Veto Day: Youngkin’s Vetoes Stand, But Senate Blocks Gas Tax Holiday and Some Amendments to Legislation

RICHMOND, Virginia – The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee voted to kill Governor Glenn Youngkin’s gas tax holiday proposal, launching the General Assembly’s veto session. Later in the day legislators spent hours voting on Youngkin’s various amendments and vetoes to their legislation.

Finance and Appropriations Committee Chair Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) spoke against the gas tax holiday bill, and said that the phased gas tax increases in 2020 were part of a bipartisan effort to provide long term transportation funding solutions.

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Budget Compromise Not Expected in Time for Veto Session

Glenn Youngkin

The General Assembly will be back in town Wednesday to vote on Governor Glenn Youngkin’s amendments and vetoes to legislation passed earlier this year, but are unlikely to have a budget compromise ready for approval by then.

“Informally, the chairs are going back and forth a little bit, and we keep getting briefed, but we have not really gotten to a point where we can do a final negotiation, if you will. There’s still significant differences there in what we we’re working on,” conferee Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) told The Virginia Star on Thursday. “We’ve got some tentative agreements, I guess you’d say.

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Youngkin Vetoes 25 Bills, Including Nine of Sen. Ebbin’s Ten 2022 Bills That Passed

Governor Glenn Youngkin vetoed 26 bills from the 2022 General Assembly session, including nine of the ten bills sponsored by Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) who helped lead efforts to block some Youngkin appointees. Youngkin also amended over 100 bills, including a bill introducing staggered elections at the Loudoun County School Board; Youngkin’s amendment would force all the members of the board to run for re-election this year.

“My goal as Governor is to make Virginia the best place to live, work, and raise a family and the bills I vetoed today reaffirm that commitment,” Youngkin said in a Monday evening announcement of the 25 newest vetoes. “I look forward to working together with members of the General Assembly in the future to ensure that we’re working for all Virginians. Together we can make the Commonwealth a place where businesses can prosper, students can thrive, and communities are safer.”

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Virginia State House Democrats Propose $50 Tax Rebate to Car Owners

The Virginia House Democrats announced a proposal to give a $50 tax rebate to Virginia car owners, up to $100 per househould — a counter-proposal to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s call for a months-long suspension of Virginia’s 26.2-cent gasoline tax.

“Unlike the plan proposed by Governor Youngkin and supported by Republican members of the General Assembly, the House Democratic plan will send funds directly to Virginia drivers and at less than one third of the cost,” the caucus said in a Friday press release. “Last week, Governor Youngkin said, ‘We can’t guarantee anything,’ when asked if his plan would pass savings to consumers. This matches criticism by legislators, business leaders, and economic experts who say that consumers would see little, if any, savings from such an action.”

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Youngkin Appoints New Parole Board Members

Governor Glenn Youngkin has picked new parole board members after Senate Democrats blocked his previous appointees.

“After the Democrats attempted to cover up a scandal of their own creation and keep individuals from receiving parole, it’s time to reform the Parole Board again and put the scandals behind us,” Youngkin said in a Wednesday press release.

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Youngkin Gas Tax Holiday Legislation Includes a Two Percent Cap on Future Rate Adjustments

Tara Durant and Steve Newman

Senator Steve Newman (R-Bedford) and freshman Delegate Tara Durant (R-Stafford) have introduced the Youngkin administration’s three-month gasoline tax holiday bill. In addition to the tax holiday, the bill includes a two percent cap on the annual rate adjustment, which is based on the consumer price index.

“There are so many hard-working Virginians who need some type of break at the gas pump right now. Governor Youngkin is leading by putting forward a bill, which I’m proud to sponsor in the Senate of Virginia, that will temporarily suspend the Virginia gas tax,” Newman told The Virginia Star in a statement.

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Virginia’s State Sen. Chase Criticizes Youngkin’s Appointment of Susan Beals for Commissioner of the Department of Elections

Susan Beal and Amanda Chase

Governor Glenn Youngkin selected Chesterfield Electoral Board member Susan Beals to serve as his commissioner of the Department of Elections. The Friday announcement led to initial alarm from some Democrats, since Beals worked as an aide for Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield), who has been outspoken in highlighting alleged irregularities in the 2020 presidential election in Virginia. However, Chase said she’s disappointed by the appointment, and Senate Privileges and Elections Chair Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) sounds open-minded about Beals.

“While I congratulate Susan on her appointment, it’s a huge disappointment to those of us who have spent countless hours investigating the irregularities that occurred in the 2020 presidential election,” Chase said in a statement sent to The Virginia Star.

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Former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler Gets Role as Senior Advisor After Being Blocked from Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources

Former Trump-era EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler will serve as a senior advisor to Governor Glenn Youngkin after the Virginia Senate blocked Wheeler’s confirmation as Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources. Deputy Secretary Travis Voyles is acting secretary.

Wheeler was a controversial pick among Democrats both for his link to former President Donald Trump and for the policy direction the EPA took during Wheeler’s tenure. E and E News reported Monday that Wheeler said Democrats had planned to block a nominee even before he was announced.

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Virginia Senate Blocks Confirmation of Youngkin Parole Board Appointees as Retaliation for House Blocking Northam-era Appointees

RICHMOND, Virginia – The Democrat-controlled Senate voted against confirming five Youngkin nominees, including the whole parole board and one Safety and Health Codes Board member. In February, Senate Democrats blocked confirmation of former Trump EPA chief Andrew Wheeler to serve as Youngkin’s Secretary of Natural Resources. In response, on February 12 the Republican-controlled House of Delegates blocked confirmation of 11 Northam-era appointments, including the Board of Education.

Senate Privileges and Elections Committee Chair Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) said the move was necessary to send a message to the House.

“I really don’t understand why this is so shocking. […] Where was the outrage when the House crossed off the Teacher of the Year from a resolution, and the former Hanover superintendent of schools,” Ebbin said in the Senate. “We talk about deescalation. We started trying to deescalate this on Friday, February 11 with a visit to the Speaker. I spoke to him that weekend, he suggested getting together around a table, but I’ve not heard from him since on that topic or others.”

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Virginia Senate Fast-Tracking Ban on ‘Carolina Squat’

squated red truck

Virginia legislators are fast-tracking Senator Mark Peake’s (R-Lynchburg) new bill to ban a type of vehicle modification called the “Carolina Squat.” Trucks with the modification have their front end dramatically higher than the back. In February, a driver in a similarly-modified truck allegedly killed a man in Mecklenberg County, according to ABC8.

“He was coming up a hill, he couldn’t see the double-yellow line,” Peake told The Virginia Star on Wednesday. “He crosses over and smashes into another vehicle head-on, destroyed it, and killed the guy.”

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Virginia State Senate Judiciary Committee Kills Local Gun Control Repeal

The Senate Judiciary Committee killed HB 827, a bill that would remove local authority to pass gun control ordinances. In its Monday meeting, the committee also killed several other Republican gun bills. Although a few bills are still working their way through the legislature, Monday’s committee meeting largely concludes the current General Assembly session in terms of gun policy, with few gains made by either firearms advocates or opponents.

“The session looks to be a wash for both sides, except for one bill on the serial numbers, and then a switchblade bill,” Virginia Citizens Defense League President Philip Van Cleave told The Virginia Star. “That’s not totally unexpected, but you never know.”

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House of Delegates Subcommittee Recommends Postponing Marijuana Sales Legalization

A House of Delegates General Laws subcommittee voted five to three on Monday to recommend continue a key marijuana sales legalization bill until the 2023 session, effectively dooming the bill for now. Senate Bill 391 would create the regulatory structure for a legal marijuana industry in Virginia, including cultivation, manufacture, and sale. If the General Laws Committee follows the recommendation from the subcommittee, Virginia’s legal-to-own but not legal-to-buy recreational cannabis structure will remain in place for now.

Bill sponsor Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) told the delegates, “The action of this subcommittee, as we discussed, will establish a Virginia cannabis brand. The question is whether the brand will be a regulated, confined marketplace for adults, or for an import crime subsidization program proliferating in school yards and gas stations.”

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State Sen. Chase Presents Data About 2020 Election to Virginia Attorney General Miyares’ Office; Republicans and Democrats Kill Her Effort to Fund a Full Forensic Audit of the Election

Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) told senators Thursday that she had delivered information about the 2020 election to Attorney General Jason Miyares’ office on Tuesday. She pushed several budget amendment that would have spent millions of dollars on investigations both into the 2020 election and on future elections, but her amendments received vigorous opposition from Democrats and feeble support from Republicans.

“We presented quite a bit of data and information, our team did, to the attorney general’s office the day before yesterday, and one of their comments was that they need more time and more resources to do that investigation,” Chase said during debate over budget amendments.

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Senate Privileges and Elections Committee Kills Most House Elections Reforms Bills

Person voting in poll booth

Delegate Lee Ware (R-Powhatan) sponsored HB 46, which would have reintroduced a photo identification requirement, repealed the permanent absentee voter list, shortened early voting, and required representatives from each political party to verify the absentee ballot cure process.

“About photo ID, there is wide public polling that shows that support for [photo id] this crosses every demographic group, every partisan group,” Ware said.

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Virginia Senate Committee Kills Sen. Chase’s Bills Banning Discrimination Against People Who Refuse to Mask or Get COVID-19 Vaccines

RICHMOND, Virginia – The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee killed two of Senator Amanda Chase’s (R-Chesterfield) bills seeking to outlaw discrimination against those who refuse to wear masks or get COVID-19 vaccines.

“While we have many opinions about whether to wear masks or not, it should be an individual right. It should be an individual choice. I remember a period of time whenever that was not necessarily an option, and it impeded people who had disabilities from actually getting healthcare services because they could not wear a mask, not being able to go to the grocery store, shop. We cannot deny people a basic human right of being provided healthcare and basic human services,” Chase told the committee on Wednesday afternoon, arguing for her bill SB 582.

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Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria Approve Plastic Bag Taxes

Five-cent taxes on single-use plastic bags are spreading across Virginia’s more urban localities. On Saturday, Arlington County and the City of Alexandria adopted the local tax ordinances, while Fairfax County adopted a similar ordinance on September 14. The taxes take effect on January 1, 2022.

“Arlington is proud to take this step to reduce plastic bag waste in our community and to do so with our regional partners,” Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said in a press release. “We have long sought the legal authority for this small fee as a way to protect our environment and become a more sustainable community. We look forward to working with residents and neighbors on implementation.”

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Fredericksburg City Council Considering Plastic Bag Tax

The Fredericksburg City Council directed city staff to prepare a draft ordinance for a five-cent single-use plastic bag tax. In its Tuesday meeting, most of the city council expressed support for the proposal, introduced by Council Member Kerry Devine.

“The reality is I hope this is a tax we never collect,” Devine told the Council.

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Virginia Employment Commission Lawsuit Reaches Agreement as Gov Northam Orders Faster Claims Processing

The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) is facing criticism and a lawsuit over delays while processing unemployment claims flagged as potentially ineligible. On Tuesday, in court-ordered mediation, the parties in the lawsuit came to an agreement. The same day, Governor Ralph Northam announced Executive Directive 16, requiring the VEC to add 300 new adjudication officers and make technology upgrades.

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Marijuana Legal to Possess After July 1, But Still Illegal to Buy or Trade in Virginia

Possessing marijuana in amounts of up to one ounce will be legal July 1, but sales will still be outlawed in Virginia until 2024. That means there will be no clear legal way to acquire marijuana or marijuana plants, despite possession itself being legal.

“Outside of the medical cannabis program, there remains no legal access to marijuana in Virginia,” Virginia NORML Executive Director Jenn Michelle Pedini told The Virginia Star.

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Roanoke Postpones Decision on Plastic Bag Tax to Gather More Information, Public Comment

The Roanoke City Council is seeking more information and public input before making a decision on a 5-cent single-use plastic bag tax. In a public hearing at Monday evening’s city council meeting, only three speakers spoke, all in favor of the tax. Council members also expressed support for the idea, but worried that the tax would harm businesses and low-income consumers, and might not address the problem of plastic bag pollution.

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Effective in July, Virginia Legalizes Small Amounts of Marijuana

RICHMOND, Virginia Simple possession of up to one ounce of marijuana will be legal in Virginia, effective July 1. On Wednesday, the Virginia General Assembly approved Governor Ralph Northam’s proposal to expedite legalization from 2024 to later this year. But legislators warned that doesn’t mean there will be a marijuana free-for-all.

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Public Hearing Scheduled to Consider Plastic Bag Tax in Roanoke

The Roanoke City Council is considering a five-cent tax on disposable plastic bags, like grocery store or convenience store bags. On Monday, the Council agreed to schedule a public hearing on April 19.

The tax was legalized by the 2020 General Assembly. HB 534, introduced by Delegate Betsy Carr (D-Richmond), and SB 11, introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), authorize localities to enact five-cent taxes on disposable plastic bags and require the localities to use revenue from the tax for environmental cleanup and to provide re-usable bags.

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Northam Acts on 552 General Assembly Bills from 2021 Sessions

Governor Ralph Northam announced the signing of 14 bills on Wednesday, March 31, which was a deadline for the Governor to take action on legislation passed in the 2021 General Assembly sessions. According to his announcement, took action on 552 bills with no vetoes, although he sent some back to the General Assembly with amendments.

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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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Virginia House Passes Same-Sex Marriage-Ban-Repeal Bill SJ 270, But the Constitutional Amendment Still Has a Long Road Ahead

The Virginia General Assembly has taken another step towards repealing the one-man-and-one-woman marriage clause from the Virginia Constitution. On Monday, the House of Delegates passed Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) SJ 270 in a bipartisan vote.

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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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Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Repeal Moves Through Virginia House and Senate With Bi-Partisan Support

Bills to repeal Virginia’s same-sex marriage prohibition have passed in both legislative chambers with bi-partisan support this week. HJ 582, introduced by Delegate Mark Sickles (D-Franconia) and SJ 270, introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) seek to amend language in the state constitution passed in 2006 saying that marriage is between one man and one woman.

“For several years now, I have introduced this resolution because I know millions of people want to either take back their vote that they made in 2006 or they weren’t old enough to vote in 2006 and want to weigh in on this,” Sickles said in subcommittee.

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Virginia Marijuana Legalization Bills Prioritize Licenses and Loans to People with Marijuana Convictions

Marijuana legalization bills are approaching a floor vote in both the Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate. In addition to removing criminal penalties, the 274-page bills essentially create an entire industry, including regulation of business licenses, creating taxes, and incentivizing entrepreneurs to enter the market.

But Delegate Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach) said all of that is just a shell.

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Legislation Prohibiting Firearms, Other Weapons on Capitol Grounds Passes Virginia Senate

Legislation prohibiting the possession and transportation of firearms and other weapons within Richmond’s Capitol Square as well as inside any buildings owned or leased by the state passed the Virginia Senate Tuesday afternoon.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1381, advanced out of the Senate by a 21-18 straight party-line vote with every Democrat in support and all Republicans opposing.

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Virginia Democratic Senators File Resolution to Censure Amanda Chase

Virginia Senate Democrats filed a resolution on Wednesday to censure GOP gubernatorial candidate and Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) for addressing a crowd and urging action to overturn the 2020 presidential election hours before the Capitol riots in Washington D.C.

The resolution, introduced by Sen. John Bell (D-Loudoun) and co-sponsored by nine other Senate Democrats, formally accuses Chase of “fomenting insurrection against the United States.”

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Virginia Senate Democrats’ Top Agendas for Upcoming Legislative Session

The Virginia General Assembly 2021 regular session is right around the corner on January 13 and the Democrats will again be calling all the shots for the legislature thanks to their majority in both the Senate and the House of Delegates.

This means that the agendas and priorities of Democrats in the Senate – as well as their counterparts in the House – have quite a good chance of passing through each chamber if broadly supported. Yet, what exactly are Senate Democrats focusing on?

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Christian Wedding Photographer and Ministries Sue Virginia Over Law Banning LGBTQ Discrimination

A Christian wedding photographer and two churches, three Christian schools, and a pro-life ministry sued Virginia for its LGBTQ discrimination law. The plaintiffs argue that the law is a violation of religious freedom in the First Amendment.

The Christian plaintiffs say the state law forces their hand. If they don’t forsake God’s commandments, they could endure hundreds of thousands or more in fines and litigation fees. And, they could face a court order to adhere to the law. These individuals are also prohibited from expressing any religious beliefs that may be perceived as discriminatory.

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