General Assembly

Assembly sustains all of McAuliffe’s vetoes


The General Assembly failed Wednesday to override any of Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s vetoes of legislation championed by Republicans, including bills to defund Planned Parenthood and let home-schoolers participate in public-school sports.

Overriding a veto requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate. That was doable in the House, where there are 66 Republicans and 34 Democrats. But it proved impossible in the Senate, where Democrats hold 19 of the 40 seats.

Mixed views about bills to increase alcohol sales


Virginia restaurant owners have mixed perspectives on legislation that would allow their establishments to sell more alcoholic beverages.

Two Republican lawmakers from Virginia Beach – Sen. Bill DeSteph and Del. Scott Taylor – have proposed changing the 20-year-old requirement that restaurants and caterers with liquor licenses limit their alcohol sales to 55 percent of their total revenue. This means that under the current law, a little less than half of all sales in restaurants must come from food. Wine and beer sales are not considered in this ratio.

Senate panel OKs bill legalizing fireworks sales


Despite concerns about fire safety, a Senate committee has recommended approval of a bill to legalize the sale of fireworks in Virginia.

The Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology voted 8-5 in favor of the legislation proposed by one of its members, Sen. Thomas Garrett, R-Hadensville. He said the bill could generate millions of dollars in sales taxes on a product he says is used illegally throughout the state anyway.

Bill seeks to cut carbon emissions, protect coastline


Two lawmakers have reached across the aisle to sponsor legislation that they hope will lower utility bills for consumers as well as reduce carbon emissions in order to protect Virginia’s vulnerable coastline.

Del. Ron Villanueva, R-Virginia Beach, has teamed up with Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, to address the issue. Their bills would use emissions fees from power plants to invest in renewable energy projects in the coal regions of Southwest Virginia and annually pump about $125 million into flood protections and more than $80 million into energy efficiency programs for homeowners.

Go global, governor tells business leaders


Gov. Terry McAuliffe emphasized the importance of reaching out to global markets and expanding Virginia’s economy in a speech Wednesday to a group of business representatives graduating from the Virginia Leaders in Export Trade program in downtown Richmond.

“Ninety-five percent of the world’s customers live outside the United States of America, so we are going where the customers are,” McAuliffe said, echoing a theme from his State of the Commonwealth address last week. “With our great Virginia businesses, I know we can do business in any country on the globe.”

Students seek relief from college loans


Students from colleges and universities across Virginia protested at Capital Square this week, seeking help with college loans. And on Tuesday, a bipartisan trio of lawmakers touted their plans to address the issue.

On Sunday night, more than 60 members of the Virginia Student Power Network convened at Centenary United Methodist Church in downtown Richmond to discuss their strategies.

Transparency caucus urges open government


Two freshmen legislators, a Republican and a Democrat, announced the formation of a new bipartisan caucus Monday, one targeted to make the Virginia General Assembly more accessible to the public.

The Virginia Transparency Caucus is the brainchild of Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, and Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Midlothian. They want their colleagues to follow their lead in giving the public access to what happens in legislative committees and subcommittees.

200 rally at Capitol for ‘common-sense gun laws’


About 200 people huddled on the Capitol grounds Monday to urge the General Assembly to pass legislation they hope will curb gun violence. Lawmakers, students and others spoke at the rally on Martin Luther King Day, calling for what Gov. Terry McAuliffe termed “common-sense gun laws.” They also showed their support for President Barack Obama’s recent executive action to expand background checks on firearms sales. Laurie Haas, state director of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, kicked off the rally.

“Take a deep breath in honor of the victims lost to gun violence,” Haas said. “Every time you exhale, say a prayer. We will forever remember those who have fallen victim to firearms.”

Many people attending the event held signs demanding immediate action by legislators.

Bills would ban disputed ‘conversion therapy’


With confidence and high spirits, Democratic lawmakers and gay rights advocates on Monday kicked off their third consecutive year of fighting for an end to conversion therapy for minors in Virginia.

The controversial treatment, also known as reparative therapy, is aimed at turning homosexuals into heterosexuals and is based on the view that homosexuality is a mental disorder. Conversion therapy is also performed on those questioning their gender identity.

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