Welcome to today’s edition of the Dogwood Daily. We’ve got all the Virginia news you need to know coming right up.
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- Richmond-based pharma company charged by Department of Justice – There’s this not-so-little crisis known as the opioid epidemic that is ravaging America and on Tuesday we learned of yet another pharmaceutical company that took advantage of addicts. Federal prosecutors allege that Invidior, a Richmond-based company that sells the drug suboxone film, intentionally deceived opioid addicts and healthcare providers in order to boost prescriptions and obtain billions of dollars in revenue. The DOJ claims that the company used a phone “help line” to connect opioid-addicted patients to doctors who Invidior knew prescribed the drug in a “careless and clinically unwarranted manner.”
- VA Secretary of Education wants to move away from standardized tests – During remarks to Stafford school officials, Virginia’s Secretary of Education Atif Qarni addressed the state’s teacher pay gap and said the state should do more to help localities fund schools. He also called the state’s standardized testing model “toxic” and said he’d like to move away from it. Qarni also spoke of the need for equity in education and said he wanted to accomplish it by placing experienced teachers in schools with high needs, even if it required salary increases or a stipend.
- Virginia Democrats focus on expanding broadband to rural areas – Gov. Ralph Northam wants to expand broadband coverage to the estimated 660,000 households in Virginia that don’t yet have it. Northam asked for $50 million to begin a broadband expansion project, but the Republican-controlled legislature cut that figure to $19 million. Still, it’s a sizable increase over the $4 million provided last year and is projected to bring broadband to an additional 38,000 households. Meanwhile, at the federal level, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) is pushing for $900 million to fund rural broadband expansion. “Broadband is important to ensure economic opportunity,” Spanberger said. “In rural communities such as Culpeper, Louisa and Amelia, rural internet connectivity is a challenge for many families and businesses.”
- NAFTA modifications could cause Virginia billions – In 2017, Virginia exported more than $6 billion in products and services to Canada and Mexico. International trade plays an enormous role in the Commonwealth’s economy, helping support over 20% of jobs in the state. This means President Trump’s isolationist trade policies, which include tariffs and attempts to overhaul free trade deals like NAFTA, could hit Virginia’s economy particularly hard. Other countries have already imposed retaliatory tariffs and significant modifications to NAFTA could reduce exports from Virginia, hurting small businesses and potentially devastating the state’s economy.
- Republican State Sen. William DeSteph in hot water over sexually suggestive costume – Few people would show up to a Halloween fundraiser for a youth charity dressed as a sexually suggestive genie, but that’s exactly what Sen. William R. DeSteph Jr. (R-8) did in 2008. DeSteph was a Virginia Beach city councilman at the time and has defended wearing the costume, even though a woman in attendance told him the costume was inappropriate. It remains to be seen if DeSteph’s constituents care, but given that its an election year, this likely won’t be the last embarrassing photo of a legislator to surface.