DMV faces $16 million shortfall, fees could rise

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles is facing an estimated operating shortfall of more than $16 million. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Monday that Virginians could see an increase in fees as a result.  DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb told the House Appropriations Committee that one solution is to raise prices on vehicle titles, registration and driver’s licenses. Another idea is to allow the DMV to keep more of the money it collects for the departments of transportation and health. Holcomb also told the commission that the DMV lacks sufficient funds to operate even though it collects billions of dollars for the state. The DMV is a high-profile customer-service agency with wide-ranging responsibilities. They include the impending implementation of the federal Real ID law for enhanced security of driver’s licenses and other identification.

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Anthem plans to reenter Virginia insurance market

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ Virginians are no longer at risk of not being able to buy health insurance on their own and not through an employer next year. Health insurer Anthem announced Friday that it is reversing a decision to pull out of federal health law’s insurance marketplace and offer plans in 68 cities and counties. Anthem said it made the decision after another health insurer announced earlier this month it was pulling back out of some Virginia markets next year, leaving about 60,000 residents of several counties and cities in Virginia with the prospect of not having any plans to buy next year.

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FEMA estimates one-fourth of Keys homes could be destroyed

(AP photo)

KEY LARGO, Fla. (AP) — Search-and-rescue teams made their way into the Florida Keys’ farthest reaches Tuesday, while crews labored to repair the single washed-out highway connecting the islands and rush aid to Hurricane Irma’s victims. Federal officials estimated one-quarter of all homes in the Keys were destroyed. Two days after Irma roared into the island chain with 130 mph winds, residents were allowed to return to the parts of the Keys closest to Florida’s mainland. But the full extent of the death and destruction there remained a question mark because communications and access were cut off in places. “It’s going to be pretty hard for those coming home,” said Petrona Hernandez, whose concrete home on Plantation Key with 35-foot walls was unscathed, unlike others a few blocks away. “It’s going to be devastating to them.” Elsewhere in Florida, life inched closer to normal, with some flights again taking off, many curfews lifted and major theme parks reopening. Cruise ships that extended their voyages and rode out the storm at sea began returning to port with thousands of passengers.

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McAuliffe declares state of emergency in advance of Hurricane Irma

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has declared a state of emergency in Virginia so officials can better prepare for Hurricane Irma and help other impacted states. The governor’s office said in a statement that the order issued Friday allows the state to mobilize resources including the Virginia National Guard. It also allows people and equipment to be staged to assist in storm response and recovery efforts. The statement says that while the track of Hurricane Irma is still uncertain, it appears increasingly likely that Virginia will see “significant” impacts. It says the whole state should prepare for possible flooding, high winds and storm surge. The governor is also urging coastal residents to know what hurricane evacuation zone they live in under the state’s new plan unveiled earlier this year. A lookup tool is available online .

(Continue reading for Governor McAuliffe’s full news release.)

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NTSB: no evidence police helicopter struck by animal, object

Lt. Jay Cullen/Trooper Berke Bates

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) _ A new report says there’s no sign a Virginia State Police helicopter that crashed after monitoring violent clashes in Charlottesville last month was struck by another aircraft, animal or object. The National Transportation Safety Board issued a preliminary report Tuesday into the Aug. 12 crash that killed two state troopers, the pilot and an observer. The report said the helicopter went into a nose-down spin prior to the crash. The helicopter was providing a video feed of a violent white nationalist rally when it broke off to watch over Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s motorcade. It crashed on the outskirts of Charlottesville, leaving a debris field several hundred feet long. The report does not say what likely caused the crashed and the NTSB’s investigation is ongoing.

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UVA to pay for review, make security changes after march

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) _ The University of Virginia has hired a consulting firm to evaluate its safety infrastructure following a torch-lit march of white nationalists on campus. The Daily Progress reports that the university will pay Margolis, Healy & Associates around $250,000 to conduct the review. Spokesman Anthony de Bruyn says the university is prepared to “make additional investments in staffing and infrastructure” based on the firm’s recommendations. The review comes after the white nationalists marched through the university grounds on Aug. 11, the night before a larger rally in downtown Charlottesville. The university is also making other public safety changes. President Teresa Sullivan says there will be more security at major events, including athletics, and the university will deploy more unarmed public safety personnel to patrol the Lawn and residential areas.

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Trio buys boyhood home of ‘Waltons’ creator to keep it open

(Gayle Harvey Real Estate photo)

SCHUYLER, Va. (AP) _ Three longtime fans of the popular TV show “The Waltons” have purchased the Virginia childhood home of the show’s creator in an effort to keep it open to the public. Ray Castro, one of the buyers, tells The News & Advance he was worried someone would buy the Schuyler home of Earl Hamner Jr. and use it as a private residence. The home on the Virginia Landmarks Register was the basis for the show, which drew upon Hamner’s Depression-era upbringing. The new owners are instituting a few changes, including the hiring of a full-time docent who will conduct guided tours. Hamner, a prolific writer, died in March 2016 at 92. His show aired for nine seasons and won more than a dozen Emmys.

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Rescuers start block-by-block search of flooded Houston

(AP photo)

HOUSTON (AP) — Rescuers began a block-by-block search of tens of thousands of Houston homes Thursday, pounding on doors and shouting as they looked for anyone — alive or dead — who might have been left behind in Harvey’s fetid floodwaters, which have now damaged more than 87,000 homes and destroyed nearly 7,000 statewide.

Elsewhere, the loss of power at a flood-crippled chemical plant set off explosions and a fire, and the city of Beaumont, near the Texas-Louisiana line, lost its public water supply. The remnants of the storm pushed deeper inland, raising the risk of flooding as far north as Kentucky.

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Charlottesville mayor wants General Assembly special session to take down Lee statue

(AP photo)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) – The mayor of Charlottesville is calling on Governor McAuliffe to convene an emergency meeting of state lawmakers to allow the city to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Mayor Mike Signer’s statement comes nearly a week after white supremacists descended on the city for a rally and clashed with counter protesters. One woman was killed on Saturday when a car plowed into a crowd of counter protesters. News media outlets report that Signer says the attack turned the monuments from “equestrian statues into lightning rods.” He says the city must respond “by denying the Nazis and the KKK and the so-called alt-right the twisted totem they seek.” Signer also wants lawmakers to pass legislation that would allow communities to bar people from carrying open or concealed weapons in public events “reasonably deemed to pose a potential security threat.”

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Mourners to remember Virginia trooper killed in helicopter crash

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Mourners will gather to remember one of the two Virginia state troopers who died in a helicopter crash while monitoring a white nationalist protest in Charlottesville. A funeral for Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Richmond. A private burial will follow. Authorities say Bates was a passenger in a helicopter providing video to police of activities in downtown Charlottesville last Saturday before it broke off to lend support to a motorcade for Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. A funeral for the helicopter’s pilot, Lt. Jay Cullen, is set for Saturday.

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