General Assembly Kills Gas Tax Holiday, Hyde Amendment, but Pass Partial Lab School Expansion in FY 23-24 Budget

RICHMOND, Virginia — The Virginia General Assembly approved many of Governor Glenn Youngkin’s budget amendments on Friday, but in mostly-partisan votes, killed his efforts to expand a ban on using state tax dollars on abortions, and to create a three-month gas tax holiday. Additionally, House Republicans and Democrats killed an amendment that would have made it a felony to protest outside courts and justices’ homes to influence proceedings.

Youngkin criticized the defeat of the gas tax holiday on Twitter: “Democrats failed to put politics aside for the good of Virginians — for a third time.”

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VCDL, VAPLAN Rank Virginia’s General Assembly Legislators

Nick Freitas and Mark Obenshain

The pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) has released a scorecard of legislators from the recent General Assembly session, with most Republican legislators scoring 100 percent.  In tallies that count votes, Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) and Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) earned the highest scores based on the number of votes cast and who introduced legislation. The Virginia Progressive Legislative Action Network (VAPLAN) has also released a scorecard, finding that Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) and Delegate Thomas Wright (R-Lunenberg) tied for most conservative in the House, while Senator Steve Newman (R-Bedford) was the most conservative in the Senate.

“Congratulations to Senator Mark Obenshain (R – Harrisonburg) and to Delegate Nick Freitas (R – Culpeper) for having the best voting records in the General Assembly,” the VCDL wrote in an update. “And honorable mention goes to Senator Ryan McDougle (R-Mechanicsville and freshman Delegate Marie March (R-Pulaski), who both came in 2nd place.”

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As Budget Negotiations Continue, Gov. Youngkin and Virginia Legislators Make Last-Minute Pitch for Pet Proposals

As legislators work towards a budget compromise balancing increased spending with revenue losses from tax cuts, Governor Glenn Youngkin and legislators are continuing to argue for their positions.

“The idea that we have to choose between tax relief and our shared priorities is a false choice. It is critical that we do our part to reduce the tax burden on our citizens, particularly at a time when present receipts continue to be as robust as they are,” Youngkin wrote in a Wednesday Richmond Times-Dispatch column.

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Virginia State Senate Judiciary Committee Kills Local Gun Control Repeal

The Senate Judiciary Committee killed HB 827, a bill that would remove local authority to pass gun control ordinances. In its Monday meeting, the committee also killed several other Republican gun bills. Although a few bills are still working their way through the legislature, Monday’s committee meeting largely concludes the current General Assembly session in terms of gun policy, with few gains made by either firearms advocates or opponents.

“The session looks to be a wash for both sides, except for one bill on the serial numbers, and then a switchblade bill,” Virginia Citizens Defense League President Philip Van Cleave told The Virginia Star. “That’s not totally unexpected, but you never know.”

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Virginia House of Delegates Passes Locality Gun Control Repeal

The House of Delegates passed a bill to repeal the 2020 law authorizing localities to ban firearms on locality property. Delegates debated the bill on Wednesday before the vote Thursday.

“House Bill 827 returns our code back to its prior position,” Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham) said on Wednesday. “Other portions of the bill: it eliminates the requirement to destroy firearms that are confiscated and rather allows them to be offered for sale through a licensed dealer. And it also limits the ability of localities to sue firearm manufacturers.”

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Senate Committee Blocks Confirmation of Trump EPA Chief to Serve as Youngkin’s Secretary of Natural Resources; Republicans Planning Consequences

RICHMOND, Virginia – The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee blocked Governor Glenn Youngkin’s nominee for Secretary of Natural Resources, former Trump EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. On Tuesday afternoon, Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) moved to remove Wheeler’s name from a Senate resolution to confirm the nominees.

“We received a letter from 150 former EPA employees, who suggested that Mr. Wheeler had undermined the work of the EPA and worked against the environmental interests in this country. We think that members of the governor’s cabinet ought to be able to unite us as Virginians, and certainly the secretary of natural resources ought to be one that we have confidence in, in terms of working for the preservation and conservation of our natural resources,” Deeds said.

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Senate Committee Kills Republican Election Integrity Reforms, Obenshain-Chase Conflict Resurfaces, Surovell Criticizes Miyares for Firing 30 Attorneys

RICHMOND, Virginia — The Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections killed several Republican- sponsored elections integrity bills on Tuesday afternoon, including photo voter identification bills and a bill to repeal same-day voter registration. The committee also killed campaign finance reform bills from Senators Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) and Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax.)

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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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Republicans Competitive to Retake Virginia House of Delegates Majority

Republicans have a good chance to retake the majority in Virginia’s House of Delegates, powered by historically-Republican voters in swing districts who were alienated by former President Donald Trump. To win the majority, Republicans need to protect what they have and take six seats. They see opportunities in Northern Virginia, metro Richmond, Virginia Beach, and downstate Virginia.

“We feel that with the environment that’s going on right now, we’ve got great opportunities to pick up five to nine seats to take over,” Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Wise) told The Virginia Star. “That’s one thing you don’t have any control of, but the environment, you know, of Biden and just the overreach by a lot of the Democrats’ bills last year has really focused the independents back our way.”

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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 Behavioral Health Hospitals Operating at Near 100 Percent Capacity with Just 60-75 Percent of Staff

Virginia’s eight state-run mental health hospitals are operating at near-peak capacity, while operating at just 60 to 75 percent staffing levels, according to a presentation Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Commissioner Alison Land gave legislators on Tuesday.

“We’ve been working on this issue for years and years before I came, and the picture just keeps looking bleaker, and not better, I have to say,” Land said.

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Virginia General Assembly Approves Moving Local Elections from May to November

The General Assembly has passed legislation to move local elections for city, town council, and school board from May to November, starting in 2022. Proponents say the bill will boost voter turnout, especially among working-class voters, while many city officials say the bill is state interference that will lead to greater partisanship in local elections.

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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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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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