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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Del. Dawn Adams: Budget Legalizes Marijuana Retail ‘Straight Up’

Delegate Dawn Adams (D-Richmond) was among a bipartisan group of seven delegates who voted against the budget on Wednesday. Adams criticized the Youngkin administration’s policies for state employees, but focused on language in the budget proposal that fails to adequately regulate THC in retail marijuana.

“We are now legalizing retail marijuana straight up. That’s what we’re doing. It’s just we’re going to call it hemp. And you can call it hemp, but it’s marijuana, and specifically until you have regulations, that does of marijuana that is now legal in retail stores can be anything as long as they put it on the package,” Adams, a nurse practitioner, said in a speech to the House of Delegates.

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Virginia House Democrats Pick Don Scott Jr. for New Minority Leader

RICHMOND, Virginia — Delegate Don Scott, Jr. (D-Portsmouth) is the new Democratic Leader/Minority Leader in the Virginia House of Delegates, elected on Wednesday morning. Scott had pushed to oust then-Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn who was voted out at the end of April, but at that time the caucus opted to delay a vote on a new leader to give time for other candidates to campaign.

“I’ve come through some adversity in life and I’ve been able to overcome it and I’ve done very well for myself,” Scott told reporters after the results were announced.

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Virginia State House Democrats Propose $50 Tax Rebate to Car Owners

The Virginia House Democrats announced a proposal to give a $50 tax rebate to Virginia car owners, up to $100 per househould — a counter-proposal to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s call for a months-long suspension of Virginia’s 26.2-cent gasoline tax.

“Unlike the plan proposed by Governor Youngkin and supported by Republican members of the General Assembly, the House Democratic plan will send funds directly to Virginia drivers and at less than one third of the cost,” the caucus said in a Friday press release. “Last week, Governor Youngkin said, ‘We can’t guarantee anything,’ when asked if his plan would pass savings to consumers. This matches criticism by legislators, business leaders, and economic experts who say that consumers would see little, if any, savings from such an action.”

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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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With No Budget Compromise Ready, General Assembly Meets and Adjourns Special Session for Now

RICHMOND, Virginia – The General Assembly met briefly on Monday afternoon after Governor Glenn Youngkin recalled them for a special session to complete and pass a budget compromise and finish other legislation. The legislators passed rules for the special session that allow them to adjourn until Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) or Senate Rules Committee Chair Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) recall the legislators with 48-hours’ notice. Then, since the budget compromise isn’t ready, the legislators adjourned.

“I was disappointed at the pace the work was going,” Youngkin told the media after a ceremonial bill signing on Monday morning. “I was disappointed there wasn’t more work last week. Everybody’s here today, and I expect them to get to work today. And I know that there are meetings that can be held, and should be held, and will be held. So it’s important to go ahead and get people back to work, and I think calling them back to special session is an important motivator to do that.”

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Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board Revokes COVID-19 Regulations for Employers

coffee shop with Edison lights hanging from ceiling

The Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board voted Monday to revoke standards regulating how businesses and employers must respond to COVID-19.

After the vote, recently-appointed Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) Gary Pan said, “At the beginning of this journey here through COVID, there was a lot of uncertainty and we didn’t really know what we were going to be facing, but we now have a lot of experience. And that’s important and we will be working vigilantly to make sure that we continue to protect our employees and employers in the workplace.”

“We are on the path to normalcy here in Virginia and throughout the United States,” Pan said.

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Virginia Governor Youngkin Calls for Three-Month Gas Tax Holiday After Plan to Suspend Gas Tax Increase for a Year Fails

HENRICO, Virginia – Governor Glenn Youngkin announced Wednesday that he wants the General Assembly to pass a bill suspending Virginia’s 26.2 gas tax and 27-cent diesel tax for three months, spanning May, June, and July. That’s a pivot from his campaign promise to suspend the five-cent gas-tax price increase for a year, a proposal that the Senate opposed. Youngkin said rising gas prices predate Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine and the economic impact from sanctions placed on Russia.

“We saw of course prior to that was gas prices in Virginia had gone up a dollar. And they’ve gone up another 80 cents, and this is just part of the inflationary pressures that Virginians are feeling all over,” Youngkin told reporters after pumping gas for a few supporters.

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House of Delegates Subcommittee Recommends Postponing Marijuana Sales Legalization

A House of Delegates General Laws subcommittee voted five to three on Monday to recommend continue a key marijuana sales legalization bill until the 2023 session, effectively dooming the bill for now. Senate Bill 391 would create the regulatory structure for a legal marijuana industry in Virginia, including cultivation, manufacture, and sale. If the General Laws Committee follows the recommendation from the subcommittee, Virginia’s legal-to-own but not legal-to-buy recreational cannabis structure will remain in place for now.

Bill sponsor Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) told the delegates, “The action of this subcommittee, as we discussed, will establish a Virginia cannabis brand. The question is whether the brand will be a regulated, confined marketplace for adults, or for an import crime subsidization program proliferating in school yards and gas stations.”

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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 General Assembly at Crossover: Republican House, Democratic Senate About to Clash over Budget, Conflicting Policy

Halfway through the 2022 Virginia General Assembly session, the House of Delegates has passed a wave of Republican reforms focusing on taxes, law enforcement, and education, while much of the Senate’s work has involved Democrats killing Republican bills in committee. The legislature has just passed crossover, when each chamber sends its finalized bills to the other chamber. Now, the chambers will clash over conflicting policy as they evaluate each other’s bills and work on the budget.

“[W]e ran on a platform that was informed by what voters told us they wanted the General Assembly to accomplish on their behalf in 2022. They wanted lower taxes and safer communities. They wanted parents involved in their child’s education, not boxed out,” a Tuesday House GOP release said.

“As the House completes its work on our legislative priorities, I’m pleased to report that we’ve accomplished what voters sent us here to do,” Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said in the release.

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House Republicans Deliver School Mask-Optional Bill to Youngkin

The House of Delegates passed SB 739, which will require schools to make masks optional. After Republicans were surprised by bipartisan votes in the Senate last week to amend the bill to include the mask clause and to pass the bill, Republicans hustled the bill through the necessary House committee hearing and through three required floor sessions, including a two-minute-long pro-forma session on Sunday. By 1 p.m. on Monday, Republicans had already delivered the bill to Governor Glenn Youngkin, who has committed to adding an emergency clause to make it take effect immediately.
After Youngkin adds the clause, both chambers can pass the bill and emergency clause with simple majority votes, setting up the bill to be law and in effect potentially by the end of the week, House Majority Leader Terry Kilgore (R-Scott) said on The John Fredericks Show Monday morning.

“Once we adopt his [Youngkin’s] amendments, he’s already signed it and sent it back, it’ll be the law, and we can put this behind us,” Kilgore told The Virginia Star’s publisher, John Fredericks.

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House of Delegates Passes ‘Operation Ceasefire’ Bill

The House of Delegates passed a bill to fund a group violence intervention program based on the “Operation Ceasefire” projects implemented in Boston. That’s been a goal of now-Speaker Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) since 2019, and Governor Glenn Youngkin promised it during his campaign. Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham) introduced HB 833; the version that passed out of the House on Monday would create a grant fund managed by the attorney general to fund violent crime reduction strategies, training and equipment for law enforcement, grants to law enforcement and other organizations engaged in group violence intervention.

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House of Delegates Passes Bill to Ban Consideration of Race in Governor’s Schools Admissions

RICHMOND, Virginia – The House of Delegates passed a bill banning consideration of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in admissions to Virginia’s governor’s schools. That’s a reaction to controversy at Thomas Jefferson (TJ) High School for Science and Technology, where officials instituted a merit lottery to try to expand the largely Asian American student base to underrepresented groups while still maintaining a high standard. Conservatives saw that as part of a broader wave of watered-down academic standards in the name of equity, and Republicans campaigned in 2021 on restoring Virginia’s educational standards of excellence.

Delegates debated HB 127 on Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Delegate Richard (Rip) Sullivan (D-Fairfax) said he and his wife spent years as proud TJ Colonials parents.

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Senate Committee Blocks Confirmation of Trump EPA Chief to Serve as Youngkin’s Secretary of Natural Resources; Republicans Planning Consequences

RICHMOND, Virginia – The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee blocked Governor Glenn Youngkin’s nominee for Secretary of Natural Resources, former Trump EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. On Tuesday afternoon, Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) moved to remove Wheeler’s name from a Senate resolution to confirm the nominees.

“We received a letter from 150 former EPA employees, who suggested that Mr. Wheeler had undermined the work of the EPA and worked against the environmental interests in this country. We think that members of the governor’s cabinet ought to be able to unite us as Virginians, and certainly the secretary of natural resources ought to be one that we have confidence in, in terms of working for the preservation and conservation of our natural resources,” Deeds said.

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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.

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Youngkin’s Education Tip Line Attracts Democratic Anger; Del. Scott Questions Youngkin’s Faith

Governor Glenn Youngkin’s tip line for parents with concerns about in-school practices is triggering outrage on social media, CNN, and the floor of the House of Delegates.

In a Monday appearance on The John Fredericks Show, Youngkin said the email hotline is “for parents to send us any instances where they feel that their fundamental rights are being violated, where their children are not being respected, where there are inherently divisive practices in their schools.”

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Commentary: Meritocracy Against the Wokes

Poor Democrats — they haven’t been this ruffled about Republicans taking over Richmond since 1865.

Truly, it’s hard to feel much sympathy for the Virginia Democrats, whose lust for power and the damage they did in just two years was something to behold. What they deemed progress consisted mostly of bulldozing history, embedding outright racism into our classrooms and bureaucracy, and institutionalizing mental illness to the degree where if such things are questioned you are swiftly beaten out of the public square — or worse, the Twitter mob is followed up by a media no one reads and you are marched off to your own private gulag.

Yet I digress.

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Speaker Gilbert, Senator McDougle to Serve Again on Republican Legislative Campaign Committee Executive Committee

Senator Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover) and Speaker of the House of Delegates Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) will again serve on the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (RLCC) Executive Committee. Gilbert is also in a new role at the RLCC as finance chair.

“National Democrats proved in 2021 that they are willing to spend whatever it takes to win state-level races so they can turn the entire country into a socialist utopia,” Gilbert said in a RLCC release Wednesday. “Despite that obstacle, Republicans were able to flip the House of Delegates in the Commonwealth of Virginia while making significant gains in other liberal strongholds like New Jersey. I am excited to continue working with this incredible organization and to act as a resource for my colleagues trying to replicate the success we had in 2021.”

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General Assembly Session Day Two: Filler-Corn Criticizes Speaker Gilbert for Tweet About Northam State of the Commonwealth

Eileen Filler-Corn

In a Wednesday tweet, Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert blasted Governor Ralph Northam’s final State of the Commonwealth address, leading House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn to respond in a floor statement on Thursday.

“Ralph Northam is leaving office as his own lost cause, condescendingly lecturing us all from some assumed moral high ground because he read the book ‘Roots’ and then went on a non-stop reconciliation tour. Saturday can’t come fast enough,” Gilbert wrote.

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Speaker of the House Gilbert Takes the Dais, Republicans Preview Agenda on First Day of 2022 General Assembly Session

Virginia House Republicans took power on Wednesday with the formal election and swearing-in of Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah). The first day of the 2022 General Assembly session was marked by ceremony and by minor squabbles between Democrats and Republicans over House rules. In the morning, Gilbert and other Republican leaders previewed their legislative goals for the session in a press conference.

“Our agenda for 2022 is a direct response to what we heard from voters on the campaign trail,” Gilbert said. “Throughout the campaign, voters consistently told us they were worried about their children’s education, inflation was making it harder to take care of their families, and they wanted to see the safety of their communities improved.”

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