Virginia, West Virginia Speakers Announce Collaboration on Advanced Nuclear Technology

Virginia Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) and West Virginia Speaker Roger Hanshaw (R-Clay) are partnering to create a framework to bring advanced nuclear technology to their states. West Virginia has recently repealed a ban on developing nuclear energy sources, and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin recently called for a “moonshot” — constructing a small modular reactor in southwest Virginia. In addition to addressing energy needs, leaders are hoping the push will bring economic and technological development to the economically-challenged areas.

“Virginia has been the beneficiary of nuclear power for many years,” Gilbert said in a Thursday press release. “Nothing works harder, longer, safer, or more reliably than a nuclear power plant. Small nuclear reactors are the next wave of energy technology, and Virginia should be an East Coast hub for its development and deployment. It’s important that rural and economically challenged areas, and the Commonwealth of Virginia as a whole, benefit from the innovation, jobs, and investment small modular nuclear technology will bring to the electric grid.”

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Seibold Wins Nomination in Upset in Democratic Canvass for HD-35 Special Election

In an upset, Holly Seibold is the Democratic nominee for the House District 35 special election despite endorsements for Fairfax School Board Member Karl Frisch from many top Fairfax Democrats including former Speaker of the House of Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), Representative Don Beyer (D-VA-08), Virginia Senate Finance Chair Janet Howell (D-Fairfax), Delegate Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax), Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, several county supervisors, and several school board members.

“I cannot thank the Democrats of District 35 enough for this tremendous honor. I promise to make you proud in Richmond and fight for the Virginia values of equality, justice, and freedom,” Seibold said on Facebook. “And thank you to Karl Frisch for his kind words and for making me a better candidate. Democrats stand strong together, and I look forward to us all uniting to keep this seat blue on January 10th.”

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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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Youngkin Tells State Employees to Return to Onsite Work by July 5

Virginia’s state employees must return to on-site work by July 5 unless they have a new telework agreement approved, according to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s new telework policy.

“After listening to the needs of Virginians, discussing solutions with agency heads across government, and closely monitoring the pandemic, we are excited to welcome our employees in-person this summer. We know that creative, innovative, and effective solutions for all Virginians occur with regular, in-person interaction by our incredible workforce here in the Commonwealth,” Youngkin said in a press release.

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Youngkin Signs 100 Bills, Including Bill Requiring Notification to Parents of Sexually Explicit Instructional Material In Schools

Facing an April 11 deadline, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed over 100 bills last week, including Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) SB 656, a bill requiring Virginia public schools to notify parents about sexually explicit instructional material, allow parental review, and provide non-explicit alternatives. The bill instructs the Department of Education to create model policies and requires school boards to pass similar policies.

“These kinds of materials that are being presented in school as an opportunity to develop that relationship between the parent and the child, talk about uncomfortable and challenging things,” Dunnavant said in the Senate Committee on Education and Health in February. “We heard in testimony from the subject matter experts that there was not a consistent policy across the school boards in Virginia, and that it was extremely variable. And as a result, having clear guidelines from the Department of Education would accomplish exactly what everybody thinks already exists, but it doesn’t.”

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VCDL, VAPLAN Rank Virginia’s General Assembly Legislators

Nick Freitas and Mark Obenshain

The pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) has released a scorecard of legislators from the recent General Assembly session, with most Republican legislators scoring 100 percent.  In tallies that count votes, Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) and Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) earned the highest scores based on the number of votes cast and who introduced legislation. The Virginia Progressive Legislative Action Network (VAPLAN) has also released a scorecard, finding that Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) and Delegate Thomas Wright (R-Lunenberg) tied for most conservative in the House, while Senator Steve Newman (R-Bedford) was the most conservative in the Senate.

“Congratulations to Senator Mark Obenshain (R – Harrisonburg) and to Delegate Nick Freitas (R – Culpeper) for having the best voting records in the General Assembly,” the VCDL wrote in an update. “And honorable mention goes to Senator Ryan McDougle (R-Mechanicsville and freshman Delegate Marie March (R-Pulaski), who both came in 2nd place.”

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Virginia Senate Passes Gutted Race-Blind Governor’s School Admissions Bill

RICHMOND, Virginia – In a bipartisan 26-13 vote, the Senate passed a stripped-down version of a House of Delegates bill to require race-blind admissions procedures in Virginia’s Governor’s schools; that version will have to go back to the House for approval.

Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) advocated for HB 127 on the Senate floor on Tuesday; he noted that about 90 percent of the House bill had been removed.

“We really are only left with two paragraphs,” Petersen said. “Everything else frankly we did away with. And the two paragraphs, one has to do with no discrimination based on race or ethnicity, which is the current Title IX standard, and the second would just simply say that  all school divisions should make sure that each middle school has a program in place to prepare children to apply for Governor’s schools.”

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With Tight Schedule, Virginia Budget Compromise May Not Be Ready for Weekend Vote, Which Would Force General Assembly Session Extension

RICHMOND, Virginia – Legislators are meeting in behind-the-scenes meetings to try to finalize a budget compromise before the General Assembly is set to adjourn on Saturday, but are divided by a House of Delegates desire for substantial tax cuts and a Senate desire for higher state employee salaries plus a desire to preserve more future tax revenues. House Appropriations Chair Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach) said that negotiations may take too long to have a compromise ready for a weekend vote, although he emphasized that his Senate counterparts including Finance Chair Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) are cooperating in good faith.

“I think with the time constraints that we have, with the two bodies doing our business, I’m not sure we’re going to make it,” Knight told reporters on Tuesday.

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Virginia House of Delegates, Senate Pass Budget Bills with Competing Tax Policy

RICHMOND, Virginia – The House of Delegates and the Senate have passed their separate budget proposals for Fiscal Year 2022 and 2023. Both chambers debated floor amendments to the bills on Thursday before passing them, but the final versions are broadly similar to the proposals announced earlier this week. Each chamber’s proposal is based on former Governor Ralph Northam’s budget proposal, but the money committees made significant amendments before sending them to be passed out of the House and Senate. The Senate bill contains fewer tax cuts than the House bill, allowing for more spending, while the House bill is closer to the tax policy Governor Glenn Youngkin has called for. The two chambers now enter a process of working to a compromise.

Senate Finance Chair Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) told the Senate that the proposal fulfilled promises made amid spending cuts during earlier hard times.

“In this budget we’ve done that, by making significant investments in education, natural resources,  public safety, and human services. We’re also chipping away a funding cap on support positions for K-12 education over both years of the biennium, embracing increased teacher and state employee pay, and adding to those compensation increases a one-time bonuses for teachers and state employees,” Howell said.

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Virginia Gov. Youngkin Signs School Mask-Optional Bill

RICHMOND, Virginia – Governor Glenn Youngkin signed a school mask-optional bill into law from the steps of the capitol on Wednesday afternoon, hours after the House of Delegates approved his amendments adding an emergency clause and a March 1 effective date.

“Today, we are reestablishing, restoring power back from parents. We are also reestablishing our expectations that we will get back to normal, and this is the path, this is the path. So thank you all for coming. And now, we’re going to do a little work,” Youngkin told the crowd before signing the bill.

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Virginia State Senate Approves Youngkin’s Emergency Clause in Mask-Optional Bill

The Senate has approved Governor Glenn Youngkin’s amendments to the recently passed school mask-optional bill. The amendments, which an aide said Youngkin sent to the Senate on Monday evening, include clauses making the bill take effect on March 1.

“As you can probably tell from my remarks, I would like this to take effect yesterday, but that’s not going to happen. And I do believe that we’re going to need a transition time for some of our Northern Virginia school districts and probably elsewhere in the state,” co-sponsor Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) said on the Senate floor on Tuesday evening.

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House Republicans Deliver School Mask-Optional Bill to Youngkin

The House of Delegates passed SB 739, which will require schools to make masks optional. After Republicans were surprised by bipartisan votes in the Senate last week to amend the bill to include the mask clause and to pass the bill, Republicans hustled the bill through the necessary House committee hearing and through three required floor sessions, including a two-minute-long pro-forma session on Sunday. By 1 p.m. on Monday, Republicans had already delivered the bill to Governor Glenn Youngkin, who has committed to adding an emergency clause to make it take effect immediately.
After Youngkin adds the clause, both chambers can pass the bill and emergency clause with simple majority votes, setting up the bill to be law and in effect potentially by the end of the week, House Majority Leader Terry Kilgore (R-Scott) said on The John Fredericks Show Monday morning.

“Once we adopt his [Youngkin’s] amendments, he’s already signed it and sent it back, it’ll be the law, and we can put this behind us,” Kilgore told The Virginia Star’s publisher, John Fredericks.

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State Senate Committee Advances 1.5 Percent Grocery Tax Cut for Virginians, Leaves Local One Percent Intact

The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee (SFAC) advanced a bill that would eliminate the state sales and use tax of 1.5 percent on groceries and personal hygiene products. In its Thursday meeting, the committee combined Senator Jennifer Boysko’s (D-Fairfax) SB 451, focused on the hygiene products, with bills from Senator Stephen Newman (R-Beford), Senator Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover), and Senator Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach) that included all groceries.

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House Education Committee Promptly Advances School Mask-Optional Legislation

RICHMOND, Virginia – The House Education Committee voted to advance school mask-optional language in a special meeting Friday; Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) SB 739 was the only bill on the agenda.

As introduced in the Senate, Dunnavant’s original bill focused on in-person learning, but earlier this week Senator Chap Peterson (D-Fairfax City) moved to amend the bill to include the masking clause; that vote got broad support from both sides of the aisle. A later vote to pass the amended bill only had two Democrats supporting it, but that was enough to pass out of the Democrat-controlled Senate. On Wednesday, Delegate Amanda Batten (R-York) said that the sudden change surprised Republicans.

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State Senate Gives Virginia Gov. Youngkin Another Education Win, Passes Sexually Explicit Classroom Material Notification Bill

Wednesday was a good day for Governor Glenn Youngkin, who received two major education policy wins from the Democrat-controlled Virginia Senate, which passed Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) bill requiring parental notification of sexually explicit instructional material in public school classes. Senators Lynwood Lewis Jr. (D-Accomack) and Montgomery “Monty” Mason (D-Williamsburg) voted with all the Republicans to pass the bill 20 to 18.

Dunnavant said, “Senate Bill 656 is a bill that we discussed and passed out of this body before that seeks to inform parents when controversial, sexually explicit material is being discussed in the classroom. It has nothing to do with libraries. It has an enactment clause that specifically protects books and ensures that it does not censor books.”

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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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Nearly Half of Virginia Senate Democrats Support Legislation to Allow Parents to Opt Children Out of School Mask Mandates

Virginia’s Democrat-controlled Senate is suddenly about to pass a bill allowing parents to opt their children out of wearing masks. In Tuesday’s session, Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) amended Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) in-person learning bill to include the mask-opt-out clause – and 10 out of 21 Democrats voted with Republicans to approve the change, setting up the bill for final passage on Wednesday.

Despite vocal Democrats and some urban school boards pushing back against Governor Glenn Youngkin’s executive order requiring a school mask mandate opt-out, Petersen has been calling for a masking off-ramp. On Monday, he sent a letter to several northern Virginia schools warning of his plans to introduce legislation to that effect. He argued that mask-wearing is a political decision.

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Senate Democrats Block Republican Effort to Revive Youngkin’s Nomination of Former Trump EPA Head to Serve as Sec. of Natural and Historic Resources

Virginia Senate Democrats defeated an effort to revive confirmation of former Trump EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler as Governor Glenn Youngkin’s secretary of natural and historic resources. In committee last week, Democrats voted to remove Wheeler from SJ 84, the bill to confirm Youngkin’s cabinet selections. On Tuesday, Republicans opposed a vote to confirm the committee amendment.

Senator Richard Stuart (R-King George) said that Wheeler had been impressive in committee interviews, and had a record of helping Virginia.

“But I get the politics. I understand that some of these environmental groups out there don’t like him because of who he worked for. And that’s just a real shame, because we have an opportunity here to confirm somebody who has the real credentials and I’ve not heard one member in this body object to his credentials or his qualifications,” he said.

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State Senators Petersen, Lewis Provide Path for Republicans to Pass Sexually Explicit Educational Materials Bill out of Virginia’s Democratic Senate

Two Democratic senators voted with Republicans in committee to advance Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) SB 656 requiring Virginia public schools to notify parents about sexually explicit instructional material, allow parental review, and provide non-explicit alternatives. The bill instructs the Department of Education to create model policies; if passed, school boards would be required to pass similar policies.

“This is the opportunity for parents to have a conversation with their child,” Dunnavant said in the Senate Committee on Education and Health on Thursday.

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Virginia House of Delegates Passes Locality Gun Control Repeal

The House of Delegates passed a bill to repeal the 2020 law authorizing localities to ban firearms on locality property. Delegates debated the bill on Wednesday before the vote Thursday.

“House Bill 827 returns our code back to its prior position,” Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham) said on Wednesday. “Other portions of the bill: it eliminates the requirement to destroy firearms that are confiscated and rather allows them to be offered for sale through a licensed dealer. And it also limits the ability of localities to sue firearm manufacturers.”

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Virginia General Assembly Off to Slow Start as Committees Evaluate Legislation, Youngkin Cabinet Picks

RICHMOND, Virginia – Most of the action in the General Assembly is occurring in committees as legislators decide which bills will survive to be voted on by the full Senate and House of Delegates. House Republicans have advanced some key bills on local gun control repeals, elections reform, and school misdemeanor reporting. Senate Democrats have advanced some key bills, but much of their work has been in killing Republican-introduced legislation.

“What has not surprised me is there has been a conspicuous partisan divide with Democratic pushback against Governor Youngkin’s agenda, particularly in the area of tax reform and education reform, and masks,” Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment (R-James City) told The Virginia Star.

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Youngkin’s Sec. Natural Resources Designee Andrew Wheeler Faces Tough House, Mild Senate Committee Interviews

Two General Assembly committees grilled former Trump EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Youngkin’s pick for Secretary of Natural Resources. Senate Democrats may use their 21 to 19 majority to block his confirmation, a rare move in Virginia politics, but potential swing vote Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) may be open minded. On Wednesday, House Democrats hammered Wheeler in the House Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee.

Before the meeting, House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) said she hoped Youngkin would rescind the nomination.

“Mr. Wheeler’s tenure as Donald Trump’s EPA Administrator set back our national climate policy by a generation. We cannot afford more of the same in Virginia,” Filler-Corn said in a press release.

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Seven School Boards Sue Over Youngkin Mask-Optional Order; Sen. Petersen Threatens Legislative Action if Schools Don’t Find Mandate Off-Ramp

Seven school districts are suing Governor Glenn Youngkin over Executive Order Two, which requires schools to allow parents to opt children out of mask mandates. The lawsuit challenges Youngkin’s authority over school boards and his ability to override Senate Bill 1303, which requires schools to follow CDC guidelines.

“At issue is whether locally-elected school boards have the exclusive authority and responsibility conferred upon them by Article VIII, Section 7 of the Constitution of Virginia over supervision of the public schools in their respective communities, or whether an executive order can unilaterally override that constitutional authority. Also at issue is whether a governor can, through executive order, without legislative action by the Virginia General Assembly, reverse a lawfully-adopted statute,” Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) said in a Monday press release.

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Senate Committee Kills Republican Election Integrity Reforms, Obenshain-Chase Conflict Resurfaces, Surovell Criticizes Miyares for Firing 30 Attorneys

RICHMOND, Virginia — The Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections killed several Republican- sponsored elections integrity bills on Tuesday afternoon, including photo voter identification bills and a bill to repeal same-day voter registration. The committee also killed campaign finance reform bills from Senators Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) and Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax.)

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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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Minority Leader Todd Gilbert Previews Republican Priorities for New Virginia House Majority

House of Delegates Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenadoah) outlined Republicans’ legislative goals for when they take majority control of the House, governor, attorney general, and lieutenant governor’s seats. In a press conference Friday, he said that win did give Republicans a mandate, but said he was also aware of the need to work across the aisle since the Senate remains in Democratic control. He said the issues that Republicans raised during the campaigns would drive their agenda, including schools, cost of living, and public safety.

“We know we have a divided government now, and for lots of reasons, we think at least in terms of administration of the institutions, we will probably work better with the Democratic leadership  than the House leadership did,” Gilbert said.

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School Construction and Renovation on the Ballot Across Virginia

School construction and renovation projects are on the ballot in local funding referenda across the Commonwealth. Voters in six localities will decide whether to approve taking on debt for the projects. In Danville and neighboring Pittsylvania County, they’ll vote on instituting one percent sales taxes to help fund the local projects.

“It’s very typical,” Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) said. “Localities are allowed to issue public indebtedness in order to build schools. And typically, in order to bind the taxpayer with what’s called a general obligation bond, they have to go to a referendum. I’d say ordinarily most school systems have a referendum eight to ten years. Now, smaller jurisdictions, like where I live in Fairfax City, which is 25,000 people, it usually is less likely to go to a referendum unless you’re building a new school altogether, otherwise they’ll typically pay for these projects out of operating funds.”

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Virginia DMV Reopens Part-Time Walk-in Service

People at windows of DMV

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is now open to walk-in service three days a week, 16 months after first opening for appointment-only service following COVID-19 closures in Spring 2020. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday remain appointment-only, but the DMV now provides walk-in service Tuesday, Thursday, and for half days on Saturdays. Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) has been pushing for the DMV to reopen to walk-in service, but he isn’t satisfied with the DMV’s hybrid approach.

“I saw that they’re reopening for in-person again, three days a week, which, to me, I personally don’t understand that. I mean, we’ve required all our schools to be open five days a week for in-person instruction,” he told The Virginia Star

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Virginia Schools 2020-2021 Standard of Learning Tests Results Unsurprisingly Low

Virginia’s 2020-2021 standards of learning (SOL) pass rates are low: 69.34 percent for reading, 54.18 percent for mathematics, and 59.45 percent for science, according to Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) data released Thursday. The VDOE emphasizes that those results are due to COVID-19 and related factors, and followed national trends.

“Pass rates reflect disruptions to instruction caused by the pandemic, decreased participation in state assessment programs, pandemic-related declines in enrollment, fewer retakes, and more flexible ‘opt-out’ provisions for parents concerned about community spread of COVID-19,” the VDOE said.

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Virginia General Assembly Passes Compromise ARPA Allocation Bill

Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax sp ... inance Chair Senator Janet Howell.

RICHMOND, Virginia – After hammering out a compromise between the House of Delegates and the Senate, the Virginia General Assembly voted to send its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) budget bill to Governor Ralph Northam. The bill passed the House 78-20 and passed the Senate 23-16.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) said that she and other senators fought for the Senate’s amendments in a conference committee with representatives from the House.

“As you look at the conference report you will see that on several items our position was affirmed, and on others we were able to compromise,” she reported to the Senate.

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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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Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative Draws Concern Over Lowering Academic Standards

A proposed Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative (VMPI) has Republicans concerned after Loudoun County School Board member Ian Serotkin warned about the plan on Facebook, first reported by Fox News. Serotkin wrote that there are some good things in the initiative, like enabling students to take calculus in high school. But Serotkin also warned that the VMPI would end math acceleration before 11th grade.

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Virginia Opens Machicomoco State Park, the State’s 40th Park

Virginia has a brand-new state park — Machicomoco State Park, located along the York River in Gloucester County. On April 16, Governor Ralph Northam and other officials opened the 645-acre park, which features camping, picnic shelters, boat launches, and trails. One goal of the park is to tell the story of Virginia’s native tribes through interpretive areas.

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Northam Signs Virginia Marijuana Legalization Bills

Governor Ralph Northam signed marijuana legalization into law in a ceremony Wednesday afternoon, joined by legislators and marijuana advocates. The new law is a major piece of legislation from the 2021 General Assembly session. The law has many components involving regulation of cannabis production and retail that don’t take effect immediately, but a key portion allowing simple possession of up to one ounce of marijuana takes effect July 1.

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Cox Calls for Small-Group and Individual Tutoring to Address Learning Loss

Gubernatorial candidate Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) agrees that schools need to be reopened immediately. But he says that’s not enough — policymakers need to address learning losses. Districts like Fairfax County have reported spikes in failing grades. Parents and medical studies have expressed concern over the long-term harms caused by a year of virtual learning. Cox is calling for tutoring programs to help students recover academically, and he says he is willing to be one of those tutors.

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Virginia Gov. Northam Signs Restaurant Styrofoam Ban, Issues Ban on Single-Use Plastics for Some State Agencies

Governor Ralph Northam signed a ban on executive branch state agencies using single-use plastics. On Tuesday, he announced Executive Order 77 at the Environment Virginia Symposium held at Virginia Military Institute. He also announced the signing of Delegate Betsy Carr’s (D-Richmond) food vendor Styrofoam ban bill.

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Special Election for Virginia’s 38th Senate District

Former Radford City Councilwoman Laurie Buchwald (D) and Tazewell County Supervisor Travis Hackworth (R) are battling for election to represent Virginia’s 38th Senate district; although early voting started in February, the final day to vote is Tuesday, March 23. The special election will fill a seat left vacant at the beginning of January when Senator Ben Chafin (R-Russell) became the first member of the General Assembly to die of COVID-19.

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Virginia General Assembly Approves Styrofoam Ban

The General Assembly passed a polystyrene (Styrofoam) ban for serving food in restaurants and similar vendors in Virginia. The bill, passed on Wednesday, will first take effect in July 2023 to large vendors with more than 20 locations; in July 2025, it will apply to all vendors, although vendors can apply for temporary exemptions to their localities. Violation can result in a $50 per day fine.

Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) pushed HB 1902 in the Senate as a compromise to allow the House of Delegates to pass a bill adjusting regulation of new recycling technology. Republicans opposed the polystyrene ban, saying it would harm small businesses, but supported Senator Emmet Hanger’s (R-Augusta) advanced recycling regulation bill.

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Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee Kills Ban on Cyber Flashing

Delegate Kelly Convirs-Fowler’s (D-Virginia Beach) HB 2254 passed with unanimous support in the House of Delegates. The bill would ban people from sending unsolicited obscene images to others. But after the House sent the bill to the Senate, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted eight to five to table the bill February 17, citing concerns that the bill could be applied too broadly.

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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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Legislation Requiring Virginia School Divisions to Offer In-Person Learning Option Advances in Senate

Legislation that would require local school divisions in Virginia to make in-person learning available to all students advanced out of the Senate Education and Health Committee on Thursday with some bipartisan support.

Senate Bill 1303, introduced by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico), just barely passed out of the committee by an 8-7 vote. All six Republicans voted in favor of the bill and two Democrats joined, while the rest of the committee members opposed.

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Virginia Senate to Vote on Legislation Giving Certain Health Insurance Plans Abortion Coverage Option

The Senate of Virginia on Friday will vote to pass legislation out of the body that would allow for private health insurance companies offering plans through the state exchange to have the option for abortion coverage.

Senate Bill 1276 was introduced by Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond City), who is also a gubernatorial candidate seeking the Democratic nomination, and co-sponsored by three other Democratic legislators.

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Virginia Senators Push Bill to Help Speed Up State Vaccination Effort

A bill to help Virginia speed up its mass vaccination effort by expanding who is allowed to inoculate citizens and where those injections can occur is being pushed by a bipartisan group of state Senators.

Flanked by various medical professionals, Senators Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City), Todd Pillion (R-Washington), Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach), George Barker (D-Fairfax) and Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) held a news conference to discuss Senate Bill 1445 in Richmond on Thursday.

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Bipartisan Group of Senators Call for Governor to Reopen Virginia’s Schools

Three Virginia state Senators called for Governor Ralph Northam on Wednesday to reopen public schools across the Commonwealth and mandate in-person learning as an option for families struggling with virtual instruction. 

Just hours before the General Assembly kicked off its 2021 session, Senators Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond City), Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) and Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City) held a press conference to discuss the matter.

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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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