LEGO Group Plans to Expand Production to U.S. with Virginia Factory

The LEGO Group announced plans to build a $1 billion factory in Chesterfield, Virginia, expanding the company’s production to the U.S. The company held a Wednesday press conference with Governor Glenn Youngkin, and executives are highlighting the 1,760 new jobs expected from the factory and an onsite solar plant that will provide all the energy needed by the factory.

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Virginia House, Senate Pass Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Compromise

RICHMOND, Virginia — The Republican-controlled House of Delegates and the Democrat-controlled Senate finally sent a budget compromise for Fiscal Year 2023 beginning July 1 to Governor Glenn Youngkin on Wednesday, but while leaders from both parties praised the budget, individual Democrats and Republicans criticized the compromise for problems ranging from no gas tax holiday to cuts on mental health resources.

House Appropriations Chair Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach) told delegates, “It’s been a long haul, but I believe the result is a fiscally sound, bipartisan budget we can all be proud of.”

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Top Negotiators Del. Knight and Sen. Howell Announce Budget Deal to The Washington Post and The Richmond Times-Dispatch

After months of behind-the-scenes negotiations, General Assembly budget negotiators revealed details of a deal in a Thursday briefing with only reporters from The Washington Post and The Richmond Times-Dispatch. According to their reporting, the deal includes significant wins for both sides, including a major increase of the standard deduction but no gas tax holiday.

The private budget negotiations and the exclusive briefing are drawing criticism from Virginia reporters.

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Lt. Gov. Earle-Sears Kicks Off 2022 RPV Advance with Stories from Her First General Assembly Session

HERNDON, Virginia – Republican Party of Virginia faithful are gathered at a Hilton outside Washington, D.C., to build on the momentum of their 2021 wins and help their 2022 congressional candidates. Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears kicked off the Advance on Friday at a reception held by the Virginia Federation of Republican Women.

Earle-Sears regaled the crowd with stories from the recent General Assembly session. Governor Glenn Youngkin once confused Senator Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) with Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton,) leading Lucas to rib Youngkin about it on Twitter.

“And then a curious thing happened: I started mixing her up with Mamie,” Earle-Sears said to laughter. “I would call, ‘The Senator from Hampton, Senator Lucas.’ They got mad.”

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Veto Day: Youngkin’s Vetoes Stand, but Senate Blocks Gas Tax Holiday and Some Amendments to Legislation

RICHMOND, Virginia – The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee voted to kill Governor Glenn Youngkin’s gas tax holiday proposal, launching the General Assembly’s veto session. Later in the day legislators spent hours voting on Youngkin’s various amendments and vetoes to their legislation.

Finance and Appropriations Committee Chair Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) spoke against the gas tax holiday bill, and said that the phased gas tax increases in 2020 were part of a bipartisan effort to provide long term transportation funding solutions.

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Virginia General Assembly Session Adjourns but Will Come Back for Special Session to Finalize Budget, Other Legislation

RICHMOND, Virginia – The General Assembly adjourned its 2022 regular session on Saturday, but Governor Glenn Youngkin is expected to call a special session to complete compromises on a number of bills, including the budget. The budget is the only essential piece of legislation on the list, with a gap between more tax relief in the House proposal and more spending in the Senate proposal.

“I’m pleased by the progress that’s been made in the last couple of days on the budget. And actually I want to thank our legislators on both sides of the aisle for the really good work that they’ve done in the session to date,” Youngkin said in a brief press conference on Saturday afternoon.

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General Assembly Passes Dog-Breeder-for-Testing Oversight Bills; Sen. Stanley Celebrates with Puns

Both the House of Delegates and the Senate unanimously passed several of Senator Bill Stanley’s (R-Franklin) bills on Monday and Tuesday to regulate dog breeders, the result of bipartisan work spurred by dramatic reports at a Virginia beagle-breeder-for-medical-testing Envigo. The bills are now headed to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s desk. An outright ban on the practice sponsored by Senator Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax) is set to die in the House Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee after being passed by the Senate. Oversight bills from Bosyko and Senator David Marsden (D-Fairfax) are also doomed in the same committee.

“I want to thank all of you for the hard work that y’all did. We had the Envigo incident and Senator Boysko, Senator Marsden, Senator [Barbara Favola (D-Arlington)], Senator [Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell)], Delegates [Rob Bell (R-Albemarle)] and [Bobby Orrock (R-Carolina)] worked very hard to make sure that we’re going to hold those people that breed dogs, especially beagles, for scientific purposes, accountable,” Stanley said.

In one of his floor-speech comedy routines, on Monday, Stanley exhorted senators to adopt beagles rescued from the facility. Stanley said that there were 480 beagles that were overbred during the pandemic and that Envigo was allowing them to be adopted instead of euthanized. Half of those have already been adopted.

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With Tight Schedule, Virginia Budget Compromise May Not Be Ready for Weekend Vote, Which Would Force General Assembly Session Extension

RICHMOND, Virginia – Legislators are meeting in behind-the-scenes meetings to try to finalize a budget compromise before the General Assembly is set to adjourn on Saturday, but are divided by a House of Delegates desire for substantial tax cuts and a Senate desire for higher state employee salaries plus a desire to preserve more future tax revenues. House Appropriations Chair Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach) said that negotiations may take too long to have a compromise ready for a weekend vote, although he emphasized that his Senate counterparts including Finance Chair Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) are cooperating in good faith.

“I think with the time constraints that we have, with the two bodies doing our business, I’m not sure we’re going to make it,” Knight told reporters on Tuesday.

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Senate Finance Adds Contingency Clause to House Bills; House Subcommittee Recommends Killing Two Constitutional Amendments; Plexiglass Gone from the Senate

RICHMOND, Virginia – As the legislature approaches its March 12 adjournment, legislators are working on budget negotiations, wrapping up their consideration of other bills, and continuing to return to pre-COVID-19 operations.

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee advanced a number of bills from the House of Delegates, but at the beginning of the meeting Committee Chair Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) warned that the committee would add a financial contingency clause to several of the bills that aren’t currently funded in budget proposals. Health and Human Resources Subcommittee Chair Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) presented the subcommittee’s report on many bills.

Addressing Howell, he said, “We had the issue that you referred to as you began the meeting where on a number of them, there was not an allocation of funds coming from the House. So, we’re going to have, obviously, resource issues as we enter conference in terms of whether or not we can support all these good ideas that we’re going to advance today with the clause.”

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Virginia House of Delegates, Senate Pass Budget Bills with Competing Tax Policy

RICHMOND, Virginia – The House of Delegates and the Senate have passed their separate budget proposals for Fiscal Year 2022 and 2023. Both chambers debated floor amendments to the bills on Thursday before passing them, but the final versions are broadly similar to the proposals announced earlier this week. Each chamber’s proposal is based on former Governor Ralph Northam’s budget proposal, but the money committees made significant amendments before sending them to be passed out of the House and Senate. The Senate bill contains fewer tax cuts than the House bill, allowing for more spending, while the House bill is closer to the tax policy Governor Glenn Youngkin has called for. The two chambers now enter a process of working to a compromise.

Senate Finance Chair Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) told the Senate that the proposal fulfilled promises made amid spending cuts during earlier hard times.

“In this budget we’ve done that, by making significant investments in education, natural resources,  public safety, and human services. We’re also chipping away a funding cap on support positions for K-12 education over both years of the biennium, embracing increased teacher and state employee pay, and adding to those compensation increases a one-time bonuses for teachers and state employees,” Howell said.

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Senate Majority Leader Saslaw Spars with Secretary of Finance Cummings over Administration Analysis That Virginia Is Lagging Economically

Secretary of Finance Stephen Cummings told the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee on Tuesday that while General Fund revenues are performing well, there is an overall lack of economic growth in Virginia. That’s similar to the message from a letter Governor Glenn Youngkin sent to the Senate Finance and House Appropriations chairs last Friday. Tuesday’s discussion between Democratic senators and Cummings illustrated the policy divide on finance between the administration and the Senate.

Cummings said that January 2022 was the sixth consecutive month of revenues exceeding the prior year by more than 15 percent. “So, pretty remarkable times,” Cummings said.

“Obviously, the extraordinary level of revenues for the government is great, but that does not indicate success in our economy,” Cummings said. “It’s the result of external factors, and in our opinion, taxes that are too high.”

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Virginia Senate, House of Delegates Reveal Budget Proposals; Senate Doesn’t Include as Many Tax Cuts as Youngkin Wants

The House and Senate money committees presented their biennial budget proposals on Sunday afternoon in preparation for passage later this week. Both the Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Committee included more than $2 billion in additional education spending when compared to previous years, a key goal of Governor Glenn Youngkin. But differing amounts of tax cuts drew Youngkin’s attention. In separate legislation, the House has already approved Youngkin’s tax cuts and refunds, but the Senate has rejected or pared-down some cuts.

“The House budget provides nearly $5.3 billion in tax relief for all Virginians – including significant tax relief for our military veterans and common sense tax relief worth $1,500 to a typical Virginia family in the first year. This represents the priorities I outlined in the Day One Game Plan Virginians voted for last November. Speaker Gilbert and Chairman Knight have delivered on our shared promises,” Youngkin said in a Sunday afternoon press release. “While it does not include nearly enough tax relief, the Senate budget proposal also includes common sense, bipartisan priorities on which we can find common ground. I know Senator Howell and Senate Leadership are eager to work in good faith on these and other important priorities.”

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Youngkin Adds $1.25 Billion to FY 2022 Revenue Forecast, Asks General Assembly to Approve His Tax Proposals

Governor Glenn Youngkin asked the administration’s finance team to perform a mid-session review which added another $1.25 billion to the Fiscal Year 2022 revenue forecast. Youngkin highlighted the additional expected cash in a Friday letter to Virginia’s top money legislators as part of his push to save his broad tax reduction plan.

Youngkin wrote, “[T]he bottom line is taxes paid to the government are soaring and the revised revenue forecast estimates the Commonwealth will collect $1.25 billion more in the current fiscal year. That, of course, is on top of the additional $3.3 billion added to the original forecast last December. This is a staggering number, the largest mid-session re-forecast in anyone’s memory. The stunning amount of money being collected from taxpayers is the direct result of over taxation. Put simply, without significant tax relief, the Commonwealth’s general fund collections will grow by over 40 percent between 2018 and 2024.”

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Virginia General Assembly Off to Slow Start as Committees Evaluate Legislation, Youngkin Cabinet Picks

RICHMOND, Virginia – Most of the action in the General Assembly is occurring in committees as legislators decide which bills will survive to be voted on by the full Senate and House of Delegates. House Republicans have advanced some key bills on local gun control repeals, elections reform, and school misdemeanor reporting. Senate Democrats have advanced some key bills, but much of their work has been in killing Republican-introduced legislation.

“What has not surprised me is there has been a conspicuous partisan divide with Democratic pushback against Governor Youngkin’s agenda, particularly in the area of tax reform and education reform, and masks,” Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment (R-James City) told The Virginia Star.

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Virginia Sens. Saslaw, Howell Help Republicans Kill Sen. Morrissey’s Parole Expansion Bill

Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and Senator Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) helped Republicans kill Senator Joe Morrissey’s (D-Richmond) SB 109, which would have expanded parole eligibility from people who were juveniles when sentenced to people under 21. Parole has been a key target of Virginia Republicans and tough-on-crime policy is a priority for them as they try to roll back criminal justice reforms passed by Democrats in previous years. Saslaw’s Thursday vote came the day after a committee meeting where he appeared flexible on instituting some mandatory minimums, also a Republican goal.

“Senate Bill 109 expands juvenile parole. During the 2020 General Assembly session, you all recall Senator Marsden’s bill that was Senate Bill 103 that allowed individuals who were sentenced as juveniles, and who have served 20 or more years, to be eligible for parole. That’s now the law. Senate Bill 109 expands  the definition of juvenile and it changes it to youthful offender, which allows individuals who were 20 years of age or younger and who have served twenty years to become parole eligible,” Morrissey explained to the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 17.

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Skill Games Can Turn Back on in Virginia While Lawsuit Against Ban Proceeds

Skill games operators in Virginia can turn their games back on for now, while a lawsuit over Virginia’s skill games ban proceeds. On Monday, Greenville Circuit Court Judge Louis Lerner issued a temporary injunction in Sadler v. Northam.

“We had a great victory yesterday, but our fight is not over. The injunction allows skill game operators to turn their machines back on immediately. It is now up to elected officials in Virginia to craft a permanent solution that supports small businesses like Mr. Sadler’s,” said Stanley Law Group spokesperson Autumn Johnson.

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Northam Announces $2.4 Billion Increase for Education in His Final Budget Proposal; New House Appropriations Chair Knight Previews Upcoming Budget Process

Governor Ralph Northam will include a $2.4 billion increase for education in his budget proposal to the General Assembly next week, with a 5 percent salary increase for teachers in each of the next two fiscal years.

“Paying teachers is the right thing to do, and a wise investment,” Northam said in a Monday press release. “Virginia has invested in teachers in a big way over these past four years, and now it’s time to do much more. Our country has asked teachers to carry a heavy load, especially during the pandemic. They have delivered, and they deserve to be rewarded.”

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Report Shows Virginia’s Road Condition Improving but Bridges Need Work

Virginia’s state-owned transportation infrastructure is improving, ranking the state 13th among the rest of the U.S. for pavement condition. Bridge condition lags somewhat, ranking 17th, but more than 25 percent of the Commonwealth’s bridges are close to being ranked structurally deficient, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) reported to legislators on Monday.

“You may recall that there was interest in taking a look at the state’s revenue streams, planning process, and infrastructure condition after a series of major legislative actions over the last five years or so,” JLARC Director Hal Greer said. “As you’ll hear, the state’s revenue picture has improved, and recent changes have made the state’s planning process more rigorous, and based on objective data. We have, though, identified some important, but relatively minor changes to be considered to better address some of the state’s transportation needs.”

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Redistricting: Draft Virginia Senate Map Highlights Different Definitions of ‘Fair’

Capitol of the Commonwealth of Virginia

A new working draft of a Virginia Senate redistricting map is highlighting the question of what creating a fair map means. The working map was hammered out on Saturday in a closed-door meeting between the Democratic and Republican co-chairs, Democratic and Republican legal teams, and Democratic and Republican map-drawers.

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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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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 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 House of Delegates Quickly Passes American Rescue Plan Act Spending Bill

RICHMOND, Virginia – The House of Delegates met, passed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) by a 71-25 vote and adjourned in 30 minutes on Wednesday. Facing 107 pages of proposed amendments, a photo-op, and a series of lengthy recesses, the Senate had not completed its debate by press time Wednesday evening although it convened at 10 a.m.

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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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Morrissey Says Skill Games Ban Is a Civil Rights Abuse, Calls on Attorney General Herring to Investigate

Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Virginia) is calling for Attorney General Mark Herring to investigate alleged civil rights violations associated with Virginia’s skill games ban that took effect in July.

“Last session, the General Assembly banned skill games while at the same time they authorized casinos to be built, they expanded historical horse betting, they authorized online sports betting. But the people who were left out are these small business operators that represent the fabric of Virginia,” Morrissey said in a press conference Monday morning.

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Gov. Northam Proposes $250 Million ARPA Allocation to Fund HVAC Upgrades for Virginia Schools

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam

Governor Ralph Northam is proposing that Virginia legislators use $250 million of Virginia’s American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds for HVAC upgrades in the Commonwealth’s schools. He announced the proposal on Monday, a week before the Virginia General Assembly is scheduled to meet to allocate the ARPA funds.

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Virginia Employment Commission Lawsuit Reaches Agreement as Gov Northam Orders Faster Claims Processing

The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) is facing criticism and a lawsuit over delays while processing unemployment claims flagged as potentially ineligible. On Tuesday, in court-ordered mediation, the parties in the lawsuit came to an agreement. The same day, Governor Ralph Northam announced Executive Directive 16, requiring the VEC to add 300 new adjudication officers and make technology upgrades.

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Virginia Legislators Lay Out Priorities for American Rescue Plan Funds

The American Rescue Plan will provide $7.2 billion for Virginia: $2.9 billion allocated for municipalities, and $4.3 billion for the state government, according to a Tuesday announcement from Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. On Wednesday, Governor Ralph Northam and Democratic General Assembly leaders released their priorities for the $4.3 billion, including upgrading public health infrastructure, funding the Rebuild Virginia small business recovery plan, adding funds to the Unemployment Trust Fund, modernizing public schools, and deploying broadband across Virginia.

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PPP Loan Tax Exemption Bills Go into Conference in Virginia General Assembly

The General Assembly has so far failed to find middle ground for tax breaks on forgiven Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) loans, and will now form a committee of three senators and three delegates to reconcile differences between the two chambers.

While a Senate bill calls for a $100,000 cap on income deductions claimed under PPP expenditures, the House of Delegates bill calls for only a $25,000 cap. When the two chambers considered each other’s bills, the House modified SB 1146 to a $25,000 cap, while the Senate amended HB 1935 to a $100,000 cap. After passing the modified versions, both chambers then rejected the modified versions of their original bills. On Friday, the two chambers agreed to form a conference committee to work together to create a bill that can pass both chambers.

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Virginia General Assembly Pushes Forward with Taxes on Forgiven PPP Loan Revenue

The Virginia General Assembly is moving forward with legislation that would effectively make employers who received Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) loans liable for state taxes. Bills that would practically exempt all income from the forgiven loans have been replaced with legislation that caps how much of the loan is exempt. Business advocates warn that the taxes could surprise the struggling businesses that the PPP loans were meant to help.

The bills bring Virginia’s tax code into conformity with the IRS; Virginia’s tax law doesn’t automatically change to match federal law, so state legislators pass tax conformity bills.

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Senate Passes $134B Budget Bill Allocating Funds for Local COVID-19 Relief, Criminal Justice and Policing Reforms and Law Enforcement Bonuses

The Senate passed its $134 billion budget on Friday with funding for criminal justice and police reforms, bonuses for law enforcement, coronavirus relief payments for local school divisions and language eviction and utility disconnect moratoriums. 

Senate Bill (SB) 5015 passed the Senate by a vote of (Y-24 N-15) with three Republican members voting alongside their Democratic colleagues on the prevailing side. 

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