay $200,000 in Legal Fees After End of Lawsuit over Unemployment Insurance Claims Backlog

Inside DMV, people standing in line

The Virginia Employment Commission has agreed to pay $200,000 in legal fees to organizations who led a 2021 lawsuit over delays in employment claims processing.

In a press release, the VEC said, “After the May 25, 2021, settlement, Legal Aid subsequently sought an award of attorneys’ fees on February 1, 2022, for its work in connection with the case. After a mediation on April 20, 2022, regarding the issue of attorneys’ fees, the parties have agreed to resolve the matter for $200,000. This amount is less than the total amount of attorneys’ fees sought by Legal Aid in this case.”

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Youngkin Wants to Add Two Marijuana Misdemeanors for Possession of More than Two Ounces and More than Six Ounces

Governor Glenn Youngkin has asked the General Assembly to approve creating two new marijuana misdemeanors: a Class Two misdemeanor for possessing more than two ounces and less than six ounces of marijuana, and a Class One misdemeanor for possessing more than six ounces but less than one pound of marijuana, the felony limit. Youngkin introduced the changes in an amendment to Senator Emmett Hanger’s (R-Augusta) SB 591, a ban on selling marijuana products in the shape of a human, animal, or fruit.

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Report Shows Virginia’s Road Condition Improving but Bridges Need Work

Virginia’s state-owned transportation infrastructure is improving, ranking the state 13th among the rest of the U.S. for pavement condition. Bridge condition lags somewhat, ranking 17th, but more than 25 percent of the Commonwealth’s bridges are close to being ranked structurally deficient, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) reported to legislators on Monday.

“You may recall that there was interest in taking a look at the state’s revenue streams, planning process, and infrastructure condition after a series of major legislative actions over the last five years or so,” JLARC Director Hal Greer said. “As you’ll hear, the state’s revenue picture has improved, and recent changes have made the state’s planning process more rigorous, and based on objective data. We have, though, identified some important, but relatively minor changes to be considered to better address some of the state’s transportation needs.”

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Virginia Employment Commission Making Some Progress, but Still Has Serious Institutional Problems

The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) is starting to recover from over a year of unemployment insurance (UI) backlogs and call wait times brought on by unprecedented demand during COVID-19, according to a final report from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC.) But the VEC crisis highlighted long-term systemic problems in the agency, and the agency still has a long way to go.

“As you’ll hear, some backlogs have been reduced, and call center performance has been improved somewhat, but there are increasing backlogs in other areas. There remain substantial challenges for the agency in the coming weeks, months, and even years,” JLARC Director Hal Greer told legislators on Monday.

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Virginia Employment Commission Delays Rollout of New Unemployment Insurance System

The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) is delaying the roll out of its new unemployment insurance system intended to help modernize user experience on its website and relieve strain on call centers until the beginning of November. On September 17 the VEC announced that its current system would go offline to allow for the upgrade starting September 29. But a new announcement states that the changeover will occur in late October through early November, the latest delay in a modernization project originally scheduled for completion in 2013.

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Virginia Employment Commission Still Overwhelmed by Claims Backlog

The Virginia Employment Commission is still lagging in processing claims, according to an interim report from the Joint Legislative Audit Review Commission (JLARC) presented to legislators Monday.

“A theme that you will hear in the presentation is that while the agency could not have been expected to be fully prepared to respond to the pandemic, it could have been better prepared,” JLARC Director Hal Greer said. “As you’ll hear, 18 months into the pandemic, the agency is still overwhelmed by backlogs of claims. Its call center continues to under-perform, and the agency is struggling with how to recoup a significant amount of benefit payments that were incorrectly issued.”

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Watchdog: Virginia Employment Commission Still Struggling

A spokesperson for the Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) told legislators that the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) is still unable to answer most of its incoming calls and expressed concern about the backlog of certain types of claims requiring extra review. On Tuesday, JLARC Principal Legislative Analyst Lauren Axselle gave a brief update to legislators, noting that an interim report will be complete in September with a final report on the VEC scheduled for November.

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Northam Appoints Eric Reynolds Head of Foster Care Watchdog Agency

Governor Ralph Northam announced Virginia’s first Director of the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman will be Eric Reynolds, who has previous experience as legal counsel for the Department of Social Services and the Office of Children’s Services. The announcement is the latest step in the creation of the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman, established by the 2020 General Assembly to help oversee Virginia’s foster care program.

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Judge Grants Virginia Employment Commission Brief Extension to Respond to Class-Action Lawsuit over Slow Unemployment Claims Processing

Virginia is trailing the rest of the United States in processing certain unemployment claims. That’s led to a class-action lawsuit against the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC), filed in April. VEC Commissioner Ellen Hess asked for an extension until the end of May to respond to the lawsuit, but on Wednesday, a district judge ruled that the VEC could only have a four-day extension from May 7 until May 11.

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Governor Northam Says He Supports Marijuana Legalization in Virginia

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said Monday that he supports the legalization of Marijuana use for adults in the commonwealth.

“Legalizing marijuana will happen in Virginia,” the governor said during a briefing on Monday.

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Virginia Loan Authority Has Millions of Unused Funds Available for Small Businesses, Report says

The Virginia Small Business Financing Authority (VSBFA) is doing a poor job issuing loans for small businesses with millions in unused funds available, according to a new report by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) released Monday. 

The VSBFA is a part of the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, but operates separately from the rest of the agency. 

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