Follow the Money: CARES Act Update

Congress passed the CARES Act last March, sending many taxpayers $1,200, giving $100 billion to health providers, and boosting unemployment benefits by $600 a week, according to Govtrack. The $2 trillion stimulus bill also sent $150 billion to states and localities across the country. Virginia received about $3.1 billion dollars, with a separate $200 million sent directly to Fairfax County.

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Governor Northam Signs Revised State Budget

Governor Ralph Northam signed Virginia’s new biennial budget, according to a Wednesday press release. The budget is the product of a recent months-long Special Session held by the General Assembly and features key provisions for homeowners, children, and businesses.

“This budget gives us the tools we need to contend with the challenges brought on by the ongoing pandemic,” Northam said in a press release.

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Executive Order Limiting Crowd Sizes Forces Cancelation of the Nation’s Gun Show

Organizers have canceled The Nation’s Gun Show scheduled to be held at the Dulles Expo Center this weekend after Governor Ralph Northam announced new group size restrictions at the end of last week. The organizers sued Northam and asked for an injunction that would allow them to hold the event, arguing that Northam’s emergency powers do not include the power to infringe the Second Amendment. However, the court denied the request for an injunction.

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Northam Restricts Large Groups, Night Drinking, Expands Mask Mandate Ahead of Thanksgiving

Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced new coronavirus restrictions Friday, only a few weeks ahead of Thanksgiving.

“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 statement.

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Richmond Prosecutor: Officer Justified in Marcus-David Peters Shooting

Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette W. McEachin determined that the officer shooting of Marcus-David Peters was justified, according to a report of her investigation into the May 2018 incident. McEachin’s report, released last week, describes Peters, a Black man, having a likely mental crisis that resulted in him running nude on I-95. Peters then approached a responding officer who fired first a Taser and then a gun at Peters.

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New Wave of Prosecutors Pushing to Ignore Sections of Law

Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill on Wednesday requiring judges to dismiss cases when both prosecutors and defense attorneys agree. The bill was born after Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Underwood (D) announced that he would not be prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana cases, according to The Virginian-Pilot. The bill is an example of a national push to allow prosecutors discretion to ignore whole sections of law, according to Heritage Foundation Legal Fellow and former prosecutor Zack Smith.

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Gov. Northam Fights to Keep Virginia in Perpetual Shutdown

Only 22 percent of ventilators in Virginia hospitals were in use as of Wednesday. Fifty-two percent of ICU beds were available, according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. Only 1,003 potential COVID-19 patients were currently hospitalized. However, Governor Ralph Northam’s executive orders surrounding social distancing and mask wearing remain in effect.

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Gov. Northam Criticizes President Trump’s ‘Don’t Live in Fear’ Message, Suggests Exercising to Help Fight COVID

Governor Ralph Northam criticized President Donald Trump’s statement preceding his release from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
“I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”

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Charlottesville City Council Moves Forward with Relocating ‘Disrespectful’ Lewis & Clark and Sacagawea Statue

The Charlottesville City Council convened on Wednesday to continue discussing plans for relocating the Lewis & Clark and Sacagawea statue.
Activists take issue with Sacagawea’s posture: she crouches behind Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, a positioning some say is demeaning for depicting the appearance of subservience.

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Northam Vows to Count Every Ballot – the Fraudulent Ones, Too

Governor Ralph Northam joined 10 other Democratic governors issuing a joint statement on Wednesday defending American democracy, vowing that every valid ballot will be counted in the election. 

The statement comes after a contentious debate where President Trump expressed skepticism of mail voting. Trump also called on his backers to scrutinize voting procedures at the polls, which critics said could cross into voter intimidation. Without mentioning Trump by name, the governors noted his refusal last week to commit to a peaceful transition of power.

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Governor and First Lady Northam Test Positive for COVID-19

Governor Ralph Northam announced Friday that he and his wife, First Lady Pamela Northam, have tested positive for COVID-19. The Northams received testing after learning that one of the governor’s staff members tested positive. 
Northam reports that he is asymptomatic; his wife is experiencing “mild symptoms.” The pair plan to isolate for ten days and then undergo another examination, according to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) guidelines.

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Trump Intends to Visit Virginia After Denouncing Gov. Northam and Endorsing Bob Good

President Donald Trump announced his intentions to visit Virginia after denouncing Governor Ralph Northam and endorsing congressional candidate Bob Good.

Trump tweeted his remarks on the first day of Virginia’s early voting and submission of absentee ballots, September 18.

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Virginia Republicans Wary of Proposals Facilitating Absentee Ballots

Republican legislators in Virginia are sounding the alarm about risks with new provisions providing prepaid postage and drop boxes for absentee ballots. The provisions come as part of a budget amendment proposed by Governor Ralph Northam.

The amendment provides $2 million to create the ballot drop boxes and to pay postage so that voters do not have to pay to return their ballots. The General Assembly will consider the amendments sometime near the beginning of next week.

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Northam Proposes to Keep $2.3B in Budget Cuts for Now, Revisit in January

With a $2.7 billion budget shortfall and continued economic uncertainty, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wants the General Assembly to postpone considerations of higher education spending, teacher pay raises and other spending initiatives he had hoped to include in the budget before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The General Assembly passed a biennial budget in April that gutted about $2.3 billion from the governor’s pre-pandemic budget proposal. The General Assembly was expected to reconsider some of these proposals based on new revenue projections in a special session that convened Tuesday, but Northam proposed a budget that maintained all of the cuts and urged the General Assembly to reconsider the spending initiatives when they reconvene in January.

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Virginia Citizens Defense League Lobbies Virginia Localities to Become Gun ‘Sanctuaries’

Gun-rights activist group the Virginia Citizens Defense League is lobbying 193 local jurisdictions to declare they will not ban guns. The proposed Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions vary, but contain language stating that a jurisdiction “shall not exercise any authority granted to it … to regulate or prohibit the otherwise legal purchase, possession, or transfer of firearms or ammunition.”

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Expanded Unemployment Would Cost Virginia $45M a Week, but Fund Is Almost Dry

If Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam opts to expand unemployment benefits by $100 a week per person, it would cost the state an additional $45 million a week, but the unemployment insurance fund already is set to run out of money in September, state officials said.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order to extend federal unemployment benefits by $300 a week, but states would have to supply an additional $100 a week, increasing the benefit to $400 a week.

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Police, Criminal Justice Reform Advocates Share Some Views Ahead of Legislative Special Session

Police officers and criminal justice reform advocates share some common ground going into Virginia’s special session to address policing reform, but the two groups break apart on some of the more controversial reforms.

“We are as repulsed by bad police officers … as anyone [else],” Wayne Huggins, executive director of the Virginia State Police Association, told Virginia House members Thursday during the last criminal justice reform hearing ahead of the special session, which convenes Aug. 18.

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Virginia First to Roll Out Pandemic App from Apple, Google

Virginia has rolled out a smartphone app to automatically notify people if they might have been exposed to the coronavirus, becoming the first U.S. state to use new pandemic technology created by Apple and Google.

But hopes for a nationwide app that can work seamlessly across state borders remain unrealized, and there are no known federal plans to create one. State officials say their new app won’t work as well outside Virginia, at least until a group of coordinating public health agencies gets a national server up and running and other states join in.

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Virginia State Rep. Introduces Bill to Limit Governor’s Executive Order Powers in Times of Emergency

State Sen. David Suetterlein (R-Cave Spring) introduced a bill last week to check the Virginia governor’s executive order powers under the Emergency Services and Disaster Law (ESDL).

The ESDL allows the Virginia governor “to direct and compel evacuation of all or part of the populace from any stricken or threatened area if this action is deemed necessary for the preservation of life, implement emergency mitigation, preparedness, response or recovery actions; prescribe routes, modes of transportation and destination in connection with evacuation.”

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Injunction Extended Against Removing Lee Statue in Virginia

A judge on Thursday indefinitely extended an injunction preventing the Virginia governor from removing a historic statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee from a famed avenue in the former capital of the Confederacy.

Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley Cavedo made the decision after hearing from attorneys for the state and for the plaintiff in a lawsuit against Gov. Ralph Northam. Earlier this month, Cavedo had issued a 10-day injunction barring Northam from removing the bronze equestrian statue of the Confederate hero from Monument Avenue.

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Judge Issues Order Halting Lee Statue Removal for 10 Days

A judge in Richmond has issued an injunction preventing Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration from removing an iconic statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee for 10 days.

The temporary injunction order issued Monday says the state is a party to a deed recorded in March 1890 in which it accepted the statue, pedestal and ground they sit on and agreed to “faithfully guard” and “affectionately protect” them.

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