COVID Lockdowns a Boon for Virginia Lottery

The Virginia Lottery recorded $2.15 billion in sales during 2020, slightly lower than the 2019 figure, despite facing statewide shut downs in the spring and the growing economic downturn brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Kevin Hall, executive director of the Virginia Lottery, gave a presentation Tuesday to members of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, providing updates on the current trend and forecast as well as the implementation of expanded gaming options coming to the state.

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Virginia Senate Gives Governor Power to Oust Police Officers

The Criminal Justice Services Board (CJSB) will have the responsibility of decertifying officers engaged in misconduct or criminally charged and implementing statewide conduct standards for law enforcement, if the Senate’s omnibus policing and reform legislation is signed into law.

Last Friday, the president of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Delegates both signed the legislation, and on Wednesday the bill was communicated to Governor Ralph Northam for final approval.

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Spanberger and Freitas Square Off in Debate on COVID, Health Care and National Security

Incumbent Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Republican challenger state Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) took part in their first debate Tuesday night, discussing a wide array of ongoing issues on the national and state levels.

The forum was moderated by Washington Week Managing Editor and a national political reporter for The Washington Post, Robert Costa, lasting a little less than an hour.

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William & Mary Reinstates Three Women’s Sports Teams After Threat of Title IX Lawsuit

William and Mary (W&M) announced Monday it is reinstating the women’s swimming, gymnastics and volleyball sports programs after a group of lawyers representing student-athletes on those teams threatened to sue the university in violation of Title IX compliance.

This all stems from the decision last month by former W&M athletics director Samantha Huge to cut seven sports teams at the end of the current academic year because of large budget deficits as a result of COVID-19.

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Virginia Vote Counters: No Winners on Election Night

As November 3rd draws closer, general registrars and their staff in central Virginia are working extremely hard to get as many ballots counted as possible on election night, even though the results will not be official until Friday of that week.

On Monday, The Virginia Star spoke with registrars from Henrico, Hanover, New Kent and Goochland counties, and discussed the timing of ballot counts.

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Trial to Decide Fate of Robert E. Lee Statue Underway in Richmond

The trial over a lawsuit aiming to stop Governor Ralph Northam from removing the statue of former Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee began Monday morning in Richmond.

After the death of George Floyd, the Lee monument and other Confederate statues throughout the city became a focal point of the summer protests over racial inequality and police brutality in Richmond.

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VCU To Students: Zoom Time – No In Person Classes

As the fall semester begins to enter its final weeks, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) announced Thursday that the spring 2021 term will look very similar with most classes online and schoolwide health and safety protocols still enforced.

VCU president Michael Rao published an online message to students Thursday providing an update for the upcoming semester and highlighting some of the changes being made.

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Juneteenth Is Now a Legal Holiday in the State of Virginia

Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation this week passed during the General Assembly 2020 special session into law making Juneteenth an officially recognized holiday in the Commonwealth.

Juneteenth will now be a permanent, statewide holiday allowing all state employees to get a paid day off from work.

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Senate Lawmakers Pass Conference Report for Criminal Justice Reform Legislation

During potentially the final day of the lengthy 2020 special session, Senate legislators adopted and passed the conference committee report on a bill that allows judges in certain criminal cases to issue the sentences instead of the jury. 

The conference report that was unanimously agreed upon by the six conferees, two Republicans and two Democrats, passed the Senate by an almost exact party line vote of (Y-22 N-16). 

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Legislation Allowing Localities to Establish Law Enforcement Civilian Review Boards Heads to Governor’s Desk

Compromised legislation that gives localities the authority to establish law enforcement civilian review boards (CRB) successfully passed final votes in the Senate and House of Delegates Wednesday afternoon, and now goes to the governor’s desk for final approval.

Joint conference committee reports for Senate Bill 5035 passed the Senate (21-Y 17-N) and for House Bill 5055 passed the House (53-Y 35-N), mostly along the party lines of both chambers.

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Newport News Public Schools Superintendent Delays Students’ Return to Classrooms

The Newport News Public Schools (NNPS) superintendent George Parker announced Tuesday that he was postponing the plan that would have brought students back to the classroom for the first time since March.

The delay comes after the Newport News School Board voted 5-2 during its meeting last week to allow for a phased return to in-person instruction for K-12 students.

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Senate and House Advance Budget Legislation to Conference Committee

Lawmakers in the Senate and House of Delegates advanced their biennial budget to a formal conference committee on Wednesday and assigned conferees to represent the bodies, but much of the work on compromising has already been conducted.

Before the two legislative bodies agreed to send the budget to a joint conference committee, however, the Senate first had to adopt a batch of seven committee amendments to the budget legislation. 

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Judge Extends Virginia’s Voter Registration Deadline Until Midnight Thursday

A federal Judge extended Virginia’s voter registration deadline Wednesday morning after the system experienced statewide outages from a severed fiber cable on Tuesday.

The deadline for Virginians to register to vote is now Thursday at 11:59 p.m. 

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At the State Voter Registration Deadline, Almost One Million Virginians Have Already Cast Their Ballots

With Tuesday’s voter registration deadline having now passed, the Commonwealth is entering the final stretches before the general elections in November and Virginians have been feverishly casting their votes with nearly 1 million in-person and absentee ballots already submitted.

Specifically, 532,983 in-person votes and 444,390 votes by mail have already been cast in the state with an additional 642,687 absentee ballot applications that have not yet been returned to general registrars, according to the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) early voting dashboard.

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Severed Fiber Cable Causes IT Issues for Department of Elections on Last Day to Register to Vote

A severed fiber cable in Chesterfield County caused Virginia’s voter registration system and other systems used by state agencies to fail Tuesday. 

The outage came on the final day Virginians can register to vote for the upcoming November election.

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Newly Proposed Law to Reduce Traffic Stops Relating to Marijuana and Other Traffic Offenses, Law Enforcement in Opposition

A bill that aims to reduce unnecessary and targeted traffic stops by limiting what police officers are lawfully allowed to pull drivers over for recently passed the General Assembly and is now awaiting a decision from the governor. 

Nevertheless, law enforcement opposes the legislation on the grounds that it would hurt public safety and lead to more dangers while driving. 

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City of Richmond Will Use Group Initiative to Shelter Homeless Population This Winter

In the effort to combat homelessness and provide adequate inside sheltering options amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Richmond is contracting with faith-based groups in the area and the Greater Richmond Continuum of Care (GRCoC), a network of service providers that aid the homeless population.

In past years Richmond has used the Anne Gile Center, located in Upper Shockoe Valley just north of downtown, as the city’s primary Cold Weather Overflow Shelter (CWOS), but it was closed down this year in part because of COVID concerns and partly in favor of the new plan.

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With Another Monument Vandalized, Richmond Residents Ask if Graffiti Will Ever Be Cleaned

One of the last remaining city-owned Confederate statues in Richmond was vandalized recently, raising questions about how long the graffiti littered throughout downtown and other prominent areas will remain.

After a summer of civil unrest, graffiti on monuments, buildings, sidewalks and even some houses has become a normal sight for those who visit or live in the city of Richmond.

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Former State Delegate Tim Hugo Announces Bid for Lieutenant Governor in 2021

Former member of the Virginia House of Delegates Tim Hugo announced Monday that he is officially entering the 2021 Virginia lieutenant gubernatorial election.

Hugo is the fourth Republican to enter the race and is the ninth person to announce their candidacy overall.

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Gov. Northman’s Virginia Power Grab Defies Science

The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) presented analysis of COVID-19 hospitalization data on patient demographics, age and sex, accompanying chronic conditions and length of stay during a webinar on Thursday.

The study reviewed statewide data trends from over 8,700 COVID hospitalizations in Virginia between January and June of 2020, and was presented by David Vaamonde, vice president of data analytics for the VHHA.

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Disabled Veterans’ Vehicles to be Exempt from Property Taxes If Constitutional Amendment Two Passes

Virginia proposed Constitutional Amendment #2 asks whether or not permanently and totally disabled veterans receiving 100 percent of disability income should be exempt from paying personal property taxes on their motor vehicle.

The decision to enact that change is squarely up to Virginians casting their ballots in the upcoming November general elections.

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A Week from Hell for William & Mary Athletics: Athletic Director Resigns and Student-Athletes Test Positive for COVID-19

In the span of a single week William & Mary athletics director Samantha Huge resigned after facing backlash from cutting seven sports programs last month, and a mix of student-athletes and athletics department staff have tested positive for Coronavirus.

The university announced Tuesday that Huge was stepping down from her position and then on Wednesday news broke that athletics employees and athletes had tested positive for COVID-19.

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State Inspector General Substantiates Multiple Allegations Against the Virginia Parole Board

The Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) has released reports substantiating multiple allegations that the Virginia Parole Board (VPB) violated state statutes as well as its own policies and procedures after investigating complaints regarding the parole of specific Department of Corrections offenders.

On Tuesday, the OSIG released copies of the reports, originally sent to Governor Ralph Northam’s administration, to media outlets who requested them that were mostly redacted and did not offer the specific findings of the investigation into the VPB.

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Senate Lawmakers Send Numerous Bills to Joint Conference Committees with House

The Senate sent a number of bills to be considered by joint conference committees, and appointed conferees to join their colleagues in the House of Delegates to consider legislation on Wednesday.

Three or four Senators and Delegates are assigned to different conference committees and must try to agree on compromised language for similar bills from each body or the legislation will die. If compromised versions are agreed upon, those bills will go back to the House and Senate for a final passage vote.

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Two Richmond Detectives Indicted by Grand Jury on Misdemeanor Assault Charges Related to Summer Protests

Two Richmond police detectives have been indicted on misdemeanor assault and battery charges stemming from the protests that took place during the summer, the Richmond Police Department said in an emailed statement Monday night.

The charges were brought against the two detectives after Richmond’s Commonwealth Attorney Colette McEachin presented 18 sealed indictments to a Grand Jury on Monday concerning the actions of certain officers during the protests.

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JMU Students Have Returned to Campus and Resumed In-Person Classes Again

Students at James Madison University (JMU) resumed in-person classes on Monday after spending almost a month away from campus learning virtually because of a significant rise in COVID-19 cases and inadequate isolation/quarantine spaces.

At the beginning of September, university president Jonathan Alger announced JMU was temporarily sending most on-campus students home and switching to virtual instruction. Now, students are back at the Harrisonburg, Virginia campus to give the 2020 fall semester another shot.

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Virginia’s Great Gun Grab

In recent months seven localities throughout Virginia have now passed gun ordinances restricting where citizens can carry, openly possess and transport firearms or any components of a gun.

So far, Arlington and Fairfax counties and the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, Charlottesville, Newport News and Richmond have passed gun ordinances.

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Vote Fraud? Richmond Metro Area Mailboxes Broken into, USPIS Investigating

The United State Postal Investigative Service (USPIS) has launched an investigation after a group or individual forcefully opened and stole mail from collection boxes throughout the Richmond metro area between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning, according to the U.S. Postal Service.

“This morning we received several calls from some of our local post offices as they opened up that they believed their blue collection boxes, outfront of their post offices, had been tampered with or vandalized,” Michael J. Romano, U.S. Postal inspector team leader, said in an interview with The Virginia Star. “It would appear that the boxes themselves were pried open and entry was gained.”

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Former House Speaker Kirk Cox Is Serious About Bid for Virginia Governor

Longtime state Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) is very serious about running for Virginia governor in the 2021 gubernatorial elections, but he is steadfast on waiting until the rapidly-approaching general elections have concluded to officially announce his campaign. 

Despite recently filing paperwork with the state of Virginia to establish a campaign committee, Cox feels the November election, specifically securing another term for President Trump and congressional seats for Republicans, take priority at the moment. 

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Senate Passes $134B Budget Bill Allocating Funds for Local COVID-19 Relief, Criminal Justice and Policing Reforms and Law Enforcement Bonuses

The Senate passed its $134 billion budget on Friday with funding for criminal justice and police reforms, bonuses for law enforcement, coronavirus relief payments for local school divisions and language eviction and utility disconnect moratoriums. 

Senate Bill (SB) 5015 passed the Senate by a vote of (Y-24 N-15) with three Republican members voting alongside their Democratic colleagues on the prevailing side. 

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COVID-19 at Virginia Colleges and Universities: What Do the Numbers Say?

As many colleges and universities in Virginia continue on with in-person instruction for the 2020 fall semester during the coronavirus pandemic, the schools’ COVID-19 dashboards offer insights into how the pandemic is affecting those institutions.

Since the global pandemic hit the United States back in March, more and more schools have created online COVID dashboards that present a plethora of data on total tests, case counts, positivity percentage and 7-day moving averages for positive tests. 

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Nearly 500,000 Virginians Have Already Voted

Since the start of early voting on September 18, 482,674 Virginians have already cast their ballots for the rapidly-approaching November general election. 

Of the almost half a million votes, 285,805 were in-person and 196,869 were through the mail,  according to the Virginia Public Access Project’s (VPAP) early voting daily dashboard. 

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Senate Dems Kick GOP Colleagues to the Curb

The Democratic-controlled Virginia Senate rejected almost all budget amendment proposals from Republican members during a lengthy session Thursday afternoon. 

As the Senate moves closer to a passage vote on its comprehensive budget, Thursday’s session made it clear that Senate Democrats are ultimately running the show. 

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Virginia Colleges Enrollment Plummets

Enrollment in Virginia’s public and private nonprofit colleges and universities for the fall semester declined by 1.3 percent or 6,658 students, according to early enrollment estimates from the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) released Tuesday.

The data used by SCHEV is directly provided by 64 colleges and universities located in the Commonwealth, including some of the state’s most prestigious and largest schools such as William and Mary, Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University and Washington and Lee University.

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Virginia House Passes $134B Budget with Rental and Utility Assistance, Justice and Police Reform Funding

The Virginia House of Delegates passed its two-year $134 billion budget on Tuesday with specific funding for rental and utility assistance, public education, internet access, affordable housing, criminal justice and police reform.

The revised budget from the House does not perfectly lineup with the proposed budget Governor Ralph Northam presented to the General Assembly at the beginning of the 2020 special session.

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VCU Faculty Are Considering Requiring Courses on Racism

Faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) are currently considering making a change to the university’s general education requirements by adding a courses on racism.

The classes would be required for all freshman and grouped under the subject diversities of human experiences, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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Virginia Department of Health Launches New Pandemic Metrics Dashboard

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) on Monday launched a new pandemic metrics dashboard with more specific, aggregated data to show where COVID-19 is spreading in Virginia’s different regions and any changes occurring over time. 

The new dashboard will be updated weekly and features three different tabs: About the Data, Daily Region Metrics, Weekly Transmission Extent. Additionally, School Metrics from the CDC are included within the dashboard.  

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Vote Fraud Hits Virginia as Hundreds of Voters Receive Multiple Ballots

Almost 1,400 Virginia voters have recently received duplicate absentee ballots in the mail because of printing errors.

So far, voters in three jurisdictions – Fairfax and Henrico counties as well as the City of Richmond – have reportedly received duplicates ballots as the November 3rd election quickly approaches.

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Richmond Bans Guns While City Collapses from Rioters

Richmond Police Department (RPD) officers were seen at the Robert E. Lee monument on Saturday morning posting signs on the recently-passed Richmond city gun ordinance. 

The new ordinance, passed unanimously by the Richmond city council early this month, does not outright ban firearms in public spaces, but it does call for restrictions when a permitted event is taking place.

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Senate Bill on Budget Includes Details on the Proposed Virginia Redistricting Commission

As part of the Senate’s bill for the biennial budget, one amendment offers details and more specifics on the proposed Virginia Redistricting Commission. 

Included in the budget amendment item 4-14 is eligibility criteria for citizen commission members, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and public participation in the redistricting process. 

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President Trump Visits Virginia, Draws Massive Crowd

President Donald J. Trump spoke at a campaign rally Friday night in Virginia drawing a crowd of over ten thousand people. 

The event took place in Newport News, Virginia outside of an airport hanger near the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport.

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Virginia Senate Committee Advances a Bevy of House Bills to Floor

Democrats in the state Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee on Thursday advanced numerous House bills relating to policing and justice reform and COVID-19. 

All together the Committee considered 20 bills during the meeting and hastily reported 19 to be considered on the Senate Floor on Friday or sometime next week. 

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Mobs Confront Police as Richmond Riots Continue to Engulf a City in Chaos

Three people were arrested after a large protest gathered outside Richmond Police headquarters in downtown Richmond Wednesday night.

The protest, which hundreds of people took part in, was in response to the decision by a grand jury in Louisville, Kentucky to not charge the police officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s death. 

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Virginia House Caves on Anti Police Bill

Democratic and Republican legislators on the House Courts of Justice Committee killed legislation on Tuesday that would have eliminated the six month mandatory minimum sentence for assaulting a law enforcement officer. 

Senate Bill 5032, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) was passed by indefinitely by a vote of 18-Y 1-N 1-A, ending any chance of being signed into law during the 2020 special session. 

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UVA to Students: Lockdown! But…Pay Us!

University of Virginia (UVA) President Jim Ryan announced new COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday prohibiting student gathering of five or more people, mandating constant use of masks or face coverings and banning  travel and visitors coming to campus for at least the next two weeks. 

The restrictions apply to students, faculty and staff, living on and off campus, and went into effect on Wednesday at 9 a.m. 

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Virginia House: We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ History

The Virginia state Senate Committee on Local Government passed by for the day a House bill that would authorize localities to remove, relocate or alter memorials for war veterans, including the Civil War. 

Through a voice vote, House Bill (HB) 5030 was passed by for the day with the understanding that the committee chair will write a letter to the Department of Historic Resources and the Attorney General’s office for a better understanding on the memorials and of any potential legal ramifications from the bill. 

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Parents Fume Over Kids Turning into Zoom Zombies

The Richmond Public Schools (RPS) leadership team presented initial schedule adjustments for all grade levels to its school board during a meeting Monday night. 

The board did not vote to adopt any of the proposed scheduling adjustments. 

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Gov. Northam Announces Rebuild VA Grant Fund Eligibility Expanded

The eligibility for the REBUILD! VA Grant Fund for businesses, nonprofits impacted by COVID-19 has been expanded to a wider scope of small businesses, according to a news release. 

The expansion of grant program, administered by the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (SBSD), now includes small hotels, bed and breakfast facilities and Virginia film companies as well as companies that provide goods or services to eligible businesses. 

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Dangerous Police Reform Bills Keep Moving In Virginia House

The House Committee on Public Safety conformed multiple bills from the Senate relating to police reform on Monday as the 2020 special session enters its fifth week.

Legislation is conformed when there are two similar bills that have both come out of the House and Senate, and are being considered by committees of the other legislative body.

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Virginia 2021 Gubernatorial Election: Amanda Chase Hopes to Bring Strong Leadership and Restore Virginia

State Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) believes she is the right person for the Virginia governorship who will bring the necessary changes for the people of the Commonwealth. 

The Virginia 2021 gubernatorial election will not take place until November, 2021, but that does not stop Chase from working in the intermediary to achieve her goal. 

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