Virginia Senate Committee Kills Sen. Chase’s Bills Banning Discrimination Against People Who Refuse to Mask or Get COVID-19 Vaccines

RICHMOND, Virginia – The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee killed two of Senator Amanda Chase’s (R-Chesterfield) bills seeking to outlaw discrimination against those who refuse to wear masks or get COVID-19 vaccines.

“While we have many opinions about whether to wear masks or not, it should be an individual right. It should be an individual choice. I remember a period of time whenever that was not necessarily an option, and it impeded people who had disabilities from actually getting healthcare services because they could not wear a mask, not being able to go to the grocery store, shop. We cannot deny people a basic human right of being provided healthcare and basic human services,” Chase told the committee on Wednesday afternoon, arguing for her bill SB 582.

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Virginia General Assembly Continues to Debate Youngkin Critical Race Theory Ban

RICHMOND, Virginia – The General Assembly continues to debate Governor Glenn Youngkin’s Executive Order One banning Critical Race Theory and “inherently divisive concepts.” On Wednesday, legislators debated the policy in the House Education Committee, on the House floor, and on the Senate floor. The newly-Republican-controlled House of Delegates has been slow to hear bills in committee, which generated another House floor back-and-forth, but although key anti-CRT bills haven’t been heard in the Education Committee yet, delegates got a jump-start on debating the topic when interviewing Youngkin nominee for Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow.

Balow previously served as Wyoming’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, where she supported anti-CRT legislation.

“I share Governor Youngkin’s priorities for education,” Balow said.

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Gov. Youngkin Tells General Assembly, ‘The State of the Commonwealth Is Not What it Should Be,’ ‘We Have the Ability to Course-Correct’

Governor Glenn Youngkin used his first State of the Commonwealth address to describe a Virginia in need of reform, with underfunded schools whose leaders are out of touch with parents, rising crime rates, rising cost of living, and a stalled economy. The Monday message contrasted with former Governor Ralph Northam’s State of the Commonwealth delivered last Wednesday, where Northam highlighted economic success, education that reckons with Virginia’s past, and progress on equity.

“From the perspective of everyday Virginia families, times are tough and the State of the Commonwealth is not what it should be,” Youngkin said. “The good news is that we have the ability to course-correct before this poor performance becomes permanent.”

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Delegate McGuire Introduces Repeals of Democratic Criminal Justice Reforms

Delegate John McGuire (R-Henrico) has introduced several bills that would repeal Democratic criminal justice reforms. McGuire’s proposals include bills to lower thresholds for felony larceny, make it easier to execute search warrants, and end local governmental authority to establish law enforcement civilian oversight bodies. Chief on the list is HB 59, which requires school principals to report misdemeanors to law enforcement and to the victim’s parents.

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Speaker of the House Gilbert Takes the Dais, Republicans Preview Agenda on First Day of 2022 General Assembly Session

Virginia House Republicans took power on Wednesday with the formal election and swearing-in of Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah). The first day of the 2022 General Assembly session was marked by ceremony and by minor squabbles between Democrats and Republicans over House rules. In the morning, Gilbert and other Republican leaders previewed their legislative goals for the session in a press conference.

“Our agenda for 2022 is a direct response to what we heard from voters on the campaign trail,” Gilbert said. “Throughout the campaign, voters consistently told us they were worried about their children’s education, inflation was making it harder to take care of their families, and they wanted to see the safety of their communities improved.”

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In Final State of the Commonwealth, Northam Says His Administration Focused on Helping People

In his final State of the Commonwealth address, Governor Ralph Northam said that his administration had been focused on helping people. He highlighted economic success, investment in skills training, education that reckons with Virginia’s past, clean energy, criminal justice reform, election law changes, and infrastructure investment.

“We are leaving this Commonwealth better than it was when we came into office. We have built a state that does a better job of treating people right. It’s more welcoming, more open, more fair and equitable. We have built a state that helps people who need it—whether they need health care, or cleaner water, or to keep a roof over their head during a global pandemic,” Northam said.

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Freshman Virginia Delegate Tim Anderson Aims at Gun Control

Freshman Delegate Tim Anderson (R-Virginia Beach) has pre-filed a suite of bills that, if enacted, will roll back many of Democrats’ gun control initiatives from recent years. Anderson’s four bills would eliminate fees for concealed handgun permits; reduce penalties for carrying concealed weapons without permits; remove the one handgun-a-month purchasing limit on people who don’t have permits; and remove authority for localities to implement their own gun bans on municipal property.

“As far as the Second Amendment bills, I am seeking to revoke the nonsensical one-gun-a-month bill for non-concealed carry holders because there is no evidence to support that someone is more dangerous without a concealed carry permit than someone who has one,” Anderson said.

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Democratic State Senator Morrissey Key to Virginia Republican Legislative Policy Wins, Including Fetal Pain Abortion Ban

Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) is set to be one of the most important legislators in the 2022 General Assembly session. The Virginia Senate has 21 Democrats and 19 Republicans, meaning that with just one Democratic senator swinging on a vote, Lieutenant Governor-elect Winsome Sears, a Republican, will cast a tie-breaking vote. Morrissey is a pro-life Democrat, and although he may be a standard Democrat on many issues, he occasionally finds common ground with Republicans.

“I don’t believe that being pro-life is something that is just in the orbit of Republicans,” Morrissey told The Virginia Star. “And let’s be clear: I’m not being disrespectful towards those that are pro-choice. It is my choice to be pro-life. It’s how I feel, and I’ve never wavered from that since the moment I came into the General Assembly.”

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Virginia State Sen. Morrissey Introducing Legislation to Strengthen Good Samaritan Law

Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) is drafting legislation to strengthen a Virginia law that protects people from arrest or prosecution for substance-related crimes when experiencing or reporting overdoses. The law was originally passed in 2015 to make sure that people needing emergency medical attention could get needed care. Morrissey said that Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor’s office is circumventing the law.

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Sec. Finance Flores: Virginia’s Conservative Fiscal Approach That Powered 2021 Revenue Growth Should Continue in Future Years

Virginia had historic revenue growth in 2021 and finished $2.6 billion above forecasts, thanks to a conservative approach, Secretary of Finance Joe Flores told the General Assembly money committees on Thursday. Flores’ presentation said that conservative approach should continue, with forecasts suggesting that Virginia’s income and job growth will continue in coming years, but will lag behind the nation.

“It’s also important to remember, to look back, because a year ago, you guys had just finished a session where you had taken down revenues to the tune of $2.7 billion, basically five percent of our biennial General Fund revenues,” Flores said.

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In Budget Speech, Virginia Gov. Northam Acknowledges Priorities of Incoming Republican Administration, Warns of Need to Cut Taxes in the Right Way

Governor Ralph Northam presented his 2022-2024 budget proposal to the money committees of the Virginia General Assembly and the incoming administration on Thursday. Several elements of Northam’s proposal, including tax cuts, were inspired by Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin’s policy. Northam said he’s leaving Virginia in good financial conditions.

“And today I present to you my last budget. I’m biased, but I also think it’s our best one yet,” Northam said according to his prepared remarks. “That’s because Virginia’s economy is doing very well. State revenues are at record investments, while also putting money back into the pockets of the hardest working Virginians. We need to be clear about how this has happened. It is because over these four years, we have consistently taken a prudent, cautious approach to budgeting.”

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Skill Games Can Turn Back on in Virginia While Lawsuit Against Ban Proceeds

Skill games operators in Virginia can turn their games back on for now, while a lawsuit over Virginia’s skill games ban proceeds. On Monday, Greenville Circuit Court Judge Louis Lerner issued a temporary injunction in Sadler v. Northam.

“We had a great victory yesterday, but our fight is not over. The injunction allows skill game operators to turn their machines back on immediately. It is now up to elected officials in Virginia to craft a permanent solution that supports small businesses like Mr. Sadler’s,” said Stanley Law Group spokesperson Autumn Johnson.

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Northam Announces $2.4 Billion Increase for Education in His Final Budget Proposal; New House Appropriations Chair Knight Previews Upcoming Budget Process

Governor Ralph Northam will include a $2.4 billion increase for education in his budget proposal to the General Assembly next week, with a 5 percent salary increase for teachers in each of the next two fiscal years.

“Paying teachers is the right thing to do, and a wise investment,” Northam said in a Monday press release. “Virginia has invested in teachers in a big way over these past four years, and now it’s time to do much more. Our country has asked teachers to carry a heavy load, especially during the pandemic. They have delivered, and they deserve to be rewarded.”

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State Sen. Suetterlein Re-Introduces Virginia Parole Board Vote Transparency Bill

Senator David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke) has introduced a bill to make individual Virginia Parole Board members’ votes public records and open to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

“The parole board has significant authority over individual Virginians’ liberty and the Commonwealth’s public safety,” Suetterlein said. “And the public gets to know, when someone is charged with a crime, who the police officer is that arrested the person. Who the prosecutor who pursued the criminal charges was. Who the judge that oversaw the case was. Who the appellate court judges that upheld the cases were. And then the parole board has the power to reduce that sentence effectively and their action is done in private. Their votes are not recorded, which is most unusual. I was not able to find any other board in Virginia where their actions and their individual votes are not recorded.”

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Conservative Organizations Launching Efforts to Influence Virginia Republican Policy in 2022 General Assembly

The Virginia Family Foundation announced its Vision for Virginia slate of policy priorities on Monday. That’s part of the organization’s push to influence legislators ahead of Virginia’s 2022 General Assembly session. The list highlights traditional conservative policies including traditional families, small government, and free markets.

“For the past several years Virginia’s government has walked away from time-honored principles, like religious freedom, individual liberty, and limited government, which can all be traced back to Virginia’s historic past,” President Victoria Cobb said in an email announcing the platform. “In Virginia, not only did we need new political leadership, we desperately needed a renewed vision for the people of Virginia to rally around.”

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House Republicans Nominate Gilbert to be Speaker, Both Caucuses Elect Leadership

The Virginia House Republican Caucus unanimously nominated current Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) for Speaker of the House in a Sunday caucus meeting. They also elected Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Scott) to be majority leader in the 2022 session, the result of a compromise between the two former rivals for House minority leader.

“I am proud to serve with and lead a strong and united Republican majority as we look toward the 2022 General Assembly session and beyond,” Gilbert said in a press release.

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Minority Leader Todd Gilbert Previews Republican Priorities for New Virginia House Majority

House of Delegates Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenadoah) outlined Republicans’ legislative goals for when they take majority control of the House, governor, attorney general, and lieutenant governor’s seats. In a press conference Friday, he said that win did give Republicans a mandate, but said he was also aware of the need to work across the aisle since the Senate remains in Democratic control. He said the issues that Republicans raised during the campaigns would drive their agenda, including schools, cost of living, and public safety.

“We know we have a divided government now, and for lots of reasons, we think at least in terms of administration of the institutions, we will probably work better with the Democratic leadership  than the House leadership did,” Gilbert said.

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Miyares Wants Authority to Override Commonwealth’s Attorneys If Requested by Law Enforcement

Miyares holds press conference

Attorney general-elect Jason Miyares wants the General Assembly to authorize him to get involved in local prosecution if the top local law enforcement officer says the Commonwealth’s attorney isn’t doing their job. In a press conference Thursday, Miyares specifically called out progressive prosecutors in northern Virginia.

“Right now, the way it works is if a sitting Commonwealth’s attorney requests it, we can come in and prosecute a case on their behalf,” Miyares said. “We’re going to be seeking a legislative change, and the governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has already indicated that he would sign that into law.”

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