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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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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After Senate Committee Kills Sen. Chase’s Ivermectin Bill, Capitol Police Direct Upset Supporters to Leave

Virginia Capitol Police directed upset members of the public out of a Senate Education and Health Committee meeting after the committee killed Senator Amanda Chase’s bill aimed at protecting medical providers who prescribe ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.

“This bill is about a patient’s right to life. A patient has a right to life and should not be prohibited from potential life-saving medication by a hospital, a pharmacy, or other administrative agency. Patients should be able to make decisions about their care and treatment in conjunction with the knowledge and expertise of their treating physician,” Chase told the committee on Thursday morning.

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Virginia Gov-Elect Youngkin Taps His Nonprofit’s CEO Caren Merrick to Serve as State Sec of Commerce and Trade

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has tapped Caren Merrick to be his Secretary of Commerce and Trade. Merrick currently helms Youngkin’s non-profit VA Ready, which Youngkin started in June 2020, a month before announcing his departure from the Carlyle Group.

“Virginia’s jobs machine has stalled out, and Caren is going to play a pivotal role on the team that will jumpstart our economy and reinvigorate job growth here in the Commonwealth,” Youngkin said in a Tuesday press release. “Caren is an innovator, a business builder, and a true leader in workforce development—the kind of experience needed to develop talent, train workers, attract investment, and make Virginia the best state to start a business as we set out to add 400,000 jobs and launch 10,000 startups.

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Preparing to Take Power, Newly Elected Virginia Gov. Youngkin Announces His Transition Team

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin announced his transition steering committee and advisors on Wednesday. The group includes Republican legislators, Republican Party of Virginia officials, and the three previous Republican governors of Virginia. Former Democratic Governor Doug Wilder is also on the list; he aimed several attacks at opponent former Governor Terry McAuliffe during the campaign without ever endorsing Youngkin. The list also includes Sentara Chief of Staff Aubrey Layne, who was a cabinet official to both Governor Ralph Northam and McAuliffe.

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State Sen. Newman Announces Resignation from Virginia Redistricting Commission the Day After Commission Sees First Partial Map Drafts

Another Republican member is resigning from the Virginia Redistricting Commission. On Friday, Senator Stephen Newman (R-Bedford) announced his resignation; the commission will likely appoint a replacement from a list already put forward by Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment, Jr. (R-James City.)

“I have enjoyed working with my colleagues on the Virginia Redistricting Commission for the past nine months. Approved by the voters last November, the bipartisan Commission is in its first year and I wish them well as they continue to navigate uncharted territory,” Newman said in a statement. “Given the newly published Commission meeting schedule and my ongoing professional obligations, I regret that I can no longer serve on this body.”

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Virginia Redistricting Commission Moving Forward with Two Partisan Map-Drawing Teams

RICHMOND, Virginia – The Virginia Redistricting Commission will hire separate Republican and Democratic map-drawing teams after voting against a non-partisan team proposed by the Democratic legal counsel. In the Tuesday meeting, the commission also worked on a guidance document and agreed to allow the use of historical political data and incumbents’ addresses during the map drawing process.

Democratic citizen members of the commission lamented the loss of a more non-partisan perspective.

“The spirit of what we were trying to do as a commission as we’ve heard from citizens over and over again, is not quite unfolding the way maybe many citizens had hoped, but we will do the best we can within the constraints of what we’re voting on as a commission,” Co-Chair Greta Harris (D) said.

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Virginia Redistricting Commissioners Debate Timing, Procedure, in First Meeting Since Census Data Published

The U.S. Census Bureau released 2020 census data on Friday, but on Monday, the Virginia Redistricting Commission voted 14-1 with one abstention to consider August 26 the date of receipt of census bureau data. That’s due to Census Bureau delays that led to the data being released in an older format that will take vendors two weeks to process.

“This situation is very different from, I think, probably any other redistricting effort that has been done since long before World War II,” Senator George Barker (D-Fairfax) said, noting that law requires delivery of census data within a year of the census date.

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Virginia Redistricting Commission Making Key Decisions on Tight Timeline

The Virginia Redistricting Commission is facing key decisions about how it will create legislative maps. The U.S. Census Bureau is expected to publish 2020 Census data later this month. When the commission receives the data on August 16, that will launch a 45-day deadline for the commission to create the maps for House of Delegates and Senate. But the commission is still debating key questions about how to draw the maps: should subcommittees be used, who should be on them, and should the maps be based on the current maps.

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Virginia Redistricting Commission Fills Vacancy With Just a Month Left Before Receiving Census Data

The Virginia Redistricting Commission voted Monday to nominate Virginia Trost-Thornton as a Republican citizen member after Marvin Gilliam resigned two weeks ago.

“I can support either one of them. I know that Virginia Trost is from the Forest area, she is a chemical engineer and a lawyer and a math major and a pretty smart lady,” Senator Stephen Newman (R-Bedford) told the commission.

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Northam Announcements: Record May Revenue Increase, New Secretary of Finance, and Return to Earn Grant Program

Virginia saw a 66.2 percent General Fund revenue increase in May according to a Friday announcement from Governor Ralph Northam. He also announced the appointment of Joe Flores as the new Secretary of Finance, and a Return to Earn Grant program to help provide bonuses to new hires at small businesses.

“Virginia’s economy is roaring back to life thanks to hard work following the science and one of the strongest pandemic responses in the country,” Northam said in a press release.

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General Assembly Republicans Call for Special Session to Investigate Virginia Parole Board

General Assembly Republicans renewed calls for a special session to investigate the Virginia Parole Board (VPB) after media obtained recordings of a call held last summer between Northam administration officials and State Inspector General Michael Westfall.

House of Delegates Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said in a Monday press release, “The recording of the meeting between the Office of State Inspector General and Governor  [Ralph] Northam’s team explains why the Governor’s budget amendment only called for an investigation of OSIG, and not the Parole Board. The Governor’s office doesn’t think the Parole Board did anything wrong.”

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PPP Loan Tax Exemption Bills Go into Conference in Virginia General Assembly

The General Assembly has so far failed to find middle ground for tax breaks on forgiven Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) loans, and will now form a committee of three senators and three delegates to reconcile differences between the two chambers.

While a Senate bill calls for a $100,000 cap on income deductions claimed under PPP expenditures, the House of Delegates bill calls for only a $25,000 cap. When the two chambers considered each other’s bills, the House modified SB 1146 to a $25,000 cap, while the Senate amended HB 1935 to a $100,000 cap. After passing the modified versions, both chambers then rejected the modified versions of their original bills. On Friday, the two chambers agreed to form a conference committee to work together to create a bill that can pass both chambers.

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Northam Imposes Curfew, New Mask Requirement, Updated Gathering Limits for Virginia

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued increased statewide restrictions during a press briefing Thursday afternoon to combat rising coronavirus numbers in the Commonwealth as the Christmas holiday approaches.

Starting at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, December 14th, a modified stay-at-home order will be in place with a curfew for all Virginians from midnight to 5 a.m. The only exceptions are getting food and goods, seeking medical attention as well as traveling to and from work.

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