Northam kicks off General Assembly session with State of the Commonwealth; Hampton Roads feels the squeeze of the federal shutdown

Our daily roundup of headlines from Virginia and elsewhere.

• Gov. Ralph Northam addressed lawmakers last night in the annual State of the Commonwealth address. He talked about his budget amendment proposals and made some special announcements, like a data center expansion in Mecklenburg County. He also reminded lawmakers that they didn’t have to operate like Washington D.C., warning against the partisanship that has shut down the federal government. – Richmond Times-Dispatch

• Immigrant rights advocates was one of the group’s laying out their agenda on the first day of this year’s General Assembly session. The list includes driving privileges, wage theft protection and in-state tuition for undocumented people. – Associated Press

• The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus also laid out its priorities for the session, which include voting rights, ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment and education. “This caucus is focused on making sure that we move forward united to provide opportunity for everyone no matter the color of their skin, where they live, who they love,” Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax said. – Associated Press

• Several federal agencies in Hampton Roads, where government jobs rule, are beginning to feel the strain of the shutdown. Some, like meteorologists at the National Weather Service, are working without pay, while others aren’t guaranteed a paycheck. – The Virginian-Pilot

• Emergency dispatchers in Charlottesville and Albemarle County say they have worked 12-hour shifts and mandatory overtime to cover an increase in calls and to train new employees. One employee logged more than 1,000 hours of overtime last year, one dispatcher said. – The Daily Progress

• The Arlington County School Board is expected to rename its Washington-Lee High School tonight after some said “enshrining Lee’s name on the school serves as a painful reminder of slavery and the laws that segregated and excluded African Americans from public life.” – The Washington Post

• A Washington & Lee student is suing the school and a counselor there for not treating him properly after expressing he wanted to kill himself. He’s seeking $12 million from the university and $12 million from the counselor. – Roanoke Times

• Microsoft is planning to expand its data center in Southside Virginia, adding 100 new jobs. – Associated Press

• The Hampton Roads City Council has approved a 24-hour off-track betting facility. – The Daily Press

• The Virginia Commonwealth University chapter of the Alpha Kappa Lambda fraternity has stopped operating after university police tried to investigate reports of hazing. – Richmond Times-Dispatch

• Eastern Virginia Medical School is planning to sell property that was the first building purchased for the school’s headquarters in 1972. Smith-Rogers Hall was once a nurse school and dormitory. – The Virginian-Pilot

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Mechelle Hankerson
Mechelle, born and raised in Virginia Beach, is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in mass communications and a concentration in print journalism. She covered the General Assembly for the university’s Capital News Service and was among 12 student journalists in swing states selected by the Washington Post to cover the 2012 presidential election. For the past five years, she has covered local government, crime, housing, infrastructure and other issues at the Raleigh News & Observer and The Virginian-Pilot, where she most recently covered the state’s biggest city, Virginia Beach. Mechelle was with the Virginia Mercury until January 3rd, 2019.