A raise for UVA employees; inmate files lawsuit alleging six years of solitary confinement; the cormorant comeback and other headlines

Virginia Mercury

Our daily roundup of headlines from Virginia and elsewhere.

• UVA is raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour next year, increasing pay for about 1,400 employees. – The Daily Progress

• A former intern for House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, apologized after he was accused of attempting to infiltrate the state campaign to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Gilbert, among the ERA’s more vocal opponents, said he had no role in “whatever foolishness may have occurred.” – Daily News-Record

• Wary of a never-ending stream of new student housing proposals, officials in Blacksburg passed a resolution warning developers to expect strict scrutiny. “It is extremely lucrative to build purpose-built student housing. It’s so lucrative that people will come in with these very large plans.” – The Roanoke Times

• A DMV clerk will serve a year in jail after admitting to falsifying commercial driver’s licenses in exchange for $50 bribes. – Richmond Times-Dispatch

• Federal authorities say more than 150 law enforcement officers teamed up to arrest seven people in Petersburg on gun and drug charges. – Richmond Times-Dispatch

• State Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, announced he won’t seek reelection – the third Senate republican to do so this year. – The Virginian-Pilot

• An inmate in one of the state’s two supermax prisons filed a lawsuit alleging he’s been held in solitary confinement since 2013 and is being denied access to religious services. “This case lies at the crossroads of two issues of national concern: restrictions on religious liberty and ‘the clear constitutional problems raised by keeping prisoners … in what comes close to a penal tomb.'” – Richmond Times-Dispatch

• The Blue Ridge Parkway saw a 1.5-million drop in visitors last year, but was still the second most visited national park site in the country. – The Roanoke Times

• The Richmond NAACP offered to help a city councilwoman with “development of suitable interpersonal skills” after she yelled at Mayor Levar Stoney following his budget presentation, which calls for a significant increase in real estate taxes. – WCVE

• The state is recommending seven economic development projects in Southwest Virginia receive millions of dollars in federal abandoned mine land reclamation funds, including new ATV and mountain bike trails and a music venue. – The Coalfield Progress

• The Jamestown Ferry’s newest captain is a 29-year-old former historical reenactor. “I pretty much would keep looking to do this until I retire, which is 30 years of driving a boat across the same stretch of river.” – The Virginia Gazette

• Cormorants – gangly, hooked-beak birds that sound like pigs – are making a comeback, but not everyone is sure that’s a good thing. – The Virginian-Pilot

• The General Assembly’s pages, the 13-year-olds who act as aides during the session, said the controversy of this year’s session didn’t impact their work, but lawmakers’ food and drink orders did make an impression. “Those delegates really like chocolate milkshakes.” – The Virginian-Pilot

From The Bulletin, the Mercury’s blog, where we post quick hits on the news of the day, odds and ends and commentary.