Bipartisan stewardship of Virginia’s fiscal policies and budgetary actions was the catalyst behind Standard and Poor’s decision to affirm the Commonwealth’s AAA bond rating and restore Virginia’s financial outlook to stable.
Going into 2018, the Commonwealth of Virginia held a AAA bond rating, but a year before had been placed on a credit watch. However, bipartisan stewardship of Virginia’s fiscal policies and budget actions was the catalyst behind Standard and Poor’s decision to restore Virginia’s financial outlook to stable
In June, Governor Northam signed a budget that will bring the Commonwealth’s reserve funds to more than $1 billion by the end of the current biennium. The total projected reserve amounts will be the highest in more than a decade, and the third highest since 1995.
Shoring up the Commonwealth’s reserves is a priority for Governor Northam, who envisions eight percent of Virginia’s total budget in reserves by the end of his term.
Virginia implemented a bipartisan regulatory reform plan to streamline its regulatory review process and create efficiencies.
In March 2018, Governor Northam signed bipartisan legislation to establish a pilot program for regulatory reform. The pilot program will streamline the regulatory review process for the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR), creating efficiencies for government agencies and hardworking Virginians.
Specifically, House Bill 883 and Senate Bill 20 create a three-year regulatory reduction program that will be administered by the Department of Planning and Budget (DPB). The program will focus on reducing regulatory requirements, compliance costs, and regulatory burdens across both agencies, with a goal of streamlining regulatory requirements by 25 percent over the next three years. To date, both agencies in the pilot program have completed the first stage of the reform process and have compiled each agency’s baseline number of regulatory requirements: 2,963 for DCJS and 1,984 for DPOR. Further, DPB will track and report on the extent to which all state agencies comply with existing requirements to review all regulations every four years.
This reform effort will make state agencies more efficient, reduce regulatory requirements, and give Virginia a clear regulatory reform model to replicate across state government.
Governor Northam signed a historic state budget that was passed with bipartisan support in the General Assembly.
Following months of discussion, the General Assembly came together and passed a historic budget with bipartisan support on May 30, 2018. This budget included Medicaid expansion with no obligation to the general fund, making health coverage accessible to 400,000 Virginians across the Commonwealth. To eliminate any risk to the general fund, the state’s share of Medicaid will be paid by a provider assessment on Virginia hospitals that stand to gain from the expansion of health care. The provider assessment freed up more than $370 million in general fund savings to invest in education, public safety, and the reserve account.
This state budget—which Governor Northam approved on June 7, 2018—also moved Virginia forward as a leader in improving and investing in Metro, through historic funding, reforms, and collaboration among Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia.
In addition to expanding access to healthcare and improving Metro, this historic budget:
Governor Northam authorized parental leave for Virginia’s state employees, reflecting his commitment to ensuring the Commonwealth is the best place to live, work, and raise a family.
As a working parent himself, Governor Northam understands the challenges facing working parents and their families. As a child physician, the Governor is committed to improving the development and health of Virginia’s children. And as Governor, he is dedicated to recruiting and retaining Virginia’s talented state employees.
That’s why, in June, Governor Northam signed Executive Order Twelve to authorize paid parental leave for employees of executive branch state agencies. Studies indicate that allowing parents to bond with new children positively impacts children’s development and decreases infant mortality rates. Paid parental leave also has significant bene fits for parents—it has been shown to increase parents’ health, wellbeing, and financial stability, as well as increase parents’ likelihood of returning to the workforce.
The new bene fit provides up to eight weeks of paid parental leave to enable employees to bond with a newborn, or to care for a child under the age of eighteen newly-placed for adoption, foster, or custodial care. The paid leave may be used in combination with other leave bene fi ts and applies to both parents if both are eligible state employees.
Governor Northam’s authorization of paid parental leave re fl ects his commitment to Virginia’s state workforce and their families. Going forward, this policy will continue to foster the growth of Virginia’s children, help parents in managing a work-life balance, contribute to a healthier and more productive workforce, and make the government of this Commonwealth an even more attractive place to work.
During Governor Northam’s first year in office, the Commonwealth has seen tremendous economic development achievements across every sector of Virginia’s economy.
One of Governor Northam’s highest priorities is ensuring that every region, every community, and every person can participate in the Commonwealth’s economic progress. This includes attracting economic opportunity to all areas of Virginia, building a pipeline of skilled talent, and leveraging our natural, physical, and virtual infrastructure.
In 2018, Virginia moved up in the rankings for the top states to do business—Forbes elevated the Commonwealth from fifth to fourth, and CNBC upgraded Virginia’s ranking from seventh in 2017 to fourth in 2018. Virginia also rose from second to fi rst in the Site Selection Magazine rankings of the Atlantic region for state workforce development activities.
Of the 229 economic development announcements this year, Virginia has had several high-profile wins, including Amazon’s announcement in November that it will locate a major new corporate headquarters in Arlington, bringing at least 25,000 new jobs and $2.5 billion in capital investment to the Commonwealth within 10-12 years; and Micron’s decision to expand its semiconductor manufacturing facility and increase memory production at its operation in the City of Manassas, adding 1,100 jobs and representing $3.0 billion in capital investment.
Of the 229 economic development announcements this year, Virginia has had several high-pro file wins, including Amazon’s announcement in November that it will locate a major new corporate headquarters in Arlington, bringing at least 25,000 new jobs and $2.5 billion in capital investment to the Commonwealth within 10-12 years; and Micron’s decision to expand its semiconductor manufacturing facility and increase memory production at its operation in the City of Manassas, adding 1,100 jobs and representing $3.0 billion in capital investment.
The Northam Administration is also focused on facilitating partnerships and supporting communities in executing locally-designed and locally-driven strategies like Main Street development efforts, while also managing federal programs like Opportunity Zones, which can attract investments in rural and under-invested neighborhoods. In May, Governor Northam announced that the U.S. Department of Treasury officially designated all 212 of his nominated Virginia Qualified Opportunity Zones, which represented the maximum number of zones for Virginia under the new federal tax tool that targets low-income census tracts.
With the statewide unemployment rate holding steady below 3.0 percent, the Northam Administration has made significant progress in increasing Virginia’s economic competitiveness and creating quality, family-sustaining jobs in every part of the Commonwealth. In December, Governor Northam presented his Comprehensive Economic Development Policy for the Commonwealth, which focuses on leveraging Virginia’s human capital, physical and virtual infrastructure, and innovation ecosystem to achieve shared prosperity and continue strengthening Virginia’s economy
Given today’s global trade environment, the Northam Administration is committed to helping Virginia businesses—both large and small—navigate the changing global marketplace and continuing to find effective ways to encourage export growth of Virginia products. This year, Governor Northam traveled to three countries on his first trade mission to promote the Commonwealth and recruit new investment from foreign countries, and also completed four missions within the United States.
Virginia’s tourism industry continues to grow at a dynamic pace, with every locality seeing increased tourism revenue in 2017.
As Virginia’s top ambassador for tourism, Governor Northam traveled to all corners of the Commonwealth to promote Virginia’s rich historic attractions, unmatched outdoor recreation offerings, world-class food and craft beverages—including ten wine regions and eight oyster regions—beautiful landscapes, and exciting arts and culture.
The Governor’s efforts contributed to a landmark year for Virginia’s tourism industry—in May, Governor Northam announced that 2017 visitor spending reached $25 billion, a record high. This spending supported 232,000 Virginia jobs, $5.9 billion in salaries and wages, and $1.73 billion in state and local taxes. In 2017, overseas visitors spent nearly $2 billion in Virginia and international visitation reached 1.1 million, outpacing the national rate—6.9 percent compared to 3.2 percent for the United States.
Highlights of the Governor’s travels this year include his “Summer of Baseball” tour that took him to all nine of the Commonwealth’s minor league team stadiums to throw out the first pitch. And earlier this year, the cast and crew of The Bachelorette filmed an episode in to Virginia’s state capitol, showcasing several iconic Richmond locations. Governor Northam even made a cameo appearance!
Governor Northam appointed a Chief Broadband Advisor and Deputy Broadband Advisor to ensure that all homes and businesses without broadband access are connected within ten years. Virginia invested $12 million in rural broadband in 2018 to support the connection of more than 31,000 unserved homes and businesses.
Reliable broadband internet access is essential to connect businesses to the modern economy, connect students to educational opportunities, and let families, healthcare providers, and others access the technology that is woven into modern life.
But too many communities across Virginia lack access to reliable broadband internet. That’s why Governor Northam appointed a Chief Broadband Advisor and Deputy Broadband Advisor with the directive to ensure universal broadband across Virginia in the next ten years.
With state investments from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission and the Department of Housing and Community Development, Virginia invested $12 million in rural broadband access in 2018. Those funds will support internet service providers across the Commonwealth in connecting more than 31,000 unserved homes and businesses. Virginia also leveraged public-private partnerships, matching state funding with local, federal, and private funds to build broadband infrastructure.
As a native of the Eastern Shore, Governor Northam is determined to bring more opportunity to the Commonwealth’s rural areas, so that people can get a good job and build good lives without leaving home. During his first 11 months in office, Governor Northam made nearly 100 visits to rural Virginia.
A critical component for creating opportunity in Virginia’s rural areas is making sure they have access to the tools that attract businesses and jobs, such as broadband access, good health care, and workforce training. Since taking office, Governor Northam has made 95 economic development announcements in rural Virginia, outlining $1.33 billion in capital investment and the creation of 5,395 new jobs.
Governor Northam has worked closely with legislators from rural Virginia, including supporting innovative legislation in the last General Assembly session proposed by Delegate Will More field, a Republican from rural Southwest Virginia, and Delegate Lashrecse Aird, a Democrat from the city of Petersburg, to bridge the rural-urban divide and help both regions attract new business investment.
The Governor announced a plan this year to achieve functionally universal broadband access within the next ten years. The funding for this effort will be a significant increase to the $4 million already appropriated.
And the expansion of Medicaid eligibility will help provide health coverage to thousands more of our rural residents—including increased access to behavioral health services and addiction treatment.
The Administration has also made great strides to build a workforce that is ready to fill the jobs that are locating in Virginia. Working with Virginia’s community college system and businesses, the Governor is committed to helping students get the skills they need for the new collar jobs of the 21st century in cybersecurity, computer programming, clean energy, health care, and other high-need areas.
Governor Northam signed an executive order which establishes a new state housing policy to expand access to quality, affordable housing.
Access to quality, affordable housing is essential to creating vibrant and sustainable communities across the Commonwealth. To that end, Governor Northam signed Executive Order Twenty Five in November. Creating a new state housing policy designed to enhance economic growth and promote education, health, and job opportunities for all. Among other priorities, the order directs the Secretary of Commerce and Trade and the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to focus on increasing the supply of permanent supportive housing, including programs to reduce homelessness and housing instability for vulnerable populations.
The policy also addresses the shortage of quality affordable housing by coordinating economic development eff orts with housing production, supporting housing production technology, and bolstering regional and local pilot projects that increase the supply of affordable housing units. This effort will prioritize the development of affordable housing near employment and educational opportunities.
Finally, Executive Order 25 directs the Secretariats to work with stakeholders to reduce the rate of evictions across Virginia. Efforts will include expanding counseling and education services as well as diversion and prevention programs. The Commonwealth will also evaluate potential pilot programs that provide eviction relief, especially in communities with high eviction rates.
As a result of the partnership proposal to bring Amazon’s major new headquarters to Virginia, the Commonwealth, Arlington County, the City of Alexandria, and a variety of local and regional partners are all working to address the housing needs of the region in a more concerted and dedicated way. The Virginia Housing Development Authority already provides $300 million per year for rental housing and $600 million per year for homeownership financing in Northern Virginia, and will devote an additional $15 million per year for the next five years for affordable and workforce housing across Northern Virginia. Arlington County and the City of Alexandria are also providing at least $15 million annually for affordable housing in their communities over the next decade.
Governor Northam put forward an ambitious plan to expand renewable energy sources, reduce Virginia’s reliance on fossil fuels, and modernize the Commonwealth’s energy grid.
In October, Governor Northam released the 2018 Virginia Energy Plan, which provides a strategic vision for the Commonwealth’s energy policy over the next ten years. Among other recommendations, the plan outlines ambitious goals to expand Virginia’s existing solar and wind programs, develop new solar purchase options for small businesses, increase energy efficiency financing opportunities, and establish electric vehicle targets.
As part of his administration’s commitment to alternative energy, Governor Northam also announced a historic off shore wind demonstration project consisting of two six-megawatt wind turbines located approximately 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. This project will provide critical research and operations experience to Virginia’s business and military partners, and will position Virginia as a leader in harnessing the power of wind energy.
Finally, Governor Northam was proud to sign the Grid Transformation and Security Act in March, a sweeping energy bill that promotes further modernization of the energy grid and investments in clean, alternative energy. Among other provisions, the legislation deems 5,500 megawatts of solar and wind energy projects in the public interest and includes over $1 billion dollars of utility investments in energy efficiency programs. Dominion Energy also committed to have at least 3,000 megawatts of new solar and wind resources under development or in operation by the beginning of 2022.
Governor Northam took several actions this year, including appointing the Commonwealth’s first-ever Chief Data Officer to make state data more transparent, streamline interagency information sharing, and ensure that the technology services provided by the Commonwealth keep pace with the marketplace.
Governor Northam appointed Carlos Rivero as the Commonwealth’s first-ever Chief Data Officer (CDO), making Virginia one of seventeen states with this position. The CDO is tasked with setting guidelines for data sharing among agencies and with the public and establishing safeguards for personal privacy.
In September, Governor Northam issued Executive Order Nineteen directing the use of cloud technologies in the Commonwealth’s information technology service delivery models. Leveraging cloud services models will allow the Commonwealth to continue modernizing its technology infrastructure and provide Virginians with rapid and efficient delivery of government services.
To strengthen coordination against cyber threats across the Commonwealth, the Northam Administration launched a series of regional workshops aimed at building relationships between state and local information technology officials and enhancing collaboration on regional and statewide cyber initiatives. Workshop participants received briefings on the Virginia Fusion Center Cyber Intelligence Unit, Virginia National Guard cyber assessment program, Virginia Cyber Incident Response Plan, and State Cyber Grant Program.
Virginia has worked tirelessly to become a national leader in smart community development—from closing the digital divide between urban centers and rural populations to collaborating with state and local partners to defend against cyber threats and share data effectively. Earlier this year, Virginia was among five states chosen for the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices’ Smarter States, Smarter Communities Learning Lab. Governor Northam assembled a multidisciplinary team from his cabinet and state agencies to participate in the learning lab, which offered an opportunity to solidify the state’s implementation roadmap, work on reducing barriers that limit many communities from accessing smart technologies, and move forward with innovative policies that integrate smart community initiatives in all areas of the Commonwealth.
The Northam Administration has taken significant strides this year to make the Commonwealth a great place to work, where everyone has the tools, environment, and support necessary to excel. From approving a sign on and retention student loan repayment bonus to creating a shared savings incentive program for health plan participants, Governor Northam is focused on establishing policies that will help Virginia attract and retain talented state employees, especially those with young children.
By taking direct actions to improve the quality of life for the state’s workforce, the Commonwealth hopes to set an example for other government and private sector employers and send a message to fellow Virginians about what kind of state we are working to build. A thriving state workforce not only benefits Virginia’s state employees and their families, but also the citizens of the Commonwealth that they serve.
This spring, the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management and the Department of General Services launched a series of employee engagement activities including a signature program, OntheSquareVA and OntheSquare–Anywhere. Activities have centered on social, recreational, and educational programs designed for employees and their families, and include the creation of several annual events like the Governor’s 5K race and the Governor’s Capitol Classic Car Show.
On October 1, Virginia began implementing Smart Shopper, a shared savings incentive program that encourages health plan participants to “shop” for certain medical services and provides tools to identify better value, lower cost facilities for services without impacting the quality of care. When the better value facility is chosen, a participant earns an incentive payment, ranging from $25 to $500 depending on the service and the chosen facility. When state employees save money on medical care, the Commonwealth saves money too.
Sign on and retention student loan repayment bonuses went into effect this year, providing new incentive options for attracting and retaining talent within the Commonwealth. This policy gives an agency the ability to offer a one-time bonus up to $10,000, specifically targeted for positions that are exceptionally difficult to fill and retain talent.
To support Virginia’s largest private industry, the Northam Administration promoted the agriculture and forestry industries, awarded 19 Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund grants, and participated in four international trade missions.
The agriculture and forestry industries combined have a total economic impact of over $91 billion and provide more than 442,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. Every job in agriculture and forestry supports 1.7 jobs elsewhere in Virginia’s economy.
The Northam Administration has dedicated significant resources to supporting the agriculture and forestry industries by promoting agribusiness within the Commonwealth and across the world. In 2018, Governor Northam announced 19 Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund grants for projects throughout Virginia, which is the fastest pace of awards for the program in any calendar year. These projects represent over $73.8 million in new capital investment, 377 new jobs, and a purchase of over $195 million in Virginia-grown products.
Exports are a big part of Virginia’s farm and forest income. In 2017, Virginia exported $2.77 billion worth of agricultural and forestry products, which is equal to approximately 30 percent of farm and forest cash receipts. To support local producers, Virginia participated in four international trade missions to connect them with export opportunities. These trade missions to China (Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen), Europe (United Kingdom, Italy, and Germany), Cuba, and South Korea were used to promote Virginia agricultural commodities, wood products, seafood, and specialty food and beverage items.
Additionally, Virginia producers are connected with export opportunities using the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ global network of trade representatives in Canada, China, Europe, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the United Kingdom. On average, Virginia businesses reported a significant increase in international sales due to their participation in these events.
Virginia has also seen significant growth in the craft beverage industry. Virginia is home to over 300 wineries, 70 licensed distilleries, and 256 craft breweries, with a combined economic impact of over $2.5 billion. In 2018, a new Virginia Wine brand was unveiled to capture the diverse and rapidly evolving wine region and industry in Virginia.
Virginia forestry contributes over $21 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy and supports 108,000 jobs annually, and the Northam Administration is dedicated to keeping our forestlands safe, healthy, and sustainable
In 2018, Virginia achieved sustainable certification for its state forests through compliance of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the American Tree Farm System standards of forest management sustainability.
The Department of Forestry promotes sustainable forestry by supporting forest management practices that protect the environment and align with best practices. Virginia’s state forests illustrate the effectiveness of the state’s management, and demonstrate how carefully planned scientific stewardship sustains ecological, social, and economic benefits.
These certified forests cover more than 68,000 acres. The state forest system is self-sustaining and receives no state general funds, so it must support operations through timber sales like other private landowners. Certification of Virginia state forest lands demonstrates for Virginia landowners how certification can be part of their land management efforts while validating that working forests are sustainable.
Several key factors received specific attention and commendation during reviews of the Commonwealth’s state forests. Virginia exceeded standards in providing recreational opportunities for the public, supporting research, and creating educational opportunities to promote sustainable forestry. These elements are important components of Virginia’s state forest system.
As a doctor and a public servant, Governor Northam believes that making sure all Virginians have access to the care they need to be healthy and productive is both a moral and economic imperative. The Northam Administration is proud to be able to help 400,000 additional Virginians get access to quality, affordable care.
The biennial budget Governor Northam signed in June was the culmination of five years of effort to expand Medicaid and to provide access to healthcare to nearly 400,000 Virginians. By expanding Medicaid, Virginia is expected to generate a net budget savings of $371 million for fiscal years 2019 and 2020, and $3.8 billion in federal funds will be made available to health providers who treat the newly eligible adults over those two fiscal years.
The Commonwealth put forward an aggressive timeline to be ready to go live with coverage on January 1, 2019, and state agencies worked together to implement Medicaid expansion, prepare for new enrollees, and educate Virginians about new coverage.
Virginia began accepting applications under the new eligibility rules on November 1, 2018, and coverage began on January 1, 2019. As of December 2018, more than 200,000 Virginia adults have enrolled in new health coverage under Medicaid expansion.
The Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, the agency responsible for administering Medicaid, implemented a communications and outreach plan that included events for advocates and providers, as well as a radio and digital ad campaign to ensure newly eligible Virginians had the clearest and best information about the new coverage available to them.
Virginia became the first state in the nation to use a single statewide technology software to connect all of its emergency departments, ensuring that health care providers, insurers, and others can communicate quickly and easily about the care of patients receiving emergency medical services.
Virginia launched its Emergency Department Care Coordination Program in 2018, making the Commonwealth the first state in the nation to connect all of its emergency department systems in this way. This statewide technology solution facilitates near real-time communication and collaboration between all emergency departments in the Commonwealth, facilitating near real-time communication and collaboration among health care providers, health plans, and clinical and care management personnel for patients receiving emergency medical services.
The program also integrates the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program and the Advance Healthcare Directive Registry. With this secure technology, Virginia can provide emergency medical personnel with access to a patient’s critical medical information in a timely way, increasing delivery of effective care, avoiding duplicative tests, reducing unnecessary costs, and improving health outcomes.
Additionally, the Emergency Department Care Coordination program will expand to include other downstream providers, including primary care physicians, case managers, nursing homes, community service boards, private behavioral health providers and Federally Qualified Health Centers, who will have the ability to use the technology solution to receive alerts and contribute to patients’ care coordination.
In October, Virginia launched a $6 million long-acting reversible contraceptives pilot program, which will help ensure cost is not a barrier to low-income women seeking to plan when or if they become pregnant.
Governor Northam has advocated for years for a longacting reversible contraceptive (LARC) initiative— finally achieving success this October.
As a physician and a policymaker, Governor Northam believes Virginians should be informed about and have access to all possible reproductive healthcare options, so they can make the best decisions for their families. That includes the most effective forms of contraception, LARCs, which have clear potential to help Virginia achieve shared goals of decreasing unintended pregnancies, reducing abortions, and improving health outcomes for infants.
In launching its LARC initiative this fall, Virginia awarded up to $6 million through May 2020 to a dozen quali fi ed health care providers to off er LARCs to patients whose income is below 250 percent of the federal poverty level. Virginia’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant funds this initiative to decrease the number of unintended pregnancies and improve birth outcomes.
The program will give priority access to uninsured or underinsured women who choose a LARC as their preferred contraceptive method. In 2015, an estimated 49 percent of Virginia women reported that their pregnancy was unintended. Long-acting reversible contraceptives are considered one of the most effective forms of contraception.
The twelve participants in the Virginia LARC initiative are Augusta Healthcare for Women, Central Virginia Health Services, Daily Planet, Greater Prince William Community Health Center, Harrisonburg Community Health Center, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, Rockbridge Area Health Center, Sinclair Health Clinic, University of Virginia Health System, Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, and the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance.
Governor Northam has made combating the opioid and addiction epidemic in Virginia a key priority. Over the course of 2018, he focused efforts to fight the addiction epidemic by introducing new initiatives, continuing to support existing efforts that are showing positive results, and creating collaborative opportunities across state agencies.
In its first year, Virginia’s Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services (ARTS) program, the Commonwealth’s signature Medicaid initiative for addressing opioid addiction and other substance use disorders, saw positive results by providing life-saving treatment to more than 24,600 Virginia Medicaid members, a 57 percent increase over the previous year. Nearly 3,000 providers offered treatment services to Medicaid members in the first year of the ARTS program, which represents a 173 percent increase from the previous year. There was also dramatic growth in the number of physicians providing outpatient addiction treatment, as the number jumped from 261 to 1,571 doctors in a year-over-year comparison. In addition, because the ARTS program is administered through Medicaid, Virginia’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility to over 400,000 Virginians will dramatically increase access to this lifesaving program.
Virginia received over $21 million in federal grant funding to address the opioid crisis in 2018. This funding came from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and is primarily being used to support localities in prevention, treatment, and recovery services.
The Virginia Department of Corrections established a new partnership with three community service boards (CSBs) to pilot a program that provides naltrexone to re-entering inmates with Opioid Use Disorder. This pilot will continue to grow with federal grant resources, and a similar project has been developed at the Department of Juvenile Justice. Governor Northam and state leaders also visited Chester field County Jail to meet with inmates in the groundbreaking Heroin Addiction Recovery Program, which recently changed its name to Helping Addicts Recover Permanently (HARP). HARP has since become a model for jails across the Commonwealth, and includes medical, clinical, peer-to-peer, and mental health services for inmates overcoming addiction.
In September, Governor Northam signed Executive Order Twenty One, establishing the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Opioids and Addiction. The Advisory Commission is a multidisciplinary, bipartisan group composed of 27 individuals from across Virginia, and has been charged with reviewing the Administration’s approach to ending the overdose epidemic. The Advisory Commission will provide advice and input on the development of policies, programs, and initiatives designed to combat the drug overdose epidemic in Virginia.
In August, Governor Northam kicked off a Medical Grand Rounds Tour to all six Virginia medical schools, where he engaged current and future physicians on ways to rethink pain management and curb the opioid epidemic.
As a physician and former Eastern Virginia Medical School lecturer, Governor Northam kicked off a Medical Grand Rounds Tour in August—visiting Virginia’s six medical schools to engage future physicians on ways to rethink pain management and curb the opioid epidemic.
Grand Rounds are a traditional patient-centered education method in medical schools, often consisting of presentations on a specific medical problem. The Governor’s lectures included discussions on addiction management, methods for treating chronic and acute pain, and ways to recognize signs of opioid dependence in patients.
At each of his lectures, Governor Northam was joined by Alleghany County Sheriff Kevin Hall and his son, Ryan Hall, who is in recovery from a substance use disorder. Ryan shared his personal story of recovery and helped illustrate how substance use disorders often start with a prescription for opioid painkillers.
This year, the Virginia Department of Education implemented several future-focused enhancements to the Commonwealth’s public education system to promote college, workplace, and civic readiness, while maintaining rigorous accountability and enhancing opportunities for deeper student learning. Not only will these changes help students succeed, they will also help sustain Virginia’s competitive business advantage and thriving local communities.
This year, for the first time in two decades, the Commonwealth implemented sweeping revisions to Virginia’s school accreditation standards. Approved by the state Board of Education in November 2017, this overhaul of state accreditation standards is designed to provide a more comprehensive view of school quality, place increased emphasis on closing achievement gaps, encourage continuous improvement for all schools, and ensure that every Virginia student is prepared for success beyond high school.
Beginning with the 2018-2019 school year, Virginia implemented this new school accreditation model and new high school graduation requirements. The newly revised Standards of Accreditation improve how schools are accredited by the state by providing a more comprehensive picture of school quality. In addition to test pass rates, the new model also holds schools accountable for student growth, achievement gaps, chronic absenteeism, dropout rates, and college, career, and civic readiness.
The new system expands accountability beyond overall performance on Standards of Learning tests, recognizing the academic growth of students making significant annual progress toward meeting grade-level expectations. These enhancements allow school, division, and state leaders to better target areas in which schools need improvement, and better equip and inform parents and communities about the strengths of their local schools. Virginia’s new accreditation system acknowledges a multitude of important student outcomes necessary for their long-term success.
Virginia implemented reforms to the teacher licensure process and teacher preparation programs in order to support recruitment and retention of Virginia’s education workforce.
Supporting Virginia’s education workforce through reforming the teacher licensure process and preparation programs is central to recruiting and retaining high-quality educators across the Commonwealth. Over the course of the past year, the Northam Administration has worked to streamline pathways into the teaching profession and remove unnecessary barriers.
The teacher licensure process and teacher preparation programs went through numerous changes this year. The Northam Administration approved regulations to reform the licensure process and preparation program requirements, including changes to create new STEM and special education endorsements. These regulations helped to remove barriers to employment in education through a variety of changes, including reducing the number of years of work experience required for a career switcher provisional license from five to three years.
Additionally, more community colleges and four-year institutions are taking advantage of new flexibility to create 2+2 agreements for stackable early childhood degrees. These agreements allow students to earn an associate’s degree in two years and then seamlessly transfer into an early childhood program at a four-year higher education institution without losing any credits. Streamlining these processes makes it easier for students to access the training they need to enter the profession equipped to help students succeed.
The Northam Administration implemented numerous policies and programs to improve affordability and accessibility to post-secondary education for all Virginians.
In today’s economy, it is important that we provide a pathway for people to get the right training for jobs that require more than a high school education, but not a four-year degree. Governor Northam allocated $5 million of his federal workforce discretionary funds to support the reimagining of the community college system that puts training on the front end, so students who want skills to get a job can get their training and get hired. By streamlining career pathways, we are making community college even more accessible while ensuring that all pathways lead to good jobs with family sustaining wages.
The newly implemented Credits2Careers Portal created by the Virginia Community College System made college more affordable and accessible to thousands of veterans during its first full year in effect. This resource allows veterans and military-connected students to see how their work experience can translate into academic credits at community colleges across the Commonwealth.
Additionally, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) updated the domicile guidelines to support students of undocumented, incarcerated, or noncustodial parents seeking in-state tuition.
Governor Northam signed legislation creating a student loan ombudsman to assist students pursuing higher education and serve as a resource for student loan borrowers by receiving, reviewing, and helping resolve their complaints.
With more than one million Virginia borrowers owing more than $30 billion on student loans, it is critical that we address student debt and provide resources to assist student loan borrowers. In June, Governor Northam signed legislation creating the Office of the Qualified Education Loan Ombudsman at the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), which is responsible for helping Virginia student borrowers understand their rights and responsibilities, and aiding in the resolution of complaints against loan providers.
The office has Student Loan Advocates who educate borrowers on their rights and responsibilities, work with Virginians thinking about using student loans to help finance their higher education goals, and assist individuals who already have loans and need help avoiding default or getting out of default.
Under Governor Northam’s leadership, Virginia’s workforce development system is better preparing people for well-paid, sustainable, and in-demand jobs.
In April, Governor Northam opened the first Virginia Career Works center in Roanoke. The Virginia Career Works network—which now consists of 60 unique centers—provides one-stop employment and career services for Virginians and Virginia businesses. In establishing this new service-delivery strategy for the Commonwealth, workforce systems partners have committed to ensuring easy access to programs and service, providing high-value solutions, providing meaningful support for clients’ success, and approaching the challenge with innovation and a spirit of collaboration.
In response to growing employer demand for a skilled and job-ready talent pool, Governor Northam launched Build Virginia, an initiative designed to connect workers throughout the Commonwealth with information about training and employment opportunities in skilled trades and production occupations.
A leadership committee made up of the state’s largest stakeholders in the industries will guide this initiative and provide recommendations to the Governor.
Governor Northam believes every Virginian should get a chance to reap the bene fits of Virginia’s strong economy. To that end, the administration has been working to strengthen partnerships between the workforce system, social services, and education and training providers to assist individuals in every corner of the Commonwealth.
The University of Virginia recently completed a study of Virginia’s out-of-work population. The report revealed an estimated 650,000 individuals who would bene fit from connections to these services, including 100,000 youth age 16-24 who are neither in school nor in work. A key part of the Governor’s workforce agenda will be ensuring service access to this group of citizens, including individuals newly enrolled in Medicaid expansion.
Governor Northam signed Executive Order Eleven, reestablishing the Children’s Cabinet to address challenges facing Virginia’s children and families. The leadership of the Children’s Cabinet is uniquely positioned to convene state, local, public, and private agencies to collaborate on activities and make policy recommendations that will have the greatest impact on children.
The Commonwealth of Virginia has a distinguished record as one of the best states for children and families. Even so, there are still challenges that exist for children in Virginia that must be addressed for children, families and communities to thrive.
The Children’s Cabinet, reestablished by Governor Northam in June 2018 and chaired by First Lady Pamela Northam—offers a productive avenue for collaboration among various state and local agencies, stakeholders, and policymakers to find solutions in several priority areas. Key areas of focus include early childhood development and school readiness, nutrition and food security, and systems of care and student safety.
Supported by work groups of state and local agency staff and stakeholders, this cross-secretariat initiative brings together a variety of perspectives to develop goals, identify strategies and best practices, and encourage agencies to collaborate on collective efforts. These conversations have informed efforts to apply for available grant funding as well as next steps in areas such as early childhood data and expanding food insecurity screenings.
In its first six months, the Children’s Cabinet’s efforts have produced two reports with recommendations for improving systems of care in the Commonwealth through student safety and trauma-informed care.
Preparing Virginia’s Early Learners
First Lady Pamela Northam believes expanding access to high-quality early education is the best investment we can make in Virginia’s future workforce. The First Lady is bringing her experience as a parent, pediatric occupational therapist, and educator to spearhead the administration’s work to bolster early childhood education across the Commonwealth so all children, no matter who they are or where they live, can enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and beyond.
While about 90 percent of brain development takes place in the first five years of life, a recent Joint Legislative Audit Review study suggested that more than one third of Virginia kindergarteners are not be fully ready for school. In June, Governor Northam re-established the Children’s Cabinet, naming the First Lady as chair. The administration also appointed an experienced leader, Jenna Conway, to become Virginia’s first “Chief School Readiness Officer,” with the primary goal of working across secretariats and state agencies to improve school readiness. In 2018, an additional $65 million in new state and federal funds were secured to improve early childhood care and education.
At the beginning of the 2018–2019 school year, the First Lady traveled over 2,000 miles on a “Back to School” tour that took her to every region in the Commonwealth, from Bristol to Onancock. She visited schools and met with teachers, parents, elected officials, and business and community leaders to discuss ways to strengthen Virginia’s early childhood programs. It was clear that we can and we must unify Virginia’s early childhood education system at the state level, building a uniform rating and improvement system that shines a light on strengths and opportunities, and providing better training and support for teachers.
In December, Virginia was awarded a one-year $9.9 million competitive federal Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families that will directly support many of these improvements. The funding will help the Commonwealth produce a statewide needs assessment and strategic plan that aligns early learning standards and develops kindergarten-readiness tools for teachers and families, and nearly $4 million will go directly to innovative educators in 2019.
The Northam administration negotiated a breakthrough bipartisan compromise to modernize Virginia’s felony larceny threshold law and ensure crime victims receive their duly-owed restitution.
The Governor signed a package of commonsense criminal justice reforms that included legislation to raise the felony larceny threshold to $500 and ensure that crime victims receive their duly-owed restitution. Set in 1980, the previous felony larceny threshold of $200 was the lowest in the country and had not been raised despite decades of legislative effort.
Raising the felony larceny threshold maintains Virginia’s tough stance on criminal theft while modernizing the law so that one mistake does not define a person’s entire life. By ensuring that court-ordered restitution is appropriately collected and distributed, Virginia also reaffirmed its commitment to supporting the victims of crimes. Both measures have been long-supported by criminal justice reform advocates.
Governor Ralph Northam worked to provide Virginians with an opportunity for a meaningful second chance through restoration of rights efforts, continued investments in reentry programs, and the transformation of our Department of Juvenile Justice.
Throughout 2018, Governor Northam worked to provide Virginians with a meaningful second chance, restoring the civil rights of 8,569 individuals who have served their time and have reentered society.
Virginia has maintained the lowest recidivism rate in the nation for three consecutive years, which is largely credited to the Commonwealth’s world-renowned and nationally recognized correctional practices and offender reentry programs. These efforts seek to provide assistance and support to Virginians returning to their communities, helping ensure that these citizens have an opportunity to be successful.
Along with fiscal savings to the Commonwealth for the inpatient care to incarcerated individuals, Medicaid expansion will be a critical tool in the successful reentry of off enders back into the community. Immediate access to medical services upon an offender’s release will be one more tool to help Virginia maintain the lowest recidivism rate among all state correctional systems.
In June, the Virginia Department of Corrections launched the Medication Assisted Treatment Reentry Initiative, a pilot program that helps provide intensive substance abuse treatment while someone is in custody, combined with medication once people leave Virginia’s facilities. Three Recovery Navigator employees were hired to work with Probation Districts as well as Community Service Boards to facilitate treatment once the offender is released from an institution.
Within the past year, the Victims Services Unit of the Department of Corrections has expanded, adding regional staff who offer support to crime victims within the Commonwealth. The additional staff are able to proactively reach out to the victims registered with the Department of Corrections to provide assistance and offer consistent support to the victim during the offender’s reentry process.
In addition to the great work being done at the Department of Corrections, the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice is in the midst of a comprehensive structural and cultural transformation of its facilities, programs, and community-based services. This initiative reduces the number of youth who would otherwise end up in secure confinement. By reinvesting the resulting savings into community programs and services that use evidence-based alternatives to confinement, we are reducing crime, increasing public safety, and enhancing outcomes for our youth.
Virginia has safely reduced the population of youth in state-operated Juvenile Correctional Centers from 583 in January of 2014 to under 200 today. This successful transformation could not have occurred without the great work of Department of Juvenile Justice staff, the leadership of the McAuliffe Administration, and bipartisan support in the General Assembly.
Governor Northam directed Virginia’s transportation and public safety agencies to join forces in a groundbreaking effort aimed at reducing traffic deaths through the Executive Leadership Team on Highway Safety.
Governor Northam issued Executive Directive Two to establish a first-of-its-kind Executive Leadership Team on Highway Safety. The team is comprised of representatives from the Virginia Departments of Transportation, Motor Vehicles, Health, Education, and State Police, and is led by the Deputy Secretaries of Transportation and Public Safety and Homeland Security. Together, the Executive Leadership Team is working proactively to reduce motor vehicle fatality rates.
In September, Governor Northam launched a public-private partnership with the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety Program to deploy in-vehicle alcohol detection sensors. Virginia is the first state in the nation to test this safety feature in cars, which will help reduce alcohol-related fatalities and save lives on Virginia roads.
Governor Northam also signed House Bill 708 into law, which requires child safety seats to remain rear facing until a child is age two. This change has long been advocated by child safety advocates, and will help protect children in car crashes or collisions.
Through tropical storms, flooding, tornadoes, and an early-season snow storm, Virginia faced multiple severe weather events this year. Our brave first responders, emergency personnel, transportation crews, safety service patrols, fire fighters and law enforcement officers put themselves in harm’s way, and we are grateful for their commitment to keeping the Commonwealth safe.
Governor Northam established a Student Safety Work Group, comprised of a diverse group of education, mental health, and public safety professionals, to make recommendations on enhancing school safety.
Virginia has long established itself as a national leader on school safety due to effective legislative leadership and investments in education and training. Governor Northam recognized the need to build upon this foundation so that Virginia schools remain safe learning environments for our children. Governor Northam signed Executive Order Eleven on June 21, 2018, which reestablished the Children’s Cabinet with a directive to initiate a Work Group on Student Safety.
The Work Group on Student Safety convened a diverse, interdisciplinary group of stakeholders and subject matter experts and met three times. Work group members heard numerous presentations from experts, engaged in facilitated discussion, and developed 20 recommendations that were submitted to Governor Northam on October 1, 2018. Recommendations addressed the role, prevalence, and training of school resource and school security officers; existing ratios and staffing levels for school support staff; training for a variety of school-based personnel; suicide awareness and prevention; and physical security measures.
The Commonwealth has taken a number of steps this year to ensure veterans and service members are supported, including helping connect them to employment and other services, easing transitions to new posts or to civilian life, and providing resources to prevent suicide.
With the eighth-largest veteran population and the third-largest active duty and reserve population in the nation, Virginia is home to more than 725,000 veterans and 115,000 active duty and reserve members of the military. One of this administration’s top priorities is ensuring our veterans, service members, and their families receive the services and help they have earned.
This year the Virginia Department of Veterans Services opened its 31st state veterans’ benefi ts office, at the Pentagon, to serve the thousands of Virginia veterans and their families who work at there. This office will help veterans identify and receive state and federal benefi ts. Last fiscal year, Virginia’s Veterans Service Representatives helped veterans across the Commonwealth file over 71,000 claims for a total of $3.2 billion dollars back in their pockets.
Virginia has also supported state veterans cemeteries, including a signifi cant expansion of the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk. This expansion was funded by a $10.2 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the largest single cemetery expansion grant the department has ever given.
In 2016, the General Assembly approved a pilot program, the Military Medics and Corpsmen (MMAC) Program, to employ former military medics and corpsmen in our health systems. Virginia was the first state in the nation to create this unique bridge to health care careers for veterans. In June, Governor Northam signed legislation making the MMAC Program permanent, which resulted in tripling the number of partner health systems.
This program provides a path for recently discharged Army Medics, Navy and Coast Guard Corpsmen, and Air Force Medical Technicians to gain employment with major health systems across the Commonwealth while they obtain the required civilian credentials. Governor Northam also signed legislation ensuring that Virginia will recognize the teaching licenses of military spouses who are teachers and were licensed by other states. Together, these efforts will help to connect veterans and their families with employment in Virginia that best utilizes their training and talent.
Virginia is also one of seven states across the country selected to participate in a Governor’s Challenge to prevent suicide among service members, veterans, and their families. This is part of the VA’s 2018–2028 National Strategy for the Prevention of Veteran Suicide.
Governor Northam took a number of steps to improve state environmental agencies, enhance protections of the Commonwealth’s natural resources and conserve public and private lands.
The Commonwealth of Virginia has made significant progress in controlling and reducing air and water pollution, though challenges remain. Public health, recreational opportunities, safe drinking water, economic vitality, and our quality of life are linked directly to a healthy environment. It is critical that the Commonwealth’s natural resource agencies have the tools necessary to protect and improve our environmental quality.
In April, Governor Northam signed Executive Order Six, which directs the Secretary of Natural Resources to review the Department of Environmental Quality’s permitting, monitoring, and enforcement activities and ensure that these programs are as protective of public health and the environment as possible. The Secretary will assess enforcement methods and penalties, and identify any gaps in monitoring or resources to find areas of improvement. The Executive Order calls for a report on recommended actions by April 30, 2019.
Governor Northam also signed Executive Order Twenty Two to create the Governor’s Conservation Cabinet. Governor Northam charged the Conservation Cabinet to improve coordination on conservation and environmental protection across key government agencies, including those responsible for overseeing agriculture, transportation, economic development, and budgeting.
On November 8, Governor Northam officially opened the 38th Virginia State Park, Widewater State Park in Stafford County. Designating these 1,100 acres as a state park will protect the land—which includes two miles of waterfront—and significantly reduces the likelihood of increased water quality degradation.
Over the course of his first year, Governor Northam and his Administration acted to combat climate change by working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and emphasizing climate and sea level adaptation.
As communities across the Commonwealth experience the effects of a warming climate, sea level rise, and more frequent and intense weather and flooding events, Governor Northam is dedicated to combating climate change and taking actions to address its impacts. Virginia is continuing to address these concerns both individually and in concert with other states as an active member of the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan group of governors taking state leadership in the absence of federal government action.
To reduce carbon pollution in the Commonwealth, the Department of Environmental Quality is working to finalize a regulation that reduces emissions from power plants. In September, Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler attended the Global Climate Action summit, where he announced that Virginia is beginning the process of regulating methane emissions. The Commonwealth also announced its membership in the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification, and Virginia became a member of the Transportation Climate Initiative, a 13-state collaborative working to reduce emissions from the transportation sector.
In addition, the Northam Administration has finalized a strategy for investing more than $93 million from the Volkswagen emissions mitigation resettlement. Thus far Virginia has allocated $14 million to begin building an electric vehicle charging network, and another $14 million to help public transit agencies purchase electric buses. Both of these initiatives will help to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Northam Administration has taken bold steps to combat sea level rise and increase coastal resilience.
As communities across the Commonwealth experience the effects of climate change and sea level rise, Governor Northam is increasing efforts to preserve Virginia’s coastline and better prepare for worsening weather events. Governor Northam signed Executive Order Twenty Four in November, which outlined bold measures to increase the Commonwealth’s coastal resilience.
Executive Order Twenty Four designates Virginia’s Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), and tasks the CRO and first-ever Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection with developing and implementing natural disaster mitigation strategies, reviewing adaptation strategies, and protecting vulnerable infrastructure and communities.
In coordination with relevant stakeholders, the CRO and Special Assistant will also strive to increase coastal resilience through adoption of new trechnologies and best management practices, improve risk communication with vulnerable communities, and empower Virginians to take emergency preparedness measures.
The order also mandates the development of a Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Plan to assist local governments in reducing their exposure to risks associated with sea level rise, recurrent coastal flooding, and other natural hazards. Specifically, the Master Plan will provide recommendations to improve the flood preparedness of coastal communities, provide guidance for land conservation efforts, and consider options for relocation, if needed.
The Northam Administration has made significant progress in its efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay, achieving the first-ever unanimous adoption of pollution reduction targets and developing policies to ensure continued preservation of Virginia’s natural treasure.
As a native of the Eastern Shore, Governor Northam grew up with the Chesapeake Bay in his backyard. This year, the Northam Administration worked with other Chesapeake Bay watershed states, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and the Environmental Protection Agency to secure the first-ever unanimous adoption of pollution reduction targets for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort.
The administration also rolled out a strategy for building the next phase of the restoration effort that garnered unprecedented support and engagement from local community members and local government experts. Virginia’s milestone achievements were acknowledged by the Environmental Protection Agency in June, which awarded Virginia a “green light” designation for effective progress in restoring the Chesapeake Bay.
The Chesapeake Bay’s living resources responded to these improvements in water quality. Underwater grasses reached unprecedented coverage and the native oyster population was restored in the Lafayette River.
Governor Northam led and negotiated a landmark bipartisan agreement to provide Metro with a dedicated source of revenue for the first time in the system’s history.
As part of a bipartisan, historic budget, Governor Northam this year worked across the aisle to secure a dedicated source of revenue for the first time in Metro’s history. Metro is vitally important to Northern Virginia and the Commonwealth, and Virginia was the first in the region to come to the table with $154 million in funding. Maryland and Washington, D.C., soon followed with their proportional shares, for a total of $500 million in dedicated revenue.
In addition to providing critical revenue for capital investments, getting Metro back on track will mean implementing commonsense governance and oversight reforms. As part of the funding package, Metro must streamline its board of directors, provide annual reports on performance and safety, and adopt a six-year capital improvement program. The package also caps growth in Metro’s operating budget at three percent a year in Virginia.
As an economic asset that drives the region’s economy, this commitment to Metro supports business development, expansion, and recruitment. Thanks to the leadership of Governor Northam, his administration, and their many partners within the General Assembly, local governments, and the business community, Metro is on track to serve a growing population for years to come.
Virginia made new investments in research and innovation for transit, rail, highway projects, aviation, and port operations with a goal of ensuring that the Commonwealth’s multimodal transportation network works better for everyone.
In May, Virginia launched a Transportation Innovation Office to ensure that our transportation network is safer, more reliable, and more efficient across all regions of the Commonwealth.
In May, the Virginia Secretary of Transportation launched the Transportation Innovation Office to ensure seamless mobility throughout our transportation platform, across regional networks, and within our communities. The emergence of intelligent transportation systems, automated vehicles, and connected corridors requires dependable, uninterrupted communications infrastructure to better move people, goods, data, and information. The work of this office includes identifying and developing policies for governance and implementation of intelligent transportation systems.
This year, the Virginia Department of Transportation developed a comprehensive plan to improve the Interstate 81 Corridor, including recommendations on capital improvements, operational enhancements, and funding options. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) completed the launch of Richmond’s first Bus Rapid Transit system, “The Pulse,” and a data-driven redesign of the existing transit network, which have driven ridership and revenue beyond projections.
MERIT (Making Efficient and Responsible Investments in Transit), DRPT’s innovative, projectbased prioritization process for statewide transit capital funding, was also recently approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB). MERIT will ensure core state-of-good-repair projects, such as replacing or rehabilitating bus fleets based upon their age and mileage, are made the highest priority for state funds and are eligible to have 68 percent of project costs covered by the Commonwealth.
These strategic investments in Virginia’s infrastructure will help to improve safety and reliability, and support economic development across the Commonwealth.
Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is a strategic national asset that is quickly becoming a hub for the aerospace industry. Ideal for large rocket launches, resupply missions to the International Space Station, and launches of smaller, more agile rockets, the site also hosts training facilities for NASA and is an Unmanned Aerial Systems testbed.
Virginia Space, working with NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, delivered Rocket Lab to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), making it the aerospace company’s first U.S. flight facility for launching agile, low-cost rockets into space.
Virginia Space’s MARS Pad 0A was built by the Commonwealth to accommodate the Antares 230 medium-class liquid-fuel rocket and Cygnus spacecraft. In 2018, in collaboration with Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, two critical resupply missions to the International Space Station launched from this pad. With more missions planned in 2019, Virginia is well-positioned to remain a leader in national security and access to space.
Construction is nearly complete on the MARS Payload Processing Facility, which will enable secure payload integration, payload fueling, and stage integration. This facility is integral to the growth and future success of the spaceport. It will open the door to additional customers, including the U.S. Department of Defense, to integrate payloads and flight vehicles securely and discretely.
Virginia Space also boasts a state-of-the-art Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Airfield, which is used by private and government entities for UAS testing. Because the MARS UAS Airfield is located in restricted airspace controlled by NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, the location is ideal for sensitive or classified projects.
The investment by Virginia Space in workforce development through a successful internship program and a distance master’s program has also helped position Virginia as a leader for aerospace launches, research, and other activities.
With a $700 million investment, the Port of Virginia is successfully completing a major expansion, has secured approval to further expand its shipping capacity, and is on track to become one of the most modern and technologically advanced ports in North America.
The Port of Virginia reached a milestone in 2018, finishing an 800-foot expansion of the wharf at the Virginia International Gateway (VIG) and continuing construction of 30 semi-automated container stacks at the Norfolk International Terminals, served by 60 newly-constructed rail-mounted gantry cranes. Additionally, on-dock, double-stack rail service at VIG will expand the Port’s capacity through a complete rebuild of the terminal’s rail operation.
At the completion of these projects, Virginia will be home to one of the most modern and technologically advanced ports in North America.
The Port of Virginia’s “Wider, Deeper, Safer” project also secured full federal authorization in 2018. The only East Coast port with Congressional authorization to dredge to 55 feet, the Port of Virginia plans to deepen the Norfolk Harbor and Newport News channels and widen the Thimble Shoals channel.
These improvements will increase the number and size of ships the Port is able to serve.
Governor Northam is committed to ensuring the Port’s continued success. The Port of Virginia is responsible for 530,000 jobs and $88 billion in annual economic impact throughout the Commonwealth. Increasing the Port’s shipping capacity will create additional jobs and further boost the local, statewide, and national economies.
Immediately following his inauguration, Governor Ralph Northam signed Executive Order One to ensure equal opportunity throughout state government.
To affirm his belief that diversity and inclusion make the Commonwealth stronger, Governor Northam signed Executive Order One on January 13, 2018—immediately following his inauguration. Executive Order One prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, political affiliation, or against otherwise qualified persons with disabilities in Virginia state government. Under this policy, no state employee or contractor may engage in discrimination in the provision of public services or employment.
Additionally, the executive order directed state appointing authorities and other management principals to take affirmative measures to emphasize the recruitment of qualified minorities, women, disabled persons, and older Virginians to serve at all levels of state government.
Governor Northam is also taking steps to ensure a diverse, representative state government, appointing a majority-female cabinet for the first time in Virginia’s history.
Governor Northam believes Virginians who work, raise their families, and pay taxes in our Commonwealth deserve a welcoming and open state government with world-class customer service.
To continue building a reputation for state government that is responsive and inclusive, the Secretary of the Commonwealth and the Office of the Governor have redesigned the Office of Constituent Services, renaming it the Office of Constituent Services and Community Engagement. In addition to creating more user-friendly websites and resources, the office has designated points of contact and outreach efforts for various constituency groups and regions of the Commonwealth.
In 2018, the Governor has made over 700 appointments to Virginia’s boards and commissions and worked diligently to ensure the diversity of these appointments closely reflects the demographic composition of the Commonwealth.
Governor Northam hopes Virginians of all backgrounds will consider serving on one of the Commonwealth’s state boards or commissions. Interested individuals can visit www.commonwealth.virginia.gov for an updated list of vacancies.
In December, Governor Northam issued Executive Order Twenty Seven, establishing the Virginia Complete Count Commission for the 2020 Census. The Commission was created to improve the participation and representation of all Virginians in the upcoming census.
Throughout 2018, the Northam Administration maintained positive government-to-government relationships with Virginia’s eleven state-recognized Indian tribes through engagement and communication.
Governor Northam values a strong working relationship with the Chiefs of each of Virginia’s eleven state-recognized Indian tribes. After six of these tribes were federally-recognized in January (adding to the one already federally-recognized), the Secretary of the Commonwealth recommitted to ensuring strong government-to-government relations with their sovereign governments. This development included facilitating a series of roundtables between federally-recognized tribal leadership and state agency heads to grow stronger relationships.
Over the course of the past year, representatives of the Northam Administration attended every powwow and major event held by state-recognized tribes. The Governor accepted gifts to honor the 341st Tax Tribute Ceremony, which marks the anniversary of the Treaty of Middle Plantation. The First Lady opened and brought greetings from the Commonwealth to the second annual Pocahontas Reframed: Native American Storytellers Film Festival. Governor Northam also participated in the dedication of Mantle, the first permanent monument to recognize Virginia Indian tribes on Capitol Square.
Over the course of this fi rst year as Lieutenant Governor, it has been an honor to preside over a productive session of the Senate of Virginia and oversee the passage of critical legislation that expands healthcare access, supports the Commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure, and addresses criminal justice reform. In 2018, I served as a member of Governor Northam’s re-established Children’s Cabinet, and focused efforts on childhood development, school readiness, and increasing the safety of ourschools and our students across the Commonwealth.
I have been a long-time advocate for educational equity and aff ordable housing, and this year has provided the opportunity for us to work together to increase access to high-quality education. This year, after learning about disproportionately high eviction rates, I was proud to convene stakeholder meetings to explore the policy solutions that will increase the availability of affordable housing and aid our efforts to address this important issue. Every family in the Commonwealth should be able to count on stable, safe, affordable housing—it’s central to ensuring that we all rise together.
In 2018, I was also honored to be selected by my peers for a leadership position on the Executive Committee of the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA). For the first time in December, we were able to convene a record number of Lieutenant Governors and Lieutenant Governors-Elect to Alexandria, Virginia and I look forward to continuing this successful collaboration in the years ahead.
I’m proud to have worked alongside Governor Northam to increase equality and opportunity for all Virginians. In 2019, there’s nothing I look forward to more than continuing our successful partnership, presiding over another productive legislative session, and ensuring the highest quality of life for all Virginians and their families.