Virginia House of Delegates Passes ‘Divisive Concepts’ Ban

The House of Delegates passed HB 787, Delegate Dave LaRock’s (R-Loudoun) bill focused on controversial teaching in schools.  On Tuesday, the bill passed 50-49, with Delegate Carrie Coyner (R-Chesterfield) joining Democrats in opposition and Delegate Kim Taylor (R-Dinwiddie) not voting.

Before hearing the Democratic amendments, House Education Chair Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach) explained a Republican amendment, “which makes it very clear that you can teach literature, history, whatever you’d like that takes into account the past or present beliefs that are set in subsection A above, Mr. Speaker.”

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Virginia House of Delegates Passes Seven Elections Reform Bills

The House of Delegates passed seven election reforms bills on Thursday, including a bill to require photo identification to vote, a bill shortening early voting from 45 days to 14 days, and a bill requiring voters to submit absentee ballot requests for each election.

Delegate Phillip Scott (R-Spotsylvania) introduced HB 39 to shorten early voting. He said on the House floor on Wednesday, “There’s been a lot of information out there about those who participate in early voting, there’s a lot of information about the strain that puts on the localities having to staff these locations, find places to host the early voting.”

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Democratic Senators Petersen and Lewis Join Republicans to Pass School Mask Opt-Out Bill

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.”

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Republicans Flip Seven Seats and the Virginia House Majority

Virginia Republicans retook the House of Delegates by protecting their incumbents and flipping seven seats, giving them a 52-48 majority, according to unofficial election results. Those flips included some predictable results. Otto Wachsmann defeated Delegate Roslyn Tyler (D-Sussex). Republicans won in four out of five competitive Virginia Beach races. Mike Cherry protected Republican control of outgoing Delegate Kirk Cox’s (R-Colonial Heights) district.

Republicans also pulled off some surprises. A.C. Cordoza has apparently defeated Delegate Martha Mugler (D-Hampton) 49.68 percent to 48.70 percent — a nail biting result since mail-in ballots can still come in.

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Republicans Competitive to Retake Virginia House of Delegates Majority

Republicans have a good chance to retake the majority in Virginia’s House of Delegates, powered by historically-Republican voters in swing districts who were alienated by former President Donald Trump. To win the majority, Republicans need to protect what they have and take six seats. They see opportunities in Northern Virginia, metro Richmond, Virginia Beach, and downstate Virginia.

“We feel that with the environment that’s going on right now, we’ve got great opportunities to pick up five to nine seats to take over,” Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Wise) told The Virginia Star. “That’s one thing you don’t have any control of, but the environment, you know, of Biden and just the overreach by a lot of the Democrats’ bills last year has really focused the independents back our way.”

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Governor Northam Approves Cultural Competency Requirement for Virginia Teacher’s Licenses

Governor Ralph Northam approved legislation on Thursday to require cultural competency training for educators to be licensed by the Virginia Board of Education. HB 1904, introduced by Delegate Clinton Jenkins (D-Suffolk), and companion SB 1196, introduced by Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton,) require that anyone seeking licensure or re-licensure must complete cultural competency training by the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year. Licenses with social science or history endorsements require additional training in African American history.

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Dunnavant’s In-Person Learning Bill Moves out of Committee

The House Education Committee voted Monday to approve changes to Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) bill to require schools to provide in-person learning. After passing the Senate with bipartisan support, the House of Delegates Education Committee proposed a substitute that Republicans said would have effectively left the status quo intact. However, Dunnavant worked with the committee to create a new substitute including specific definitions for the in-person requirement, creating a compromise bill that received bipartisan support in the committee. The bill would be effective for the 2021-2022 school year — efforts to give the bill emergency status were shot down.

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Bipartisan Effort to Create an In-Person Learning Bill Slowly Moving Through the Virginia General Assembly

Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) SB 1303 requiring schools to provide both in-person and virtual learning options is still moving through the House of Delegates, but slowly. Dunnavant’s bill earned bipartisan support in the Senate, thanks in part to support from Senators Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) and Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond.) But a House Education subcommittee initially introduced several amendments to the bill that would effectively leave the status quo intact, prompting opposition from House Republicans

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Virginia House Moves to Expand Ballot Drop Boxes, Allow Ballot ‘Curing’

The Virginia House of Delegates passed a voting reform bill on Tuesday. Key provisions of HB 1888 require ballot drop boxes in all localities, allow voters to “cure” or fix errors on their own absentee ballots, and require elections officials to begin processing absentee ballots before Election Day. Additionally, it requires localities to provide ballot marking tools and  screen reader assistance technology for visually impaired voters.

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