Another Republican member is resigning from the Virginia Redistricting Commission. On Friday, Senator Stephen Newman (R-Bedford) announced his resignation; the commission will likely appoint a replacement from a list already put forward by Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment, Jr. (R-James City.)
“I have enjoyed working with my colleagues on the Virginia Redistricting Commission for the past nine months. Approved by the voters last November, the bipartisan Commission is in its first year and I wish them well as they continue to navigate uncharted territory,” Newman said in a statement. “Given the newly published Commission meeting schedule and my ongoing professional obligations, I regret that I can no longer serve on this body.”
RICHMOND, Virginia – The Virginia Redistricting Commission will hire separate Republican and Democratic map-drawing teams after voting against a non-partisan team proposed by the Democratic legal counsel. In the Tuesday meeting, the commission also worked on a guidance document and agreed to allow the use of historical political data and incumbents’ addresses during the map drawing process.
Democratic citizen members of the commission lamented the loss of a more non-partisan perspective.
“The spirit of what we were trying to do as a commission as we’ve heard from citizens over and over again, is not quite unfolding the way maybe many citizens had hoped, but we will do the best we can within the constraints of what we’re voting on as a commission,” Co-Chair Greta Harris (D) said.
The U.S. Census Bureau released 2020 census data on Friday, but on Monday, the Virginia Redistricting Commission voted 14-1 with one abstention to consider August 26 the date of receipt of census bureau data. That’s due to Census Bureau delays that led to the data being released in an older format that will take vendors two weeks to process.
“This situation is very different from, I think, probably any other redistricting effort that has been done since long before World War II,” Senator George Barker (D-Fairfax) said, noting that law requires delivery of census data within a year of the census date.
The Virginia Redistricting Commission is facing key decisions about how it will create legislative maps. The U.S. Census Bureau is expected to publish 2020 Census data later this month. When the commission receives the data on August 16, that will launch a 45-day deadline for the commission to create the maps for House of Delegates and Senate. But the commission is still debating key questions about how to draw the maps: should subcommittees be used, who should be on them, and should the maps be based on the current maps.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.