Virginia Lawmaker Introduces ‘Pain-Capable’ Abortion Ban

Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) has introduced a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks in most circumstances, a threshold based on when the unborn are believed to feel pain.

“We’re actually making sure that it’s understood that this is about the capability to feel pain, it’s not about an arbitrary 20-week schedule,” Freitas told The Virginia Star.

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Youngkin Shifts Northam Diversity Office Focus from Equity to Opportunity

Governor Glenn Youngkin is changing the focus of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, created by former Governor Ralph Northam in the wake of his 2019 blackface scandal. Youngkin issued his tenth executive order Wednesday and announced his desire for the General Assembly to change the office name to Diversity, Opportunity, and Inclusion Office. He also named former Heritage Foundation official Angela Sailor to head the office, moves that Democrats saw as direct efforts to gut the office of its core purpose.

“The people of Virginia elected the most diverse leadership in the Commonwealth’s history. Virginia is big enough for the hopes and dreams of a diverse people. Angela Sailor’s experience in government, nonprofits and the private sector will guide us as we ensure that the government is working for all Virginians across our diverse Commonwealth, especially when it comes to economic opportunity for all Virginians,” Youngkin said in a press release.

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Chesapeake School Parents Sue Governor Youngkin Over School Mask Mandate Ban

Thirteen parents from the Chesapeake school district are suing Governor Glenn Youngkin over his Executive Order Two which requires districts to allow parents to opt their children out of school mask mandates, no reason required. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, says Youngkin’s order violates of separation of powers, since it violates SB 1303, which requires schools to comply with CDC mitigation strategies.

“Executive Order Number Two purports to sweep aside masking mandates and other protections with little or no consideration of or respect for CDC guidance, actions taken by the Virginia General Assembly, or the powers vested in school boards,” the lawsuit states, according to a copy obtained by ABC7.

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Gov. Youngkin Tells General Assembly, ‘The State of the Commonwealth Is Not What it Should Be,’ ‘We Have the Ability to Course-Correct’

Governor Glenn Youngkin used his first State of the Commonwealth address to describe a Virginia in need of reform, with underfunded schools whose leaders are out of touch with parents, rising crime rates, rising cost of living, and a stalled economy. The Monday message contrasted with former Governor Ralph Northam’s State of the Commonwealth delivered last Wednesday, where Northam highlighted economic success, education that reckons with Virginia’s past, and progress on equity.

“From the perspective of everyday Virginia families, times are tough and the State of the Commonwealth is not what it should be,” Youngkin said. “The good news is that we have the ability to course-correct before this poor performance becomes permanent.”

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State Sen. Reeves Introduced Youngkin Legislation to Cut Virginia Veterans’ Income Tax, Expand Child Care Subsidy Eligibility

Governor Glenn Youngkin is enacting some of his policies by executive order, but he’ll have to work with legislators to get other initiatives passed. Senator Bryce Reeves has introduced two bills focused on the governor’s goal to make Virginia more veteran friendly.

“The bills, carried by Senator Reeves on behalf of Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, signal that Governor-elect Youngkin’s administration values military and veteran families across the commonwealth and recognizes that Virginia must compete to retain its recognition as one of the most military and veteran-friendly states,” a Friday Reeves press release said.

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Governor Ralph Northam Pardons Sen. Morrissey for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor

Governor Ralph Northam announced Friday that he has issued more than 1,200 pardons during his term in office. That includes a January 13 pardon for Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond), who was sentenced in 2014 of contributing to the delinquency of a minor after a relationship with a 17-year-old employee who is now his wife.

“Both Myra and I are extremely pleased and are grateful for the governor’s pardon. And the people who will be most grateful and most appreciative will be my four young children in the ensuing years,” Morrissey told The Virginia Star.

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General Assembly Session Day Two: Filler-Corn Criticizes Speaker Gilbert for Tweet About Northam State of the Commonwealth

Eileen Filler-Corn

In a Wednesday tweet, Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert blasted Governor Ralph Northam’s final State of the Commonwealth address, leading House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn to respond in a floor statement on Thursday.

“Ralph Northam is leaving office as his own lost cause, condescendingly lecturing us all from some assumed moral high ground because he read the book ‘Roots’ and then went on a non-stop reconciliation tour. Saturday can’t come fast enough,” Gilbert wrote.

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In Final State of the Commonwealth, Northam Says His Administration Focused on Helping People

In his final State of the Commonwealth address, Governor Ralph Northam said that his administration had been focused on helping people. He highlighted economic success, investment in skills training, education that reckons with Virginia’s past, clean energy, criminal justice reform, election law changes, and infrastructure investment.

“We are leaving this Commonwealth better than it was when we came into office. We have built a state that does a better job of treating people right. It’s more welcoming, more open, more fair and equitable. We have built a state that helps people who need it—whether they need health care, or cleaner water, or to keep a roof over their head during a global pandemic,” Northam said.

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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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Youngkin Picks Conservative Policy Leader Kay Coles James for Secretary of the Commonwealth

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin announced that former Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James is his pick for Secretary of the Commonwealth. James has experience in the administrations of both Bushes as well as Reagan. She also served as Former Governor George Allen’s Secretary of Health.

“Secretary James will be a true asset to the administration. Our shared vision combined with her tremendous experience will pave the way for a new day in Virginia. Kay has an extensive public service background; she has always been a leader and innovator in Virginia government. Kay has worked tirelessly as my transition Co-Chair, advising on personnel, policy, and strategic planning,” Youngkin said in a Friday evening press release.

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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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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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State Senator Reeves Supporting Lawsuit over Decision to Melt Charlottesville Lee Statue

Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) is supporting a lawsuit against the City of Charlottesville over the decision to give the Lee statue to a museum that plans to melt it. The lawsuit argues that the city didn’t have a competitive or transparent process to consider offers to take the statue, and additionally argues that melting the statue violates the spirit of state law governing monument removals. According to the lawsuit, the statue has already been delivered to a foundry and broken up, although not yet melted down.

“The City can legally remove, relocate, contextualize or cover the Lee monument, but the General Assembly denied the City authority to alter or destroy it,” the Trevillian Station Battlefield Foundation and the Ratcliffe Foundation state in the lawsuit.

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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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Richmond City Health Department Contradicts Northam Claim That COVID Tests are ‘Widely Available’

The Richmond City Health Department on Thursday seemingly contradicted a claim made by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam that coronavirus tests are widely available throughout the state.

In a statement addressing the statewide rise in positive COVID-19 cases, Northam contended that individuals would be able to easily obtain a PCR test. 

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Lee Monument and Other Richmond Confederate Statues to be Given to Virginia Museum

The Lee Monument and the other Confederate statues from Richmond’s Monument Avenue will be given to the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, which will partner with The Valentine and other Richmond organizations to determine the future of the objects. The Thursday announcement is the latest move from Governor Ralph Northam, who has been working to conclude removal of the controversial Lee Monument and remove state control of the monument and the land.

“Symbols matter and for too long, Virginia’s most prominent symbols celebrated our country’s tragic division and the side that fought to keep alive the institution of slavery by any means possible,” Northam said in a Thursday press release shared by NBC12 reporter Henry Graff.

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Lee Monument Time Capsule Opened, but It Doesn’t Match Historical Descriptions

Conservators at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) opened a time capsule from the Lee Monument pedestal on Wednesday afternoon, but the capsule and its contents don’t match the description of a capsule reportedly placed in the monument in 1887, leading to speculation that there may be an additional capsule somewhere on site. Governor Ralph Northam and First Lady Pamela Northam were at the Department of Historic Resources at 12 p.m. for the opening of the box. Opening the box without damaging it took longer than expected, due to corrosion and masonry from the pedestal in the box seams.

“I’ve been asked a number of times if we’re going to use a torch,” Conservator Chelsea Blake said. “That’s not an option.”

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Delegate Jay Jones Announces Surprise Resignation, Triggering Last-Minute Scramble to Find Candidates for Special Election

After winning reelection, Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) announced Thursday that he is resigning to focus on his family at the end of 2021, setting off a last-minute scramble to find candidates and hold a special election in House District 89 on January 11. Jones cited personal changes that have happened since he first announced his candidacy in 2017, including getting married and now expecting a baby in summer 2022.

“As most parents can attest, bringing a child into this world is a massive time commitment and every second with your family and child is worth its weight in gold. I’m 32, a practicing attorney, and have given everything that I have in my soul to serving Norfolk and the Commonwealth since 2017. But my new job-to-be is as a father, and I’m ready to make that the highest priority in my life,” he wrote in a public letter.

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Virginia Governor’s Office Believes Object Found in Lee Monument Pedestal Is the Missing Time Capsule

Crews dismantling the Lee Monument pedestal in Richmond found what they believe to be an 1887 time capsule believed to contain Confederate memorabilia and a possible photograph of Abraham Lincoln, the Governor’s office announced Friday.

“Workers noticed something that looked ‘different’ this morning, so they chiseled down with a hammer and found the top of what appears to be the time capsule–located inside a large block, under one inch of cement. It was located approximately 20 feet in the air, in the tower, not in the pedestal’s base. It was located approximately 8 feet from the outside of the granite and about one foot from the edge of the core. It appears to be largely undamaged,” the announcement states.

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Sec. Finance Flores: Virginia’s Conservative Fiscal Approach That Powered 2021 Revenue Growth Should Continue in Future Years

Virginia had historic revenue growth in 2021 and finished $2.6 billion above forecasts, thanks to a conservative approach, Secretary of Finance Joe Flores told the General Assembly money committees on Thursday. Flores’ presentation said that conservative approach should continue, with forecasts suggesting that Virginia’s income and job growth will continue in coming years, but will lag behind the nation.

“It’s also important to remember, to look back, because a year ago, you guys had just finished a session where you had taken down revenues to the tune of $2.7 billion, basically five percent of our biennial General Fund revenues,” Flores said.

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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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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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Northam Announces $2.4 Billion Increase for Education in His Final Budget Proposal; New House Appropriations Chair Knight Previews Upcoming Budget Process

Governor Ralph Northam will include a $2.4 billion increase for education in his budget proposal to the General Assembly next week, with a 5 percent salary increase for teachers in each of the next two fiscal years.

“Paying teachers is the right thing to do, and a wise investment,” Northam said in a Monday press release. “Virginia has invested in teachers in a big way over these past four years, and now it’s time to do much more. Our country has asked teachers to carry a heavy load, especially during the pandemic. They have delivered, and they deserve to be rewarded.”

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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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Virginia State Sen. Suetterlein Targets Lengthy Executive Orders with Bill for 2022 General Assembly

  Governor Ralph Northam came under fire from Republicans, including Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares, for his lengthy COVID-19 mandates through emergency powers. Senator David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke) has prefiled a bill for the 2022 General Assembly session to limit emergency powers to a duration of 45 days. “The vast majority of…

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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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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 Rep. Wittman Backs Prince William County’s Request for Money to Build a Mental Health Crisis Center

Representative Rob Wittman (R-Virginia-01) is supporting Prince William County’s efforts to build a crisis stabilization center, asking Virginia’s House Finance Committee Chair Luke Torian (D-Prince William) to use federal COVID-19 relief to help fund the project.

“The impacts of mental health have major reverberations throughout our communities. From students experiencing anxiety and intense loneliness due to extended virtual learning, to extreme cases of depression as a result of a veteran’s PTSD, the need for effective and available mental health services to support those suffering from a mental health crisis or occurrence is a critical necessity,” Wittman wrote in an October 27 letter announced in a Friday press release.

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Preparing to Take Power, Newly Elected Virginia Gov. Youngkin Announces His Transition Team

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin announced his transition steering committee and advisors on Wednesday. The group includes Republican legislators, Republican Party of Virginia officials, and the three previous Republican governors of Virginia. Former Democratic Governor Doug Wilder is also on the list; he aimed several attacks at opponent former Governor Terry McAuliffe during the campaign without ever endorsing Youngkin. The list also includes Sentara Chief of Staff Aubrey Layne, who was a cabinet official to both Governor Ralph Northam and McAuliffe.

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Virginia Ranks Tenth in U.S. For Population COVID-19 Vaccination Percent

Virginia is now tenth among U.S. states for percentage of population fully-vaccinated against COVID-19, Governor Ralph Northam announced Wednesday.

“We’ve reached the top ten because so many Virginians have worked so hard for so long,” Northam said in a press release. “It’s something we can all be proud of. Vaccines will soon be available for children, and thousands of adults are getting boosters. This is all great news.”

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Virginia Gets the First U.S.-Based Offshore Wind Blade Manufacturing Facility

Offshore wind turbine blade manufacturing is coming to the U.S. and Virginia as part of a partnership between Dominion Energy and Spain-based manufacturer Siemens Gamesa. Dominion Energy has been expanding its offshore wind project with support from Virginia officials, and is already using Siemens Gamesa to manufacture blades in Europe.

“Virginians want renewable energy, our employers want it, and Virginia is delivering it,” Governor Ralph Northam said in a Monday press release. “The Commonwealth is joining these leading companies to create the most important clean-energy partnership in the United States. This is good news for energy customers, the union workers who will bring this project to life, and our business partners. Make no mistake: Virginia is building a new industry in renewable energy, with more new jobs to follow, and that’s good news for our country.”

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Virginia Amtrak Returns to Pre-Pandemic Service Levels in Virginia with New Route Extension into Downtown Richmond

The last of three Amtrak Virginia trains that were suspended due to the pandemic is open again, with a new extension to the Main Street Station in downtown Richmond. Governor Ralph Northam and rail officials announced the reopening and expansion of Northeast Regional Route 51 as part of Northam’s Transforming Rail in Virginia program. Northam held his press conference as the first train departed Main Street Station at 5:35 a.m. Monday.

“If you’ve ever been stuck on I-95, you know we can’t pave our way out of congestion,” Northam said.

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Redistricting: Draft Virginia Senate Map Highlights Different Definitions of ‘Fair’

Capitol of the Commonwealth of Virginia

A new working draft of a Virginia Senate redistricting map is highlighting the question of what creating a fair map means. The working map was hammered out on Saturday in a closed-door meeting between the Democratic and Republican co-chairs, Democratic and Republican legal teams, and Democratic and Republican map-drawers.

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Virginia March for Life Kicks off Early Voting

RICHMOND, Virginia — Pro-life advocates marched around the Virginia Capitol in Richmond on Friday, the same day as early voting in Virginia’s elections. Virginia legislators Delegate Emily Brewer (R-Suffolk), Delegate John McGuire (R-Henrico) and Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) spoke to the Virginia March for Life crowd from the steps of the Capitol building.

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Richmond’s Lee Monument Comes Down After Towering over Richmond for 131 Years

The Robert E. Lee statue that towered over Richmond for more than a century is on its way to storage. A crowd of a few hundred people peered through tree branches trying to watch from the public viewing site, and cheered as the monument was lifted off its pedestal. Crews cut along an original seam and removed Lee’s torso from the rest of the statue to allow transport by flatbed truck. The mood among the public was largely upbeat.

“It’s powerful for one day to dig in and celebrate, but you have to remember it’s just symbolic and it really doesn’t change anything about our lives. So we have to make real change,” Richmond resident Emily Gaidowski told The Virginia Star.

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Heretick Representing Another Lawsuit Battling Virginia Skill Games Ban

Delegate Steve Heretick (D-Portsmouth) is representing plaintiffs in another lawsuit seeking an end to a ban on skill games in Virginia. On September 1, Roanoke-area convenience store operator Falu Patel filed suit claiming that the recently-enact ban violates his constitutional rights; Patel is represented by Heretick and Virginia Beach attorney Mike Joynes.

“It is appalling to me that here in the year 2021, we are still seeing affirmative acts of discrimination through the legislative process. It is clear from the statements made by the legislators who pushed the skill games ban agenda that SB 971 had one purpose – to discriminate against Asian American and African American convenience store owners who had these legal gaming devices in their establishments,” Joynes and Heretick said in a press release.

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Richmond’s Robert E. Lee Monument to Come Down After Virginia Supreme Court Dismisses Lawsuits Blocking Removal

The Virginia Supreme Court dissolved injunctions blocking the removal of the Lee monument in Richmond, according to an opinion and an order published by the court on Thursday. In June 2020, Governor Ralph Northam ordered the removal of the monument, which sits on a small piece of land owned by Virginia in the middle of Richmond. Courts issued injunctions to prevent removal while considering two lawsuits challenging the legal authority to remove the monument.

In Taylor v. Northam, plaintiffs argued that documents from the late 1800s prevent the removal. But the court said that the restrictive covenants are unenforceable, and said that they unreasonably try to force government speech indefinitely.

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King William School Board Sends Letter to Governor, Health Officials Asking for End to Mask Mandate

The King William School Board voted four to one to send a letter to Governor Ralph Northam and other top Virginia officials criticizing a mask mandate in schools.

“We believe that Senate Bill 1303 passed by the Virginia General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Northam is unconstitutional. In its current form, this law oversteps the authority of both the General Assembly and the governor by encroaching on the authority granted to school boards by the Constitution of Virginia. This law is just one of many recent examples of government overreach that infringes upon our ability to fulfill our duties and make local decisions for our community,” the letter states.

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At Conference, Northam Says Virginia Is Ideal for Offshore Wind Industry

RICHMOND, Virginia — Governor Ralph Northam and Dominion Energy CEO Robert Blue announced that the Port of Virginia will lease 72 acres of the deep-water Portsmouth Marine Terminal for staging and pre-assembly of Dominion’s offshore wind project.

“This announcement is yet another milestone toward making Virginia the national leader in offshore wind power,” Northam said. “The Commonwealth and Dominion Energy are standing together to promote clean energy, reduce carbon emissions, create jobs, and build a new American industry on the East Coast of the United States.”

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Northam: Virginia Willing to Take in Thousands of Afghan Refugees

As the Taliban continues to take over the government of Afghanistan, Virginia is willing to take in thousands of Afghan refugees, Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Twitter.

“Last week I was honored to meet some of the thousands of Afghan citizens and families who have sought refuge at Fort Lee in Virginia,” Northam tweeted. “I’m coordinating with [Washington] DC and have made it clear: we’re ready and willing to take thousands more. Virginia will continue to serve as [a] safe harbor.”

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Virginia Awards $10.5 Million for Clean Energy School Buses

In an effort to reduce carbon emissions, Virginia awarded $10.5 million worth of grants to 19 local school districts to replace diesel-fueled school buses with clean energy alternatives.

The state funds will replace 83 diesel buses throughout the commonwealth with either propane or electric buses. The money is provided by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality through the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust. Money for the fund was provided to Virginia and other states after a settlement with Volkswagen after they were accused of violating the Clean Air Act by selling 500,000 vehicles that the federal government said caused more pollution than was permissible.

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In Joint Finance Committee Meeting Gov. Northam Highlights Virginia’s $2.6 Billion Surplus and Economic Recovery

Gov. Ralph Northam

Governor Ralph Northam touted Virginia’s 2021 $2.6 billion surplus and economic recovery in his annual revenue speech to a joint meeting of the Senate Finance and Appropriations, House Appropriations, and House Finance Committees.

“I am here today to update you on the Commonwealth’s revenues for the fiscal year that ended on June 30. And it’s good news. Really good news,” he said, according to prepared remarks of the Wednesday speech.

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Craig County School Board in Virginia Approves Religious, Medical Exemption Forms for Mask Mandates

The Craig County School Board decided Tuesday to provide medical mask mandate exemption forms that don’t require a physician’s signature and religious exemption forms, although the medical exemption form requires an explanation.

“I do not think the physician should have to sign off, no physician is going to sign off on any of these forms,” Vice Chair Gina Smith said. “I think as parents we are responsible for our kids and it should be enough just to have a diagnosis or a medical reason that your child doesn’t need to wear a mask.”

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Virginia Tourism Corporation Awards Grants to 64 Local Tourism Initiatives

Several people on Virginia Beach

The Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) has awarded $861,080 in state funds to 64 Virginia local tourism initiatives through its Recovery Marketing Leverage Program (RMLP). The funds combine with local match funds of $2.2 million, helping recipients leverage their marketing budgets.

“The tourism and hospitality industries have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic,” Governor Ralph Northam said in the Thursday press release.

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