State Senate Gives Virginia Gov. Youngkin Another Education Win, Passes Sexually Explicit Classroom Material Notification Bill

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.”

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Senate Democrats Block Republican Effort to Revive Youngkin’s Nomination of Former Trump EPA Head to Serve as Sec. of Natural and Historic Resources

Virginia Senate Democrats defeated an effort to revive confirmation of former Trump EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler as Governor Glenn Youngkin’s secretary of natural and historic resources. In committee last week, Democrats voted to remove Wheeler from SJ 84, the bill to confirm Youngkin’s cabinet selections. On Tuesday, Republicans opposed a vote to confirm the committee amendment.

Senator Richard Stuart (R-King George) said that Wheeler had been impressive in committee interviews, and had a record of helping Virginia.

“But I get the politics. I understand that some of these environmental groups out there don’t like him because of who he worked for. And that’s just a real shame, because we have an opportunity here to confirm somebody who has the real credentials and I’ve not heard one member in this body object to his credentials or his qualifications,” he said.

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Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears Presides Over Senate for First Time on Martin Luther King Day

Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears took up the gavel to preside over the Senate for the first time on Monday, Martin Luther King Day. Sears is the first Black woman to hold statewide office in Virginia. Senators spent the Monday session with Martin Luther King Day speeches and with ceremonial introductions, including of Attorney General Jason Miyares.

Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) introduced Sears: “It is wonderful to have Winsome Earle-Sears assume the gavel as the lieutenant governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. For those of you who do not know Madam President, she is a Marine Corps veteran.

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New Virginia Gov. Youngkin Announces More Transition Officials

Glenn Youngkin announced a 113-member list of legislators, law enforcement, business owners, and Republican Party of Virginia officials that will be part of his transition “landing teams” — separate from the transition steering committee he announced earlier in November. The teams will coordinate with Governor Ralph Northam’s cabinet.

“In order to change the trajectory of our great Commonwealth, our transition team is utilizing the vast experience of business owners, law enforcement officials, veterans, healthcare providers, industry experts, and—most importantly—parents to determine how government can begin to serve Virginians better and start delivering on our Day One promises of better schools, safer streets, a lower cost of living, and more jobs,” Youngkin said in a Wednesday press release.

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Virginia Opens Machicomoco State Park, the State’s 40th Park

Virginia has a brand-new state park — Machicomoco State Park, located along the York River in Gloucester County. On April 16, Governor Ralph Northam and other officials opened the 645-acre park, which features camping, picnic shelters, boat launches, and trails. One goal of the park is to tell the story of Virginia’s native tribes through interpretive areas.

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Effective in July, Virginia Legalizes Small Amounts of Marijuana

RICHMOND, Virginia Simple possession of up to one ounce of marijuana will be legal in Virginia, effective July 1. On Wednesday, the Virginia General Assembly approved Governor Ralph Northam’s proposal to expedite legalization from 2024 to later this year. But legislators warned that doesn’t mean there will be a marijuana free-for-all.

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Northam Proposes Legalizing Marijuana in July

Marijuana legalization is back on track for July, after Governor Ralph Northam announced amendments to legalization legislation. In February, legislators surprised marijuana policy watchers by delaying the effective date of legalization until 2024, leading the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia to blast the bills as worse than nothing. Since then, legalization advocates have lobbied Northam to amend the legislation to go into effect in July, when most other recently-passed bills take effect.

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Virginia FOIA Advisory Council Recommended Approval to Change Electronic Meetings Laws

The Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council on Wednesday backed legislation that revises state laws on electronic meetings and gives members of public bodies more freedom to participate virtually instead of in-person.

The council recommended approval of the changes to the Virginia General Assembly, where the final decision will happen, by a 10-2 vote.

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