Blackhawks help fight forest fires

West Virginia state seal. Used by written permission by Chief Deputy and Chief of Staff of West Virginia Chuck Flannery

Two West Virginia National Guard Blackhawk helicopters have been sent to Hardy County to help fight a 4000-acre wildfire near Wardensville, West Virginia and the Virginia State Line.

Governor Jim Justice declared a State of Emergency for several counties, leading to the deployment of helicopters.

Each helicopter can carry 630 gallons of water over the dangerous terrain.

The aircraft and personnel arrived from Wheeling and Parkersburg and are experienced in battling wildfires.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

Gov. Youngkin Designates Virginia State Pony

RICHMOND, VA – Surrounded by hundreds of visitors, locals, and dozens of ponies, Governor Glenn Youngkin and First Lady Suzanne S. Youngkin joined legislators, local leaders, first responders and Cabinet Secretaries as the Governor signed HB 1951 and SB 1478, to designate the Chincoteague Pony as the Official State Pony of the Commonwealth of Virginia at the 98th Annual Chincoteague Fireman’s Carnival.

“For 98 years, Chincoteague ponies has been a tradition of this community. Every July, over 47,000 people – from across the Commonwealth, the United States, and yes, the world, come travel to Chincoteague,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “This little horse uplifts a huge portion of the eastern shore and provides valuable tourism for residents every single year. They represent the Virginia spirit and we can now proudly say that they are the Pony of Virginia.”

The Chincoteague pony holds a special place in Virginia history. These hardy and resilient ponies have roamed the marshes and beaches of Chincoteague Island for centuries and have become a permanent fixture of the region’s character. Their fascinating history can be traced back to the early colonial era when they were believed to have descended from shipwrecked Spanish horses.

One of the more anticipated events surrounding the Chincoteague ponies is the annual pony swim, a tradition that dates back to the 18th century. Each year, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company conducts the legendary pony swim, where a group of ponies is herded from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island, captivating spectators with its timeless beauty and cultural significance.

Through the passage of this legislation, the Commonwealth of Virginia recognizes the historical and cultural significance of the Chincoteague pony, safeguarding their legacy for future generations. This momentous step demonstrates the commitment of Governor Youngkin and the state legislature in preserving Virginia’s natural wonders.

Governor Youngkin’s July 27 press release is here.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

Most Virginia Colleges Will Freeze Tuition, Adhering to Youngkin’s Request

At least 10 state colleges will flatten tuition costs for in-state undergraduates this fall, as many have responded to a request by Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
While students and parents have been impacted by inflation, public schools in the state have found ways to tighten their belts, or they’ve received more funding than initially expected.
But the University of Virginia has declined the governor’s request, which caused Youngkin to feel “deeply disappointed,” he said this week in a telephone interview.
Virginia Commonwealth University, James Madison University, Virginia Military Institute, the University of Mary Washington, Longwood University and Old Dominion University have changed course and announced freezes in the past week, joining Virginia Tech, the College of William & Mary, Virginia State University and Norfolk State University, which planned no tuition increases from the beginning.
George Mason University hasn’t made a decision yet. It will wait until December to reconsider tuition costs for the remainder of the school year.
Three others either did not respond to requests for comment or could not immediately provide information Thursday: Radford University, Christopher Newport University and the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.
“Of course, all these universities went and did this work because they know it’s the right thing to do,” Youngkin said in an interview this week.
At UVA, it’s been more than six months since the university voted for a 4.7% increase in 2022 and a 3.7% increase in 2023. The school conducted an analysis of the current economic conditions and university needs and welcomed the public to comment before the vote was conducted, said school spokesperson Brian Coy.
Coy noted that UVA is one of only two public colleges in the country that meets the demonstrated financial need of all its undergraduate students through scholarships and loans.
“We are committed to access, affordability and excellence,” he added.
It would cost UVA $7.5 million to flatten tuition, Youngkin said, which he termed a small commitment for a school with a “giant budget” of almost $2 billion, an endowment valued last year at $14.5 billion and state funding that increased 18% from the previous biennium.
“I think that’s a really poor statement on their behalf,” he said.
Asked if there would be consequences for UVA’s actions, Youngkin declined to provide a specific response.
“This is actually a moment for goodwill to prevail,” as opposed to threats, he said.
A month ago, most of the state’s 15 public colleges planned to raise tuition, citing an average 5% increase to salaries, higher utility costs and increased expenses for maintenance.
The average cost of tuition and fees for public colleges in Virginia before scholarships and grants is roughly $13,000 annually. Room and board costs an additional $12,000.
Now, colleges have found a way to keep tuition flat. JMU, Mary Washington and VMI cited increased state funds as a reason they were able to freeze tuition costs.
Karol Kain Gray, VCU’s chief financial officer, noted that flat tuition would lead to an $11 million budget shortfall and the elimination of 62 jobs through attrition — but no layoffs. Forcing the school to continually freeze tuition will lead it down a path of mediocrity, she said.
“I don’t want anyone to think this won’t be difficult,” VCU rector Ben Dendy said last week.
Several schools have said they will raise fees and the cost of room and board next year.
Schools that have recently flattened tuition have followed Virginia Tech’s approach — raise the price on paper but offer a one-time scholarship to in-state undergraduates that covers the cost of the increase. Out-of-state students and graduate students will still pay the increase.
Though they have frozen tuition now, these schools are banking on an increase next year. Youngkin said he won’t worry about that until next year and that he understands inflation has hit colleges, too.
Virginia’s government funds its colleges less than other states, awarding $6,500 per student, roughly half the cost of education. Forty states provide a higher level of funding.
The state’s funding model, Youngkin said, “has resulted in great schools across the commonwealth.”
By Eric Kolenich
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Governor Youngkin orders flags at half staff

Governor Glenn Youngkin in an email has ordered Virginia flags to be flown at half staff through at least sunset Sat. July 9.

Pursuant to President Biden’s  Presidential Proclamation to lower the United States Flag in honor of the lives lost on July 4.

Youngkin follows suit ordering the State flag to be flown at half staff at all state and local buildings and grounds as well.

This in honor and memory of the lives that were lost and those that were injured on July 4 at Highland Park Illinois.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

Gov. Youngkin signs the Virginia State budget

Governor Glenn Youngkin announced in an email the signing of the state budget for Virginia.

With the signing Youngkin says he delivers on his promise to provide tax relief for Virginia families.

In fact the budget includes the largest tax relief in the state’s history at $4 billion.

The tax relief includes eliminating the 1.5 percent grocery tax in 2023 and nearly doubles the standard deduction and offers a tax rebate for Virginians.

Other features of the budget include more relief for veterans over 55 as well as boosts for  education spending including raises for teachers.

The budget also includes law enforcement benefits and funds to reinvigorate state agencies.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

Gov. Youngkin dedicates Seven Bends State Park

An email from Governor Glenn Youngkin announced the official dedication of Seven Bends State Park.

The Governor was on hand to cut the ribbon on the park Tues. June 14 in Shenandoah County.

The Governor called the park a wonderful addition to the 41 Virginia State Parks.

Adding that the park provides additional access to the North Fork of the Shenandoah River.

The Governor was joined by Senator Mark Obenshain and Woodstock Resident Virginia Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert.

The park consist of over 1,000 acres in the geographically unique Seven Bends area of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River.

The park was amassed through several land donations from the town of Woodstock, Dr. James R. Myers and purchases of land from Massanutten Military Academy by the state.

Area resident Gilbert said at the ceremony that he is committed to state parks and understands the importance of working to further their mission.

Outdoor exploration at Seven Bends State Park continues to be very popular as nearly 84,000 visitors came to the park in 2021.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

Rockingham Cooperative invest $17 million into expansion

An email from Governor Glenn Youngkin confirms that Rockingham Cooperative will invest nearly $17 million to upgrade and expand operations.

The funds will be used for the grain handling and feed manufacturing operations at the Dayton mill.

The mill was founded in 1921 in Rockingham County and already boasts over 5100 member farms form across 25 states.

Those farm members already enjoy revenues of nearly $130 million collectively using the mill services.

Through this new expansion the cooperative will add a number of jobs.

Rockingham Cooperative have committed to purchasing more than $11 million or 30,000 tons of Virginia grown soybeans, corn and barely over the next three years.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

Senate Intel Committee Members Urge Sanctions on Additional Putin Enablers

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) led bipartisan members of the Senate Intelligence Committee in urging the Biden administration to increase sanctions on enablers of Vladimir Putin’s regime amidst its unprovoked and illegal war in Ukraine.

 

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the senators wrote, “While many of the Putin regime’s top figures are already subject to United States, European, and other nations’ sanctions, we believe it is important that lower-tier enablers of the regime’s aggressive policies, including its militarists, propagandists, corrupt officials, public supporters, senior federal officials, and legislators, also be subject to a sanctions regime to ensure that they cannot continue to support Russia’s reprehensible aggression, yet benefit from assets, vacations, or educational opportunities in the West.”

 

Specifically, the senators urged the administration to take into account the list of 6,000 such Russian officials and regime enablers compiled by the Anti-Corruption Foundation of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

 

Added the senators, “The goal of such sanctions should be to ensure that these individuals do not have access to assets in the United States or ability to travel to the U.S.; force them to leave their posts, thereby hollowing out the Putin regime’s capacity to continue its unjust war; and pressure such officials to denounce publicly Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the corruption of the Putin regime.”

 

In addition to Sens. Warner and Rubio, the letter was signed by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jim Risch (R-ID), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Susan Collins (R-ME), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Ben Sasse (R-NE).

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

Governor Youngkin orders flags at half staff 5/31

An email from Governor Glenn Youngkin has ordered Virginia flags to be flown at half staff today May 31.

This is in respect and memory of the lives lost and those injured on the anniversary of the Virginia Beach shooting at the Municipal Center.

It was on this date in 2019 that an employee of the Municipal Center opened fire on fellow employees.

The assault killed 12 and injured several.

The Virginia flag is to fly at half staff at all state and local buildings and grounds in Virginia.

The Virginia flag is to be flown at half staff until sunset today May 31.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

VA. creates a violent crime task force

Governor Glenn Youngkin announced in an email the creation of a violent crime task force in Virginia.

The task force will consist of an executive branch and Attorney General office officials to better align strategies to reduce violent crime across Virginia.

Officials plan to confer with law enforcement and local officials to carry out new innovative solutions to combat crime.

A comprehensive look at how to address the rise in violent crimes will be examined.

The hopes are to provide more law enforcement resources as well as create alternative and after school activities.

Hopes are to also address the fear witnesses have when it comes to failing to appear at a criminal hearing.

The task force will make recommendations for executive, administrative and legislative actions on an ongoing basis as well as report to the governor.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.