Northam Signs Virginia Marijuana Legalization Bills

Governor Ralph Northam signed marijuana legalization into law in a ceremony Wednesday afternoon, joined by legislators and marijuana advocates. The new law is a major piece of legislation from the 2021 General Assembly session. The law has many components involving regulation of cannabis production and retail that don’t take effect immediately, but a key portion allowing simple possession of up to one ounce of marijuana takes effect July 1.

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Effective in July, Virginia Legalizes Small Amounts of Marijuana

RICHMOND, Virginia Simple possession of up to one ounce of marijuana will be legal in Virginia, effective July 1. On Wednesday, the Virginia General Assembly approved Governor Ralph Northam’s proposal to expedite legalization from 2024 to later this year. But legislators warned that doesn’t mean there will be a marijuana free-for-all.

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Northam Acts on 552 General Assembly Bills from 2021 Sessions

Governor Ralph Northam announced the signing of 14 bills on Wednesday, March 31, which was a deadline for the Governor to take action on legislation passed in the 2021 General Assembly sessions. According to his announcement, took action on 552 bills with no vetoes, although he sent some back to the General Assembly with amendments.

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Northam Proposes Legalizing Marijuana in July

Marijuana legalization is back on track for July, after Governor Ralph Northam announced amendments to legalization legislation. In February, legislators surprised marijuana policy watchers by delaying the effective date of legalization until 2024, leading the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia to blast the bills as worse than nothing. Since then, legalization advocates have lobbied Northam to amend the legislation to go into effect in July, when most other recently-passed bills take effect.

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Virginia Abolishes Death Penalty

Virginia became the first state in the south to abolish the death penalty when Governor Ralph Northam announced Thursday that he signed twin death-penalty repeal bills introduced by Delegate Mike Mullin (D-Newport News) and Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax). Virginia joins 22 other states that have also repealed the death penalty.

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Governor Ralph Northam Signs Major New Clean Car Standards Bill

Governor Ralph Northam announced newly-signed legislation Friday that will require approximately eight percent of model year 2025 vehicles sold in Virginia to be zero-emissions vehicles. HB 1965, introduced by Delegate Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico), adds Virginia to the list of states following California’s vehicle emissions standards, which are stricter than the federal standards Virginia currently follows.

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One-Fourth of Bills Passed in 2021 Virginia General Assembly Sessions Passed Along Party Lines

In 2020 and 2021, the Democrat-led General Assembly passed nearly 20 percent more bills through strict party-line votes than in the three previous years when Republicans controlled both chambers. According to a data visualization from the Virginia Public Access Project, in 2020, 24 percent of bills passed were passed along party lines with Democrats voting for and Republicans voting against. In 2021, that number grew to 25 percent. In the Republican controlled sessions of 2017, 2018, and 2019, the percentage of bills passed along party lines was respectively 7.7 percent, 4.7 percent, and 5.7 percent.

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Virginia General Assembly Approves Moving Local Elections from May to November

The General Assembly has passed legislation to move local elections for city, town council, and school board from May to November, starting in 2022. Proponents say the bill will boost voter turnout, especially among working-class voters, while many city officials say the bill is state interference that will lead to greater partisanship in local elections.

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Delegates Receive $8,651 Average in Per Diems from 2021 Sessions

Members of the Virginia House of Delegates earn $17,640 per year and a per diem of $211 while in session, including days off during the session. The per diem is meant to help legislators pay for housing costs ($145/day) and food ($66/day) while in Richmond, but legislators have continued accepting the per diem even during the virtual house sessions of 2021 and 2020. For the 2021 sessions alone, that added up to an average total per diem per delegate of $8,651 — over $800,000 for all 100 delegates, according to reporting by The Virginian-Pilot.

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Six Gun Bills Move Through Virginia House Committee

The House Committee on Public Safety (CPS) approved several firearms bills on Friday morning.  The bills include HB 1909, which allows school boards to declare non-school zone property owned by the board as a gun free zone; HB 1992, which prohibits people convicted of assault from owning or possessing a firearm; HB 2128, which increases the firearm sale background check delay from three days to five days, HB2276 which bans plastic firearms and 80 percent receivers; and HB 2295, which bans carrying firearms or stun weapons on Capitol grounds in Richmond. HB2081, which bans carrying firearms at a polling place, passed out of the Privileges and Elections Committee on Wednesday.

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Virginia Delegate Jones Files Bill to Automatically Reinstate Felon Voting Rights

Attorney General candidate Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) has pre-filed a bill that would automatically reinstate felons’ voting rights after completion of their sentence. Governor Ralph Northam is also pushing for passage of the bill, HJ546.

“If you break the law in Virginia, you’ll be punished. But right now, part of the punishment follows you for the rest of your life—even after you’ve paid your debt to society. ” Northam said in his State of The Commonwealth address. “You lose your civil rights—like the right to vote—and you don’t get them back unless the governor acts to give them back.

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Virginia House of Delegates Blocks 45-Day Regular Session

The Virginia House of Delegates voted against extending the regular session from 30 to 45 days on the first day of the regular session. The move by House Republicans to block extending the session means that the Democrat-controlled General Assembly will have a short amount of time to handle standard government business and check off items from their progressive wish list.

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Virginia Legislators Get Early Access to COVID-19 Vaccines

Governor Ralph Northam has moved Virginia legislators into vaccination Phase 1b, meaning they will be among the first eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. That includes members of the House of Delegates, who are holding meetings virtually.

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Republicans Pre-File Three Pro-Gun Bills in Virginia House of Delegates

In 2020, Virginia Democrats used their new majorities to pass sweeping gun control resolutions through the General Assembly, and Democrats will retain control during the upcoming regular session. But that isn’t stopping Republicans in the House of Delegates from trying to pass some pro-gun legislation. So far, legislators have pre-filed three pro-gun bills for the 2021 session that, if passed, will expand concealed carry handgun (CCH) rights and remove sovereign immunity in areas with government gun bans.

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Virginia Delegate McNamara Pre-Files Legislation Exempting Forgiven PPP Loans from State Taxes

Delegate Joe McNamara (R-Roanoke) has pre-filed HB 1787, legislation for the 2021 General Assembly session that will exempt business owners from state taxes on forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. PPP loans are part of broad COVID-19 relief funding meant to help small businesses keep paying their employees.

When the PPP was passed by Congress in March 2020, the forgivable loans were exempt from federal taxes, but Virginia’s tax structure means the forgiven PPP loans are not automatically exempt from state taxes. McNamara said that could lead to confusion for business owners.

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Virginia Progressive Prosecutors for Justice Call for More Criminal Justice Reform

A group of Commonwealth’s Attorneys has released a letter to the General Assembly calling for more criminal justice reform. In the letter, the Virginia Progressive Prosecutors for Justice (VPPFJ) call for automated expungement of criminal records, ending mandatory minimum sentences, ending cash bail, abolishing the death penalty, and ending the “three-strikes” felony enhancement for petty larceny.

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The Virginia Star Person of the Year 2020: Scott Surovell

Most Virginians have not heard of State Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax). They should. He runs Virginia’s government.  

For the first time in 26 years, Virginia’s government was in total Democrat control in 2020, including the executive offices, the judicial branch, and the General Assembly. 

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Senator Mark Obenshain Still Wants More Transparency from Virginia Parole Board

When the Virginia Senate convenes next month in Richmond for its 2021 regular session, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) will continue to push legislation that brings greater transparency and accountability to the state parole board.

With 14 days left until the session starts on January 13, Obenshain has already pre-filed two bills this month relating to the parole board.

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Virginia Senate Democrats’ Top Agendas for Upcoming Legislative Session

The Virginia General Assembly 2021 regular session is right around the corner on January 13 and the Democrats will again be calling all the shots for the legislature thanks to their majority in both the Senate and the House of Delegates.

This means that the agendas and priorities of Democrats in the Senate – as well as their counterparts in the House – have quite a good chance of passing through each chamber if broadly supported. Yet, what exactly are Senate Democrats focusing on?

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Upcoming General Assembly Session Will Have Legislation Limits

When the General Assembly starts its 2021 regular session in January, the volume of legislation will be much different from years past because of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta), both the Senate and the House of Delegates will impose limits on the amount of legislation members can introduce for the session.

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