Elections are today; Literacy rates are at the lowest level in 15 years; It’s peak week for Blue Ridge Parkway fall foliage and more headlines

Virginia Mercury

Our daily roundup of headlines from Virginia and elsewhere.

• It’s Election Day.—Associated Press

• UVA Health System is revising its billing and collections practices, but “thousands of former patients owing old bills, many with court judgments against them and wages being garnished or liens on their homes, will continue to suffer under the previous rules.”—Kaiser Health News

• Virginia’s student literacy rates are at their lowest level in 15 years, with just 40 percent of fourth-grade students considered proficient in reading. Education officials say they aren’t sure what’s behind the drop.—Richmond Times-Dispatch

• Records show the principal of a Norfolk school was worried mold, rat feces and urine in the building were making her and her students sick, but she struggled to get school administrators to address the problem. There “seems to be no sense of urgency,” she wrote to a superior.—The Virginian-Pilot

• Richmond’s public housing authority is refusing to answer questions about its push to evict 52 residents, but the president of the tenant council scolded neighbors who say they’re confused by unexpected late fees and skyrocketing electric bills. “Nobody is going to tell you what you owe,” she said. “Calculate it for yourself. If you don’t, get somebody to do it for you.”—VPM

• Virginia leaders, who have for years defended the fishing practices of Omega Protein Corp., sounded a lot less like they have the company’s back after Omega reported exceeding its Chesapeake Bay harvest cap by 30 percent.—The Free Lance-Star

• A shortage of workers in Lynchburg is delaying construction projects.—The News & Advance

• State game officials received more than 100 reports of sick deer from Franklin and Bedford counties. They attribute the calls to a virus spread by biting gnats that makes the animals appear intoxicated. “They won’t run away from people; their head is just flopping around.”—Laker Weekly

• Portsmouth’s sheriff stopped sending inmates to the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in 2018, but the city still has to pay for the space, spending $2.7 million so far this year on unused beds.—The Virginian-Pilot

• U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen, under consideration for a federal judgeship in Roanoke, was rated “highly qualified” for the position by a review panel, which found him humble, polite and “never belligerent.”—The Roanoke Times

• The founder of Alexandria’s public defenders office retired. “I defend: It’s what I do, it’s who I am,” she said. “There needs to be somebody who is not compromised. . . . Without that, your system lacks any integrity. ”—The Washington Post

• State forestry officials say it’s “peak week” for fall foliage along the Blue Ridge Parkway.—Associated Press

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