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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Despite Calls to Withdraw, Earle-Sears Doubles Down in Speech at NRA Conference

Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears blamed a lack of virtue for the U.S.’ “present-day woes” in a Friday speech at the NRA Women’s Leadership Forum. After the May 24 shooting and mass murder at a Texas school, Earle-Sears faced pressure to withdraw from the speaking commitment, but instead doubled down, publishing her speech in a Friday press release and excerpts on Twitter.

“They did not want me to come, thinking you are monsters, that you are culpable in the murder of the children,” Earle-Sears’ written remarks state.

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Miyares Honors Victims’ Advocates, Commemorates National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

RICHMOND, Virginia – Attorney General Jason Miyares honored eight people for their service to crime victims in the fifth annual Unsung Heroes Award Ceremony on Tuesday. The ceremony was one of several stops Miyares is making this week in a tour commemorating National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

Miyares said a business owner once told him, “It’s really easy to wash away graffiti. It’s really hard to wash away fear.”

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Budget Compromise Not Expected in Time for Veto Session

Glenn Youngkin

The General Assembly will be back in town Wednesday to vote on Governor Glenn Youngkin’s amendments and vetoes to legislation passed earlier this year, but are unlikely to have a budget compromise ready for approval by then.

“Informally, the chairs are going back and forth a little bit, and we keep getting briefed, but we have not really gotten to a point where we can do a final negotiation, if you will. There’s still significant differences there in what we we’re working on,” conferee Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) told The Virginia Star on Thursday. “We’ve got some tentative agreements, I guess you’d say.

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Youngkin Vetoes 25 Bills, Including Nine of Sen. Ebbin’s Ten 2022 Bills That Passed

Governor Glenn Youngkin vetoed 26 bills from the 2022 General Assembly session, including nine of the ten bills sponsored by Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) who helped lead efforts to block some Youngkin appointees. Youngkin also amended over 100 bills, including a bill introducing staggered elections at the Loudoun County School Board; Youngkin’s amendment would force all the members of the board to run for re-election this year.

“My goal as Governor is to make Virginia the best place to live, work, and raise a family and the bills I vetoed today reaffirm that commitment,” Youngkin said in a Monday evening announcement of the 25 newest vetoes. “I look forward to working together with members of the General Assembly in the future to ensure that we’re working for all Virginians. Together we can make the Commonwealth a place where businesses can prosper, students can thrive, and communities are safer.”

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With No Budget Compromise Ready, General Assembly Meets and Adjourns Special Session for Now

RICHMOND, Virginia – The General Assembly met briefly on Monday afternoon after Governor Glenn Youngkin recalled them for a special session to complete and pass a budget compromise and finish other legislation. The legislators passed rules for the special session that allow them to adjourn until Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) or Senate Rules Committee Chair Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) recall the legislators with 48-hours’ notice. Then, since the budget compromise isn’t ready, the legislators adjourned.

“I was disappointed at the pace the work was going,” Youngkin told the media after a ceremonial bill signing on Monday morning. “I was disappointed there wasn’t more work last week. Everybody’s here today, and I expect them to get to work today. And I know that there are meetings that can be held, and should be held, and will be held. So it’s important to go ahead and get people back to work, and I think calling them back to special session is an important motivator to do that.”

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Youngkin Calls for Special Session to Begin April 4, Pressures Budget Negotiators with $150,000 March Madness TV Ad

Governor Glenn Youngkin is calling the General Assembly to convene for a special session on April 4 to finish work on the budget and other bills that were carried over at the end of the recent session. “Today I am calling back lawmakers to Richmond to finish their work. Between…

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Governor Youngkin Says New Report Shows That Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Is Carbon Tax Passed on to Consumers

Glenn Youngkin

Governor Glenn Youngkin is trying to withdraw Virginia from participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI,) and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) published a Youngkin-ordered report on the program, which requires utilities to bid on carbon dioxide allowances.

“Costs are soaring for Virginia families and as governor, I pledged to address over taxation and Virginia’s high cost of living. That’s why I signed Executive Order Nine to direct DEQ to examine the impact of RGGI and start the process of ending Virginia’s participation. This report reveals that RGGI is in reality a carbon tax passed on to families, individuals and businesses throughout the Commonwealth – it’s a bad deal for Virginians,” Youngkin said in a press release Tuesday.

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General Assembly Passes Law Making It a Felony to Steal Catalytic Converters

Rob Bell

The General Assembly passed legislation on Saturday to make it a felony to steal a catalytic converter, sending the bills for Governor Glenn Youngkin’s approval. The emissions devices have precious metals like platinum, palladium, and rhodium, and the value per ounce has gone up in recent years, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which reported in March 2021 that recyclers pay around $50 to $250 for a catalytic converter.

“As many of you are probably experiencing in your districts, we have a rash of catalytic converter larcenies in central Virginia,” HB 740 sponsor Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) said in the House of Delegates on February 10.

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General Assembly Passes Bill Authorizing Local Law Enforcement to Use Facial Recognition Technology

After banning almost all Virginia law enforcement from using facial recognition in 2021, this week the General Assembly passed a bill to allow local law enforcement to use the technology, with some restrictions. The legislation passed out of both chambers with broad bipartisan support, but also with broad bipartisan opposition.

“It can be used to help identify other people who might be witnesses or involved in crimes. It will also help identify people who are unconscious or dead, that don’t have ID on them, maybe people who have dementia or are wandering around,” sponsor and State Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) told The Virginia Star.

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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 Senate Passes Gutted Race-Blind Governor’s School Admissions Bill

RICHMOND, Virginia – In a bipartisan 26-13 vote, the Senate passed a stripped-down version of a House of Delegates bill to require race-blind admissions procedures in Virginia’s Governor’s schools; that version will have to go back to the House for approval.

Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) advocated for HB 127 on the Senate floor on Tuesday; he noted that about 90 percent of the House bill had been removed.

“We really are only left with two paragraphs,” Petersen said. “Everything else frankly we did away with. And the two paragraphs, one has to do with no discrimination based on race or ethnicity, which is the current Title IX standard, and the second would just simply say that  all school divisions should make sure that each middle school has a program in place to prepare children to apply for Governor’s schools.”

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Senate Republicans Force Democrats to Docket Several House Republican Bills

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.

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General Assembly Drafting Legislation to Potentially Build New Washington Commanders Stadium in Northern Virginia

The Virginia General Assembly is working on legislation that may bring the newly renamed Washington Commanders to Northern Virginia. The NFL team is currently based at the aging FedEx Field just outside Washington, D.C., in Maryland, and the team has approached Virginia legislators about potentially building a stadium in the commonwealth. Both the House of Delegates and the Senate have passed bills that would create a football stadium authority to finance construction of the stadium; now, the chambers are evaluating each other’s bills, which have significant differences in tax incentives offered to attract the team.

“I would love to have a professional sports team and a football team in Virginia,” Governor Glenn Youngkin told The Virginia Star on Thursday. “We’ve got a Senate group and a House group in discussions in order to bring a very thoughtful bill to me. I believe that my job is to represent Virginia taxpayers, and so we’ll do a good deal. I just want to make sure that what comes out of the House and Senate gives us the capability to do a good deal because I sure would like Virginia to be the best place to raise a family, live, work, and have a professional sports team.”

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Facing a Skeptical Senate, Youngkin Enlists Virginians to Pitch Tax Cuts to Legislators

CHESAPEAKE, Virginia – The day after celebrating his first major legislative win, Governor Glenn Youngkin is anticipating a bigger battle over the budget. On Thursday, he began touring Virginia to tout his tax reduction plans and enlist locals across the commonwealth in an effort to woo legislators. He made stops in Leesburg, Chesterfield, and Chesapeake.

“Now, because we are where we are in our legislative cycle, now there’s another three weeks or so of work to be done. And I need your help,” Youngkin said at his Chesapeake stop to an audience of local politicians and business leaders.

“I need you to talk to your elected representatives. Talk to your delegates. Call your senators. Send them a note. We need to cut taxes,” he said.

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Virginia General Assembly at Crossover: Republican House, Democratic Senate About to Clash over Budget, Conflicting Policy

Halfway through the 2022 Virginia General Assembly session, the House of Delegates has passed a wave of Republican reforms focusing on taxes, law enforcement, and education, while much of the Senate’s work has involved Democrats killing Republican bills in committee. The legislature has just passed crossover, when each chamber sends its finalized bills to the other chamber. Now, the chambers will clash over conflicting policy as they evaluate each other’s bills and work on the budget.

“[W]e ran on a platform that was informed by what voters told us they wanted the General Assembly to accomplish on their behalf in 2022. They wanted lower taxes and safer communities. They wanted parents involved in their child’s education, not boxed out,” a Tuesday House GOP release said.

“As the House completes its work on our legislative priorities, I’m pleased to report that we’ve accomplished what voters sent us here to do,” Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said in the release.

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Democratic Senators Petersen and Lewis Join Republicans to Pass School Mask Opt-Out Bill

The Virginia Senate passed a bill that will allow parents to opt their children out of wearing masks at school. Democratic Senators Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) and Lynwood Lewis Jr. (D-Accomack) joined with Republicans to pass SB 739 after the Senate debated the bill for over an hour on Wednesday.

Bill sponsor Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico), an OB/GYN, said during debate, “Two years into this pandemic, keeping unproven measures in place is no longer justifiable. We must evolve; science doesn’t stand still. We did masks and boxes and other things because we thought maybe they might help but they have not proven to do so. I will say further that you have before you a conflict between two constitutional priorities in Virginia. One is that school boards get to decide policy for their districts. But the other is that we are a parental rights state. You’re going to have to choose which authority, ceded by the Constitution, you’re going to stand by today.”

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State Senate Committee Kills Bill That Would Have Expanded Virginia Attorney General Miyares’ Prosecuting Power

The Senate Judiciary Committee killed a bill that would have expanded the power of the Office of the Attorney General to conduct its own criminal prosecutions if requested by local law enforcement. The bill was on Attorney General Jason Miyares’ wishlist and would have allowed Miyares to intervene in cases where Miyares and the chief local law enforcement officer don’t like the way the local Commonwealth’s attorney handles a case.

Under Virginia law, the governor can already ask the attorney general to conduct criminal prosecutions, but otherwise the attorney general’s local prosecutorial power is limited to some specific types of cases. Progressive prosecutors in some jurisdictions have pushed for more lenient sentences, or declined to prosecute certain kinds of cases; that’s frustrated conservatives who say prosecutors should represent the interest of the state, not the accused person.

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Miyares Fires University of Virginia Counsel Who Is Working for January 6 Select Committee

Attorney General Jason Miyares fired University of Virginia counsel Tim Heaphy, who was on leave to work as chief investigative counsel for the congressional Select Committee on the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol.

Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) told The New York Times, “This is purely payback for Jan. 6 — there is no other reason that makes any sense.”

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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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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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Virginia Gov-Elect Youngkin Taps His Nonprofit’s CEO Caren Merrick to Serve as State Sec of Commerce and Trade

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has tapped Caren Merrick to be his Secretary of Commerce and Trade. Merrick currently helms Youngkin’s non-profit VA Ready, which Youngkin started in June 2020, a month before announcing his departure from the Carlyle Group.

“Virginia’s jobs machine has stalled out, and Caren is going to play a pivotal role on the team that will jumpstart our economy and reinvigorate job growth here in the Commonwealth,” Youngkin said in a Tuesday press release. “Caren is an innovator, a business builder, and a true leader in workforce development—the kind of experience needed to develop talent, train workers, attract investment, and make Virginia the best state to start a business as we set out to add 400,000 jobs and launch 10,000 startups.

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Virginia Supreme Court Appoints Special Masters for Redistricting

The Virginia Supreme Court has selected Republican nominee Sean Trende and Democratic nominee Bernard Grofman to be the two Special Masters who will work together to draw legislative and congressional map proposals for the court. Due to deep partisan splits, the Virginia Redistricting Commission failed to submit any maps by constitutionally-required deadlines, leaving the task to the Court.

In the order issued Friday, the Court wrote, “Though each was nominated by legislative leaders of a particular political party, the nominees — upon being appointed by this Court as Special Masters — shall serve as officers of the Court in a quasi-judicial capacity. Consequently, the Special Masters shall be neutral and shall not act as advocates or representatives of any political party. By accepting their appointment, the Special Masters warrant that they have no ‘conflicts of interest,’ Code § 30-399(F), that preclude them from prudently exercising independent judgment, dispassionately following the Court’s instructions, or objectively applying the governing decision-making criteria.”

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Preparing to Take Power, Newly Elected Virginia Gov. Youngkin Announces His Transition Team

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin announced his transition steering committee and advisors on Wednesday. The group includes Republican legislators, Republican Party of Virginia officials, and the three previous Republican governors of Virginia. Former Democratic Governor Doug Wilder is also on the list; he aimed several attacks at opponent former Governor Terry McAuliffe during the campaign without ever endorsing Youngkin. The list also includes Sentara Chief of Staff Aubrey Layne, who was a cabinet official to both Governor Ralph Northam and McAuliffe.

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Virginia Lawsuit to Force Multiple House of Delegates Elections in a Row Survives Challenge from the Attorney General

A lawsuit that could force House of Delegates candidates to run multiple years in a row had a win Tuesday. Paul Goldman’s lawsuit lists multiple Virginia officials and agencies as defendants, but the Office of the Attorney General argued that they were protected by sovereign immunity. U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Judge David Novak ruled that while defendants including Governor Ralph Northam are protected, the lawsuit can proceed against the State Board of Elections and Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Christopher Piper.

“That’s fine with me because I’ve still got four defendants left, you only need one,” Goldman told The Virginia Star.

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Stafford County Board of Supervisors Denounces Critical Race Theory

The Stafford County Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted six to zero with one absent to pass a resolution denouncing the use of Critical Race Theory, the 1619 Project, and requiring students to identify preferred pronouns. The resolution also warns that the BOS will review all school board appropriation requests and block any that fund those items.

“BE IT RESOLVED by the Stafford County Board of Supervisors on this the 21st day of September, 2021, that it be and hereby does denounce the teaching of the 1619 Project and critical race theory (CRT) and related principles in Stafford County Public Schools; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Board does not support students of Stafford County Public Schools being required to identify their chosen pronouns,” the resolution as passed states.

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General Assembly Elects Eight Judges to Fill Newly-Expanded Virginia Court of Appeals

RICHMOND, Virginia – The General Assembly approved eight new judges for the Court of Appeals of Virginia Tuesday. Although tradition kept Republicans from voting against the candidates, votes on individual candidates varied as Republican legislators abstained. That completed the General Assembly’s goals for the special session: allocating American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and filling court vacancies.

“I thought it was an historic session,” Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) told The Virginia Star. “What just happened with the Court of Appeals was the largest number of judges to go on the Court of Appeals since 1985, and we gave Virginians the same right to appeal their legal matter that every other American has.”

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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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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 General Assembly Special Session Set for August

The Virginia General Assembly’s second 2021 special session is scheduled for August 2. One of the top priorities for the legislators will be allocating American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Although Virginia has already received the money, it can’t be spent until the legislators allocate it.

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Independent Investigators Release Report on Investigation into Virginia Parole Board Investigation

Independent investigators found probable bias in the Office of the State Inspector General’s investigation (OSIG) into the Vincent Martin parole case, according to a report released Monday. The report says that OSIG’s investigation was not thorough enough and says OSIG failed to identify likely bias in its Senior Investigator Jennifer Moschetti. It also says the OSIG investigation and findings were not influenced by Governor Ralph Northam.

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Law Firm Nixon Peabody Appointed Investigator of Investigation into Virginia Parole Board

Travis Hil

Attorney General Mark Herring’s office announced that major international law firm Nixon Peabody LLP will investigate the Office of the State Inspector General’s investigation of the Virginia Parole Board. The firm is required to send a report on the investigation to leading Virginia elected officials from both parties by June 15, 2021.

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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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Democrats Approve Northam’s Investigation into Parole Board Investigation

Democrats approved Governor Ralph Northam’s proposal for an investigation into a 2020 investigation of the Virginia Parole Board. In Wednesday’s veto session, legislators passed a Northam budget amendment funding a $250,000 investigation into the 2020 Vincent Martin parole investigation. Although both Republicans and Democrats have been calling for a new investigation, Republicans said the proposal was too narrow and criticized the decision to allow the Attorney General any oversight.

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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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Virginia Abolishes Death Penalty

Virginia became the first state in the south to abolish the death penalty when Governor Ralph Northam announced Thursday that he signed twin death-penalty repeal bills introduced by Delegate Mike Mullin (D-Newport News) and Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax). Virginia joins 22 other states that have also repealed the death penalty.

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Governor Northam Signs Consumer Data Protection Act

Virginia now has consumer data protection laws after Governor Ralph Northam signed HB 2307. Out of 139 legislators in the General Assembly, only 15 voted against the Consumer Data Protection Act. According to legal site JDSupra, that makes Virginia the second state (after California) to pass such a law.

Key provisions of the bill allow consumers to opt out of data collection, require entities to post conspicuous notices when collecting data to be sold to third parties, and require them to post privacy notices describing how to opt out. However, the bill also allows those entities to deny the opt-out request under certain circumstances, authorizing the consumer to file a complaint through the attorney general.

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Governor Ralph Northam Signs Major New Clean Car Standards Bill

Governor Ralph Northam announced newly-signed legislation Friday that will require approximately eight percent of model year 2025 vehicles sold in Virginia to be zero-emissions vehicles. HB 1965, introduced by Delegate Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico), adds Virginia to the list of states following California’s vehicle emissions standards, which are stricter than the federal standards Virginia currently follows.

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One-Fourth of Bills Passed in 2021 Virginia General Assembly Sessions Passed Along Party Lines

In 2020 and 2021, the Democrat-led General Assembly passed nearly 20 percent more bills through strict party-line votes than in the three previous years when Republicans controlled both chambers. According to a data visualization from the Virginia Public Access Project, in 2020, 24 percent of bills passed were passed along party lines with Democrats voting for and Republicans voting against. In 2021, that number grew to 25 percent. In the Republican controlled sessions of 2017, 2018, and 2019, the percentage of bills passed along party lines was respectively 7.7 percent, 4.7 percent, and 5.7 percent.

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Northam Snubs Herring, Endorses Jones for Attorney General

Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) picked up a big endorsement in the race for Attorney General this week. Governor Ralph Northam chose to endorse Jones instead of incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring, Northam’s former running mate.

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‘Ghost Gun’ Ban Fails in Virginia General Assembly

The Virginia House of Delegates and Senate failed to come to a compromise over a ban on “ghost guns” – a nickname for firearms that are handmade, improvised, or otherwise assembled from unserialized parts. As a result, the bill died when the General Assembly session ended Monday. Although HB 2276 passed in the House of Delegates, senators worried that the bill could have unintended consequences such as preventing legally owned firearms that had been grandfathered in from being transferred to someone else.

A Senate committee had already changed the bill to allow possession of unserialized firearms, but still banned manufacture, sale, or transfer of the weapons.

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Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee Kills Ban on Cyber Flashing

Delegate Kelly Convirs-Fowler’s (D-Virginia Beach) HB 2254 passed with unanimous support in the House of Delegates. The bill would ban people from sending unsolicited obscene images to others. But after the House sent the bill to the Senate, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted eight to five to table the bill February 17, citing concerns that the bill could be applied too broadly.

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General Assembly Votes to Make Virginia First Southern State to Abolish Death Penalty

The Virginia General Assembly passed a death penalty repeal on Monday. Governor Ralph Northam is expected to sign the bills, which would make Virginia the first state in the South to ban capital punishment. Advocates have argued that the death penalty is vulnerable to wrongful conviction, is expensive, cruel, and applied unfairly, but opponents say some of the most heinous crimes require a death penalty to make sure the criminal doesn’t get free. During the 2021 session, House Republicans have emphasized the names of victims of particularly serious crimes, who they say are being ignored by Democrats.

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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 General Assembly Considering Protections for Domestic Workers

The Virginia General Assembly is considering three bills that would add legal protections for domestic workers in jobs like cleaning, landscaping, and childcare. The bills are focused on banning discriminatory practices, implementing safety standards, and requiring worker’s compensation insurance. Advocates say the current exemption for domestic workers dates back to racist Jim Crow legislation and should be removed, but opponents say the bills put more burdens on domestic workers and the people who hire them.

HB 2032, introduced by Delegate Wendy Gooditis (D-Clarke) adds “Domestic Service” as a category that would be included under current workplace safety and workers’ compensation law. Gooditis said that the bill makes domestic service subject to workplace safety standards, and that inspectors can require access.

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Governor Ralph Northam Extends 2021 General Assembly Session

Virginia Democrats will get more time to pass legislation after Governor Ralph Northam called a special legislative session to begin February 10. Northam’s announcement effectively adds 16 days to the current regular session, which is scheduled to end February 11. The proclamation comes after Republicans blocked a move to extend the 30-day regular session, hoping to limit their losses in a Democrat-controlled legislature.

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Two Bills Seeking Increased Transparency From State Parole Board Pass Virginia Senate

The Virginia state Senate on Monday passed two bills relating to the Virginia Parole Board that aim to bring more transparency to individual votes and give warnings to victims of crimes or their families when a decision to release an offender has been made.

Senate Bill 1125, introduced by Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham), specifically requires the board to notify a victim of a crime through either written or electronic means that a decision has been made to grant parole to the inmate who committed the related offense.

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Legislation Abolishing Death Penalty Advanced by Virginia Senate Committee

Legislation to abolish the death penalty in the Commonwealth of Virginia was advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday morning.

Introduced by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax), Senate Bill 1165 was reported out of the committee by a vote of 10-4, mostly along party lines with Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin County), chief co-patron on the measure, the only Republican who voted in support.

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Virginia Senate Strips Amanda Chase of Final Committee Assignment

The Virginia state Senate on Wednesday voted to update the body’s standing committees for 2021 and simultaneously stripped GOP gubernatorial candidate Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) of her lone committee assignment from the previous year, resulting in a lengthy debate that highlighted the disconnect between the lawmaker and her colleagues.

The standing committee’s membership was updated at the request of Republicans in order to fill the vacancies left by the late Sen. Ben Chafin, who passed away from COVID-19 complications on New Year’s Day, according to Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax).

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