Virginia Updates for January 31

Hello and welcome back to We Vote VA!

Today we’re wrapping up the last day in January (is it just us, or has this month has felt like the longest month and shortest month of the year so far?)

Well, we'll see how the rest of 2022 goes 😅

Until then, today we’re sharing your latest VA Updates Newsletter with information on the School Tipline implemented by the new administration. The tipline made national headlines, but few still know what it does, so we share more information on that.


We also have updates on potential changes coming to existing laws like the possession of Marjjuana and more. In the General Assembly, we share some of the latest details on their progress and what issues they are prioritizing. And lastly, we have trending Virginia Headlines on other issues happening in our commonwealth along with COVID-19 data to wrap up your newsletter.


This week have news on;

▪️ New Tipline for Virginia Schools

▪️ Potential Changes to Laws, including Marijuana and more

▪️ General Assembly Update

▪️ In other news, Trending VA Headlines

▪️ Vaccine Update

▪️ COVID-19 Data

📧 New Tip-line for Virginia Schools


Governor Glenn Youngkin’s new email tip-line, created so parents can report “divisive” teaching practices in schools to his administration, made national waves this week, with a mix of celebrities, activists, politicians and teacher associations speaking against it. But amid the uproar, many questions remain about what it actually does.


On Friday, Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter declined for a second time to answer questions from The Virginian-Pilot — such as who monitors the account, what steps are taken after reports are received and whether the governor’s administration plans to contact schools or educators mentioned in complaints.


During a Wednesday appearance on Fox News, Attorney General Jason Miyares called the tipline a tool for parental empowerment. But he also dodged a specific question.


The tipline was first referenced in a Jan. 21 news release about the governor’s executive order aiming to allow parents to opt children out of school mask mandates. Youngkin later mentioned it during a radio talk show appearance while discussing his opposition to critical race theory and urged parents to report any instances of “inherently divisive” teaching methods in their schools. The governor said the tips would help the administration root out such practices.


Sonja Lassiter, a special education teacher at Willoughby Early Childhood Center in Norfolk, said the tipline comes at an especially poor time. Teachers already are dealing with staff shortages, as well as risks and challenges of a pandemic, she explained.



🌱 Changes Coming to Marijuana Laws


After retaking the House of Delegates and Governor’s Mansion during last year’s election, prefiled bills show Republicans are seeking to reverse many policies enacted by Democrats over the past few years, from the expansion of absentee voting to trans-inclusive policies in schools.


One of the most prominent legislative victories for Democrats was the legalization of marijuana. Newly empowered Republican lawmakers in Virginia who opposed legalizing simple possession of marijuana say they don’t want to scrap the law, but they do want to make significant changes.


One of the possible changes include moving the start date for retail sales from 2023 to 2024. But the key takeaway is that both Republicans and Democrats are advancing bills that would legalize commercial sale – all that remains is to hammer out the details and the timeline.

Republicans have filed at least eight bills that call for amendments to the 2021 law that legalized adult possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and laid the groundwork for retail sales to begin in 2024.


Other bills include one by Republican Del. Michael Webert who is sponsoring a multi-pronged bill that would make several significant changes, including redirecting the 30% of tax revenues from marijuana sales currently earmarked for a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund to a fund that would be used to rebuild crumbling school buildings around the state.


A separate bill filed by Sen. Tommy Norment would funnel 30% of the revenue from marijuana sales into the state’s general fund instead of the reinvestment fund, which was included in the 2021 law as a way to reinvest in communities disproportionately affected by stringent drug laws, particularly communities of color. Both proposals are drawing criticism from social justice advocates.


Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who took office Jan. 15, has said that while he will not try to repeal personal possession, he does have serious concerns about pieces of the bill that establish the commercial market.



🏛 Update on the General Assembly


The General Assembly is in the 3rd week of its Legislative Session. Here are a few bills that have been introduced, passed and failed - so far.


  • The Senate Judiciary Committee killed SB 262 that would have ended felony possession penalties for psilocybin for people 21 years and older, a week after a House subcommittee agreed to table the effort until next year.

  • The Senate approved SB 181 which limits COVID-19 workers compensation to those who fail or refuse to receive a vaccine.

  • The Senate voted down SB 20 which would have eliminated the requirement that each school board adopt policies that are consistent with the model policies developed by the Department of Education concerning the treatment of transgender students in public schools.

  • A House of Delegates Rep introduced HB1183 which fines drivers if pulled over by law enforcement while driving with snow or ice still on the vehicle.


📰 In other news, VA Headlines:


13 News Now: Audit finds results in 2021 Virginia elections to be accurate, officials say. According to ELECT data, nearly 55% of registered voters turned out to vote, an increase of 24% from the 2017 elections.


3 WTKR News: Attorney General Miyares announces plan to cut collection fees on overdue state student debt in half. According to a release, collection fees assessed on overdue accounts can increase the amount of money owed by as much as 30 percent. Miyares, who took office earlier this month, will reduce the attorney general’s collection fees on overdue student loans from 30% of the overdue balance to 15%.


ABC 7 News: Gov. Glenn Youngkin seeks to expand lab schools and charter schools in Virginia. Youngkin signed an agreement with colleges and universities that are willing to partner with public schools to expand lab schools, which will focus on STEM, literacy or a particular industry.



⚠️ COVID-19 & Vaccine Data


The Virginia Department of Health reported Monday that the statewide total for COVID-19 cases is 1,545,636. The 1,545,636 consists of 1,103,675 confirmed and 441,961 probable cases. There are 16,217 COVID-19 deaths, and Virginia’s 7-day positivity rate is now at 25.5%.


Vaccine Summary: As of Monday, January 31

  • Total Doses Administered: 14,699,184

  • People Fully Vaccinated: 5,876,578 or 68.8%

  • Percent of Adults (18+) Fully Vaccinated: 78.8%

  • People Vaccinated with at least 1 dose: 6,753,014 or 79.1%

  • Percent of Adults (18+) Vaccinated with at least 1 dose: 90.2%

  • People Vaccinated with Booster / Third dose: 2,420,190

For more information on Virginia's vaccination efforts, please visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-VAX-IN-VA

 

Thanks for joining us this week!


Leave a message down below on what you think about the stories we covered today, share thoughts on the possible laws or any questions you have.


-- Maria, Editor in Chief