Heretick Representing Another Lawsuit Battling Virginia Skill Games Ban

Delegate Steve Heretick (D-Portsmouth) is representing plaintiffs in another lawsuit seeking an end to a ban on skill games in Virginia. On September 1, Roanoke-area convenience store operator Falu Patel filed suit claiming that the recently-enact ban violates his constitutional rights; Patel is represented by Heretick and Virginia Beach attorney Mike Joynes.

“It is appalling to me that here in the year 2021, we are still seeing affirmative acts of discrimination through the legislative process. It is clear from the statements made by the legislators who pushed the skill games ban agenda that SB 971 had one purpose – to discriminate against Asian American and African American convenience store owners who had these legal gaming devices in their establishments,” Joynes and Heretick said in a press release.

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Youngkin Announces Major Policy Goals in His ‘Day One Game Plan’

GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin unveiled a long list of policy priorities prominently featuring tax breaks alongside spending on law enforcement and schools in his “Day One Game Plan.” His Monday announcement in Falls Church also included a declaration that he would ban Critical Race Theory (CRT) from being taught in schools or used in teacher training, and he said he wouldn’t implement COVID-19 shutdowns.

“I will not allow COVID lock downs to ever occur in Virginia again,” Youngkin said to loud cheers and applause from the crowd.

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Virginia General Assembly Passes Compromise ARPA Allocation Bill

Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax sp ... inance Chair Senator Janet Howell.

RICHMOND, Virginia – After hammering out a compromise between the House of Delegates and the Senate, the Virginia General Assembly voted to send its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) budget bill to Governor Ralph Northam. The bill passed the House 78-20 and passed the Senate 23-16.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) said that she and other senators fought for the Senate’s amendments in a conference committee with representatives from the House.

“As you look at the conference report you will see that on several items our position was affirmed, and on others we were able to compromise,” she reported to the Senate.

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Virginia Senate Republicans Angry After Democrats Interview Court of Appeals Candidates in Private

RICHMOND, Virginia – Republican legislators say that Democrats are leaving them out of the process of vetting candidates to fill eight Virginia Court of Appeals seats. Next week, legislators are expected to appoint judges to the newly-expanded court. But Democrats privately interviewed the candidates on Wednesday and only intend to advance eight candidates to be approved by the General Assembly, as first reported by The Virginia Mercury and The Richmond Times-Dispatch. On Thursday, Republican and Democratic senators went back-and-forth on the Senate floor about the process.

“I am confident that there were no Republicans who were invited to participate in those interviews and I just want to point out that it seems to be a little bit of a theme that has developed during the course of this session,” Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) said. “There is way too much business that’s being conducted behind closed doors, out of the view of the public.”

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Virginia Senate Passes Amended American Rescue Plan Act Allocation Bill

RICHMOND, Virginia — The Virginia Senate passed its amended version of the $4.3 billion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation bill late Wednesday evening, after hours of debate on amendments. Although some Republican amendments, including a key law enforcement bonus proposal, were incorporated into the spending bill, many were not. Rejected amendments included a sweeping election integrity amendment and an anti-Critical Race Theory amendment. The final vote on passing the bill was 22-18. Many Republicans said that while they supported some elements of the bill, they disapproved of the process Democrats used, including a vote Wednesday evening to limit debate on each amendment to just three minutes.

Right before the vote to pass the budget, the Senate GOP caucus went into conference. When the senators returned, Minority Leader Thomas Norment, Jr. (R-James City) hinted that many of his caucus would vote against the bill. He said, “It is not so much about the substantive provisions of the budget that we have amended. Rather I believe that the vote you are about to see is going to be a reflection of the frustration and the indignation of the entire process.”

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Virginia Senate GOP Criticizes Decision to Postpone Campaign Finance Reform Meeting on Same Day Democrats Hold Fundraiser

The Virginia Senate GOP is questioning General Assembly Democrats’ commitment to campaign finance reform after the inaugural meeting of the Joint Subcommittee on Campaign Finance Reform was rescheduled from Monday morning while a Democratic fundraiser breakfast went forward.

“Evidently, Democrats are very enthusiastic about limiting campaign donations to politicians who aren’t Democrats,” Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment, Jr. (R-James City) said in a Monday press release. “Today’s cancellation is a reminder of their true priorities related to campaign funding: raising as much money as possible to elect Democrats.”

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Virginia House Democrats Defeat Republican Proposals to Alter American Rescue Plan Act Spending Bill

RICHMOND, Virginia – The House of Delegates voted against several Republican attempts to change proposals to allocate $4.3 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds on Tuesday afternoon. House Republicans led by Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) introduced an alternate bill, but it was defeated 53 to 43. House Democrats also defeated amendments from Delegate Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach) and attorney general candidate Delegate Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach).

“It is a shame that despite our concerns that this process was not opened up to the traditional committee vetting process, that members on this side of the aisle were told, and frankly on your side of the aisle were told, ‘Your input is not welcome.’ I would have hoped that in this process we would have at least been afforded the opportunity to explain our bill, but instead we are left with the inevitable two minutes,” Gilbert said.

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General Assembly Back in Session, in Person, to Allocate ARPA Funds

RICHMOND, Virginia – The budget bill to allocate $4.3 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds passed out of the House of Delegates Committee on Appropriations on Monday, the first step to passing Governor Ralph Northam’s proposals for the money.

But the first day of the second 2022 special session saw legislative gridlock between the Senate and the House of Delegates. The House passed HJ 7003, which establishes the rules and schedule for how the session will operate. When the legislation was sent to the Senate, Senate Democratic leaders introduced three amendments which received broad bipartisan support.

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Virginia Redistricting Commission Fills Vacancy With Just a Month Left Before Receiving Census Data

The Virginia Redistricting Commission voted Monday to nominate Virginia Trost-Thornton as a Republican citizen member after Marvin Gilliam resigned two weeks ago.

“I can support either one of them. I know that Virginia Trost is from the Forest area, she is a chemical engineer and a lawyer and a math major and a pretty smart lady,” Senator Stephen Newman (R-Bedford) told the commission.

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Virginia Redistricting Commission Working to Fill Vacancy

The Virginia Redistricting Commission has its first resignation. On Tuesday at the Commission’s first in-person meeting Republican Citizen Member Marvin Gilliam announced his departure. His replacement will be selected from candidates already identified by Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment (R-James City.)

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As Lawsuits Proceed, Virginia’s Skill Games Ban Remains in Effect

Skill games in Virginia remain closed as two lawsuits fighting to allow the slot-like electronic games despite a recent law banning them. On Friday, Norfolk Circuit Court Judge Junius Fulton III denied a request for an emergency injunction in one of the lawsuits that would have temporarily allowed the games to reopen while the lawsuit proceeds, according to Courthouse News.

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Northam Announcements: Record May Revenue Increase, New Secretary of Finance, and Return to Earn Grant Program

Virginia saw a 66.2 percent General Fund revenue increase in May according to a Friday announcement from Governor Ralph Northam. He also announced the appointment of Joe Flores as the new Secretary of Finance, and a Return to Earn Grant program to help provide bonuses to new hires at small businesses.

“Virginia’s economy is roaring back to life thanks to hard work following the science and one of the strongest pandemic responses in the country,” Northam said in a press release.

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Virginia Politicians Call for Action to Make Sure Unemployment Benefits Don’t Keep People from Getting Jobs

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Virginia politicians are calling on Governor Ralph Northam to take steps to make sure unemployment benefits aren’t preventing potential employees from returning to work. Senate Republicans want to use American Recovery Plan funds to create “Back-to-Work” bonuses to incentivize current unemployment recipients to re-enter the workforce. Congresswoman Elaine Luria (D-Virginia-02) is calling for better enforcement of unemployment benefit eligibility rules.

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General Assembly Republicans Call for Special Session to Investigate Virginia Parole Board

General Assembly Republicans renewed calls for a special session to investigate the Virginia Parole Board (VPB) after media obtained recordings of a call held last summer between Northam administration officials and State Inspector General Michael Westfall.

House of Delegates Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said in a Monday press release, “The recording of the meeting between the Office of State Inspector General and Governor  [Ralph] Northam’s team explains why the Governor’s budget amendment only called for an investigation of OSIG, and not the Parole Board. The Governor’s office doesn’t think the Parole Board did anything wrong.”

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Travis Hackworth Wins Senate District 38 Special Election

Republican Travis Hackworth won the 38th Senate District seat in a special election held Tuesday. Hackworth will fill a seat left vacant when Senator Ben Chafin (R-Russell) died of COVID-19 early in 2021.

“We were hoping for a 70-30 victory and to hit 75 percent, it’s just amazing. It just shows how the people in the 38th District are still conservative Republicans that want to elect a senator like Senator Chafin, who will go up there and fight Richmond and just be conservative,” Hackworth told The Virginia Star.

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Virginia General Assembly Postpones Marijuana Legalization Until 2024

The Virginia General Assembly passed marijuana legalization bills on Saturday, a move that had been expected to make Virginia the first southern state to legalize marijuana. However, legislators from the House of Delegates and the Senate passed a compromise that delays legalization and retail sale of marijuana until 2024. The compromise, created in a conference committee, also requires another vote in 2022 to confirm parts of the bill.

While some legalization advocates said passage of the bill was progress, others criticized it.

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A More Restrained Bicycling Safety Act Passes the Virginia Senate

Delegate Chris Hurst’s (D-Montgomery) Bicycling Safety Act passed the Senate on Wednesday. The Senate version of the bill focuses on increasing passing safety. It requires drivers to move over a lane if there isn’t room to pass bicyclists by three feet, and it also allows two bicyclists to ride side-by side in a lane. It also creates a study of the potential effects of a ‘Safety Stop,’ a traffic law that would allow bicyclists to treat stop signs as yields under certain conditions.

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From Same-Sex Marriage to Equal Education Opportunities, Seven Constitutional Amendments Are Moving Through Virginia Legislature

The Virginia General Assembly considered over a dozen constitutional amendments in its two chambers this session; seven of them have been passed in either the House or the Senate. Last week, Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment (R-James City) criticized the high number.

“I recognize that times change,” he said on the Senate floor. “I recognize that Virginia has changed and I recognize that there is a new cadre of legislators who have a different perspective on what the policies of the commonwealth should be.”

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Virginia Senate to Vote on Legislation Giving Certain Health Insurance Plans Abortion Coverage Option

The Senate of Virginia on Friday will vote to pass legislation out of the body that would allow for private health insurance companies offering plans through the state exchange to have the option for abortion coverage.

Senate Bill 1276 was introduced by Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond City), who is also a gubernatorial candidate seeking the Democratic nomination, and co-sponsored by three other Democratic legislators.

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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 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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Legislative Leaders Pick Citizen Finalists for Virginia Redistricting Commission

The four legislative leaders of the House of Delegates and state Senate picked 62 citizen finalists last Friday to be considered for eight available spots on Virginia’s new redistricting commission.

House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) and Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City) were responsible for making lists of 16 citizens out of more than 1,200 applicants. 

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Virginia Legislators Expect to Legalize Marijuana in 2021, but Massive Changes Needed Might Slow the Process

It’s not quite a nonpartisan issue, but Virginia legislators expect an effort to legalize marijuana will receive enough bipartisan support to pass in the 2021 regular session. The biggest hurdle to the plan is the massive legislative changes that are required. Legislators have to choose how the cannabis business will interact with many sectors of business and government including banking, law enforcement, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Taxation, and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority.

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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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Virginia House Will Remain Virtual in 2021; Republicans Leaders Want to Keep Regular Session at 30 Days

Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County) announced Monday that the Virginia House of Delegates would continue to meet virtually during the upcoming 2021 General Assembly regular session, just as they did during the special session, because of the current status of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the emailed statement, Filler-Corn’s decision was made after discussions with the Clerk of the House and officials from the Virginia Department of Health, which includes a letter from Virginia State Health Commissioner, Norman Oliver, strongly recommending the House hold sessions virtually “to the greatest extent possible.

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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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COVID Lockdowns a Boon for Virginia Lottery

The Virginia Lottery recorded $2.15 billion in sales during 2020, slightly lower than the 2019 figure, despite facing statewide shut downs in the spring and the growing economic downturn brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Kevin Hall, executive director of the Virginia Lottery, gave a presentation Tuesday to members of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, providing updates on the current trend and forecast as well as the implementation of expanded gaming options coming to the state.

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Senate Lawmakers Pass Conference Report for Criminal Justice Reform Legislation

During potentially the final day of the lengthy 2020 special session, Senate legislators adopted and passed the conference committee report on a bill that allows judges in certain criminal cases to issue the sentences instead of the jury. 

The conference report that was unanimously agreed upon by the six conferees, two Republicans and two Democrats, passed the Senate by an almost exact party line vote of (Y-22 N-16). 

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State Inspector General Substantiates Multiple Allegations Against the Virginia Parole Board

The Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) has released reports substantiating multiple allegations that the Virginia Parole Board (VPB) violated state statutes as well as its own policies and procedures after investigating complaints regarding the parole of specific Department of Corrections offenders.

On Tuesday, the OSIG released copies of the reports, originally sent to Governor Ralph Northam’s administration, to media outlets who requested them that were mostly redacted and did not offer the specific findings of the investigation into the VPB.

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Virginia Senate Committee Advances a Bevy of House Bills to Floor

Democrats in the state Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee on Thursday advanced numerous House bills relating to policing and justice reform and COVID-19. 

All together the Committee considered 20 bills during the meeting and hastily reported 19 to be considered on the Senate Floor on Friday or sometime next week. 

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