Virginia State Senator Amanda Chase Files Lawsuit to Remove Censure

After the Senate of Virginia voted to censure Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) last week, the lawmaker filed a lawsuit in federal court on Monday seeking to have the public rebuke expunged.

Chase filed the suit against the Senate, naming Clerk Susan Schaar as a defendant, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia over alleged violations of the First and 14th Amendments as well as the legislative body’s own rules.

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Legislation Prohibiting Firearms, Other Weapons on Capitol Grounds Passes Virginia Senate

Legislation prohibiting the possession and transportation of firearms and other weapons within Richmond’s Capitol Square as well as inside any buildings owned or leased by the state passed the Virginia Senate Tuesday afternoon.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1381, advanced out of the Senate by a 21-18 straight party-line vote with every Democrat in support and all Republicans opposing.

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Richmond Electoral Board Removes City’s General Registrar, J. Kirk Showalter

The Richmond Electoral Board on Monday night voted 2-1 to remove J. Kirk Showalter from her position as the city’s general registrar.

Of the three-member board, which has the power to remove a general registrar from office under state law, chairman James M. Nachman and vice-chairman Joyce K. Smith voted in favor of the move, while secretary C. Starlet Stevens opposed.

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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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Two New Dashboards Offer COVID Data for Virginia’s Colleges and Universities

Two new online dashboards have recently been launched to help provide awareness and track the spread of the coronavirus at Virginia’s colleges and universities as many institutions in the Commonwealth have already begun or are starting in-person classes soon.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) launched its COVID-19 Outbreaks in Virginia Higher Education dashboard roughly two weeks ago.

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Bill Prohibiting Solitary Confinement Use in State Prisons, Juvenile Facilities Reports Out of Virginia Senate Committee

A bill in the state Senate that would prohibit prisons and juvenile facilities run by the Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) from placing offenders in solitary confinement was reported out of the Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee on Friday.

Specifically, Senate Bill 1301 does not outright ban the use of solitary confinement – defined as 17 or more hours in a cell for juveniles and 20 or more hours for adult prisoners – but more so restricts the practice and implements safeguards against misuse

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Legislation Requiring Virginia School Divisions to Offer In-Person Learning Option Advances in Senate

Legislation that would require local school divisions in Virginia to make in-person learning available to all students advanced out of the Senate Education and Health Committee on Thursday with some bipartisan support.

Senate Bill 1303, introduced by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico), just barely passed out of the committee by an 8-7 vote. All six Republicans voted in favor of the bill and two Democrats joined, while the rest of the committee members opposed.

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Census Data Delays Could Impact Virginia’s 2021 Legislative Elections

Thanks to reporting delays with 2020 U.S. Census data, the timeline for Virginia’s newly implemented redistricting process and the 2021 elections for all 100 House of Delegates seats could be impacted.

On Wednesday, a Census Bureau official said the redistricting data for states may not arrive until July 30th or afterward.

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Richmond, VCU to Co-Host 2021 Atlantic 10 Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament Because of COVID-19

The 2021 Atlantic 10 Conference men’s basketball tournament is coming to the city of Richmond this year.

Normally viewed as crosstown rivals, the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) will serve as co-hosts for the annual championship tournament in order to accommodate for safety precautions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference announced in a news release on Thursday.

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AG Herring Asks Virginia Supreme Court to Reject Appeal in Lee Statue Removal Case

State Attorney General Mark Herring filed papers with the Virginia Supreme Court on Wednesday formally asking the body to reject an appeal that seeks to keep the controversial Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond from being removed.

The appeal was filed with the high court Monday on behalf of the plaintiffs, a group of Richmond residents living near the monument who have been challenging Governor Ralph Northam’s authority to remove the statute in court since summer.

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Former Business Executive Glenn Youngkin Officially Joins Race for Virginia Governor

Former business executive and political outsider, Glenn Youngkin has officially joined the 2021 Virginia governor’s race seeking the Republican nomination.

Youngkin, 54, made the formal announcement through an online statement and campaign video released on Wednesday.

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House Passes Legislation to Help Virginia Administer Vaccinations, Senate Version Waiting to be Heard

The Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday passed emergency legislation to speed up the state’s slow vaccination campaign by expanding which health care workers can administer shots to citizens and locations serving as inoculation sites.

House Bill 2333, introduced by Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico), passed the House with bipartisan support from committee to a final floor vote in just one day, a process that normally takes multiple meetings of the body.

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Legislation Eliminating Mandatory Minimum Sentences Passes Through Virginia Senate Committee

Legislation to remove most mandatory minimum sentences in Virginia advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday through a 9-6 party-line vote.

Senate Bill 1443 would end the mandatory minimum prison time for more than 200 crimes in the Commonwealth that carry the specific punishments, including assault and battery, rape and other sexual crimes, drug distribution and possession, child pornography as well as driving under the influence (DUI).

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First Case of UK COVID-19 Variant Identified in Virginia, Health Department Says

The first confirmed case of the United Kingdom COVID-19 variant strain in Virginia has been identified, according to a press release on Monday from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS).

What is currently known to be the only case in the Commonwealth so far was discovered in a sample from an adult residing in Northern Virginia with no recent travel history reported. The case was confirmed by DCLS using next-generation sequencing and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been informed of the matter, the release said.

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Fencing Installed Around Lee Statue to Prepare for Removal

With significant law enforcement presence in the immediate area, workers installed fencing around the Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond on Monday morning as part of the Virginia Department of General Services (DGS) plans to remove the controversial statue from its prominent location.

The temporary fencing, which completely encircles the monument grounds, was erected to ensure the safety of visitors and workers as DGS prepares the site for the eventual removal of the statue, according to a news release from the agency published Monday.

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Virginia Senate Passes Bill Repealing Witness Signature Requirement for Absentee Ballots

The Virginia state Senate on Monday passed legislation that would repeal the witness signature requirement when people in the Commonwealth use absentee ballots to vote in elections.

Introduced by Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington), Senate Bill 1097 passed the body by a 21-18 straight party-line vote, with all Republican members opposing the legislation.

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Virginia Senate to Vote on Legislation Giving Certain Health Insurance Plans Abortion Coverage Option

The Senate of Virginia on Friday will vote to pass legislation out of the body that would allow for private health insurance companies offering plans through the state exchange to have the option for abortion coverage.

Senate Bill 1276 was introduced by Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond City), who is also a gubernatorial candidate seeking the Democratic nomination, and co-sponsored by three other Democratic legislators.

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Virginia Senators Push Bill to Help Speed Up State Vaccination Effort

A bill to help Virginia speed up its mass vaccination effort by expanding who is allowed to inoculate citizens and where those injections can occur is being pushed by a bipartisan group of state Senators.

Flanked by various medical professionals, Senators Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City), Todd Pillion (R-Washington), Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach), George Barker (D-Fairfax) and Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) held a news conference to discuss Senate Bill 1445 in Richmond on Thursday.

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Virginia Senate Committee Passes Censure Resolution on Amanda Chase

The Virginia Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections passed a resolution to censure Republican gubernatorial candidate Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) on Tuesday regarding her conduct and comments on the January 6 Capitol riots in Washington D.C.

Introduced by Sen. John Bell (D-Loudon) and sponsored by nine other Democratic legislators, Senate Resolution 91 was reported out of the committee by a 9-6 vote straight down party lines and will now be considered on the floor in the coming days.

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Senator McClellan Unveils Universal Child Care and Early Learning Plan as Part of Gubernatorial Campaign

Democratic candidate for governor and Virginia State Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond City) released a plan central to her campaign last Friday that seeks to provide affordable and quality child care for every family with a kid under the age of five by 2025.

Under McClellan’s Universal Child Care & Early Learning Plan, Virginia families that make below or up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level would receive free child care, no matter the family size. While families making above that poverty threshold would have to pay for child care costs, but no more than 7 percent of their annual income.

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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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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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Northam Administration Moves to Tax PPP Loan Recipients

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s administration has recommended to the General Assembly that the state not conform its tax code to specific provisions included in the recently-signed federal emergency relief bill that gives businesses who received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans a significant tax benefit.

Under the provisions of the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), signed into law by President Donald Trump in late December, businesses in the Commonwealth that got forgivable PPP loans would not be taxed on that income and could deduct their business expenses covered by the federal payment.

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Year-End Campaign Fundraising Haul for Virginia’s Statewide Candidates Shows McAuliffe Far Ahead, Followed by Foy

With Virginia’s statewide elections for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general drawing ever closer, candidates’ campaign finance reports literally show who has been busy fundraising, but can also offer an early glimpse of their viability in the races. 

On Saturday, year-end fundraising reports, covering the second half of last year from July 1st to December 31st, for each statewide candidate were released to the public. The Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) compiled the numbers and listed the cash on hand for each candidate.

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Chesterfield Supervisor Leslie Haley Announces Run for Attorney General

Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors member and lawyer Leslie Haley announced her bid for the Republican nomination in the 2021 Virginia attorney general election on Thursday. 

Haley, who has represented the Midlothian District on the board since 2016 with stints as both the chair and vice chair, launched her campaign to be the Commonwealth’s top attorney through a press release and short video. 

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Pro-Gun Rights Car Caravan Planned for Lobby Day

Lobby Day, the annual tradition where Virginians from across the state gather in Richmond to engage lawmakers on pressing issues, is going to look quite different this year.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) Lobby Day 2021 is set to take place on Monday in Richmond, but this year, instead of a massive gathering of mostly armed individuals at the Capitol, the gun-rights advocacy group is organizing a car caravan through the heart of the city.

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Additional Walgreens in Virginia to Offer Free COVID-19 Antigen Testing, Health Department Says

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced on Thursday that it is expanding its partnership with Walgreens to offer Abbott BinaxNOW rapid antigen COVID-19 testing for free at specific locations throughout the Commonwealth, according to a press release from the agency.

Before the expanded agreement only four Walgreens in the state were providing the drive-through tests, but now that number has increased to 15 select locations, the release said.

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Henrico Public Schools Delays In-person Learning for All Grades Due to COVID-19 Numbers

Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) on Tuesday announced that it is delaying in-person learning for all grade levels indefinitely because of local coronavirus numbers, just a week after pushing back the return to classrooms for elementary school students.

In an online message to families, Superintendent Amy Cashwell initially said the delay had to do with the school division’s nurses being pulled away from their regular duties to assist in administering vaccinations for teachers and other Virginians included within Phase 1b of the state’s plan.

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Virginia Governor Expands Eligibility for Phase 1b COVID-19 Vaccinations

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) has expanded the eligibility for Phase 1b of the state’s vaccination effort to include people 65 and up as well as those between the ages of 16 to 64 who have high-risk medical conditions, he announced during a COVID-19 press briefing on Thursday. 

“This means about half of Virginia is now eligible to receive the vaccine,” the governor said. “That’s a major logistical effort and it is not going to happen overnight. Everyone will need to be patient; it’s going to happen as fast as it can be done.” 

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Virginia Democratic Senators File Resolution to Censure Amanda Chase

Virginia Senate Democrats filed a resolution on Wednesday to censure GOP gubernatorial candidate and Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) for addressing a crowd and urging action to overturn the 2020 presidential election hours before the Capitol riots in Washington D.C.

The resolution, introduced by Sen. John Bell (D-Loudoun) and co-sponsored by nine other Senate Democrats, formally accuses Chase of “fomenting insurrection against the United States.”

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Tim Anderson Sues Virginia Governor Over Senate District Special Election

Prominent Virginia Beach attorney and House of Delegates candidate Tim Anderson filed a lawsuit against Governor Ralph Northam (D) on Wednesday over the 38th Senatorial District special election set for later this year. 

The 38th District was previously occupied by the late Senator Ben Chafin, who died of COVID-19 complications at the beginning of the year, and on Tuesday Northam issued a March 23rd, 2021, date for the election to determine a replacement.

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Bipartisan Group of Senators Call for Governor to Reopen Virginia’s Schools

Three Virginia state Senators called for Governor Ralph Northam on Wednesday to reopen public schools across the Commonwealth and mandate in-person learning as an option for families struggling with virtual instruction. 

Just hours before the General Assembly kicked off its 2021 session, Senators Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond City), Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) and Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) held a press conference to discuss the matter.

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Virginia Senate Convenes for General Assembly 2021 Regular Session

The Virginia General Assembly 2021 regular session began on Wednesday in Richmond with a relatively standard yet important first meeting of the Democratic-controlled state Senate.

Just as it was during last year’s special session, the Senate and its 39 members met in-person in a socially distanced space at the Science Museum of Virginia while the House of Delegates convened virtually.

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VDH launches Online Tool to Help Determine Virginians’ Vaccine Eligibility

With mass vaccination efforts now a month in, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has released a new online tool to help Virginians determine their eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine under the state’s multi-phase plan and when they can get it.

Completing the process is relatively simple and should not take more than 5 minutes maximum. Here is a step-by-step rundown

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Multi-Millionaire Glenn Youngkin to Run for Virginia Governor

Former business executive and multi-millionaire Glenn Youngkin is planning to join the Virginia governor’s race as a Republican candidate and expected to make an official announcement soon, according to reporting from The Washington Post.

Youngkin, 54, would be the third GOP candidate to declare for the 2021 election and the only conservative hopeful with no experience running for or holding elected office.

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Virginia Governor Northam Plans to Extend Upcoming General Assembly Session

The Virginia General Assembly will convene on Wednesday and a lot of conversation surrounding the annual gathering of state lawmakers this year is not on legislative agendas or hotbed issues under consideration, but on how long the session will last.

Intrigue over the session length began back in mid-November when Republican legislative leaders of the Senate and House of Delegates, Sen. Tommy Norment (R-James City) and Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) announced their intention to limit the session to 30 days

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Virginia Teachers Union President Calls for All-Virtual Learning Until School Staff get Vaccinated

Virginia Education Association (VEA) president James Fedderman wants public schools in the Commonwealth to go to fully virtual learning until teachers and school staff receive vaccinations to stop the spread coronavirus in schools.

Fedderman asked the governor and school leaders around the state to facilitate the instructional switch in a video published to the VEA website on Friday.

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NCAA 2021 March Madness Tournament to be Held Entirely in Indiana

The NCAA is holding its 2021 men’s college basketball tournament entirely in the state of Indiana because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the organization announced last Monday.

When the NCAA decided to relocate 13 of the tournament preliminary round sites in late November and said they were in discussions with Indiana about hosting the annual competition, it was essentially a forgone conclusion but Monday’s announcement made it official.

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Virginia Department of Health: Vaccinations for Second Phase Group Starting Next Week

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) said Friday that 11 select health districts around the state will begin vaccinating the second phase of priority populations, group 1b, this week, according to a press release from the agency. 

VDH’s announcement comes two days after Governor Ralph Northam held his first COVID-19 press briefing of 2021, where he said the state would be faster at administering vaccines, implemented a “use it or lose it” policy for providers and released specifics on the people in group 1b. 

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NFL Wild Card Weekend: Washington Football Team Hosts the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The NFL playoffs have finally arrived and the headline matchup of Wild Card Weekend day one will take place on Saturday night when the Washington Football Team faces the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Washington (7-9) will host the Buccaneers (11-5) at FedEx Field, and will be looking to spoil Tampa Bay and quarterback Tom Brady’s Super Bowl aspirations.

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Virginia Health Facilities Had Advanced Knowledge of Unannounced COVID-19 Inspections, State Inspector General Says

State health facilities operated by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) were tipped off with advance knowledge on unannounced COVID-19 protocol inspections, according to a report from the Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) released last Thursday.

The report claimed that DBHDS personnel shared detailed information regarding inspections with as many as 11 facilities throughout the Commonwealth.

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Retired Judges Select Eight Citizens to Serve on Virginia Redistricting Commission

A selection committee of five retired judges on Wednesday chose the eight citizens who will serve on the Virginia Redistricting Commission, completing the membership determination process for the newly-implemented body tasked with proposing plans for redrawing the Commonwealth’s 111 congressional and legislative districts.

The judges met for several hours on Wednesday morning and had to come up with the eight names from a pool of 62 finalists.

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Henrico Public Schools Delay Return to In-Person Learning Because of COVID

Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) announced on Tuesday that the division is delaying the return to in-person learning for pre-kindergarten and elementary school students until the end of January because of the area’s current COVID-19 numbers.

HCPS Superintendent Amy Cashwell made the announcement and discussed the subsequent changes to the timeline for returning to the classroom in an online message to families.

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Delegate Lee Carter Officially Announces Run for Governor

Virginia State Delegate Lee J. Carter (D-Manassas) officially joined the governor’s race last Friday and is now part of the crowded Democratic field vying for the party nomination this summer.

Carter, 33, is the fifth Democrat to seek the Executive Mansion next November and had originally filed paperwork to raise money for a gubernatorial bid last month.

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Governor Northam Appoints Dr. Danny Avula to Lead Virginia’s Vaccination Program

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has appointed Dr. Danny Avula, director of the Richmond City and Henrico County health departments, to lead the Commonwealth’s ongoing COVID-19 vaccination program.

Northam made the announcement during a coronavirus press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, the first time he has provided updates on the virus to the public in the new year.

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Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring Launches Office of Civil Rights

Following a summer of civil unrest over social injustice throughout the Commonwealth, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) announced the launch of the Office of Civil Rights on Tuesday.

The Office of Civil Rights will operate within the larger Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and is supposed to help ongoing efforts to protect against discrimination and the civil rights of all Virginians, according to a press release.

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Virginia Governor Candidate Kirk Cox Reportedly Says Biden Will be Next President

GOP candidate for governor and Virginia State Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) reportedly said Tuesday he does not stand with Republicans in Congress who plan to object to the Electoral College votes and that Joe Biden will be the next President of the United States. 

Cox’s reported comments were shared by Daniel Grimes, a reporter and weekend anchor for NBC29 in Charlottesville, in a post on Twitter. 

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Legislative Leaders Pick Citizen Finalists for Virginia Redistricting Commission

The four legislative leaders of the House of Delegates and state Senate picked 62 citizen finalists last Friday to be considered for eight available spots on Virginia’s new redistricting commission.

House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) and Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City) were responsible for making lists of 16 citizens out of more than 1,200 applicants. 

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Candi King and Angelia Williams Graves Win Special Elections for Virginia House Seats

Democratic candidates Candi King and Angelia Williams Graves emerged victorious Tuesday night from special elections for the 2nd and 90th Districts of the Virginia House of Delegates, defeating Republican underdogs Heather Mitchell and Sylvia Bryant.

In the 2nd District, which encompasses the eastern edge of Prince William County along the Potomac River and the northern section of Stafford County, King narrowly won by receiving 51.50 percent (4,386) of the total votes compared to 48.41 percent (4,123) for Mitchell, according to election results tabulated by the Virginia Department of Elections.

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Overview of Virginia’s Newest Laws in 2021

The new year is here at last and for Virginians throughout the Commonwealth, the arrival of 2021 means a number of laws passed by the General Assembly last year have now gone into effect and bring several important changes. 

Here is an overview of some new laws that Virginians should know about. 

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