Henrico County VA
General Assembly

Elections Board removes GOP’s ‘loyalty oath’


State officials agreed Thursday to honor the Republican Party of Virginia’s request to remove a requirement that voters sign a “loyalty oath” before voting in the March 1 presidential primary. The State Board of Elections voted 2-0 to remove the requirement despite objections from the Virginia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Much as we decry and dispute the original decision to implement an affirmation requirement, simply said, two wrongs don’t make a right,” Hope Amezquita, staff attorney and legislative counsel at ACLU-VA, told the board.

Bills would regulate license plate readers


Police could retain for only a week the data they collect from license plate readers, under legislation proposed by a pair of Democratic and Republican lawmakers from Northern Virginia.

Sen. J. Chapman Petersen, D-Fairfax, and Delegate Rich Anderson, R-Prince William, introduced bills last week to put limits on the collection and retention of LPR data by police departments in Virginia.

Currently, Virginia has no limits. As a result, for example, the city of Alexandria keeps license plate data for up to two years, while the Virginia State Police delete their data within 24 hours, according to Petersen’s office.

Transparency efforts designed to help citizens (and legislators)


Delegate Dickie Bell faces a quandary every Monday. As a member of the House Education committee, he has a weekly meeting at 8:30 a.m. He’s also a member of the House Finance committee, which meets at the same time.

“I’m often forced to miss one committee meeting, depending on whose agenda is more important,” said Bell, R-Staunton.

Sometimes he’ll try to catch some of each hearing, climbing the stairs between the first and ninth floors of the General Assembly building, where the meetings are held.

Governor outlines ‘opportunity’ agenda


In a move he said would boost the state’s economy, Gov. Terry McAuliffe is asking legislators to remove the requirement that Virginia women get an ultrasound before having an abortion and to “create a more inclusive environment for LGBT Virginians and business owners.”

McAuliffe announced his “full equal opportunity agenda” on Monday, calling on the General Assembly to:

· Remove references to “husband and wife” or “man and woman” in Virginia laws about marriage. Such terms would be replaced with the word “spouse” now that same-sex marriage is legal in the state.

Parents seek funding for mental health services


Central Virginia residents packed a legislative committee hearing Wednesday to call for more funding for child mental health services, more help for individuals with intellectual disabilities and tighter regulations of private homes providing day care.

Parents and other citizens voiced those concerns at a joint meeting at Capitol Square of the Senate Finance and House Appropriations committees. It was one of five public hearings held across the state on Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s proposed amendments to the state budget.

McAuliffe sets the stage for General Assembly


Gov. Terry McAuliffe called on Virginia legislators Wednesday to address the problem of sexual assaults on college campuses and to make it easier for some undocumented immigrants to attend public colleges and universities.

McAuliffe laid out those goals in his State of the Commonwealth speech to a joint session of the General Assembly, which kicked off its 2015 session earlier in the day.

McAuliffe, who is beginning his second year as Virginia’s chief executive, wants the assembly over the next six weeks to pass several measures concerning education.

Panel rejects bill to expand hate crimes law


A Senate committee on Wednesday defeated a bill to include sexual orientation and gender identification in the state’s definition of hate crimes.

The Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 7-6 against Senate Bill 799, which was sponsored by Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington. All six Democrats on the committee supported the measure; all seven Republican committee members opposed it.

SB 799 would have expanded the definition of “hate crime” to include offenses committed against a person because of sexual orientation or gender identification. It would have required law enforcement agencies to report such crimes to State Police.

‘Public service is a privilege,’ House Speaker says

As the Virginia House of Delegates convened Wednesday for the General Assembly’s 2015 session, House Speaker William Howell welcomed newly elected delegates, set out the chamber’s goals and reminded legislators of their position as public servants.

“It is said quite often – public service is a privilege. None of us are entitled to the seats we hold in this body,” said Howell, a Republican from Fredericksburg.

He told lawmakers to live up to the standards expected by their constituents.

Three vying for 74th seat in special election

Charles City Democrat Kevin J. Sullivan and Henrico Republican Matt D. Walton will compete in a special election for the 74th District House of Delegates seat Jan. 13, and they’ll be joined by the man who resigned the seat late last year – Joe Morrissey, a Democrat who is running as an independent while serving a six-month jail term.

The winner will be sworn in the following day, when the General Assembly returns to session, and will serve the final year of a two-year term.

The somewhat strange scene was set when Morrissey entered an Alford plea to a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor (not admitting guilt but admitting that there was enough evidence to convict him) after his relationship with a then-17-year-old girl who worked for him was questioned.

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