Republicans Head to Mountain Resort to Celebrate Virginia Victories, Plan Governance: ‘No Battle Will Go Unfought by Virginia Republicans’

Elected officials, activists, and operatives from the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) are meeting in the mountains of Bath County to celebrate their major wins in the 2021 elections and to plan the rejuvenated party’s future.

“Every state party across the country has its signature event,” former RPV Chair John Whitbeck said. “Virginia GOP’s signature event has always been this weekend.”

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Youngkin Lists Key Factors of His Victory, Reiterates Promises at Republican Party of Virginia Advance

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin kicked off the Republican Party of Virginia’s (RPV) Advance (Republicans don’t retreat) by reviewing the party’s recent win and expressing hopes for future political and legislative wins.

“We did it,” Youngkin told the crowd. “Friends, after a long day of pain, let’s just be clear: we turned Virginia red.”

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Commission Passes School Upgrade Funding Recommendations to Virginia General Assembly

Virginia’s Commission on School Construction and Modernization recommended actions for the General Assembly and the Governor to take to help fund upgrades and new construction in schools.

A June report to the Commission found that 41 percent of school divisions are at or above capacity, and 29 percent are nearing capacity. More than half of school buildings are over 50 years old, and divisions in Western Virginia, Southwest, and Southside have the oldest buildings with a median age of 58 years.

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Virginia State Sen. Suetterlein Targets Lengthy Executive Orders with Bill for 2022 General Assembly

  Governor Ralph Northam came under fire from Republicans, including Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares, for his lengthy COVID-19 mandates through emergency powers. Senator David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke) has prefiled a bill for the 2022 General Assembly session to limit emergency powers to a duration of 45 days. “The vast majority of…

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Sports Betting in Virginia Exceeds $2 Billion in Wagers Cast Since January Launch

Virginia’s new sports betting continues to set records, with $427 million in wagers cast in October thanks to five weekends of football, postseason baseball, and the opening of the NBA season. Sportsbetting was launched in the Commonwealth on January 21, and October’s results helped make Virginia the fastest state to exceed $2 billion, according to a PlayVirginia press release.

“It took Old Dominion a little less than nine months to reach the milestone. The previous record-holder, New Jersey, took about 10 months to reach $2 billion in wagers,” PlayVirginia said.

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State Sen. Suetterlein Re-Introduces Virginia Parole Board Vote Transparency Bill

Senator David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke) has introduced a bill to make individual Virginia Parole Board members’ votes public records and open to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

“The parole board has significant authority over individual Virginians’ liberty and the Commonwealth’s public safety,” Suetterlein said. “And the public gets to know, when someone is charged with a crime, who the police officer is that arrested the person. Who the prosecutor who pursued the criminal charges was. Who the judge that oversaw the case was. Who the appellate court judges that upheld the cases were. And then the parole board has the power to reduce that sentence effectively and their action is done in private. Their votes are not recorded, which is most unusual. I was not able to find any other board in Virginia where their actions and their individual votes are not recorded.”

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Conservative Organizations Launching Efforts to Influence Virginia Republican Policy in 2022 General Assembly

The Virginia Family Foundation announced its Vision for Virginia slate of policy priorities on Monday. That’s part of the organization’s push to influence legislators ahead of Virginia’s 2022 General Assembly session. The list highlights traditional conservative policies including traditional families, small government, and free markets.

“For the past several years Virginia’s government has walked away from time-honored principles, like religious freedom, individual liberty, and limited government, which can all be traced back to Virginia’s historic past,” President Victoria Cobb said in an email announcing the platform. “In Virginia, not only did we need new political leadership, we desperately needed a renewed vision for the people of Virginia to rally around.”

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Virginia Department of Health Monitoring COVID-19 Spread Through Sewage Sampling

The Virginia Department of Health is sampling sewage at 25 sites across the Commonwealth as part of its COVID-19 monitoring program. The weekly sampling began September 13 and will run through July 2022, but researchers have been testing COVID-19 detection through wastewater since 2020. The VDH is using the program as a piece of its detection of future surges in the virus.

“Infected individuals shed the SARS-CoV-2 virus in their bodily waste. As such viral density in sewage water can give a good estimate of the number of infected individuals in a community. In fact, these values may spike before people even feel sick, and outbreaks can be identified over a week before cases are detected by traditional means,” a November 19 newsletter from the University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute and the Virginia Department of Health states.

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Virginia Senator Cosgrove Introduces Bill to Repeal Optional Reporting of Misdemeanors in Schools

Senator John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake) has introduced a bill for the 2022 General Assembly session requiring school principals to report certain misdemeanor offenses to law enforcement and to the victim’s parents. His SB 2 reverses changes made by Delegate Mike Mullin’s (D-Newport) 2020 House Bill 257. That bill changed the law so only felonies were required to be reported to law enforcement, leaving the rest to be reported at the discretion of school officials.

Mullins’ original bill kept reporting requirements for some misdemeanors including sexual assault. That version of the bill passed the House with broad bipartisan support.

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Democratic Virginia 2021 Postmortem Finds Equating Youngkin with Trump Didn’t Work; Youngkin had More Positive Image than McAuliffe

A post-election report from ALG Research and Third Way found that Democrats’ losses in Virginia in November are due to both national and Virginia-specific challenges. Key findings from a swing-voter-focused study group included lackluster national brand for Democrats, the importance of education, and the failure of the Youngkin-equals-Trump messaging, combined with Youngkin’s positive persona and proactive issues.

“We’re not saying this was a mistake, or that Terry had a better message he left on the table. We don’t know. But we do know that if our most-effective message in 2022 is that Republicans equal Trump, we’re going to get creamed,” the report states.

“[Focus-group members] liked [Youngkin], related to him, and thought he was going to do something good for them,” the report states.

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Reps. Spanberger and McEachin Tout Virginia Benefits in the $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Bill

RICHMOND, Virginia – Congressmen Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Donald McEachin (D-VA-04) touted the recently-passed $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, highlighting funds for Virginia’s infrastructure and the benefits the measure will bring to Virginia workers.

“Getting this legislation to President Biden’s desk and signed into law was one of my top priorities this year in Congress, because I know it’s a win for Virginia,” Spanberger said. “With the stroke of a pen we are finally addressing the needs of our roads, our bridges across the Commonwealth, the need for the expansion of broadband connectivity. We’re building out our electric vehicle network and boosting our efforts to build our resiliency against climate change. We’re making smart and long overdue investments in our electrical grid, our water infrastructure, our ports, and our rail systems. These investments will mean faster commute times, lower energy bills, safer drinking water, and faster trips throughout Virginia.”

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Virginia Reps. Cline and Good Cosponsor Multiple Bills Protesting Vaccine Mandates

Congressmen Ben Cline (R-Virginia-06) and Bob Good (R-Virginia-05) are protesting Democrat-led COVID-19 vaccine mandates by cosponsored multiple bills. House Republicans lack the ability to pass bills without Democratic buy-in, but that hasn’t stopped them from introducing multiple bills targeting mandates in November. Cline touted his support for the bills in a Tuesday newsletter.

“Businesses across the country are desperate for workers, and our Nation is facing a critical supply chain shortage. As grocery store shelves sit empty, and communities struggle to recover, President Biden should be doing everything possible to encourage Americans to show up to work. Instead, it is the Administration’s plan to implement a vaccine mandate that would force millions of Americans out of work,” he wrote.

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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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King George Board of Supervisors Votes to Relocate Confederate Monument

King George VA courthouse

The King George County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday three to two to relocate the county’s confederate monument, with Historyland Memorial Park as a tentative destination for the monument.

“To me this is not doing away with the monument. This is a relocating of a monument,” Vice-Chair Jeff Stonehill said. “It’s on public property, it’s right in front of the courthouse. I think I would not be in favor of having religious symbols in front of the courthouse. I’m big believer in the separation of church & state and justice. If this is offensive to parts of society and to other people in our community, I think it needs to be relocated.”

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Virginia Department of Corrections Vacancy Rate Has Grown to 27.4 Percent Since Start of Pandemic

The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) had a vacancy rate of 27.4 percent, or 1,680 correctional officer vacancies by September 30, 2021, according to a November 15 report from the Public Safety Compensation Work Group. That’s an increase from the average number of vacancies between fiscal years 2018 and 2020, which ranged between 650 and 682 each year.

“There was a dramatic increase since the beginning of the pandemic,” House Appropriations Committee Analyst Michael Jay told the Joint Committee of the House Health, Welfare and Institutions and Public Safety and Senate Judiciary on Tuesday.

“Since then it has gone up about 60 each month and it is now at almost 1,700 vacancies. Some individual facilities have seen higher vacancies, with one correctional facility having turnover of 54 percent in the last calendar year,” Jay said.

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After Two-Month Review, Fairfax County Public Schools Returns ‘Lawn Boy’ and ‘Gender Queer’ to High School Libraries

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has decided to return two controversial books to its high school library after completing a two-month review launched after a parent complained at a September school board meeting.

In a press release, Assistant Superintendent Noel Klimenko said, “I am satisfied that the books were selected according to FCPS regulations and are appropriate to include in libraries that serve high school students. Both books have value beyond their pages for students who may struggle to find relatable stories.”

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Alliance Defending Freedom Petitions Virginia Supreme Court to Hear Lawsuit over Termination of a Teacher Who Refused to Use Preferred Prounons

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is petitioning the Virginia Supreme Court to hear an appeal of a lawsuit from former West Point High School french teacher Peter Vlaming, who was fired from the district in 2018 for not using a student’s preferred pronouns.

“Virginia’s Constitution protects every Virginian’s ‘free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience,’ and provides that they ‘shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities,'” states the petition for appeal, filed November 12.

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Seventh Congressional Race Update: McGuire Decides to Run, Reeves Calls for Reinstatement of Officer Who Donated to Rittenhouse’s Legal Fund

Delegate John McGuire (R-Henrico) has been gradually ramping up his campaign for the GOP nomination for Virginia’s seventh congressional district: touting his fundraising totals, asking supporters for money, and beginning to file necessary federal paperwork for the campaign. That’s not a surprise, and McGuire joins the list of candidates entering the race despite a lack of clarity about what the district will look like after redistricting. McGuire, Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania), and Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) are the heavyweights at this point in the race.

“Over the past year, I’ve had countless Virginians tell me I need to run for Congress to help save our country from the radical left leaders in Washington. Well, after our major win on November 2nd, and a lot of prayer with my wife, we’ve decided it’s our time to get into this race to take back the House in 2022,” McGuire said in a statement to The Virginia Star.

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Virginia School Board Association Withdraws from National Association that Asked Biden to Use Federal Agencies to Respond to Threats

The Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) voted to leave the National School Board Association (NSBA). The Thursday decision places the VSBA in the company of other state school board associations who are dissociating from the NSBA after the national association sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking for federal law enforcement to respond to threats and attacks related to school board politics.

However, that’s not the only reason the VSBA wants to leave

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In Settlement, Dominion Energy Virginia Customers Get $330 Million Refund, While Utility Keeps $309 Million For Reinvestment

Virginia’s Dominion Energy customers will get $330 million in refunds due to a settlement. On Thursday, the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) approved the settlement put forward in October, closing the agency’s triennial financial review of the utility. SCC staff found that the company may have overcharged customers as much as $1.1 billion, according to a September report. Dominion Energy can deduct some items from that before issuing refunds, including a $309 million Customer Credit Reinvestment Offset (CCRO) that allows reinvestment in offshore wind, solar, and grid transformation projects.

The settlement also includes a rate reduction that will reduce customers’ bills.

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Virginia Ranks First in U.S. in Fall 2021 Hospital Safety Rating

Virginia ranked number one among states for hospital safety in a fall measure of patient safety that examines both hospital process and structure and patient outcomes.

“Virginia is blessed to have a vast network of hospitals to care for people in their hour of need. While these hospitals are each unique in their own way, they share a strong commitment to ensuring all patients receive safe, effective, high-quality care,” Carilion Clinic Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Steve Arner said in a Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) press release. Arner is Chair of the VHHA Board of Directors.

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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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Fight for Schools Files Recall Petition Against Loudoun School Board Vice-Chair Atoosa Reaser

Fight for Schools has filed a recall petition aimed at Loudoun County School Board Vice-Chair Atoosa Reaser. The petition cites her involvement in two controversial Facebook groups, alleges Reaser’s knowledge of an assault at Stone Bridge High School, and says she has limited First Amendment rights of speakers during public comment.

Fight for Schools Executive Director Ian Prior said in a press release, “As Vice-Chairwoman, Atoosa Reaser has been part of the leadership team that has overseen and personally contributed to a complete breakdown in trust between the community and the Loudoun County School Board. From violating open meetings law, to ignoring the school board’s code of conduct, to neglecting to keep our children safe, all in the name of politics, Reaser has failed to lead and collaborate with parents and teachers that want a quality, safe education that respects the diversity of thought and viewpoint of the parents and students in her district.”

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Virginia State Sen. Stanley Defending Mattaponi Tribe Members Against Chief in Dispute over Tribal Leadership

Senator Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) and former Attorney General Tony Troy are defending 13 members of the Mattaponi tribe; Chief Mark Custalow brought charges of trespassing against the members after an October 30 protest.

Tribe members left notices of grievances on the doors of all the tribal leaders. The members say leadership is not allowing women to vote in tribal matters, and that their protest was peaceful and done under the eye of the county sheriff.

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Paul Goldman Files Motion for Injunction to Block Certification of Virginia House Races for Two-Year Terms

Democratic operative Paul Goldman is asking a federal court to issue a temporary injunction blocking the State Board of Elections from issuing Certificates of Election in the House of Delegates certifying that the winners have the right to a two-year term. Goldman’s motion is part of his ongoing lawsuit arguing that the recent elections were unconstitutional, since they were held on old district lines due to redistricting delays. Goldman filed his suit before the election. He said he didn’t receive support from Democrats, and that Attorney General Mark Herring slow-walked the process. Herring’s office is defending state elections officials in the suit.

“They have specifically avoided dealing with this. Herring could have issued an opinion during the election. They could have had the Supreme Court do a ruling. They didn’t do it. Why? Because the Democrats were trying to get a two-year term,” Goldman told The Virginia Star. “Now this same argument can be used by the Republicans.”

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Virginia’s Spotsylvania School Board Reverses Vote on Removing Explicit Books

The Spotsylvania County School Board has rescinded a vote to begin removing explicit books from its libraries just a week after unanimously passing the motion. The 5-2 vote came after public outcry and an hours-long public comment period.

“I admit that we may have made a hasty vote to remove sexually explicit materials without the appropriate discussions about what was already in our policy,” member Lisa Phelps said in WFVA video of the meeting.

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Virginia State Rep. Amanda Chase Announces Campaign for Congress

Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) has announced her candidacy for Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District. On Wednesday, she made multiple radio talk show appearances and held a press conference in the Virginia capitol.

“We need a specific type of demographic to beat Abigail Spanberger. I am a suburban mom from Chesterfield, and that determines who wins in the seventh district,” Chase said on the John Fredericks Show. “I know the people of the seventh. I’ve worked for all the winning congressmen. It was my job to get them reelected. And so I know how to do it.”

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Loudoun School Board Settles Part of Lawsuit with Tanner Cross

The Loudoun County Public School (LCPS) Board agreed to a settlement of the original claims teacher Tanner Cross made in his lawsuit against the board. The agreement includes a permanent injunction barring the board from retaliating against Cross for speaking against the school’s transgender policy. The school will also pay $20,000 for Cross’ legal fees, and remove any reference to Cross’ suspension from his personnel file. The rest of the lawsuit to block enforcement of the transgender policy is still going forward.

The initial lawsuit was triggered after the school placed Cross on leave following comments at a May 27 school board meeting. He opposed a proposal that would require staff to use students’ preferred pronouns. In a preliminary injunction, Cross was allowed to return to work. On November 15, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is representing Cross, announced the settlement of claims in that initial lawsuit.

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Race for GOP Virginia Seventh District Nomination: Sears Speaks at Campaign Kickoff for Tina Ramirez; Sen. Chase Files Statement of Candidacy

Virginia’s 2021 election cycle isn’t quite over, and redistricting on congressional districts isn’t complete, but GOP candidates are ramping up their campaigns for the nomination in Virginia’s seventh district. On Tuesday, lieutenant governor-elect Winsome Sears spoke at a campaign kickoff for Tina Ramirez, who also ran for the nomination for the seat in 2020.

“Winning feels good, doesn’t it,” Sears said. “We changed things. People have started looking and thinking, well how did they do that? That’s because of you. We did it because you got involved.”

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House Republicans Nominate Gilbert to be Speaker, Both Caucuses Elect Leadership

The Virginia House Republican Caucus unanimously nominated current Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) for Speaker of the House in a Sunday caucus meeting. They also elected Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Scott) to be majority leader in the 2022 session, the result of a compromise between the two former rivals for House minority leader.

“I am proud to serve with and lead a strong and united Republican majority as we look toward the 2022 General Assembly session and beyond,” Gilbert said in a press release.

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Governor-Elect Youngkin Dodges on Whether He Will Support the Virginia National Guard if It Resists DOD Vaccine Mandate

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has said he’s opposed to mandates, including COVID-19 vaccine mandates. However, many current vaccine mandates are federally-ordered, including a mandate for all members of the Armed Forces on active duty, or in ready reserve, including the National Guard.

Some Republican governors are testing their power to defy the order. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt appointed a new adjutant general of that state’s national guard after the previous adjutant general ignored Stitt’s request to fight the mandate. Last week, the new adjutant general said no Oklahoma Guardsmen who are not federally mobilized would have to take the vaccine.

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Virginia Governor-Elect Youngkin’s Top Campaign Promises in Education, COVID-19, Economics, Law Enforcement, and Elections Policy

Glenn Youngkin in crowd during a rally

Glenn Youngkin will be Virginia’s next governor, part of a near-complete Republican takeover of Virginia’s government. In 2022, Republicans will be governor, attorney general, and lieutenant governor. They will also likely hold a two-seat majority in the House of Delegates, although two close races may go to recounts. However, they will not hold the Senate, where Democrats have a 21-to-19 majority. Still, if one Democratic senator flips on a vote, that would create a tie that lieutenant governor-elect Winsome Sears would break. Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), who House Republicans nominated for Speaker, has said that Republicans do have a mandate, but he is also aware of the need to work across the aisle with the Senate.

All that gives political novice Youngkin strong Republican support to launch efforts to fulfill his campaign promises, but also sets him up for serious challenges to get his policies across the finish line. Still, Virginia governors have extensive power to set policy and funding priorities, and Youngkin will also have executive authority, which will allow him to fulfill some key promises without legislative buy-in.

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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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Virginia Rep. Wittman Backs Prince William County’s Request for Money to Build a Mental Health Crisis Center

Representative Rob Wittman (R-Virginia-01) is supporting Prince William County’s efforts to build a crisis stabilization center, asking Virginia’s House Finance Committee Chair Luke Torian (D-Prince William) to use federal COVID-19 relief to help fund the project.

“The impacts of mental health have major reverberations throughout our communities. From students experiencing anxiety and intense loneliness due to extended virtual learning, to extreme cases of depression as a result of a veteran’s PTSD, the need for effective and available mental health services to support those suffering from a mental health crisis or occurrence is a critical necessity,” Wittman wrote in an October 27 letter announced in a Friday press release.

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After Virginia Supreme Court Disqualifies Republican Redistricting Nominees, Republicans Ask Court to Disqualify Democratic Nominees

The Supreme Court of Virginia rejected all three of Republicans nominees for special master to work with the Court for redistricting, noting that the nominees had conflicts of interest. The Court also rejected one of the Democratic nominees, noting that he might not be able to perform the job. The Court explained that it was taking the opportunity to more clearly define how it views special masters.

“This Court has not previously addressed the role and requirements for its Special Masters. It is appropriate to do so now,” the Court wrote Friday. “Although the Special Master candidates are to be nominated by legislative leaders of a particular political party, the nominees — upon being appointed by this Court as Special Masters — will serve as officers of the Court in a quasi-judicial capacity. Consequently, the Special Masters must be neutral and not act as advocates or representatives of any one political party.”

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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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Loudoun County Supervisors Vote to Eliminate Confederate Road Names

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to rename Jeb Stuart Road and Fort Johnston Road. The Board also directed staff to amend county naming standards and initiate renaming roads that include Confederate and segregationist names. In a November 3 meeting, Board Chair Phyllis Randall said the issue had been a long-time priority for her during a minor dispute with Supervisor Juli Briskman over who would second one of the motions.

“Having a name on a road school or structure is an honor that should be reserved for a very select few,” Randall said in a county press release.

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Spotsylvania County School Board Passes Motion to Remove Sexually Explicit Material from Libraries

The Spotsylvania County School Board voted six to zero, with one member absent, to remove “sexually explicit” material from school libraries. During public comment in the Monday school board meeting, parent Christina Burruss called attention to content on school library web app Destiny Discover.

“My daughter is a freshman at Riverbend High School and it was just brought to my attention of the books they have online there for the children to read. I went on there by accident and found that the first page that all of the books were listed was broken down into mostly LGBTQIA related fiction stories,” Burruss said.

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Fight for Schools Files Recall Petition Against Loudoun School Board Chair Brenda Sheridan

Fight for Schools PAC Executive Director Ian Prior told the Loudoun County School Board on Tuesday that the group had submitted a new recall petition against Board Chair Brenda Sheridan. The new petition includes highlights from the months of controversy in the district.

“We told you this wasn’t about an election. And we’re still here. And we’re here with a petition for the removal of Chairwoman Sheridan. And it’s not the old petition. This is a new petition, drafted about two-and-a-half weeks ago, and we completed this in 13 days, over 1,200 signatures. And this petition has on it things like violating the first amendment rights of speakers and listeners in this board room. Remaining in the private Facebook group while people were plotting a disruption  at Leesburg Elementary to keep Tanner Cross on administrative leave. And doing nothing and allowing a now-convicted sexual offender to go into a different school where he then committed another alleged sexual assault,” Prior said.

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Partisan Battles Continue as Virginia Supreme Court Prepares for Redistricting

The Virginia Redistricting Commission ended with a whimper two weeks ago, when the commission adjourned without formally ending the process. On Monday, a final deadline to complete congressional maps passed without any updates from the commission. According to the constitutional amendment passed by voters, that sends the process to the Virginia Supreme Court. The Court will vote on special masters who will work together to create redistricting plans for both congressional and legislative maps. Each General Assembly caucus proposed three nominees, and the Court will pick one from each party.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) sent a letter to the Court saying that the Republican nominees have “disqualifying conflicts of interest.”

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Recounts Possible in Apparent Republican Flips of Two Virginia House Seats

Local electoral boards certified Republican wins in House Districts 85 and 91 on Tuesday, according to House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah.) The two seats were the most narrow victories for House Republicans, who appear set to hold a 52-48 majority in 2022 according to preliminary results. But with less than a one percent margin of victory in both seats, the campaigns may ask for recounts.

“Today’s certifications by the local electoral boards make it official: Karen Greenhalgh and A.C. Cordoza have prevailed in House Districts 85 and 91. I again congratulate the Delegates-elect on their win, and look forward to working with them as members of our 52-member Republican House majority,” Gilbert said in a press release.

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Virginia Employment Commission Making Some Progress, but Still Has Serious Institutional Problems

The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) is starting to recover from over a year of unemployment insurance (UI) backlogs and call wait times brought on by unprecedented demand during COVID-19, according to a final report from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC.) But the VEC crisis highlighted long-term systemic problems in the agency, and the agency still has a long way to go.

“As you’ll hear, some backlogs have been reduced, and call center performance has been improved somewhat, but there are increasing backlogs in other areas. There remain substantial challenges for the agency in the coming weeks, months, and even years,” JLARC Director Hal Greer told legislators on Monday.

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Deal Struck: Gilbert for Virginia Speaker of the House, Kilgore for Majority Leader

Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) and Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Wise) have come to an agreement where Gilbert will run unopposed for Speaker of the House, and Kilgore will run unopposed for Majority Leader. The two delegates jointly sent a message to the caucus Friday afternoon, describing the agreement.

“We are writing to you today to let you know that we have come to an understanding with one another about our intentions with respect to seeking leadership roles. Todd is proud to endorse Terry for Majority Leader, and Terry is proud to endorse Todd for Speaker. Ultimately, any final decision will be left up to you,” they wrote.

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Addiction-Based Mental Health Crisis Still Getting Worse in Virginia

During the beginning of COVID-19, hospital inpatient volume and emergency department visits decreased, in part due to people postponing treatment. But the same data showed an increase in the number of patients getting treatment for alcohol, drug use, and related mental disorders, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) reported in April. In a Friday press conference, VHHA Vice President of Data and Analytics David Vaamonde reported that increased treatment for those kinds of disorders continued into the first two quarters of 2021 — one of only two Major Diagnostic Categories (MDCs) that saw growth since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We’re looking at MDCs where volumes actually increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have alcohol and drug use, and drug induced organic mental health disorders, obviously a very concerning trend there, and then diseases and disorders of the respiratory system and infectious and parasitic diseases,” Vaamonde said, adding that the respiratory, infectious, and parasitic categories line up with what a COVID-19 patient would have.

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Voters in Mathews, Middlesex, and Nottoway Vote to Keep Confederate Monuments

Three Virginia counties voted against referenda to remove local confederate monuments, continuing a pattern begun in 2020 when voters in six counties also voted to keep their monuments. Mathews County voted resoundingly against removal, 80.06 percent to 19.94 percent. Middlesex County voted 77.31 percent against removal, and Nottoway County voted 67.84 percent against removal.

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Miyares Wants Authority to Override Commonwealth’s Attorneys If Requested by Law Enforcement

Miyares holds press conference

Attorney general-elect Jason Miyares wants the General Assembly to authorize him to get involved in local prosecution if the top local law enforcement officer says the Commonwealth’s attorney isn’t doing their job. In a press conference Thursday, Miyares specifically called out progressive prosecutors in northern Virginia.

“Right now, the way it works is if a sitting Commonwealth’s attorney requests it, we can come in and prosecute a case on their behalf,” Miyares said. “We’re going to be seeking a legislative change, and the governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has already indicated that he would sign that into law.”

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Minority Leader Todd Gilbert Previews Republican Priorities for New Virginia House Majority

House of Delegates Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenadoah) outlined Republicans’ legislative goals for when they take majority control of the House, governor, attorney general, and lieutenant governor’s seats. In a press conference Friday, he said that win did give Republicans a mandate, but said he was also aware of the need to work across the aisle since the Senate remains in Democratic control. He said the issues that Republicans raised during the campaigns would drive their agenda, including schools, cost of living, and public safety.

“We know we have a divided government now, and for lots of reasons, we think at least in terms of administration of the institutions, we will probably work better with the Democratic leadership  than the House leadership did,” Gilbert said.

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Amherst County Grassroots Blocks Rosie’s Referendum with Under $9,000

Amherst County voters killed a proposal to bring a Rosie’s Gaming Emporium by the Colonial Downs Group, voting 54.06 percent to 45.94 percent of about 13,000 total votes, according to partial unofficial results. A couple of hours’ drive away, Emporia voters approved a similar proposal, 65.63 percent to 34.37 percent of about 2,000 total votes. The referenda were to approve pari-mutuel wagering, a slots-like gaming experience based on horse racing results.

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Danville Approves Sales Tax Increase, Pittsylvania’s Sales Tax Increase Hangs in the Balance

Danville voters resoundingly approved a referendum for a one percent sales tax increase to pay for school renovation projects 60.43 percent to 39.57 percent according to unofficial results. But their neighbors in Pittsylvania County may have barely killed a similar proposal; the sales tax referendum is losing by just 44 votes out of 25,404 — 0.18 percent. Elections officials are still counting mail-in ballots, according to Pittsylvania County Schools (PCS) Superintendent Mark Jones.

He said elections officials think there are more than 44 outstanding ballots, and final results will be certified Friday.

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Republicans Flip Seven Seats and the Virginia House Majority

Virginia Republicans retook the House of Delegates by protecting their incumbents and flipping seven seats, giving them a 52-48 majority, according to unofficial election results. Those flips included some predictable results. Otto Wachsmann defeated Delegate Roslyn Tyler (D-Sussex). Republicans won in four out of five competitive Virginia Beach races. Mike Cherry protected Republican control of outgoing Delegate Kirk Cox’s (R-Colonial Heights) district.

Republicans also pulled off some surprises. A.C. Cordoza has apparently defeated Delegate Martha Mugler (D-Hampton) 49.68 percent to 48.70 percent — a nail biting result since mail-in ballots can still come in.

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