General Assembly Back in Session, in Person, to Allocate ARPA Funds

RICHMOND, Virginia – The budget bill to allocate $4.3 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds passed out of the House of Delegates Committee on Appropriations on Monday, the first step to passing Governor Ralph Northam’s proposals for the money.

But the first day of the second 2022 special session saw legislative gridlock between the Senate and the House of Delegates. The House passed HJ 7003, which establishes the rules and schedule for how the session will operate. When the legislation was sent to the Senate, Senate Democratic leaders introduced three amendments which received broad bipartisan support.

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Biden Stumps for Virginia Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Terry McAuliffe

ARLINGTON, Virginia – President Joe Biden joined Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe at Lubber Run Community Center on Friday evening. Biden, McAuliffe, and leading Virginia Democrats hyped progress made under their administrations and repeatedly linked GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin to former President Donald Trump.

“Terry and I, we share a lot in common. I ran against Donald Trump, so is Terry,” Biden said to laughter and applause. “And I beat Donald Trump in Virginia and so will Terry.”

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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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Northam Snubs Herring, Endorses Jones for Attorney General

Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) picked up a big endorsement in the race for Attorney General this week. Governor Ralph Northam chose to endorse Jones instead of incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring, Northam’s former running mate.

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Virginia Senate and House Disagree over How to Restore Felon Voting Rights

The Senate and the House of Delegates face a disagreement over constitutional amendments to end felon disenfranchisement. SJ 272, introduced by Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) and HJ 555, introduced by House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) both effectively restore felon voting rights after the term of imprisonment is completed. However, the two bills feature different language, and on Wednesday, the Senate shot down an attempt by the House to change SJ 272 to match HJ 555. Now, the two chambers will attempt to draft a compromise bill in conference.

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Pro-Choice and Pro-Life Groups Support Two Bills Focused on Fetal, Infant and Maternal Health Data

Republican and Democratic legislators don’t often find common ground on pro-life issues in Virginia, but two pro-life bills passed the House of Delegates with unanimous support, and are likely to pass out of the Senate. HB 1950, introduced by lieutenant governor candidate Delegate Hala Ayala (D-Prince William) would develop a plan to create a Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Team in Virginia to collect better data about fetal and infant survival rates. HB 2111, introduced by House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), is similar, and establishes a task force to collect data to help create policies focused on improving maternal care. Both bills are now in committee in the Senate.

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From Same-Sex Marriage to Equal Education Opportunities, Seven Constitutional Amendments Are Moving Through Virginia Legislature

The Virginia General Assembly considered over a dozen constitutional amendments in its two chambers this session; seven of them have been passed in either the House or the Senate. Last week, Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment (R-James City) criticized the high number.

“I recognize that times change,” he said on the Senate floor. “I recognize that Virginia has changed and I recognize that there is a new cadre of legislators who have a different perspective on what the policies of the commonwealth should be.”

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Democrats Kill Right-to-Work Repeal in Virginia House

Delegate Lee Carter’s right-to-work repeal died in crossover Friday, much like in the previous two years, but on Wednesday, Carter fought to give it one last chance. On the floor of the virtual House session, Carter raised a motion to discharge the bill from committee, a procedural move that would allow delegates to vote on hearing the bill in the House even though it had not been passed out of committee.

Carter said, “I’ve introduced this bill for the last three years running, and its fate in both previous years has been to die in crossover without a recorded vote on its final disposition.”

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Governor Ralph Northam Extends 2021 General Assembly Session

Virginia Democrats will get more time to pass legislation after Governor Ralph Northam called a special legislative session to begin February 10. Northam’s announcement effectively adds 16 days to the current regular session, which is scheduled to end February 11. The proclamation comes after Republicans blocked a move to extend the 30-day regular session, hoping to limit their losses in a Democrat-controlled legislature.

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Virginia House Subcommittee Votes to Change Bill to Automatically Restore Felon Voting Rights After Release from Prison

Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) and House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) both pre-filed bills that would automatically restore felon voting rights after the felons complete their sentences including probation. After discussion in a subcommittee Monday, the two bills will be combined under HJ555, and subcommittee members unanimously voted to change the bills to automatically restore voting rights after the felon has been released from prison, before completion of probation or other elements of the sentence.

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Delegate Mullin Introduces HB 2263 to End Virginia’s Death Penalty

Delegate Mike Mullin (D-Newport News) has introduced HB 2263, which would abolish the death penalty in Virginia. The bill has attracted support from leading Democratic policy makers; co-patrons of the bill are House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), attorney general candidate Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk), gubernatorial candidate Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manassas), and 40-year House member Delegate Ken Plum (D-Fairfax). In his 2021 State of the Commonwealth address, Governor Ralph Northam also advocated ending the death penalty.

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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 Attorney General Mark Herring Launches Office of Civil Rights

Following a summer of civil unrest over social injustice throughout the Commonwealth, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) announced the launch of the Office of Civil Rights on Tuesday.

The Office of Civil Rights will operate within the larger Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and is supposed to help ongoing efforts to protect against discrimination and the civil rights of all Virginians, according to a press release.

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