General Assembly Kills Gas Tax Holiday, Hyde Amendment, but Pass Partial Lab School Expansion in FY 23-24 Budget

RICHMOND, Virginia — The Virginia General Assembly approved many of Governor Glenn Youngkin’s budget amendments on Friday, but in mostly-partisan votes, killed his efforts to expand a ban on using state tax dollars on abortions, and to create a three-month gas tax holiday. Additionally, House Republicans and Democrats killed an amendment that would have made it a felony to protest outside courts and justices’ homes to influence proceedings.

Youngkin criticized the defeat of the gas tax holiday on Twitter: “Democrats failed to put politics aside for the good of Virginians — for a third time.”

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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 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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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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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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‘Ghost Gun’ Ban Fails in Virginia General Assembly

The Virginia House of Delegates and Senate failed to come to a compromise over a ban on “ghost guns” – a nickname for firearms that are handmade, improvised, or otherwise assembled from unserialized parts. As a result, the bill died when the General Assembly session ended Monday. Although HB 2276 passed in the House of Delegates, senators worried that the bill could have unintended consequences such as preventing legally owned firearms that had been grandfathered in from being transferred to someone else.

A Senate committee had already changed the bill to allow possession of unserialized firearms, but still banned manufacture, sale, or transfer of the weapons.

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