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.”
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.
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.”
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.
Virginia’s Court of Appeals is expanding by six seats and filling a seventh seat left vacant. 46 people have applied for the positions, triggering delays to meet a July 1 deadline. Still, the General Assembly is expected to fill the seats this summer at a yet-to-be-scheduled special session.
In the first 2021 General Assembly special session, legislators passed SB 1261, adding the six seats to the court.
A bill to add six judges to the Virginia Court of Appeals passed the Senate 21 to 18 on Friday. The bill would also create a right to appeal, something that every other state already has, but that advocates say is currently impossible due to the court’s manpower shortage. The court has just 11 judges, while states with similar populations often have more. However, Republicans oppose the bill because judges would be elected in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.
SB 1261 sponsor State Senator John Edwards (D-Roanoke) said in committee on January 25 that Virginia’s current system gives no automatic right of appeal in any Virginia court.