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.

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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.”

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Virginia Expects About $530 Million in Opioid Crisis Settlement from Drug Distributors and Johnson & Johnson

Virginia expects about $530 million in a settlement over the opioid crisis with Johnson & Johnson along with pharmaceutical distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen, according to a press release from the Office of the Attorney General. The companies announced Friday that there is enough participation by states, territories, and localities who were suing the drug companies to move forward with a national settlement, first announced in July 2021.

In his release, Attorney General Jason Miyares said, “The opioid crisis has devastated many Virginia communities, families, and lives. The Office of the Attorney General is dedicated to this fight and is proud to have played a role in this historic settlement, which every city and county in Virginia joined. Because of this, the Commonwealth expects to receive approximately $530 million dollars to fight back against the opioid epidemic and support efforts to reduce, prevent and treat opioid addiction.”

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In Final State of the Commonwealth, Northam Says His Administration Focused on Helping People

In his final State of the Commonwealth address, Governor Ralph Northam said that his administration had been focused on helping people. He highlighted economic success, investment in skills training, education that reckons with Virginia’s past, clean energy, criminal justice reform, election law changes, and infrastructure investment.

“We are leaving this Commonwealth better than it was when we came into office. We have built a state that does a better job of treating people right. It’s more welcoming, more open, more fair and equitable. We have built a state that helps people who need it—whether they need health care, or cleaner water, or to keep a roof over their head during a global pandemic,” Northam said.

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New Virginia Gov. Youngkin Announces More Transition Officials

Glenn Youngkin announced a 113-member list of legislators, law enforcement, business owners, and Republican Party of Virginia officials that will be part of his transition “landing teams” — separate from the transition steering committee he announced earlier in November. The teams will coordinate with Governor Ralph Northam’s cabinet.

“In order to change the trajectory of our great Commonwealth, our transition team is utilizing the vast experience of business owners, law enforcement officials, veterans, healthcare providers, industry experts, and—most importantly—parents to determine how government can begin to serve Virginians better and start delivering on our Day One promises of better schools, safer streets, a lower cost of living, and more jobs,” Youngkin said in a Wednesday press release.

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Northam, Virginia Democrats Propose Using $700 Million from ARPA Funds for Broadband Access Expansion

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam

Governor Ralph Northam, Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), and top General Assembly finance Democrats are proposing using $700 million of the Commonwealth’s $4.3 billion American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds to make sure every Virginian has access to broadband by 2024.

“It’s time to close the digital divide in our Commonwealth and treat internet service like the 21st century necessity that it is—not just a luxury for some, but an essential utility for all,” Northam said in a press release.

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Virginia General Assembly Pushes Forward with Taxes on Forgiven PPP Loan Revenue

The Virginia General Assembly is moving forward with legislation that would effectively make employers who received Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) loans liable for state taxes. Bills that would practically exempt all income from the forgiven loans have been replaced with legislation that caps how much of the loan is exempt. Business advocates warn that the taxes could surprise the struggling businesses that the PPP loans were meant to help.

The bills bring Virginia’s tax code into conformity with the IRS; Virginia’s tax law doesn’t automatically change to match federal law, so state legislators pass tax conformity bills.

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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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Virginia Senate Convenes for General Assembly 2021 Regular Session

The Virginia General Assembly 2021 regular session began on Wednesday in Richmond with a relatively standard yet important first meeting of the Democratic-controlled state Senate.

Just as it was during last year’s special session, the Senate and its 39 members met in-person in a socially distanced space at the Science Museum of Virginia while the House of Delegates convened virtually.

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