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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Morrissey Says Skill Games Ban Is a Civil Rights Abuse, Calls on Attorney General Herring to Investigate

Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Virginia) is calling for Attorney General Mark Herring to investigate alleged civil rights violations associated with Virginia’s skill games ban that took effect in July.

“Last session, the General Assembly banned skill games while at the same time they authorized casinos to be built, they expanded historical horse betting, they authorized online sports betting. But the people who were left out are these small business operators that represent the fabric of Virginia,” Morrissey said in a press conference Monday morning.

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Lobbyist Advocates Video Game Terminals as Alternative to Skill Games

A lobbyist flew four Virginia state legislators to Illinois on Tuesday to pitch video game terminals (VGT) as an alternative to the recently-banned skill games popular in the Commonwealth’s convenience stores.

“I was wildly impressed with the regulations and control that the Illinois gaming board has on VGT machines. It is impossible to game the system,” Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) told The Virginia Star.

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Michael Bills and Clean Virginia Biggest Losers in Virginia Democratic Primary

Democrats nominated former governor Terry McAuliffe, Attorney General Mark Herring, and Delegate Hala Ayala (D-Prince William) for governor, attorney general, and lieutenant governor respectively. Progressive candidates lost both in those races, and down-ballot in the House of Delegates.

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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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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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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 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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Bill Prohibiting Solitary Confinement Use in State Prisons, Juvenile Facilities Reports Out of Virginia Senate Committee

A bill in the state Senate that would prohibit prisons and juvenile facilities run by the Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) from placing offenders in solitary confinement was reported out of the Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee on Friday.

Specifically, Senate Bill 1301 does not outright ban the use of solitary confinement – defined as 17 or more hours in a cell for juveniles and 20 or more hours for adult prisoners – but more so restricts the practice and implements safeguards against misuse

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Legislation Eliminating Mandatory Minimum Sentences Passes Through Virginia Senate Committee

Legislation to remove most mandatory minimum sentences in Virginia advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday through a 9-6 party-line vote.

Senate Bill 1443 would end the mandatory minimum prison time for more than 200 crimes in the Commonwealth that carry the specific punishments, including assault and battery, rape and other sexual crimes, drug distribution and possession, child pornography as well as driving under the influence (DUI).

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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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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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Virginia Republicans Blast Northam’s Budget Proposal to Expand Court of Appeals

After Governor Ralph Northam made a number of proposals to the state’s biennial budget on Wednesday, several Republican legislators rebuked the Democrat’s recommendation to expand the Virginia Court of Appeals and claimed he was trying to pack the court.

Northam presented his budget proposals during a virtual meeting with the House of Delegates and Senate appropriation committees.

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Virginia House Will Remain Virtual in 2021; Republicans Leaders Want to Keep Regular Session at 30 Days

Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County) announced Monday that the Virginia House of Delegates would continue to meet virtually during the upcoming 2021 General Assembly regular session, just as they did during the special session, because of the current status of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the emailed statement, Filler-Corn’s decision was made after discussions with the Clerk of the House and officials from the Virginia Department of Health, which includes a letter from Virginia State Health Commissioner, Norman Oliver, strongly recommending the House hold sessions virtually “to the greatest extent possible.

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Governor Signs Sentencing Reform Legislation into Law

Last week Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation into law from the Virginia General Assembly special session, which gives judges sentencing power instead of juries in most criminal cases.

Sponsored by Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond City), Senate Bill 5007 changes a 224-year practice in the Commonwealth where juries had the authority to pass sentences after a conviction had been made.

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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. 

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Senate Lawmakers Pass Conference Report for Criminal Justice Reform Legislation

During potentially the final day of the lengthy 2020 special session, Senate legislators adopted and passed the conference committee report on a bill that allows judges in certain criminal cases to issue the sentences instead of the jury. 

The conference report that was unanimously agreed upon by the six conferees, two Republicans and two Democrats, passed the Senate by an almost exact party line vote of (Y-22 N-16). 

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Virginia House: We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ History

The Virginia state Senate Committee on Local Government passed by for the day a House bill that would authorize localities to remove, relocate or alter memorials for war veterans, including the Civil War. 

Through a voice vote, House Bill (HB) 5030 was passed by for the day with the understanding that the committee chair will write a letter to the Department of Historic Resources and the Attorney General’s office for a better understanding on the memorials and of any potential legal ramifications from the bill. 

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Richmond Protest-Related Fires Caused More Than $4 Million in Loses over 18-Day Period

Richmond firefighters responded to 48 fires believed to be protest-related causing more than $4 million in estimated losses from late May to mid-June, according to internal fire & EMS department analysis obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch (RTD).

From May 29, the Friday after George Floyd was murdered by police in Minnesota, to June 15th eight buildings, 16 dumpsters, six vehicles as well as other fires involving trash or debris, according to the RTD.

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