Senate Minority Leader Saslaw Kills Washington Commanders Stadium Negotiations After Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio’s Comments About January 6

A bill to create an incentive to bring the Washington Commanders NFL team to Virginia is dead after months of accumulating concerns over tax breaks, traffic, the team’s brand quality, and its controversial leadership. On Thursday, bill sponsor Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) told The Washington Post that the final issue was Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s comments about the January 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol.

Del Rio had tweeted about 2020’s “summer of riots,” and in followup comments recorded by NBC Washington, he said, “Businesses are being burned down. No problem. And then we have a dust-up at the Capitol, nothing burned down, and we’re not gonna talk about — we’re going to make that a major deal. I just think it’s kind of two standards.”

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State Senator Petersen Explains His Opposition to Washington Commanders Stadium Deal

In an appearance on 106.7 The Fan, State Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) expanded comments on his opposition to a Washington Commanders stadium authority bill. In a Wednesday press release, Petersen said he was concerned by traffic problems at a proposed Woodbridge site, but focused on the team’s recent move away from its controversial former name “Washington Redskins.”

“It’s not that I don’t like the new name,” Petersen told BMitch and Finlay Thursday. “I mean, I don’t care. The problem is the team has no brand, it has no identity. And you’re asking the Commonwealth of Virginia to enter a long-term economic relationship with a team that effectively has no brand.”

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Sen. Petersen Opposes Washington Commanders Stadium Deal Amid Concerns over Dropping ‘Redskins’ Name

Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) is opposed to efforts to bring the Washington Commanders football team to Virginia, in part due to concerns over the team’s recent name change.

“I have two concerns. One is that the development is too far removed from an urban setting, unlike Nats Park at The Navy Yard, which will make it solely dependent on vehicle traffic for access. More importantly, I don’t have confidence in The Washington Commanders as a viable NFL franchise,” Petersen said in Wednesday press release.

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Sec. of Finance Cummings Says Virginia Recovery Lags Behind Other Southern States

Virginia’s April revenues were strong, largely thanks to a shift in the tax due date, Secretary of Finance Stephen Cummings told the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. He said Virginia is under-performing in recovery after the start of the pandemic compared to some southern states. Cummings downplayed concerns about a…

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Lt. Gov. Earle-Sears Kicks Off 2022 RPV Advance with Stories from Her First General Assembly Session

HERNDON, Virginia – Republican Party of Virginia faithful are gathered at a Hilton outside Washington, D.C., to build on the momentum of their 2021 wins and help their 2022 congressional candidates. Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears kicked off the Advance on Friday at a reception held by the Virginia Federation of Republican Women.

Earle-Sears regaled the crowd with stories from the recent General Assembly session. Governor Glenn Youngkin once confused Senator Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) with Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton,) leading Lucas to rib Youngkin about it on Twitter.

“And then a curious thing happened: I started mixing her up with Mamie,” Earle-Sears said to laughter. “I would call, ‘The Senator from Hampton, Senator Lucas.’ They got mad.”

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Former Virginia Delegates Carroll Foy, Ayala to Battle for Senate District 33

Former Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor Hala Ayala announced her campaign for the Democratic nomination for the new Senate District 33 in Prince William and Fairfax Counties. She will face former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, another Democratic heavy-hitter, who lost the nomination for governor to Terry McAuliffe in 2021.

“Right now, too many Virginia families are feeling squeezed,” Ayala said in a press release obtained by Blue Virginia.

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Virginia General Assembly Session Adjourns but Will Come Back for Special Session to Finalize Budget, Other Legislation

RICHMOND, Virginia – The General Assembly adjourned its 2022 regular session on Saturday, but Governor Glenn Youngkin is expected to call a special session to complete compromises on a number of bills, including the budget. The budget is the only essential piece of legislation on the list, with a gap between more tax relief in the House proposal and more spending in the Senate proposal.

“I’m pleased by the progress that’s been made in the last couple of days on the budget. And actually I want to thank our legislators on both sides of the aisle for the really good work that they’ve done in the session to date,” Youngkin said in a brief press conference on Saturday afternoon.

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As Budget Negotiations Continue, Gov. Youngkin and Virginia Legislators Make Last-Minute Pitch for Pet Proposals

As legislators work towards a budget compromise balancing increased spending with revenue losses from tax cuts, Governor Glenn Youngkin and legislators are continuing to argue for their positions.

“The idea that we have to choose between tax relief and our shared priorities is a false choice. It is critical that we do our part to reduce the tax burden on our citizens, particularly at a time when present receipts continue to be as robust as they are,” Youngkin wrote in a Wednesday Richmond Times-Dispatch column.

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Virginia Rep. Beyer Cosponsors Legislation to Block Washington Commanders from Federal Tax Exemption on Bonds Used to Finance a Stadium

Don Beyer

Representative Don Beyer (D-VA-08) is sponsoring legislation to eliminate the federal tax-exempt status of municipal bonds that are used to finance professional sports facilities. In an announcement, Beyer and cosponsors Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA-14) and Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03) explicitly identified the Washington Commanders, who are looking for a new stadium site in the greater Washington, D.C. area.

“Super-rich sports team owners like Dan Snyder do not need federal support to build their stadiums, and taxpayers should not be forced to fund them,” Beyer said in a February 22 press release. “Billionaire owners who need cash can borrow from the market like any other business. Arguments that stadiums boost job creation have been repeatedly discredited. In a time when there is a debate over whether the country can ‘afford’ investments in health care, child care, education, or fighting climate change, it is ridiculous to even contemplate such a radical misuse of publicly subsidized bonds.”

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Senate Republicans Force Democrats to Docket Several House Republican Bills

RICHMOND, Virginia – Senate Republicans won a minor showdown on Thursday by forcing several House bills to a full committee hearing although the Democrat-controlled Senate Education and Health Committee had removed the bills from its docket. Among the bills was Delegate Nick Freitas’ (R-Culpeper) bill requiring health providers to work to preserve the life of an infant born alive after an abortion attempt.

Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment (R-James City) protested with a series of questions aimed at Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax). After Norment’s questions to Saslaw, the Senate went into recess while the legislators worked out a deal. Norment, Education Committee Chair Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), and Saslaw were seen speaking to each other and gesticulating during the recess.

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Senate Majority Leader Saslaw Spars with Secretary of Finance Cummings over Administration Analysis That Virginia Is Lagging Economically

Secretary of Finance Stephen Cummings told the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee on Tuesday that while General Fund revenues are performing well, there is an overall lack of economic growth in Virginia. That’s similar to the message from a letter Governor Glenn Youngkin sent to the Senate Finance and House Appropriations chairs last Friday. Tuesday’s discussion between Democratic senators and Cummings illustrated the policy divide on finance between the administration and the Senate.

Cummings said that January 2022 was the sixth consecutive month of revenues exceeding the prior year by more than 15 percent. “So, pretty remarkable times,” Cummings said.

“Obviously, the extraordinary level of revenues for the government is great, but that does not indicate success in our economy,” Cummings said. “It’s the result of external factors, and in our opinion, taxes that are too high.”

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General Assembly Drafting Legislation to Potentially Build New Washington Commanders Stadium in Northern Virginia

The Virginia General Assembly is working on legislation that may bring the newly renamed Washington Commanders to Northern Virginia. The NFL team is currently based at the aging FedEx Field just outside Washington, D.C., in Maryland, and the team has approached Virginia legislators about potentially building a stadium in the commonwealth. Both the House of Delegates and the Senate have passed bills that would create a football stadium authority to finance construction of the stadium; now, the chambers are evaluating each other’s bills, which have significant differences in tax incentives offered to attract the team.

“I would love to have a professional sports team and a football team in Virginia,” Governor Glenn Youngkin told The Virginia Star on Thursday. “We’ve got a Senate group and a House group in discussions in order to bring a very thoughtful bill to me. I believe that my job is to represent Virginia taxpayers, and so we’ll do a good deal. I just want to make sure that what comes out of the House and Senate gives us the capability to do a good deal because I sure would like Virginia to be the best place to raise a family, live, work, and have a professional sports team.”

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Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Ends State Sen. Obenshain’s Efforts to Reverse Collective Bargaining Law in Virginia

The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee killed two bills from Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) aiming rollbacks at Virginia’s collective bargaining laws. SB 374 would have removed locality authority to enter into collective bargaining agreements with public employees, and would have removed locality authority to require contracts to be performed at prevailing wage.

“The effect of these legislative changes that I’m seeking to undo is that, really, we’ve thrown open the doors for large out-of-state union contractors to come in and take jobs and opportunities away from Virginia contractors, Virginia employees. It deprives us of the benefit of our right to work status,” Obenshain said to the committee chaired by Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax). “This is a pro-jobs, pro-Virginia, pro-individual liberty, pro-Virginian piece of legislation.”

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After Senate Committee Kills Sen. Chase’s Ivermectin Bill, Capitol Police Direct Upset Supporters to Leave

Virginia Capitol Police directed upset members of the public out of a Senate Education and Health Committee meeting after the committee killed Senator Amanda Chase’s bill aimed at protecting medical providers who prescribe ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.

“This bill is about a patient’s right to life. A patient has a right to life and should not be prohibited from potential life-saving medication by a hospital, a pharmacy, or other administrative agency. Patients should be able to make decisions about their care and treatment in conjunction with the knowledge and expertise of their treating physician,” Chase told the committee on Thursday morning.

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Virginia Sens. Saslaw, Howell Help Republicans Kill Sen. Morrissey’s Parole Expansion Bill

Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and Senator Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) helped Republicans kill Senator Joe Morrissey’s (D-Richmond) SB 109, which would have expanded parole eligibility from people who were juveniles when sentenced to people under 21. Parole has been a key target of Virginia Republicans and tough-on-crime policy is a priority for them as they try to roll back criminal justice reforms passed by Democrats in previous years. Saslaw’s Thursday vote came the day after a committee meeting where he appeared flexible on instituting some mandatory minimums, also a Republican goal.

“Senate Bill 109 expands juvenile parole. During the 2020 General Assembly session, you all recall Senator Marsden’s bill that was Senate Bill 103 that allowed individuals who were sentenced as juveniles, and who have served 20 or more years, to be eligible for parole. That’s now the law. Senate Bill 109 expands  the definition of juvenile and it changes it to youthful offender, which allows individuals who were 20 years of age or younger and who have served twenty years to become parole eligible,” Morrissey explained to the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 17.

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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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Partisan Battles Continue as Virginia Supreme Court Prepares for Redistricting

The Virginia Redistricting Commission ended with a whimper two weeks ago, when the commission adjourned without formally ending the process. On Monday, a final deadline to complete congressional maps passed without any updates from the commission. According to the constitutional amendment passed by voters, that sends the process to the Virginia Supreme Court. The Court will vote on special masters who will work together to create redistricting plans for both congressional and legislative maps. Each General Assembly caucus proposed three nominees, and the Court will pick one from each party.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) sent a letter to the Court saying that the Republican nominees have “disqualifying conflicts of interest.”

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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 Senate Republicans Angry After Democrats Interview Court of Appeals Candidates in Private

RICHMOND, Virginia – Republican legislators say that Democrats are leaving them out of the process of vetting candidates to fill eight Virginia Court of Appeals seats. Next week, legislators are expected to appoint judges to the newly-expanded court. But Democrats privately interviewed the candidates on Wednesday and only intend to advance eight candidates to be approved by the General Assembly, as first reported by The Virginia Mercury and The Richmond Times-Dispatch. On Thursday, Republican and Democratic senators went back-and-forth on the Senate floor about the process.

“I am confident that there were no Republicans who were invited to participate in those interviews and I just want to point out that it seems to be a little bit of a theme that has developed during the course of this session,” Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) said. “There is way too much business that’s being conducted behind closed doors, out of the view of the public.”

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Virginia House of Delegates Quickly Passes American Rescue Plan Act Spending Bill

RICHMOND, Virginia – The House of Delegates met, passed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) by a 71-25 vote and adjourned in 30 minutes on Wednesday. Facing 107 pages of proposed amendments, a photo-op, and a series of lengthy recesses, the Senate had not completed its debate by press time Wednesday evening although it convened at 10 a.m.

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Checks and Balances Project Attracts Criticism over Links to Public Relations Firm

Sentara Norfolk General

Watchdog blog the Checks and Balances Project (CBP) is facing criticism over its links to the Tigercomm public relations firm. On November 9, 2020, the Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) signed a contract with Tigercomm during a conflict with major Virginia health care network, Sentara. On November 13, CBP published its first story about Sentara. This month, The Washington Post and The Virginian-Pilot reported on the ties between Tigercomm and CBP.

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Norment, Saslaw Discuss If Virginia Will Remain Business-Friendly in the Future

In a post-session virtual luncheon hosted by Wason Center Academic Director Quentin Kidd, Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment (R-James City) expressed alarm at erosion of Virginia’s business-friendly status while Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said moderate pro-business senators were helping protect Virginia’s business environment — for now.

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Virginia Legislators Lay Out Priorities for ‘American Rescue Plan’ Funds

The American Rescue Plan will provide $7.2 billion for Virginia: $2.9 billion allocated for municipalities, and $4.3 billion for the state government, according to a Tuesday announcement from Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. On Wednesday, Governor Ralph Northam and Democratic General Assembly leaders released their priorities for the $4.3 billion, including upgrading public health infrastructure, funding the Rebuild Virginia small business recovery plan, adding funds to the Unemployment Trust Fund, modernizing public schools, and deploying broadband across Virginia.

“This is a unique opportunity to invest in Virginia’s long-term future. We intend to be good stewards of these taxpayer dollars, in full compliance with fiduciary guidelines. We reject calls to refuse these federal dollars, and we support the law’s prohibition on cutting state taxes to substitute federal dollars. We embrace this rare opportunity, and we choose to invest,” Northam and the legislators wrote.

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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 General Assembly Votes to Remove Statue of Former Governor Harry Byrd, Sr.

The Virginia Senate voted 36 to 3 Tuesday to remove the capitol’s statue of former Democratic Governor Harry Byrd, Sr. His legacy is marked by his expansion of Virginia’s economy and roads, and is tarnished by a battle to block desegregating schools. The House of Delegates had already voted in favor of the bill, HB 2208, introduced by Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk.) Governor Ralph Northam is expected to approve the bill.

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General Assembly Votes to Make Virginia First Southern State to Abolish Death Penalty

The Virginia General Assembly passed a death penalty repeal on Monday. Governor Ralph Northam is expected to sign the bills, which would make Virginia the first state in the South to ban capital punishment. Advocates have argued that the death penalty is vulnerable to wrongful conviction, is expensive, cruel, and applied unfairly, but opponents say some of the most heinous crimes require a death penalty to make sure the criminal doesn’t get free. During the 2021 session, House Republicans have emphasized the names of victims of particularly serious crimes, who they say are being ignored by Democrats.

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A More Restrained Bicycling Safety Act Passes the Virginia Senate

Delegate Chris Hurst’s (D-Montgomery) Bicycling Safety Act passed the Senate on Wednesday. The Senate version of the bill focuses on increasing passing safety. It requires drivers to move over a lane if there isn’t room to pass bicyclists by three feet, and it also allows two bicyclists to ride side-by side in a lane. It also creates a study of the potential effects of a ‘Safety Stop,’ a traffic law that would allow bicyclists to treat stop signs as yields under certain conditions.

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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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Virginia Senate Strips Amanda Chase of Final Committee Assignment

The Virginia state Senate on Wednesday voted to update the body’s standing committees for 2021 and simultaneously stripped GOP gubernatorial candidate Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) of her lone committee assignment from the previous year, resulting in a lengthy debate that highlighted the disconnect between the lawmaker and her colleagues.

The standing committee’s membership was updated at the request of Republicans in order to fill the vacancies left by the late Sen. Ben Chafin, who passed away from COVID-19 complications on New Year’s Day, according to Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax).

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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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Issue of Paid Sick Leave Returning to Virginia General Assembly in 2021

The debate over whether or not businesses should be required to provide eligible employees with paid sick leave will again be taken up by the Virginia General Assembly when it convenes for its regular session on January 13th.

After multiple bills calling for paid sick leave were killed by a Senate committee during this past summer’s special session, those same lawmakers are once again intending to offer legislation on the issue.

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Virginia’s Power Dems Line Up Behind McAuliffe

Now that the 2020 elections are over and the field for Virginia’s 2021 gubernatorial election has taken shape, it is the prime time for candidates to receive endorsements from former and current politicians, community leaders and other elected officials.

For some of the Democratic candidates, endorsements seem to be occurring every other day.

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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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Senate Passes Majority of Gov. Northam’s Amendments, Concluding Lengthy Special Session

The Virginia Senate on Monday adopted a number of slight changes to legislation and the budget recommended by Governor Ralph Northam, including language for the implementation of the recently-approved redistricting commission.

Overall, including the budget, the Senate passed amendments for ten bills from the House and Senate. Most passage votes were primarily along party lines with a couple amendments garnering unanimous support.

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As Richmond Burns, Mayor Stoney’s Top Priority Is to Let People Get Stoned

Even as rioting damages large sections of Richmond and the Virginia General Assembly convenes in a special session, Mayor Levar Stoney wants lawmakers to take action — not on fighting lawlessness, but to help people get stoned.

Stoney used his bully pulpit to call for the Assembly to legalize marijuana.

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