Sessions continues to push new tough-on-crime Justice agenda

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Attorney General Jeff Sessions is continuing to push his tough-on-crime agenda, this time to law enforcement officials in Virginia.Sessions spoke to police and federal officials yesterday in Richmond. He further underscored his efforts to make fighting street violence a top mission of the Justice Department.In his first month in office, Sessions has repeatedly cited the need for harsh sentences for the most violent criminals, particularly those who use guns. He has stressed the need to try gun cases in federal court, where they can carry longer sentences in faraway prisons.But making prosecution of violence a priority is a radical departure for a Justice Department that has focused more on prevention of cyberattacks from foreign criminals, counterterrorism and the threat of homegrown violent extremism.

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Campaign to promote safe driving by Virginia students

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Virginia State Police is calling on high schools across the commonwealth to join in a public safety campaign this spring to encourage safe driving.The “Arrive Alive” campaign will begin March 20 and extend through May 5. It’s sponsored by state police and Youth of Virginia Speak Out about Traffic Safety.Middle and high schools will get resources like posters, pledge banners and sunglasses to promote safe driving among teens.The campaign aims to teach middle schoolers how to be a safe passenger, pedestrian and cyclist. High schoolers will be warned against things like underage drinking and driving during prom and graduation season.

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DNA confirms remains belong to student missing since 1998

FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) – Authorities have confirmed that human remains found below a West Virginia bridge belong to a Virginia Tech graduate student who vanished nearly two decades ago.According to West Virginia news outlets, a state police statement says DNA evidence confirms the remains discovered near the New River Gorge Bridge are those of Robert Leroy Kovack.The 24-year-old native of Rivesville, West Virginia disappeared on Sept. 18, 1998 while driving to a football game in Morgantown. His car was found days later, out of gas near the bridge.A work crew discovered the remains last March. Authorities say evidence suggests Kovack may have fallen after being hit by a car.At 875 feet, it is the third-highest bridge in the United States, and the site of a popular “Bridge Day” jumping festival.

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Liberty planning research center at Bedford County facility

BEDFORD, Va. (AP) – With the pending purchase of a Bedford County research complex, Liberty University is planning to grow its engineering program.The Roanoke Times reports the proposed $4.3 million sale of the Center for Advanced Engineering and Research was approved Jan. 31 by the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.The center, which opened in 2011, originally was paid for in large part through a tobacco commission grant, and approval was a necessary step toward a final sale.Bob Bailey, the executive director of CAER, said at a commission meeting that Liberty plans to increase its engineering program to 800-plus students and add new undergraduate and graduate degrees.According to a commission news release, the university will become an anchor tenant of the more than 30,000-square-foot building.

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Virginia redistricting trial to start today

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – A lawsuit challenging several Virginia legislative boundaries is going to trial.The trial starts today and could last through Thursday in Richmond Circuit Court.The lawsuit was brought by OneVirginia2021, a redistricting advocacy group. The group says lawmakers during the 2011 redistricting process violated the requirement that election districts must be compact.The group is challenging 11 House and Senate districts, which are currently held by both Democrats and Republicans.If OneVirginia2021 wins the case, Virginia’s electoral map could be redrawn. House leaders say the current map was overwhelmingly approved with bipartisan support. There is also a separate lawsuit challenging the 2011 lines in federal court.

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Unclaimed tax refunds on debit cards exceed $14 million

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – More than 100,000 Virginia taxpayers who had their tax refunds issued on prepaid debit cards never used them, leaving $14 million in refunds unclaimed.Virginia issued the prepaid cards from 2013 to 2015, in an effort to save money on paper checks. Taxpayers due refunds had the option of a direct deposit or a prepaid debit card.The program proved unpopular and was discontinued after tax year 2014. Recipients complained the cards were unwieldy and carried hidden fees.The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported yesterday that 9 percent of the 1.2 million cards issued were never activated. The money is transferred into the state treasury as unclaimed property. The last batch will be transferred later this month.Taxpayers can search www.vamoneysearch.org to find and recover any unclaimed refund.

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Transgender student wants court ruling before graduation

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Attorneys for a transgender teenager who’s suing the Gloucester County school board for the right to use the boys bathroom are asking that arguments be expedited so he might see a ruling before he graduates.The filing yesterday in Gavin Grimm’s case comes two days after the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order handing the case back to a Richmond appeals court without reaching a decision.The motion asks the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear arguments in May to facilitate a ruling before Grimm graduates June 10. It says a ruling wouldallow him to attend his graduation “with the dignity of being able to use the same restroom facilities” as his peers.The filing says the school board’s attorney opposes the motion.

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Man who threatened US president is running for delegate seat

WARRENTON, Va. (AP) – A man who admitted to wanting to kill the U.S. president is planning to run for the Virginia House of Delegates.WUSA-TV reports that Nathan Daniel Larson intends to run as an independent for the state’s 31st House District, an area encompassing Prince William and Fauquier counties in northern Virginia. Fauquier election officials confirmed Monday that Larson has enough signatures to have his name on the November ballot.Prince William County officials said Larson has submitted signatures and those names are being reviewed.Larson was given a 16-month prison sentence in 2009 after pleading guilty to telling the Secret Service in a December 2008 email he intended to kill the president “in the near future.”It is unclear whether Larson was referring to then-President George W. Bush or then-President-elect Barack Obama.

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Governor approves license plate promoting highway safety

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed a bill into law that would create a new type of specialty license plate aimed at reducing distracted driving.The recently approved legislation authorizes the Department of Motor Vehicles to create special license plates for “supporters of highway safety.”Del. Tag Greason proposed the bill at the suggestion of high school students as a way to discourage the use of smart phones while driving.The legislation passed by chambers of the General Assembly with unanimous support. The new plates will cost $10 extra.

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Transgender Virginia student: Ruling leaves kids in limbo

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – The 17-year-old at the center of a high-profile lawsuit over transgender students’ bathroom access says the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to back out of his case is a disappointment that will keep other students like him in limbo.Gavin Grimm, a high school senior in Gloucester, Virginia, spoke to reporters ¬†yesterday, hours after the justices handed his case back to a lower court without reaching a decision.Grimm said that while he hoped for a different outcome, he’s “just as empowered” as ever and ready to stick with it.Attention will now turn to an appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, and other appellate panels handling similar cases around the country.The issue is unlikely to be resolved before Grimm, who’s become a national face of the issue, graduates.

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