Virginia House Republicans Blast Slow COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

House of Delegate Republicans have repeatedly begun the regular sessions this week by blasting Virginia’s government for the slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

On Monday, GOP Caucus Chairman Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Bedford) said, “Madam Speaker, as we meet today, Virginia’s government is struggling in a critical life-saving mission. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Virginia has received over 850,000 doses of the COVID vaccine, but we have administered fewer than 250,000 doses. That performance ranks us among the lowest of the fifty states.”

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Legislation Abolishing Death Penalty Advanced by Virginia Senate Committee

Legislation to abolish the death penalty in the Commonwealth of Virginia was advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday morning.

Introduced by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax), Senate Bill 1165 was reported out of the committee by a vote of 10-4, mostly along party lines with Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin County), chief co-patron on the measure, the only Republican who voted in support.

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Northam Administration Moves to Tax PPP Loan Recipients

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s administration has recommended to the General Assembly that the state not conform its tax code to specific provisions included in the recently-signed federal emergency relief bill that gives businesses who received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans a significant tax benefit.

Under the provisions of the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), signed into law by President Donald Trump in late December, businesses in the Commonwealth that got forgivable PPP loans would not be taxed on that income and could deduct their business expenses covered by the federal payment.

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Virginia Delegate Jones Files Bill to Automatically Reinstate Felon Voting Rights

Attorney General candidate Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) has pre-filed a bill that would automatically reinstate felons’ voting rights after completion of their sentence. Governor Ralph Northam is also pushing for passage of the bill, HJ546.

“If you break the law in Virginia, you’ll be punished. But right now, part of the punishment follows you for the rest of your life—even after you’ve paid your debt to society. ” Northam said in his State of The Commonwealth address. “You lose your civil rights—like the right to vote—and you don’t get them back unless the governor acts to give them back.

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Pro-Gun Rights Car Caravan Planned for Lobby Day

Lobby Day, the annual tradition where Virginians from across the state gather in Richmond to engage lawmakers on pressing issues, is going to look quite different this year.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) Lobby Day 2021 is set to take place on Monday in Richmond, but this year, instead of a massive gathering of mostly armed individuals at the Capitol, the gun-rights advocacy group is organizing a car caravan through the heart of the city.

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Republican Party of Virginia Fails to Clarify Nomination Process

The Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) State Central Committee (SCC) failed to clarify the nominating method for its 2021 candidates in a meeting Saturday.

SCC members voted again to approve a convention, making it contingent on passing an amendment allowing an unassembled convention based on Governor Ralph Northam’s COVID-19 restrictions. The convention nomination method was first passed by the SCC on December 6 by a 42-30 majority. On Saturday, the amendment got a 41-30 majority but less than the three-fourths approval required by party rules. The SCC tabled the issue until a future meeting, tentatively planned for next Saturday.

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Virginia Governor Expands Eligibility for Phase 1b COVID-19 Vaccinations

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) has expanded the eligibility for Phase 1b of the state’s vaccination effort to include people 65 and up as well as those between the ages of 16 to 64 who have high-risk medical conditions, he announced during a COVID-19 press briefing on Thursday. 

“This means about half of Virginia is now eligible to receive the vaccine,” the governor said. “That’s a major logistical effort and it is not going to happen overnight. Everyone will need to be patient; it’s going to happen as fast as it can be done.” 

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Tim Anderson Sues Virginia Governor Over Senate District Special Election

Prominent Virginia Beach attorney and House of Delegates candidate Tim Anderson filed a lawsuit against Governor Ralph Northam (D) on Wednesday over the 38th Senatorial District special election set for later this year. 

The 38th District was previously occupied by the late Senator Ben Chafin, who died of COVID-19 complications at the beginning of the year, and on Tuesday Northam issued a March 23rd, 2021, date for the election to determine a replacement.

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Virginia Senate Convenes for General Assembly 2021 Regular Session

The Virginia General Assembly 2021 regular session began on Wednesday in Richmond with a relatively standard yet important first meeting of the Democratic-controlled state Senate.

Just as it was during last year’s special session, the Senate and its 39 members met in-person in a socially distanced space at the Science Museum of Virginia while the House of Delegates convened virtually.

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Virginia Governor Northam Optimistic About State of the Commonwealth

Speaking in a mostly empty House of Delegates Chamber on Wednesday night, Governor Ralph Northam delivered an optimistic State of the Commonwealth address. In the live-streamed speech, Northam acknowledged the suffering caused by COVID-19 and an economic downturn, but highlighted stories of heroic Virginians from the past year. He touted the progress Virginia’s government made towards progressive goals in 2020, and called for more change.

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Bipartisan Group of Senators Call for Governor to Reopen Virginia’s Schools

Three Virginia state Senators called for Governor Ralph Northam on Wednesday to reopen public schools across the Commonwealth and mandate in-person learning as an option for families struggling with virtual instruction. 

Just hours before the General Assembly kicked off its 2021 session, Senators Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond City), Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) and Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) held a press conference to discuss the matter.

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Virginia Teachers Union President Calls for All-Virtual Learning Until School Staff get Vaccinated

Virginia Education Association (VEA) president James Fedderman wants public schools in the Commonwealth to go to fully virtual learning until teachers and school staff receive vaccinations to stop the spread coronavirus in schools.

Fedderman asked the governor and school leaders around the state to facilitate the instructional switch in a video published to the VEA website on Friday.

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Virginia Governor Northam Plans to Extend Upcoming General Assembly Session

The Virginia General Assembly will convene on Wednesday and a lot of conversation surrounding the annual gathering of state lawmakers this year is not on legislative agendas or hotbed issues under consideration, but on how long the session will last.

Intrigue over the session length began back in mid-November when Republican legislative leaders of the Senate and House of Delegates, Sen. Tommy Norment (R-James City) and Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) announced their intention to limit the session to 30 days

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Virginia Department of Health: Vaccinations for Second Phase Group Starting Next Week

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) said Friday that 11 select health districts around the state will begin vaccinating the second phase of priority populations, group 1b, this week, according to a press release from the agency. 

VDH’s announcement comes two days after Governor Ralph Northam held his first COVID-19 press briefing of 2021, where he said the state would be faster at administering vaccines, implemented a “use it or lose it” policy for providers and released specifics on the people in group 1b. 

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Governor Northam Appoints Dr. Danny Avula to Lead Virginia’s Vaccination Program

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has appointed Dr. Danny Avula, director of the Richmond City and Henrico County health departments, to lead the Commonwealth’s ongoing COVID-19 vaccination program.

Northam made the announcement during a coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, the first time he has provided updates on the virus to the public in the new year.

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Princess Blanding Announces Third-Party Run for Virginia Governor

Community activist and mental health advocate Princess Blanding, whose brother was fatally shot by Richmond Police in 2018, announced her entrance into the 2021 Virginia governor’s race on Tuesday as a third-party candidate, joining a group of hopefuls featuring former and current state politicians.

Blanding, 38, will be running as an independent candidate under the Liberation Party, whose mission to advance equity by uplifting traditionally underserved and oppressed communities, according to a press release.

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Richmond, Virginia to Start Accepting Proposals for Resort Casinos, Releases Expectation Document

With the release of the Request for Qualifications/Proposals (RFQ/P) document, Richmond can now begin accepting submissions from established operators to build a resort casino in Virginia’s capital city.

Monday’s release of the RFQ/P marks the official start of the months-long competitive process to potentially bring a resort casino to Richmond in the coming years. The document outlines what the city expects from a proposal.

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Virginia’s Robert E. Lee Statue Removed from U.S. Capitol

Virginia’s statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee was removed from its place in the National Statuary Hall of the United States Capitol by a crew of workers overnight.

Every state is allowed to have two statues on display in the hall and Lee has stood along with President George Washington as representatives of the Commonwealth since 1909.

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Governor Northam Outlines Budget Recommendations with Focuses on COVID-19, Education

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam unveiled his recommendations for the biennial budget on Wednesday with big spending toward the state’s continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic, public education and other items.

The governor presented his budget proposals to lawmakers during a joint virtual meeting of the House of Delegates and Senate appropriation committees.

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Virginia Republicans Blast Northam’s Budget Proposal to Expand Court of Appeals

After Governor Ralph Northam made a number of proposals to the state’s biennial budget on Wednesday, several Republican legislators rebuked the Democrat’s recommendation to expand the Virginia Court of Appeals and claimed he was trying to pack the court.

Northam presented his budget proposals during a virtual meeting with the House of Delegates and Senate appropriation committees.

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Princess Blanding Slams Virginia Governor, Legislators Over Marcus Alert Bill

Princess Blanding, the sister of Marcus-David Peters who was shot and killed by Richmond Police during a mental health crisis, blasted Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Democratic lawmakers over legislation named after her brother during the bill signing ceremony on Tuesday.

In attendance alongside Northam were the three legislative sponsors of the bill: Senators Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond City) and Jeremy McPike (D-Prince William) and Delegate Jeff Boure (D-Richmond City).

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Virginia Hospitals Receive First Shipments of COVID-19 Vaccine

The coronavirus vaccine has finally arrived in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Several hospitals in Virginia received initial shipments of the newly approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine this week, kicking off the state’s months-long plan for mass vaccinations and finally signaling a potential end to the pandemic.

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Central Virginia Law Enforcement Agencies Won’t Pull Over Cars Violating New Curfew

Several law enforcement agencies in Central Virginia as well as the Virginia State Police say they will not be pulling over drivers as a method of enforcing Governor Ralph Northam’s new midnight to 5 a.m. statewide curfew.

“We will NOT be conducting traffic stops on people otherwise lawfully operating a motor vehicle during these times,” Chesterfield County Police Chief Colonel Jeffrey S. Katz wrote on Facebook. “The law requires officers to have reasonable suspicion to stop a driver. There are completely lawful reasons for people to be out and about during these times and therefore mere operation of a motor vehicle does not remotely meet the legal burden necessary to justify a lawful stop.”

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Virginia High School League: Athletes Advised to Wear Masks During Competitions

The Virginia High School League (VHSL) is requiring participating schools to follow health recommendations from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) that strongly advise student-athletes to wear masks at all times while on the sidelines as well as during practices and games, the league said Thursday.

In a press release emailed to media outlets, VHSL Executive Director John “Billy” Haun announced the decision to adhere to the state health department.

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Virginia Teachers Union Calls for Statewide Virtual Instruction Until Mid-January

The Virginia Education Association (VEA) is calling for all public schools in the Commonwealth to switch to virtual instruction for the next month because of the recent rise in COVID-19 numbers throughout the state. 

VEA President Dr. James Fedderman issued the statement online Thursday. 

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Northam Imposes Curfew, New Mask Requirement, Updated Gathering Limits for Virginia

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued increased statewide restrictions during a press briefing Thursday afternoon to combat rising coronavirus numbers in the Commonwealth as the Christmas holiday approaches.

Starting at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, December 14th, a modified stay-at-home order will be in place with a curfew for all Virginians from midnight to 5 a.m. The only exceptions are getting food and goods, seeking medical attention as well as traveling to and from work.

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Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy Stepping Down from House to Focus on Run for Virginia Governor

Virginia State Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-Prince William) said Tuesday that she was stepping down from her position in the House of Delegates to focus on securing the Democratic nomination for the 2021 gubernatorial election.

Carroll Foy, one of several Democratic candidates for governor, announced the decision in a video posted to social media.

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Colonial Williamsburg Grand Illumination Canceled due to Recent COVID-19 Restrictions

The annual Grand Illumination special event in Colonial Williamsburg’s historic area will not take place this year.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and the city announced the event was cancelled in a news release earlier this week because of current statewide coronavirus restrictions as well as an increase in cases despite efforts to continue with the ceremony during the pandemic.

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Virginia Could Receive Vaccine Doses by Mid-December, Northam Says

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said that initial doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could arrive in the state as early as mid-December.

During a coronavirus press briefing Wednesday afternoon, the governor shared details on the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plans instead of implementing new statewide restrictions.

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Virginia Could Receive Vaccine Doses by Mid-December, Northam Says

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said that initial doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine could arrive in the state as early as mid-December.

During a coronavirus press briefing Wednesday afternoon, the governor shared details on the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plans instead of implementing new statewide restrictions.

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Upcoming General Assembly Session Will Have Legislation Limits

When the General Assembly starts its 2021 regular session in January, the volume of legislation will be much different from years past because of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta), both the Senate and the House of Delegates will impose limits on the amount of legislation members can introduce for the session.

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Lynchburg-Area Counties Considering ‘No Shutdown’ Resolution

A resolution to block Governor Ralph Northam’s COVID-19 shutdown executive orders is circulating in the counties around Lynchburg. According to reporting by WSET, Boards of Supervisors in Campbell, Bedford, and Appomattox Counties are considering drafting a resolution repudiating Northam’s interference in local business.

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Fairfax County Delays Return to Classroom for Latest Group of Students

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is delaying the return to in-person instruction for thousands of younger students, Superintendent Scott Braband announced in a letter to parents and staff on Monday.

The largest school system in Virginia had planned to send 6,800 pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and special education students (Group 5) back to school on Tuesday, but decided to put the move on pause because the current community health metrics for coronavirus cases are exceeding the threshold to expand in-person education, according to Braband.

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Virginia Restaurant Owners React to New COVID-19 Restrictions

Governor Ralph Northam announced new statewide coronavirus restrictions last weekend, which went into effect Monday, that will impact a number of retail businesses throughout the Commonwealth.

“COVID-19 is surging across the country, and while cases are not rising in Virginia as rapidly as in some other states, I do not intend to wait until they are. We are acting now to prevent this health crisis from getting worse,” the governor said in a press release.

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Governor Northam Says He Supports Marijuana Legalization in Virginia

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said Monday that he supports the legalization of Marijuana use for adults in the commonwealth.

“Legalizing marijuana will happen in Virginia,” the governor said during a briefing on Monday.

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Richmond Public Schools Will Not Play Winter Sports this Year, Superintendent Says

In a newsletter last Monday Richmond Public Schools (RPS) Superintendent Jason Kamras said the school system will not play high school or middle school winter sports this year.

“Athletics are important for many reasons: they motivate and inspire, improve student health, and can even lead to college scholarships. I am deeply sensitive to this,” Kamras wrote in his daily RPS direct newsletter. “At the same time, given our decision to go 100% virtual for the first semester, and given rapidly rising infection rates, we will unfortunately not be fielding any teams this winter.”

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Virginia Military Institute Hires First Black Interim Superintendent After Northam Pays $1 Million to Investigate Systemic Racism

The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) hired its first Black superintendent shortly after Governor Ralph Northam allotted $1 million to investigate allegations of systemic racism there. VMI announced the appointment of retired U.S. Army Major General Cedric T. Wins on Friday.

Wins will serve as the interim superintendent at VMI – he is also a 1985 graduate. In his remarks on accepting the interim position with VMI, Wins only had positive words for the institution’s history.

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Virginia COVID-19 Update: Coronavirus Numbers Rising Throughout the State, Vaccine Expected by Year End, Officials Say

As the winter months, colder weather and the holiday season are approaching, the coronavirus numbers, encompassing a number of different metrics, have been increasing throughout Virginia over the last month or so, according to government officials.

At a televised briefing Tuesday afternoon, Governor Ralph Northam said the state is seeing a rise in cases, percent positivity – now at 6.2 percent – and hospitalizations.

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Senate Passes Majority of Gov. Northam’s Amendments, Concluding Lengthy Special Session

The Virginia Senate on Monday adopted a number of slight changes to legislation and the budget recommended by Governor Ralph Northam, including language for the implementation of the recently-approved redistricting commission.

Overall, including the budget, the Senate passed amendments for ten bills from the House and Senate. Most passage votes were primarily along party lines with a couple amendments garnering unanimous support.

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Governor Signs Sentencing Reform Legislation into Law

Last week Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation into law from the Virginia General Assembly special session, which gives judges sentencing power instead of juries in most criminal cases.

Sponsored by Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond City), Senate Bill 5007 changes a 224-year practice in the Commonwealth where juries had the authority to pass sentences after a conviction had been made.

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Constitutional Amendment on Redistricting Commission Approved by Virginia Voters

The majority of Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment this week aimed to prevent and stop political gerrymandering by changing the Commonwealth’s redistricting process.

Sixty six percent of Virginians answered yes to constitutional amendment question 1 on ballots and, overall, voters in every locality were in support except for Arlington, while 34 percent voted no to the question, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

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Attorney General Mark Herring Fights Trump’s Order on Diversity Training

Ahead of the election, Attorney General Mark Herring asked President Donald Trump to rescind his executive order on diversity training.

Herring co-signed a letter complaining about the potential limitations imposed on “implicit bias trainings for federal contractors and federal grantees.” Implicit bias refers to the idea that individuals aren’t aware of their attitudes or stereotypes about others.

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Governor Northam to Sign Bill Giving Earned Sentence Credits to Violent Offenders and Sexual Predators

Governor Ralph Northam will sign a bill granting earned sentence credits to violent offenders and sexual predators. Certain inmates will be eligible to reduce their sentencing by up to fifty percent.
The bill, House Bill (HB) 5148, includes those sentenced for certain classifications of murder, rape, robbery, abduction, kidnapping, lynching, terrorism, domestic assault, strangulation, genital mutilation, child pornography, and stalking.

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Group of Monument Avenue Residents to File Legal Brief Supporting Lee Statue Removal

Roughly 50 or more Monument Avenue residents who live nearby the Robert E. Lee statue intend to file an amicus brief with the Virginia Supreme Court in support of Governor Ralph Northam’s plan to remove the controversial monument, a lawyer representing the group said.

Local residents organized the group called Circle Neighbors after a Richmond Circuit Court judge ruled earlier this week against three plaintiffs, who also live near the monument, seeking to block the Commonwealth from removing the statue.

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Governor Signs Executive Order Allowing for Return of High School Sports in December

After months of uncertainty in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Virginia high school sports will finally return in December.

On Thursday, Governor Ralph Northam cleared the way for high school sports to resume and for the Virginia High School League (VHSL) to proceed with its Championship +1 schedule when he signed the fourth amendment of Executive Order 67, adjusting statewide restrictions on recreational sports.

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Richmond Judge Sides with Northam on Lee Statue Removal

A Richmond Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of the Commonwealth and Governor Ralph Northam on Tuesday, allowing for the removal of the controversial Robert E. Lee statue on Richmond’s historic Monument Avenue.

In his decision, Judge W. Reilly Marchant lifted the temporary injunction, ordered by a separate judge back in August, which barred Nortam from taking action, but said the statue could not be removed until a proper appeal process has taken place.

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Cancel Culture Claims Another: Virginia Military Institute Superintendent General Peay Resigns

Virginia Military Institute (VMI) Superintendent, retired four-star Army General J.H. Binford Peay III (’62), resigned on Monday. Peay shared that Governor Ralph Northam prompted the resignation.
“On Friday, 23 October 2020, the Governor’s Chief of Staff conveyed that the Governor and certain legislative leaders had lost confidence in my leadership as Superintendent of Virginia Military Institute and desired my resignation.”

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Virginia Sheriffs Demand Northam Amend Anti-Law Enforcement Language

The Virginia Sheriffs’ Association (VSA) sent a letter to Governor Ralph Northam on Monday asking him to amend two bills to allow law enforcement agencies to acquire armored military vehicles, which they argue are vital in extreme weather rescues as well as the protection of officers and citizens from gunfire. 

Written by John Jones, VSA executive director, the letter asks Northam to amend House Bill 5049 and Senate Bill 5030, both of which were sent to the governor’s desk last week.

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Justin Fairfax Says He is Poised to Help All Virginians as the Next Governor

If elected governor, Justin Fairfax is determined to bring the Commonwealth and its residents out from underneath the current issues plaguing Virginia brought forth by the coronavirus pandemic and a destructive political landscape. 

Last month Lt. Gov. Fairfax officially announced his entrance into the 2021 gubernatorial election, hoping to follow in the footsteps of former state governor L. Douglas Wilder and become the second black man elected to the Executive Mansion. 

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Bill Giving AG Increased Authority to Investigate Patterns of Misconduct by Police Signed into Law

Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill into law on Wednesday that gives the state attorney general additional powers to investigate unlawful patterns or practices by law enforcement officers and file civil action to stop the misconduct.

Introduced by Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), Senate Bill 5024 was one of several bills approved by the governor this week.

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