The U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade launched a wave of statements from Virginia politicians on Friday. Abortion remains legal in Virginia with some limitations, and split control of Virginia’s government leaves both Republicans and Democrats seeking to use the issue to motivate their own voter base. Pro-choice protesters held multiple rallies across Virginia on Friday, with more planned for the weekend.
Governor Glenn Youngkin has largely been quiet about abortion, but on Friday he released two statements reacting to the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling. Additionally, Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said Youngkin is pushing for a 15-week abortion ban.
House Republicans are touting $3 billion of direct aid for education in the Fiscal Year 2023-2024 budget that Governor Glenn Youngkin is currently reviewing. Key education items include over $1 billion in grants and loans for school construction and modernization, and two five-percent raises for teachers and other state employees. It also includes $45 million for school resource officers.
House Appropriations Chair Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach) said education spending in the budget is higher than pre-recession levels, even accounting for current inflation levels.
Facing an April 11 deadline, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed over 100 bills last week, including Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) SB 656, a bill requiring Virginia public schools to notify parents about sexually explicit instructional material, allow parental review, and provide non-explicit alternatives. The bill instructs the Department of Education to create model policies and requires school boards to pass similar policies.
“These kinds of materials that are being presented in school as an opportunity to develop that relationship between the parent and the child, talk about uncomfortable and challenging things,” Dunnavant said in the Senate Committee on Education and Health in February. “We heard in testimony from the subject matter experts that there was not a consistent policy across the school boards in Virginia, and that it was extremely variable. And as a result, having clear guidelines from the Department of Education would accomplish exactly what everybody thinks already exists, but it doesn’t.”
Governor Glenn Youngkin campaigned on creating 20 new charter schools in Virginia, but the Virginia Senate Education and Health Committee killed Republican-led charter school legislation. As a result, Republicans are pivoting to lab schools — schools that are part of the local district operated as partnerships with education programs at local higher ed institutions. Legislation to expand Virginia’s lab schools to institutions with programs beyond education is currently in conference committee with negotiators from the House of Delegates and the Senate to try to create a compromise to send to Youngkin.
“It’s going to be an opportunity for us to move some charter-schools-lite through,” House Majority Leader Terry Kilgore (R-Scott) told The Virginia Star during a discussion of top priorities at the beginning of the 2022 special session.
With Republicans in control of the House of Delegates and the governorship, and with a pro-life Democrat in the Senate who could offer ties to the Republican lieutenant governor, there were high hopes for pro-life policy when the 2022 General Assembly session began. But with the session approaching its March 12 adjournment, only a few lower-profile pieces of pro-life legislation will make it to the governor’s desk.
“In many ways, it was very much what we expected. We expected the Senate to be nothing but a giant roadblock to any rational or reasonable legislation that would have truly moved the ball forward for protecting unborn children and their mothers. And they did exactly that,” Virginia Society for Human Life President Olivia Gans Turner told The Virginia Star.
RICHMOND, Virginia – Senate Republicans won a minor showdown on Thursday by forcing several House bills to a full committee hearing although the Democrat-controlled Senate Education and Health Committee had removed the bills from its docket. Among the bills was Delegate Nick Freitas’ (R-Culpeper) bill requiring health providers to work to preserve the life of an infant born alive after an abortion attempt.
Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment (R-James City) protested with a series of questions aimed at Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax). After Norment’s questions to Saslaw, the Senate went into recess while the legislators worked out a deal. Norment, Education Committee Chair Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), and Saslaw were seen speaking to each other and gesticulating during the recess.
Wednesday was a good day for Governor Glenn Youngkin, who received two major education policy wins from the Democrat-controlled Virginia Senate, which passed Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) bill requiring parental notification of sexually explicit instructional material in public school classes. Senators Lynwood Lewis Jr. (D-Accomack) and Montgomery “Monty” Mason (D-Williamsburg) voted with all the Republicans to pass the bill 20 to 18.
Dunnavant said, “Senate Bill 656 is a bill that we discussed and passed out of this body before that seeks to inform parents when controversial, sexually explicit material is being discussed in the classroom. It has nothing to do with libraries. It has an enactment clause that specifically protects books and ensures that it does not censor books.”
Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) has introduced a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks in most circumstances, a threshold based on when the unborn are believed to feel pain.
“We’re actually making sure that it’s understood that this is about the capability to feel pain, it’s not about an arbitrary 20-week schedule,” Freitas told The Virginia Star.