Florida Legislation Might Not Completely Ban Vaccine Mandates

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has called for a special session in order to ban vaccine mandates and mask mandates, but the legislation being proposed are not going as far as DeSantis initially called for.

One of the bills would require employers to provide alternatives to vaccination, and another bill would allow parents to sue school boards or districts over mask mandates. DeSantis has touted the slate of bills in next week’s special session as some of the “strongest protections for both private and public sector employees anywhere in the country.”

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Virginia Senate Republicans Angry After Democrats Interview Court of Appeals Candidates in Private

RICHMOND, Virginia – Republican legislators say that Democrats are leaving them out of the process of vetting candidates to fill eight Virginia Court of Appeals seats. Next week, legislators are expected to appoint judges to the newly-expanded court. But Democrats privately interviewed the candidates on Wednesday and only intend to advance eight candidates to be approved by the General Assembly, as first reported by The Virginia Mercury and The Richmond Times-Dispatch. On Thursday, Republican and Democratic senators went back-and-forth on the Senate floor about the process.

“I am confident that there were no Republicans who were invited to participate in those interviews and I just want to point out that it seems to be a little bit of a theme that has developed during the course of this session,” Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) said. “There is way too much business that’s being conducted behind closed doors, out of the view of the public.”

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Virginia Law Enforcement, Mental Health Advocates Call for American Recovery Plan Act Funding, Legislative Solutions to Mental Health Capacity Crisis

Five of Virginia’s eight state-run mental health hospitals remain closed to civil temporary detention order (TDO) admissions due to dangerously low staffing levels. That’s increasing pressure on other pieces of Virginia’s mental health care system. On Tuesday, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police (VACP) led a press conference where speakers called for the General Assembly to use American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds and long-term budget increases to help address the crisis.

“The mental health system in Virginia is clearly broken. We’ve seen the slow degradation of available resources in the state over time, and what we have also seen is the need for mental health resources has continued to grow,” VACP President Herndon Police Chief Maggie DeBoard said.

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Gov. Northam Proposes $250 Million ARPA Allocation to Fund HVAC Upgrades for Virginia Schools

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam

Governor Ralph Northam is proposing that Virginia legislators use $250 million of Virginia’s American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds for HVAC upgrades in the Commonwealth’s schools. He announced the proposal on Monday, a week before the Virginia General Assembly is scheduled to meet to allocate the ARPA funds.

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Virginia Gov. Northam Proposes $353 Million for Small Business Recovery, Tourism from ARPA Funds

Governor Ralph Northam issued his first proposal for spending American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds Monday. Northam’s $353 million proposal includes $250 million for the Rebuild VA small business fund. It also includes $50 million for state agency the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC), and $53 million for the Industrial Revitalization Fund and the Virginia Main Street program.

“Virginia is roaring back stronger than we could have imagined one year ago, but small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and they need additional support to get back on their feet,” Northam said in a Monday announcement.

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Virginia General Assembly Special Session Set for August

The Virginia General Assembly’s second 2021 special session is scheduled for August 2. One of the top priorities for the legislators will be allocating American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Although Virginia has already received the money, it can’t be spent until the legislators allocate it.

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Virginia Legislators Lay Out Priorities for ‘American Rescue Plan’ Funds

The American Rescue Plan will provide $7.2 billion for Virginia: $2.9 billion allocated for municipalities, and $4.3 billion for the state government, according to a Tuesday announcement from Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. On Wednesday, Governor Ralph Northam and Democratic General Assembly leaders released their priorities for the $4.3 billion, including upgrading public health infrastructure, funding the Rebuild Virginia small business recovery plan, adding funds to the Unemployment Trust Fund, modernizing public schools, and deploying broadband across Virginia.

“This is a unique opportunity to invest in Virginia’s long-term future. We intend to be good stewards of these taxpayer dollars, in full compliance with fiduciary guidelines. We reject calls to refuse these federal dollars, and we support the law’s prohibition on cutting state taxes to substitute federal dollars. We embrace this rare opportunity, and we choose to invest,” Northam and the legislators wrote.

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