The House of Delegates passed SB 739, which will require schools to make masks optional. After Republicans were surprised by bipartisan votes in the Senate last week to amend the bill to include the mask clause and to pass the bill, Republicans hustled the bill through the necessary House committee hearing and through three required floor sessions, including a two-minute-long pro-forma session on Sunday. By 1 p.m. on Monday, Republicans had already delivered the bill to Governor Glenn Youngkin, who has committed to adding an emergency clause to make it take effect immediately.
After Youngkin adds the clause, both chambers can pass the bill and emergency clause with simple majority votes, setting up the bill to be law and in effect potentially by the end of the week, House Majority Leader Terry Kilgore (R-Scott) said on The John Fredericks Show Monday morning.
“Once we adopt his [Youngkin’s] amendments, he’s already signed it and sent it back, it’ll be the law, and we can put this behind us,” Kilgore told The Virginia Star’s publisher, John Fredericks.
RICHMOND, Virginia – The House Education Committee voted to advance school mask-optional language in a special meeting Friday; Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) SB 739 was the only bill on the agenda.
As introduced in the Senate, Dunnavant’s original bill focused on in-person learning, but earlier this week Senator Chap Peterson (D-Fairfax City) moved to amend the bill to include the masking clause; that vote got broad support from both sides of the aisle. A later vote to pass the amended bill only had two Democrats supporting it, but that was enough to pass out of the Democrat-controlled Senate. On Wednesday, Delegate Amanda Batten (R-York) said that the sudden change surprised Republicans.
The Virginia Senate passed a bill that will allow parents to opt their children out of wearing masks at school. Democratic Senators Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) and Lynwood Lewis Jr. (D-Accomack) joined with Republicans to pass SB 739 after the Senate debated the bill for over an hour on Wednesday.
Bill sponsor Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico), an OB/GYN, said during debate, “Two years into this pandemic, keeping unproven measures in place is no longer justifiable. We must evolve; science doesn’t stand still. We did masks and boxes and other things because we thought maybe they might help but they have not proven to do so. I will say further that you have before you a conflict between two constitutional priorities in Virginia. One is that school boards get to decide policy for their districts. But the other is that we are a parental rights state. You’re going to have to choose which authority, ceded by the Constitution, you’re going to stand by today.”
The General Assembly started out Tuesday with a 7 a.m. House of Delegates subcommittee meeting where Republicans passed some election reforms bills, and ended the day in a lengthy Senate committee meeting where Democrats killed seven of Senator Amanda Chase’s (R-Chesterfield) election reform bills. The House Privileges and Elections Subcommittee One heard three bills focused on absentee voting, voter photo identification and voter registration.
In a weekend that was part play, part work, attendees at the Republican Party of Virginia’s Advance spent weekend networking and attending events including a Friday reception with Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, breakout sessions, a congressional breakfast, a luncheon with Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares, and a 1920s-themed gala and ball featuring Lieutenant Governor-elect Winsome Sears. The event was held at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia, which provided activities like the Cascades Gorge hike or a hayride. Moods were high as Republicans celebrated Virginia’s sudden-seeming return to swing state status, with more wins expected in future years.
“I encountered a relatively empty shell of an organization in August of 2020. But we have worked together, we have grown, we have expanded, we’ve answered the challenge,” RPV Chairman Rich Anderson said in remarks at the Saturday gala. “Virginia Republicans: we fought! We won! The Virginia GOP is red again.”
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.