Outgoing Attorney General Herring Says Governor-Elect Youngkin Can’t Pull Virginia from Key Environmental Initiative

Attorney General Mark Herring issued an opinion Wednesday saying that Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin cannot pull Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI,) a program where utilities have to bid for carbon dioxide emissions allowances. Youngkin has said he would use executive action to leave the RGGI. Herring’s opinion says that since Virginia entering the initiative was the result of laws passed by the General Assembly, Youngkin can’t use executive action alone to pull Virginia from the program.

“Climate change remains an urgent and ever-growing threat to Virginians, their safety, their health, and their communities. Virginia’s participation in RGGI is crucial to reducing our carbon pollution, while simultaneously investing hundreds of millions of dollars in mitigation and resilience efforts,” Herring said in a press release

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Youngkin Finishes Cabinet Nominations with Sec. Public Safety and Homeland Security, and Sec. Health and Human Resources

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin completed his cabinet nominee picks on Monday with the announcement of Fauquier County Sheriff Robert Mosier to be Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, and recent Magellan of Virginia President John Littel to be Secretary of Health and Human Resources.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating impacts on Virginians across the Commonwealth, and John will play a pivotal role in overseeing our efforts in protecting Virginians’ lives and livelihoods. Starting on Day One, John’s experience will be an asset as we fix our broken mental and behavioral health system, ensure Virginians have access to affordable, free-market healthcare options, and reform our healthcare safety net to save taxpayer dollars and improve healthcare outcomes,” Youngkin said in the announcement.

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Virginia’s Incoming Governor and Attorney General Say They Will Fight Biden Vaccine Mandates

A week before the inauguration, Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin and Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares are signaling that challenging President Biden’s vaccine mandates will be an early priority.

“After the January 15th inauguration, the Commonwealth of Virginia will quickly move to protect Virginians’ freedoms and challenge President Biden’s unlawful CMS, OSHA, and Head Start vaccine mandates,” a Youngkin press release states.

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Virginia Senate Bill 1303 Complicates Roanoke County School Board Effort to Make Masks Optional After Youngkin Takes Office

The Roanoke County School Board voted Tuesday to make masks optional once Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin takes office. On Thursday, they reversed that decision, citing potential legal complications.

“Upon Governor-elect Youngkin’s administration’s canceling of the current VDH public health order, Roanoke County Public Schools will immediately become mask optional and return to pre-COVID medical policies, leaving medical decisions such as testing, quarantining, contact tracing between the doctor and their student patient or the student’s parents and guardians,” Board Member Cheryl Facciani said in her motion.

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Youngkin Picks Trump Department of Labor Official for Secretary of Virginia Department of Labor

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin tapped former Trump Department of Labor (DOL) Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management George “Bryan” Slater to serve as Virginia secretary of labor.

“Workforce development will play a crucial part of jumpstarting our economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Bryan’s experience and leadership will be critical to the development of talent, training of workers, and protection of Virginia’s right-to-work laws that will attract investment to Virginia,” Youngkin said in the Thursday announcement.

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Youngkin Picks Trump EPA Chief for Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources

Former Trump EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler will be Secretary of Natural Resources, and former Federal Reserve System Chief Information Officer Margaret “Lyn” McDemid will be Secretary of Administration, Youngkin’s campaign announced Wednesday. Youngkin also announced that Michael Rolband will be Director of Environmental Quality.

“Virginia needs a diverse energy portfolio in place to fuel our economic growth, continued preservation of our natural resources, and a comprehensive plan to tackle rising sea levels. Andrew and Michael share my vision in finding new ways to innovate and use our natural resources to provide Virginia with a stable, dependable, and growing power supply that will meet Virginia’s power demands without passing the costs on to the consumer,” said Governor-elect Youngkin.

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Conservative Chesapeake School Board Reverses Decision to Make Masks Optional

The Chesapeake School Board voted five to one on New Year’s Eve to keep masks mandatory for students — a reversal from a December decision to make masks optional after Christmas break. An announcement from the district cited the COVID-19 surge.

“At this meeting, the School Board proposed and approved an amendment to their previous motion from the December 13, 2021 meeting regarding masks for students. Therefore, masks will continue to be required for all
students, staff, and visitors as per the Public Health Order when we return on January 3, 2022. Vaccines and testing for student athletes, however, will remain optional,” Superintendent Jared Cotton wrote.

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Youngkin Resumes Rollout of Cabinet Picks

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin is continuing his rollout of key administration announcements. On Monday, he announced that Youngkin campaign COO and Transition Director Jeff Goettman will be chief of staff. On Tuesday morning, he announced that Craig Crenshaw will be the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs of Virginia. On Tuesday evening, he announced that USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Matt Lohr will serve as Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry.

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Democratic State Senator Morrissey Key to Virginia Republican Legislative Policy Wins, Including Fetal Pain Abortion Ban

Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) is set to be one of the most important legislators in the 2022 General Assembly session. The Virginia Senate has 21 Democrats and 19 Republicans, meaning that with just one Democratic senator swinging on a vote, Lieutenant Governor-elect Winsome Sears, a Republican, will cast a tie-breaking vote. Morrissey is a pro-life Democrat, and although he may be a standard Democrat on many issues, he occasionally finds common ground with Republicans.

“I don’t believe that being pro-life is something that is just in the orbit of Republicans,” Morrissey told The Virginia Star. “And let’s be clear: I’m not being disrespectful towards those that are pro-choice. It is my choice to be pro-life. It’s how I feel, and I’ve never wavered from that since the moment I came into the General Assembly.”

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Virginia in New Wave of COVID-19 with Record-Setting Case Numbers, but Hospitalizations Down from Peak of January 2021 Wave

Sick person talking to CDC employee

Virginia is experiencing another wave of COVID-19 cases. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reported 13,500 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, up from 12,112 reported on Wednesday, breaking the previous daily record from January 17, 2021 of 9,914 new cases. However, hospitalizations are down from the highs of January 2021. On Thursday, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) reported 2,101 confirmed and test-pending COVID patients, less than a January 13 high of 3,201 hospitalizations.

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Virginia Gov-Elect Youngkin Taps His Nonprofit’s CEO Caren Merrick to Serve as State Sec of Commerce and Trade

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has tapped Caren Merrick to be his Secretary of Commerce and Trade. Merrick currently helms Youngkin’s non-profit VA Ready, which Youngkin started in June 2020, a month before announcing his departure from the Carlyle Group.

“Virginia’s jobs machine has stalled out, and Caren is going to play a pivotal role on the team that will jumpstart our economy and reinvigorate job growth here in the Commonwealth,” Youngkin said in a Tuesday press release. “Caren is an innovator, a business builder, and a true leader in workforce development—the kind of experience needed to develop talent, train workers, attract investment, and make Virginia the best state to start a business as we set out to add 400,000 jobs and launch 10,000 startups.

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Pfizer to Distribute Remaining Stock of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Before Switching to Comirnaty, Pharmaceutical Giant Says

Pfizer is still providing Virginia distributors the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine allowed by the FDA under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), not the Comirnaty-labeled identical-formulation vaccine that was fully approved by the FDA in August. Pfizer says it will use up its existing stock of vaccine made under the earlier label before distributing the new version.

“The FDA-approved COMIRNATY and the EUA-authorized Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine have the same formulation and, according to the FDA labeling, can be used interchangeably to provide the COVID-19 vaccination series,” a Pfizer statement provided to The Virginia Star said. “The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 EUA labeled product will still be shipped and usable until its expiry date, as long as authorized frozen storage conditions have been maintained.”

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Virginia General Assembly Systems Restored, Undergoing Testing Following Ransomware Attack

Virginia’s General Assembly staff is starting to restore systems after a ransomware attack hit internal servers, bill drafting systems, and the General Assembly voicemail servers.

“We got an email about an hour or so I guess, saying that they had gotten it back up last night, and they’re now in the process of testing to make sure that everything is functioning, and they hope to finish that sometime tonight,” Senator Frank Ruff (R-Clarksville) said on Friday afternoon.

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Youngkin, Senator Dunnavant, and Delegate Willett Stop in Henrico for Small Business Round Table

HENRICO, Virginia – Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin met with the Asian Chamber of Commerce for a round table with Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) and Delegate Rodney Willett (D-Henrico). Youngkin told those in attendance that he planned to bring 400,000 new jobs and 10,000 new startups to Virginia.

“So, in order to do that, we in fact recognize that we have to put a lot of the ingredients together, just like we’re cooking a meal,” Youngkin said. “And one of those ingredients is, in fact, the recognition that there are some inhibitions in starting small businesses. So one of the things I want to hear from you are the challenges that you all feel and hear when you start your businesses.”

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In Budget Speech, Virginia Gov. Northam Acknowledges Priorities of Incoming Republican Administration, Warns of Need to Cut Taxes in the Right Way

Governor Ralph Northam presented his 2022-2024 budget proposal to the money committees of the Virginia General Assembly and the incoming administration on Thursday. Several elements of Northam’s proposal, including tax cuts, were inspired by Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin’s policy. Northam said he’s leaving Virginia in good financial conditions.

“And today I present to you my last budget. I’m biased, but I also think it’s our best one yet,” Northam said according to his prepared remarks. “That’s because Virginia’s economy is doing very well. State revenues are at record investments, while also putting money back into the pockets of the hardest working Virginians. We need to be clear about how this has happened. It is because over these four years, we have consistently taken a prudent, cautious approach to budgeting.”

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Virginia Gov. Northam Proposes Partial Grocery Tax Cut, Other Youngkin-Inspired Tax Policies

Continuing his “Thank You, Virginia” tour, Governor Ralph Northam announced that his upcoming budget proposal will include tax cuts and refunds, including some similar to those Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has called on Northam to include in his budget.

“When Virginia cuts taxes next year, it should be done in a way that benefits working people,” Northam said in a Tuesday press release. “Many professionals made it through the pandemic fine, as their work simply moved online. But workers haven’t been so lucky when their jobs require close contact with other people. Some jobs simply can’t move online—restaurant workers, early childhood educators, home care attendants, and others—and we all depend on the people who do this work. Virginia can help working people by eliminating the state grocery tax, providing one-time rebates, and giving a tax break to people who are working.”

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Virginia General Assembly Hit by Ransomware Attack

The Virginia General Assembly has been hit by a ransomware attack affecting key legislative systems as legislators and staffers prepare for the 2022 session that begins on January 12. Multiple state agency websites were offline Monday afternoon.

The Legislative Information System (LIS), which hosts legislation and the Code of Virginia, warned in an error message, “We’re experiencing a service outage with some of our servers. The Budget Portal, Law Portal, Reports to the General Assembly, and some other data may not be accessible. Our team is currently working to restore the service. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

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Northam Announces New Grants That Will Push Virginia to 90 Percent of Universal Broadband Access

Governor Ralph Northam, Senators Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-Virginia-07) stopped in central Virginia Monday to announce the allocation of $722 million in grants to localities for Virginia’s universal broadband push. Northam’s announcement states that money, alongside over $1 billion in matching funds from partners, will push Virginia to 90 percent of its goal of universal broadband.

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Landmark Democratic Initiative Virginia Clean Economy Act Under Fire From Republicans

The Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) is one of the signature pieces of legislation Democrats passed during their control of Virginia’s General Assembly and the governor’s mansion. It set deadlines for utilities to be 100-percent carbon, set energy efficiency standards for utilities, declared that solar and wind are “in the public interest,” created a Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund, and brought Virginia into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI,) a program where utilities have to bid for carbon dioxide emissions allowances.

The day after the act passed out of the House in February 2020, House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) called Democrats’ actions including the VCEA historic, but warned that those bills would have far-reaching impacts, including higher energy prices for citizens and businesses.

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Northam Announces Release of Plan Highlighting Virginia Coastal Flooding Risks, Youngkin Says He’ll Formulate Plan to Improve Coastal Resiliency

Governor Ralph Northam announced the Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Plan on Tuesday, which outlines increasing threats to coastal structures and landscapes while also highlighting potential mitigation projects. Northam is set to leave office at the beginning of 2022, but Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has also expressed support for coastal resilience work.

“We must acknowledge that climate change is permanently altering the physical limits of our coastal lands,” Northam said in a press release. “The only way we can adapt and maintain our thriving communities is with thoughtful planning, reliance on science, and a willingness to make tough decisions. This Master Plan will guide decisions by the Commonwealth and our local government partners.”

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Virginia Gov. Northam Continues Legacy Tour, Highlights Proposed Spending on Gun Violence Prevention, HBCUs, Parks, Law Enforcement

Governor Ralph Northam is set to announce his final budget proposal next week, and he has spent this week on his “Thank You, Virginia” tour highlighting key pieces of the proposal — cementing his legacy before he leaves office early next year. On Friday, he announced $27 million to establish a Center for Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention.

“We lose a thousand Virginians to gun violence each year, and we must do everything we can to bring that number to zero,” Northam said in a press release that also highlighted gun control legislation he signed during his term. “The new research Center will collect important data that can lead to meaningful change. Gun violence is a public safety and a public health issue, and we have so much work to do to end this epidemic of violence. This data will save lives.”

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Gov. Northam Orders Removal of Lee Monument Pedestal

Crews have begun work to remove the pedestal that used to hold the Lee statue in Richmond. On Sunday, Governor Ralph Northam announced that the pedestal would be removed to storage in a process lasting through December, and that after the pedestal was removed, the land underneath would be given to the City of Richmond. On Monday evening, the pedestal was surrounded by scaffolding.

“This land is in the middle of Richmond, and Richmonders will determine the future of this space,” Northam said in the press release. “The Commonwealth will remove the pedestal and we anticipate a safe removal and a successful conclusion to this project.”

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Lt. Governor-Elect Winsome Sears Tells Virginia GOP Advance: Democrats Get Four Years of Me, ‘It’s Going to Be Fun’

In his speech at the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) Advance, Glenn Youngkin got applause and cheers, but Lieutenant Governor-elect Winsome Sears also earned laughter with her Saturday keynote address that was part victory speech, part stand-up comedy routine aimed at Virginia’s Democrats and identity politics.

The crowd of RPV insiders at the gala erupted when she took aim at outgoing Governor Ralph Northam.

“So actually, I don’t know. They say that I’m a white supremacist. I’m going to try to figure out if I’m the one in the blackface or I’m the one in the sheet,” Sears said.

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Republicans Head to Mountain Resort to Celebrate Virginia Victories, Plan Governance: ‘No Battle Will Go Unfought by Virginia Republicans’

Elected officials, activists, and operatives from the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) are meeting in the mountains of Bath County to celebrate their major wins in the 2021 elections and to plan the rejuvenated party’s future.

“Every state party across the country has its signature event,” former RPV Chair John Whitbeck said. “Virginia GOP’s signature event has always been this weekend.”

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State Sen. Suetterlein Re-Introduces Virginia Parole Board Vote Transparency Bill

Senator David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke) has introduced a bill to make individual Virginia Parole Board members’ votes public records and open to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

“The parole board has significant authority over individual Virginians’ liberty and the Commonwealth’s public safety,” Suetterlein said. “And the public gets to know, when someone is charged with a crime, who the police officer is that arrested the person. Who the prosecutor who pursued the criminal charges was. Who the judge that oversaw the case was. Who the appellate court judges that upheld the cases were. And then the parole board has the power to reduce that sentence effectively and their action is done in private. Their votes are not recorded, which is most unusual. I was not able to find any other board in Virginia where their actions and their individual votes are not recorded.”

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Conservative Organizations Launching Efforts to Influence Virginia Republican Policy in 2022 General Assembly

The Virginia Family Foundation announced its Vision for Virginia slate of policy priorities on Monday. That’s part of the organization’s push to influence legislators ahead of Virginia’s 2022 General Assembly session. The list highlights traditional conservative policies including traditional families, small government, and free markets.

“For the past several years Virginia’s government has walked away from time-honored principles, like religious freedom, individual liberty, and limited government, which can all be traced back to Virginia’s historic past,” President Victoria Cobb said in an email announcing the platform. “In Virginia, not only did we need new political leadership, we desperately needed a renewed vision for the people of Virginia to rally around.”

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Democratic Virginia 2021 Postmortem Finds Equating Youngkin with Trump Didn’t Work; Youngkin had More Positive Image than McAuliffe

A post-election report from ALG Research and Third Way found that Democrats’ losses in Virginia in November are due to both national and Virginia-specific challenges. Key findings from a swing-voter-focused study group included lackluster national brand for Democrats, the importance of education, and the failure of the Youngkin-equals-Trump messaging, combined with Youngkin’s positive persona and proactive issues.

“We’re not saying this was a mistake, or that Terry had a better message he left on the table. We don’t know. But we do know that if our most-effective message in 2022 is that Republicans equal Trump, we’re going to get creamed,” the report states.

“[Focus-group members] liked [Youngkin], related to him, and thought he was going to do something good for them,” the report states.

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Virginia Reps. Cline and Good Cosponsor Multiple Bills Protesting Vaccine Mandates

Congressmen Ben Cline (R-Virginia-06) and Bob Good (R-Virginia-05) are protesting Democrat-led COVID-19 vaccine mandates by cosponsored multiple bills. House Republicans lack the ability to pass bills without Democratic buy-in, but that hasn’t stopped them from introducing multiple bills targeting mandates in November. Cline touted his support for the bills in a Tuesday newsletter.

“Businesses across the country are desperate for workers, and our Nation is facing a critical supply chain shortage. As grocery store shelves sit empty, and communities struggle to recover, President Biden should be doing everything possible to encourage Americans to show up to work. Instead, it is the Administration’s plan to implement a vaccine mandate that would force millions of Americans out of work,” he wrote.

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New Virginia Gov. Youngkin Announces More Transition Officials

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.

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Governor-Elect Youngkin Dodges on Whether He Will Support the Virginia National Guard if It Resists DOD Vaccine Mandate

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has said he’s opposed to mandates, including COVID-19 vaccine mandates. However, many current vaccine mandates are federally-ordered, including a mandate for all members of the Armed Forces on active duty, or in ready reserve, including the National Guard.

Some Republican governors are testing their power to defy the order. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt appointed a new adjutant general of that state’s national guard after the previous adjutant general ignored Stitt’s request to fight the mandate. Last week, the new adjutant general said no Oklahoma Guardsmen who are not federally mobilized would have to take the vaccine.

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Virginia Governor-Elect Youngkin’s Top Campaign Promises in Education, COVID-19, Economics, Law Enforcement, and Elections Policy

Glenn Youngkin in crowd during a rally

Glenn Youngkin will be Virginia’s next governor, part of a near-complete Republican takeover of Virginia’s government. In 2022, Republicans will be governor, attorney general, and lieutenant governor. They will also likely hold a two-seat majority in the House of Delegates, although two close races may go to recounts. However, they will not hold the Senate, where Democrats have a 21-to-19 majority. Still, if one Democratic senator flips on a vote, that would create a tie that lieutenant governor-elect Winsome Sears would break. Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), who House Republicans nominated for Speaker, has said that Republicans do have a mandate, but he is also aware of the need to work across the aisle with the Senate.

All that gives political novice Youngkin strong Republican support to launch efforts to fulfill his campaign promises, but also sets him up for serious challenges to get his policies across the finish line. Still, Virginia governors have extensive power to set policy and funding priorities, and Youngkin will also have executive authority, which will allow him to fulfill some key promises without legislative buy-in.

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