Virginia Updates for March 14

Who else is tired? Show of hands ✋

Hey VA, Happy Pi Day! We hope everyone is doing well and feeling sorta rested after the time change this weekend. I don’t normally feel the impact of daylight savings time, but this morning I definitely needed an extra hour (or three) of sleep 😅

Besides less sleep and snow in Spring, we’re excited to be back to share your latest Virginia Updates Newsletter for March 14 📬


For today’s newsletter, we have updates on the unfinished budget from the General Assembly and how they plan to move forward. We also have updates on 4 major legislative topics and where they stand (find the fill list on our website), share pushback from the VASS on the school tip-line, and then we share some Virginia Headlines were we highlight the Virginia schools participating in #MarchMadness!


Here’s this week's updates - we have news on;

▪️ Unfinished Budget

▪️ General Assembly Bill Update

▪️ Push Back on Tip-line

▪️ In other news, Virginia Headlines

▪️ COVID-19 Data & Locality Update

▪️ Vaccine Data


Unfinished Budget


Virginia's divided part-time Legislature has opted to adjourn and reconvene later at the call of the Governor to finish the year's budget legislation and other work.


Both chambers agreed to a resolution Saturday that allows the budget bills and several dozen other measures that were still being negotiated to be carried over to a special session.


The Democrat-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House passed their respective spending plans in February, and a conference committee has been meeting to negotiate a compromise to send to Youngkin.


The House and Senate budget bills for fiscal years 2022-2024 contained some similarities, including raises for state and state-funded employees and hefty deposits to the state’s reserves and retirement system. But they were about $3 billion apart on tax policy, which also resulted in differing allocations to certain government services.


Neither Youngkin nor legislative leaders were willing to lay out a timeline for completing the remaining work. When negotiators agree on a budget, Youngkin is expected to call for a special session to take up the spending plan and any deals made on outstanding legislation.


Youngkin has said the Senate budget doesn’t include nearly enough tax relief for Virginia families struggling with inflation and surging gas prices, a message he reiterated Saturday.


Besides the budget, several other high-profile items remained unfinished at adjournment. Lawmakers will be able to take them back up when they reconvene in Richmond.


The two chambers, which sparred throughout the session that began in January over various appointments, did not fill two spots on the Supreme Court of Virginia. And a number of bills, including a measure intended to lure the NFL’s Washington Commanders to Virginia, did not cross the finish line.



General Assembly Bill Updates


As Virginia legislators adjourned on Saturday, leaving plenty of unfinished business for an upcoming special session, they passed, stalled and killed hundreds of bills and measures over the 60-day session.


Here’s a glance at where 10 issues stand as lawmakers leave town:


Abortion:

Senate Democrats rejected House Republican bills that would have mostly banned abortion after 20 weeks, required “informed consent” before an abortion and that prescribed required care for an infant born alive in a botched abortion.


Cannabis:

House Republicans rejected Senate-backed legislation to accelerate the start of legal sales of recreational marijuana to September of this year, through existing medical dispensaries and some hemp processors.


The House also rejected legislation that would have offered a path for recalibrating the sentences of people incarcerated due to marijuana-related convictions.


Clean Economy Act:

The Senate defeated a House bill designed to roll back the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act, which commits Virginia to 100% renewable energy by 2045.


Guns:

Senate committees defeated a number of House bills to remove or reduce gun restrictions. These included bills to allow the carrying of a concealed handgun without a permit and to repeal the law restricting handgun purchases to one a month.


A Senate panel also defeated a Republican bill to repeal the state’s 2020 “red flag” law. It lets a prosecutor or law enforcement official petition a judge for an emergency order to bar a person who poses a substantial risk of injury to himself or others from purchasing, possessing or transporting a firearm.


The House and Senate passed bills making it a misdemeanor to knowingly possess a firearm on which the serial number has been removed or altered.


Hazing:

A conference committee is working out differences in House and Senate bills to punish hazing following the death of Virginia Commonwealth University freshman Adam Oakes.


LGBT:

A Republican-controlled House panel rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to remove from the state constitution defunct wording barring same-sex marriage.


Marcus Alert:

Legislators passed a bill that would let localities with populations under 40,000 opt out of a 2020 law, the Marcus Alert, meant to improve the response to mental and behavioral health crises. The concern is that smaller localities can’t afford the cost. Lawmakers said they will continue to work toward broader implementation.


Political Contributions:

The Senate rejected proposals to limit political donations to candidates to $20,000 per election cycle and to cut off campaign cash from Dominion Energy and other utilities.


A House subcommittee rejected a Senate bill that would bar most personal uses of campaign finance money by lawmakers.


School Choice:

Both chambers approved legislation to expand the ability of colleges and universities to open “lab schools,” public schools run by these entities with public school dollars. A conference committee is working to iron out differences between the House and Senate bills — namely, how to fund the schools.


School Offenses:

The House and Senate passed bills that would require K-12 principals to report to police certain incidents that occur on school grounds and notify any involved minor’s parents that the matter is being referred to authorities. When Democrats controlled the legislature, they passed a law to give principals more discretion.


School Resource Officers:

Lawmakers passed a watered-down bill that would no longer require a school resource officer in each elementary or secondary school. It would instead require the training of a law enforcement officer as a liaison to a school without a resource officer.


Tax cuts:

Youngkin is pushing for the House version of tax cuts, which are larger than the Senate version. Both chambers have agreed to a $1.2 billion, one-time tax rebate of $300 for individuals and $600 for families.


The House backed Youngkin’s proposed 5-cent-per-gallon cut in the gasoline tax for 12 months, but the Senate killed it.


The Senate also deferred until next year Youngkin-backed proposals to double the standard deduction for income tax filers and give small businesses a one-time income tax exemption up to $250,000.


Voting:

The Senate rejected House bills to restore the photo ID requirement for voting; to require that absentee ballots be received before polls close on Election Day in order to count; to limit absentee voting to the two weeks before an election; and to scrap drop boxes for absentee ballots.



Push Back on School Tip-line


The Virginia Association of School Superintendents that represents Virginia's 133 public school superintendents is pushing back against Governor Glenn Youngkin and the Virginia Department of Education after an interim report on topics was deemed "inherently divisive".


A letter was sent on behalf of the Association Thursday, demanding that Youngkin "terminate" his Critical Race Theory tipline and stating that his policies could set public education in Virginia back "many years".


In the letter, the group said the administration did not seek division superintendents nor other stakeholder groups for input before the report was published, adding that they weren’t consulted before the administration moved to rescind several policies, programs and resources that aimed to improve student success in underserved communities.


The organization went on to express its disagreement with the notion that divisive concepts have become widespread in Virginia school divisions along with the administration’s goal to “restore excellence” in Virginia, explaining that it “implies an inaccurate assessment” that schools are less than.


“Again, by most measures, Virginia ranks near the top and surpasses most states throughout the country,” the letter reads.


The letter also faults Youngkin’s tip line, which allows parents to report their child’s school if they suspect that critical race theory or divisive practices are being taught in the school.



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In other news, Virginia Headlines


WJHL News - Flood Awareness Week. The week of March 13-19 is flood awareness week in Virginia and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation urges residents to consider flood insurance. A release from the department says that only 3% of Virginians have flood insurance. There are resources available such as The Virginia Flood Risk Information System that can help residents identify their property’s flood risk.


Sports Illustrated - Virginia Goes to March Madness. The 2022 NCAA men's basketball tournament bracket was revealed on Selection Sunday, and 4 Virginia schools will go head to head in the tournament. Virginia Tech Hokies, Richmond Spiders, Longwood Lancers and the Norfolk State Spartans.


The Roanoke Time - National Cycling Championship coming to Roanoke. Hundreds of adult and youth athletes will cycle the urban streets and rural roads of the Roanoke Valley this summer in a series of national amateur races. USA Cycling, the national governing body for cycling in the United States, named Roanoke Friday as the site of this year’s Amateur Road National Championships. The event, scheduled June 29 to July 2, is expected to pack hotels and restaurants across the region. Spectators will find viewing locations along the courses, which will include downtown Roanoke streets.



COVID-19 In Virginia


The Virginia Department of Health reported Monday that the statewide total for COVID-19 cases is 1,653,212. The 1,653,212 consists of 1,179,738 confirmed and 473,474 probable cases. There are 19,212 COVID-19 deaths, and Virginia’s 7-day positivity rate is now at 4.7%.


Locality Change:


Beginning March 10, 2022, the Locality dashboard is no longer being published on the Virginia Department of Health website. VDH made these changes to simplify and streamline some of the COVID-19 dashboards.


Cases by report date and cases by date of illness can now be viewed by locality on the "Cases" dashboard.


So what now?


Since the VDH will no longer publish the locality dashboard, this makes it harder for us to collect the locality data as it does not have its own dashboard to easily analyze. With this change, we want to ask all our followers what we should do with this extra slide?


Would you like to see another story, or, another dataset on COVID-19?


Comment down below what you want to see!



Vaccine Summary: As of Monday, March 14

  • Total Doses Administered: 15,472,999

  • People Fully Vaccinated: 6,204,725 or 72.2%

  • % of Adults (18+) Fully Vaccinated: 82.1%

  • People Vaccinated with at least 1 dose: 6,962,870 or 81.1%

  • % of Adults (18+) Vaccinated with at least 1 dose: 91.9%

  • People Vaccinated with Booster / Third dose: 2,840,238


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


 

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- Maria Reynoso, Editor-in-Chief