With Charter School Bills Dead, Virginia Republicans Turn to Lab Schools, but Democrats Are Wary

Governor Glenn Youngkin campaigned on creating 20 new charter schools in Virginia, but the Virginia Senate Education and Health Committee killed Republican-led charter school legislation. As a result, Republicans are pivoting to lab schools — schools that are part of the local district operated as partnerships with education programs at local higher ed institutions. Legislation to expand Virginia’s lab schools to institutions with programs beyond education is currently in conference committee with negotiators from the House of Delegates and the Senate to try to create a compromise to send to Youngkin.

“It’s going to be an opportunity for us to move some charter-schools-lite through,” House Majority Leader Terry Kilgore (R-Scott) told The Virginia Star during a discussion of top priorities at the beginning of the 2022 special session.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.”

Read More

Virginia State Senator Dunnavant Protests Plexiglass Shields in Floor Speech

Siobhan Dunnavant

Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) protested the plexiglass shields that surround senators’ desks on the senate floor.

“The first week we were here together, I shared with the body through Madam Clerk the data that shows that devices like these do not help mitigate the risk of COVID, and that they may indeed increase risk of COVID,” Dunnavant said in a floor speech. “There is no emergency order in place.”

Read More

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.

Read More

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.”

Read More

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.

Read More

Virginia House of Delegates Passes Bill Rewriting Virginia Law Addressing Mandatory Reporting of Offenses Committed on School Property

RICHMOND, Virginia – The House of Delegates passed a bill significantly rewriting a section of Virginia law that handles crimes committed on school property and how officials report those offenses to law enforcement and parents. On Tuesday, eight Democrats crossed the aisle to help pass the bill, 59 to 40.

Read More

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.

Read More

Chesapeake School Parents Sue Governor Youngkin Over School Mask Mandate Ban

Thirteen parents from the Chesapeake school district are suing Governor Glenn Youngkin over his Executive Order Two which requires districts to allow parents to opt their children out of school mask mandates, no reason required. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, says Youngkin’s order violates of separation of powers, since it violates SB 1303, which requires schools to comply with CDC mitigation strategies.

“Executive Order Number Two purports to sweep aside masking mandates and other protections with little or no consideration of or respect for CDC guidance, actions taken by the Virginia General Assembly, or the powers vested in school boards,” the lawsuit states, according to a copy obtained by ABC7.

Read More

Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears Presides Over Senate for First Time on Martin Luther King Day

Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears took up the gavel to preside over the Senate for the first time on Monday, Martin Luther King Day. Sears is the first Black woman to hold statewide office in Virginia. Senators spent the Monday session with Martin Luther King Day speeches and with ceremonial introductions, including of Attorney General Jason Miyares.

Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) introduced Sears: “It is wonderful to have Winsome Earle-Sears assume the gavel as the lieutenant governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. For those of you who do not know Madam President, she is a Marine Corps veteran.

Read More

Delegate McGuire Introduces Repeals of Democratic Criminal Justice Reforms

Delegate John McGuire (R-Henrico) has introduced several bills that would repeal Democratic criminal justice reforms. McGuire’s proposals include bills to lower thresholds for felony larceny, make it easier to execute search warrants, and end local governmental authority to establish law enforcement civilian oversight bodies. Chief on the list is HB 59, which requires school principals to report misdemeanors to law enforcement and to the victim’s parents.

Read More

Telehealth Abortions Are Available to Virginians

Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., (PPMW) is now providing telehealth abortions to people with addresses in Virginia, Maryland, and D.C., according to a September 10 press release. After a phone screening and an online consultation, PPMW mails abortion drugs to the patient. Total cost for the service is $525, including a follow-up consultation and pregnancy test.

Read More

Richmond’s Robert E. Lee Monument to Come Down After Virginia Supreme Court Dismisses Lawsuits Blocking Removal

The Virginia Supreme Court dissolved injunctions blocking the removal of the Lee monument in Richmond, according to an opinion and an order published by the court on Thursday. In June 2020, Governor Ralph Northam ordered the removal of the monument, which sits on a small piece of land owned by Virginia in the middle of Richmond. Courts issued injunctions to prevent removal while considering two lawsuits challenging the legal authority to remove the monument.

In Taylor v. Northam, plaintiffs argued that documents from the late 1800s prevent the removal. But the court said that the restrictive covenants are unenforceable, and said that they unreasonably try to force government speech indefinitely.

Read More

Former Virginia Democratic Chairman Says McAuliffe’s Missed Signature Gave Him Unfair Primary Advantage

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe failed to sign paperwork to declare his candidacy; the GOP is using the issue to try to disqualify McAuliffe. That outcome is possible but unlikely, according to former Virginia Democratic Chairman Paul Goldman. Goldman is focused on the date the paperwork was filed — March 8. That day, at noon, was the first day candidates could file for the Democratic primary, and the first candidate to file gets to be listed first on the ballot.

Read More

Virginia Gubernatorial Candidates Discuss Direction and Values of Democratic Party in Final Debate

The final day of voting in the Democratic primary is June 8, less than a week away. On Tuesday evening, the gubernatorial candidates met for a final debate where they discussed issues including criminal justice, educational policy, and health care. One moment during the debate was sparked when moderators directed a question to Terry McAuliffe, and several of his opponents used rebuttal opportunities to weigh in on the post-Trump future of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

Read More

Steinem Endorses Foy, NARAL Virginia Endorses McClellan: A Gubernatorial Update

The Republicans have picked their nominees for Virginia’s statewide elections, with signs of a pivot towards more moderate voters. The Democratic primary has about three weeks left of early voting, with 35,072 early votes already cast, surpassing total turnout in the primary in 2017, according to The Virginia Public Access Project. Democratic candidates are battling for a few key remaining nominations to sway voters.

Read More

Debates, Tours, Endorsements, and a Florida Stop: Virginia Candidates Battle for Nomination

The race for the GOP nomination for the top Virginia positions is coming to an end, leading to a debate, tours, and a trip to Florida. In the Democratic primary, early voting has already begun, but big nominations are still rolling in.

Read More

Wason Center Releases New Democratic Primary Poll the Day Before Early Voting Begins

Delegate Elizabeth Guzman (D-Prince William) withdrew from the race for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor after campaign finance reports revealed she was trailing financially, sixth out of seven among the Democratic candidates. But a new Christopher Newport University/Wason Center Poll released Thursday shows that Guzman was polling in second place for the nomination even as she dropped out of the race. The poll places Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) at the head of the race for Lieutenant Governor with 12 percent, Guzman came in second with 4 percent, and 64 percent of voters were undecided. None of the other candidates scored more than two percent.

Read More

New Democratic Primary Poll Shows McAuliffe Still in the Lead

New polling data shows former Governor Terry McAuliffe in the lead with 42 percent, while his closest opponents, Jennifer Carroll Foy and Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) both had 8 percent support, while 29 percent of voters remain undecided.  Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax and Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manasses) came in with seven percent and four percent respectively, placing all the candidates except McAuliffe within range of each other, given the 4.3 percent margin of error. Public Policy Polling conducted the interviews of 526  likely Democratic primary voters on April 12 and 13.

Read More

Democratic Gubernatorial Endorsements Reveal Key Policies of Progressive Advocacy in Virginia

Progressive non-profit Clean Virginia announced its endorsement of gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Carrol Foy, backed by a pledge of $500,000 from the group’s PAC. Clean Virginia, known for its anti-utility advocacy, features a pledge for politicians to declare they will not accept campaign money from or own stock in Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power.

Read More

In Debate, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates Discuss Gun Violence and the Parole Board

The five Democratic candidates for governor met for the first televised debate on Tuesday evening where they discussed issues including the economic crisis, gun violence, marijuana legalization, the Virginia Parole Board, and vaccine hesitancy. For the most part, the candidates stuck to discussing their own policies, but occasionally turned to attack perceived front-runner McAuliffe.

Read More

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.

Read More

Virginia Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates Attack Their GOP Counterparts

Four Democratic candidates for governor blasted their GOP counterparts in a joint statement Thursday.

“Last week, the entire Republican field took their complete embrace of Donald Trump a step beyond the far right extremism that has become the norm in the Virginia GOP,” wrote candidates Jennifer Carroll Foy, Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manassas), Terry McAuliffe, and Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond.)

Read More

Northam Signs Bill to Remove Statue of Democratic Governor Harry Byrd, Sr.

Former Democratic Governor and U.S. Senator Harry Byrd, Sr., is finally leaving Virginia’s Capitol Square. On Friday, Governor Ralph Northam signed Delegate Jay Jones’ (D-Norfolk) HB 2208, which directs the Department of General Services to place the statue in storage until the General Assembly decides what to do with it. Byrd is known for his decades of political power, which he used to boost Virginia economically, build roads, and fight desegregating schools.

Read More

Debates, Special Elections, and Hot Dog Reviews: A Virginia Gubernatorial Update

With a special election coming on Tuesday for Senate District 38, gubernatorial candidates on both side of the aisle made appearances this week campaigning for Laurie Buchwald (D) and Travis Hackworth (R). But the governor’s race this week also featured hot dog reviews, a Democratic debate, and attacks between candidates.

Read More

Virginia Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates Face off in Debate

Four of the five Democratic candidates for Governor discussed legal reform, racial justice, environmental justice, and good government in a debate hosted by The Virginia People’s Debates. Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manassas), Jennifer Carrol Foy, Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax participated; front-runner Terry McAuliffe was absent.

Read More

Virginia General Assembly Approves Moving Local Elections from May to November

The General Assembly has passed legislation to move local elections for city, town council, and school board from May to November, starting in 2022. Proponents say the bill will boost voter turnout, especially among working-class voters, while many city officials say the bill is state interference that will lead to greater partisanship in local elections.

Read More

Virginia General Assembly Postpones Marijuana Legalization Until 2024

The Virginia General Assembly passed marijuana legalization bills on Saturday, a move that had been expected to make Virginia the first southern state to legalize marijuana. However, legislators from the House of Delegates and the Senate passed a compromise that delays legalization and retail sale of marijuana until 2024. The compromise, created in a conference committee, also requires another vote in 2022 to confirm parts of the bill.

While some legalization advocates said passage of the bill was progress, others criticized it.

Read More

Virginia General Assembly Kills Bill to Require Equal Educational Opportunities Across All Schools

After passing in the Senate 34 to one, Senator Bill Stanley’s (R-Franklin County) constitutional amendment to require equitable educational opportunities in all Virginia schools was killed by the House of Delegates Privileges and Elections Committee. Virginia’s constitution requires that free school be provided for all school-aged children. Stanley’s bill SJ 275 would have added a requirement that those schools include “equitable educational opportunities” for all school-aged children.

Read More

Senator Amanda Chase Still Dominates Virginia Gubernatorial Conversation as Other Candidates Announce New Policy Plans, Make Campaign Stops

More gubernatorial polls this week show most voters are undecided, allowing contest leaders to continue to claim front-runner status while allowing everybody else to claim theoretical wins. But there’s more gubernatorial news than that — this week’s campaign news features new policy announcements, major endorsements, messaging controversy, and a late-night television mention.

First, the poll: 49 percent of Democratic voters and 55 percent of Republican voters are undecided, according to a Christoper Newport University/Wason Center Poll. Former Governor Terry McAuliffe leads Democrats with 26 percent, while Senator Amanda Chase leads Republicans with 17 percent.

Read More

General Assembly Advances Bills That Allow Abortion Coverage in Health Care Plans on Commonwealth Exchange

The House of Delegates has approved SB 1276, a bill that allows abortions to be included in coverage from private insurance companies listed on the commonwealth’s healthcare exchange. On Thursday, the Senate passed a companion bill, HB 1896, 22 to 17.

Read More

New Poll Results, GOP Candidates Hit The Campaign Trail, and Democrats Hit Zoom: A Virginia Gubernatorial Update

An independent YouGov gubernatorial poll of 508 internet respondents was released Friday. Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) leads the GOP pack with 19 percent, with Pete Snyder at 10 percent and Delegate Kirk Cox at six percent. In the poll, first reported by The Virginia Scope, former Governor Terry McAuliffe leads Democratic candidates with 33 percent. The other leading Democratic candidates are well behind McAuliffe and are effectively tied given a five percent margin of error. Jennifer Carroll Foy and Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) come in at six percent each, with Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manassas) just behind at five percent and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax at four percent. Both races are still marked by high amounts of undecided voters.

Read More

Virginia General Assembly Considering Protections for Domestic Workers

The Virginia General Assembly is considering three bills that would add legal protections for domestic workers in jobs like cleaning, landscaping, and childcare. The bills are focused on banning discriminatory practices, implementing safety standards, and requiring worker’s compensation insurance. Advocates say the current exemption for domestic workers dates back to racist Jim Crow legislation and should be removed, but opponents say the bills put more burdens on domestic workers and the people who hire them.

HB 2032, introduced by Delegate Wendy Gooditis (D-Clarke) adds “Domestic Service” as a category that would be included under current workplace safety and workers’ compensation law. Gooditis said that the bill makes domestic service subject to workplace safety standards, and that inspectors can require access.

Read More

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.

Read More

Senator McClellan Unveils Universal Child Care and Early Learning Plan as Part of Gubernatorial Campaign

Democratic candidate for governor and Virginia State Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond City) released a plan central to her campaign last Friday that seeks to provide affordable and quality child care for every family with a kid under the age of five by 2025.

Under McClellan’s Universal Child Care & Early Learning Plan, Virginia families that make below or up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level would receive free child care, no matter the family size. While families making above that poverty threshold would have to pay for child care costs, but no more than 7 percent of their annual income.

Read More

Delegate Lee Carter Officially Announces Run for Governor

Virginia State Delegate Lee J. Carter (D-Manassas) officially joined the governor’s race last Friday and is now part of the crowded Democratic field vying for the party nomination this summer.

Carter, 33, is the fifth Democrat to seek the Executive Mansion next November and had originally filed paperwork to raise money for a gubernatorial bid last month.

Read More

Princess Blanding Announces Third-Party Run for Virginia Governor

Community activist and mental health advocate Princess Blanding, whose brother was fatally shot by Richmond Police in 2018, announced her entrance into the 2021 Virginia governor’s race on Tuesday as a third-party candidate, joining a group of hopefuls featuring former and current state politicians.

Blanding, 38, will be running as an independent candidate under the Liberation Party, whose mission to advance equity by uplifting traditionally underserved and oppressed communities, according to a press release.

Read More

Republican State Senator Emmett Hanger Still Seriously Considering a Bid for Governor

As the 2021 elections inch closer and begin to dominate almost all political talk in the Commonwealth, Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) is still exploring a potential run to become the 74th governor of Virginia.

Hanger, 72, recently discussed the gubernatorial election and the difficulty of securing the GOP nomination in an interview with The Virginia Star. 

Read More

Princess Blanding Slams Virginia Governor, Legislators Over Marcus Alert Bill

Princess Blanding, the sister of Marcus-David Peters who was shot and killed by Richmond Police during a mental health crisis, blasted Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Democratic lawmakers over legislation named after her brother during the bill signing ceremony on Tuesday.

In attendance alongside Northam were the three legislative sponsors of the bill: Senators Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond City) and Jeremy McPike (D-Prince William) and Delegate Jeff Boure (D-Richmond City).

Read More

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.

Read More

Terry McAuliffe to Run for Second Term as Virginia Governor

Former Governor Terry McAuliffe officially entered Virginia’s 2021 gubernatorial election on Wednesday after months of educated speculation that the long-time Democrat would throw his name into the contest and seek another four years in the Executive Mansion.

McAuliffe, 63, made the announcement during a press conference in front of Miles Jerome Jones Elementary School in Richmond’s southside that was streamed live to his Facebook page.

Read More

No In-Person Classes in Virginia’s Capital: Richmond Public Schools to Remain Virtual for Spring Semester

Richmond Public Schools (RPS) will continue with virtual learning only for the rest of the 2020-21 academic year.

During a Monday night meeting, the RPS School Board voted 8-1 to keep students away from the classroom for another several months after Superintendent Jason Kamras gave a presentation and recommended the school district remain virtual.

Read More

Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy Stepping Down from House to Focus on Run for Virginia Governor

Virginia State Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-Prince William) said Tuesday that she was stepping down from her position in the House of Delegates to focus on securing the Democratic nomination for the 2021 gubernatorial election.

Carroll Foy, one of several Democratic candidates for governor, announced the decision in a video posted to social media.

Read More

Justin Fairfax Says He is Poised to Help All Virginians as the Next Governor

If elected governor, Justin Fairfax is determined to bring the Commonwealth and its residents out from underneath the current issues plaguing Virginia brought forth by the coronavirus pandemic and a destructive political landscape. 

Last month Lt. Gov. Fairfax officially announced his entrance into the 2021 gubernatorial election, hoping to follow in the footsteps of former state governor L. Douglas Wilder and become the second black man elected to the Executive Mansion. 

Read More