Should the Capitol have a permanent fence? Is it time to repeal the death penalty in Virginia? Here’s a look at today’s Dogwood Download.
Virginia Economy Set to Grow
The Virginia economy should recover fairly quickly from the pandemic. Old Dominion University professors Robert McNab and Vinod Agarwal gave that prediction Wednesday, as part of their annual economic forecast.
“There is a significant opportunity, if we play our COVID cards and vaccine right, that we could experience another ‘Roaring ’20s’ in the second half of 2021,” McNab said.
The pair predict a real gross domestic product growth of 3.5% for the Commonwealth in 2021. That’s mainly based on two things.
First, as vaccination rates rise, McNab predicts people will go to movies, concerts, take trips and generally do everything they’ve been banned from over the last 12 months. That in turn will spark the economy across the state, much like the ‘Roaring ’20s’ fed off similar feelings after a pandemic in 1918.
Second, both men highlight the planned increase in defense spending. That would cause a 4.4% GDP growth for Hampton Roads, sparking the regional economy.
Virginia Ranks in Top Ten…For COVID-19
There are some Top Ten lists you don’t want to be a part of. This is one. The White House released data this week that Virginia is actually ninth in the country, when it comes to new COVID-19 cases. As of Jan. 28, the Commonwealth reported 4,867 new cases over the last seven days. By comparison, on the same day last month, we were at 3,612.
The data comes as President Joe Biden makes multiple documents public. These weekly reports had been going out for months to governors across the U.S. This week, Biden opened access to the public as well.
The document lists 10 Virginia cities and counties as areas of concern. They include:
- Henrico County
- Newport News
- Prince William County
- Virginia Beach
Will Virginia Have Free Community College?
Should community college be free in Virginia for some students? That’s been a topic of discussion over the last few months, as budget negotiations took place. Now it could become a reality. The House of Delegates approved HB 2204 on Thursday by a 93-7 vote.
The bill, labeled the “Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back Fund”, provides support for low-income and middle income students. You qualify if you’re working towards an associate’s degree in a high-demand field. To be clear, a high-demand field here is classified as one “in which there is a shortage of skilled workers to fill current and anticipated additional job vacancies,” the bill states.
The governor set aside $34.5 million in his proposed budget for the project. The Virginia Chamber and multiple trade associations also endorsed the bill. It next goes to the Virginia Senate for a vote.
Capitol Police Chief Asks For Permanent Fence
After the Jan. 6 insurrection, officials in Washington want more protection around the U.S. Capitol. Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman is one of them. On Thursday, she called for a permanent fence to go up around the building.
“Even before September 11, 2001, security experts argued that more needed to be done to protect the U.S. Capitol. In fact, a 2006 security assessment specifically recommended the installation of a permanent perimeter fence around the Capitol,” Pittman said in a statement.
“In light of recent events, I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing, and the availability of ready, back-up forces in close proximity to the Capitol,” she added.
Virginia Rep. Jennifer Wexton is among those opposing a fence, however. She says it won’t solve the real problem.
“A fence didn’t fail us on January 6th. Law enforcement leaders did,” Wexton wrote in a statement. “It is abundantly clear that we need to enhance Capitol security, but that security must be flexible to the threats we face. It is also imperative that our law enforcement leadership take seriously the danger of extremist violence.”
Who Should See Video of a Police Shooting?
When law enforcement officers shoot someone in Virginia, it’s up to the department if video of the incident gets released. Most of the time, that means it doesn’t, at least until any court case is finished. That would change under a bill going through the Virginia House.
Del. Sam Rasoul filed HB 1941, which passed through the Public Safety Subcommittee on Thursday. It requires that when an officer fires his gun, uses a stun weapon or any type of chemical irritant on a person, if that situation leads to death or serious injury, the video has to be turned over.
Specifically, that means:
- Departments would post the video on their website.
- Available to the public
- All of this would be done within 15 days maximum
The bill now goes to the House Committee on Appropriations.
COVID-19 Outbreak Hits Roanoke Jail
The Roanoke Sheriff’s Office is experiencing a major outbreak of COVID-19. As of this week, nearly 70 staff members and inmates tested positive.
Specifically, that means 53 out of 427 inmates and 24 of 166 staff members.
Sheriff’s Office staff members said they will keep testing at the city jail. Officials sent all infected staff members home under quarantine orders. All infected prisoners have been isolated as well.