Henrico County VA
General Assembly

Governor creates center for mental health services


Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed an executive directive to create a center that will foster collaboration among government agencies in providing behavioral health and justice services for people with mental illnesses or other problems.

McAuliffe announced the establishment of the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice during the final meeting of the Governor’s Task Force for Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response.

“Nearly a year ago, I asked this task force to continue its work and develop bold ideas to help the commonwealth address the gaps in our behavioral health system,” McAuliffe said Monday.

Legislative session a mixed bag for immigrants


About 20 state legislators and representatives of immigrant advocacy groups have formed the New Americans Caucus to address the needs of undocumented residents and other immigrants.

The caucus was organized during the recent session of the General Assembly, where lawmakers already meet in caucuses devoted to various political views, issues and geographic areas.

The New Americans Caucus heard from guest speakers such as an immigration lawyer and the head of the Department of Motor Vehicles to help educate members about matters concerning immigrants.

General Assembly salutes the troops


Nearly 800,000 Virginians, about 10 percent of the commonwealth’s population, are veterans – one of the highest concentrations of veterans among the 50 states. During the General Assembly’s recent session, lawmakers showed their appreciation to the men and women who have served in the U.S. military.

Legislators passed a bevy of veterans-related bills. If signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, they will fund veterans care centers in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia, expand employment opportunities for veterans and authorize a study of the state’s services for veterans.

The assembly’s salute to the troops coincided with a visit to Richmond by Robert McDonald, the U.S. secretary of veterans affairs.

Newly approved powdered alcohol banned in Virginia


The federal government this week approved a powder that can turn a glass of water into an alcoholic drink, but it’s unlikely that Virginians will be enjoying instant margaritas anytime soon: The Virginia General Assembly has passed legislation to outlaw the product in the commonwealth.

House Bill 1908 and Senate Bill 1034, which passed unanimously in both chambers, would ban the importation, sale and use of powdered or crystalline alcohol. The bills were a response to the development of Palcohol, which was cleared for sale Tuesday by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

The legislation has been sent to Gov. Terry McAuliffe to be signed into law.

‘Extraordinary justice’ sworn in to high court


D. Arthur Kelsey was sworn in Friday as a justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, succeeding retired Chief Justice Cynthia Kinser.

Born into a family of lawyers and judges, including his father, uncle, grandfather, sister and half-brother, Kelsey rose from private practice – in the Norfolk office of the Hunton & Williams law firm – to a 12-year term on Virginia’s highest court.

At his investiture ceremony in Richmond, Gov. Terry McAuliffe called Kelsey a “fair, knowledgeable and gracious judge” known for his intellect and deep faith. McAuliffe joked that Kelsey’s last vacation surfing in Maui went slightly better than the Democratic governor’s own holiday vacation in Africa, which left McAuliffe with seven broken ribs and other injuries after a horseback riding accident.

ProgressVA sees loopholes in ethics bills


ProgressVA, an advocacy group for “progressive public policy,” on Tuesday blasted the ethics legislation sitting on Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s desk, saying it would continue to allow public officials to accept freebies.

The organization released a report saying the ethics legislation passed last week by the General Assembly “contains loopholes that impact its ability to curtail gifts.” ProgressVA applauded some aspects of the legislation but said the overall product was lacking.

“This bill is really one step forward and two steps back,” said Anna Scholl, the organization’s executive director.

General Assembly finalizes ethics bill


The results are in. All of the General Assembly’s work on ethics reform in the 2015 session came to an end Friday with the passage of a 98-page bill that lawmakers hailed as a significant accomplish, but some critics said it still needs work.

The issue of ethics has been a joke for some legislators, but House Speaker William J. Howell said on the first day of the session that it is the responsibility of the General Assembly to gain Virginia’s trust back.

The week before the session started, former Gov. Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison for corruption – and toward the end of the session, his wife Maureen was given a prison term of one year and a day.

Bill would deny bail in strangulation cases


People accused of strangulation would automatically be denied bail under legislation sent to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for his signature.

Proponents of House Bill 2120 say it will help protect victims of domestic violence. The Senate and House unanimously approved the measure during the final week of the legislative session.

The bill was sponsored by Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, with input from Attorney General Mark Herring.

Virginia a focus of calls for Constitutional convention


In statehouses across the country, a movement has been building for legislatures to call for a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution and limit the federal government’s power.

The group pushing for a Convention of the States is based in Virginia and enjoys support from Tea Party luminaries like Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s former attorney general. At the start of the General Assembly’s 2015 legislative session, two resolutions were filed to have Virginia join in calling for a full-fledged constitutional convention.

You might have expected the idea to win favor at the Virginia Capitol, where Republicans control both the House and Senate. But despite early support, both resolutions fizzled.

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