General Assembly

Over Democrats’ objections, Senate OKs ‘religious freedom’ bill


Democratic officials and the American Civil Liberties Union blasted Republican senators after they passed a “religious freedom” bill that would protect people who refuse to marry same-gender couples.

HB 2025, sponsored by Del. Nicholas Freitas, R-Culpeper, cleared the Senate on Thursday on a party-line vote of 21-19. The bill protects organizations and their employees who refuse to participate in the “solemnization” of marriage based on a “sincerely held religious belief.”

Freitas said the legislation was a response to Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order that prohibits state contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation.

UVA student from Henrico helps call attention to need for sexual assault education


When one of her friends was sexually assaulted her second semester at the University of Virginia, Hannah Shadowen, a UVA student and Henrico County native, said she knew she had to do something.

“I supported her through that, and it was really hard, but I was like I need to be more informed, and I want to change this, so this doesn’t happen here,” Shadowen said.

Shadowen joined One Less, an all female-identifying, gender non-conforming sexual assault prevention group run by UVA students. Through her participation in One Less, Shadowen has visited other organizations on campus to discuss healthy relationships, sexual violence, the meaning of consent, intimate partner violence, and survivor support.

Senate approves criminal penalties for female genital mutilation


The Virginia Senate unanimously passed a bill that would criminalize the act of female genital mutilation by categorizing it as a class one misdemeanor.

The bill was originally proposed by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, but was later incorporated into bill SB1060, introduced by Sen. Dick Black, R-Leesburg.

“It is estimated that over 200 million females around the world have undergone some form of FGM,” Dunnavant said. “Our state is listed as one where women and girls are at the highest risk of being victims. These statistics are alarming, and I think something needs to be done to address this issue here in the Commonwealth.”

State House Education Committee members weigh in on DeVos confirmation


Virginia House Education Committee delegates had mixed reactions to Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as U.S. Education Secretary, with some hopeful for the changes she is expected to bring and others wary about what her appointment means for public schools.

“In Virginia, we’ve been working on ways to improve choice for our students and Secretary DeVos shares our commitment to providing high-quality education for all students, regardless of their ZIP code, and I expect her to be a strong proponent of school choice,” said House Education Chairman R. Steven Landes, R-25th District.

Democrat Jeff Bourne elected to Virginia House


Jeff Bourne, a member of the Richmond School Board, easily won a special election Tuesday for the Virginia House of Delegates. Bourne, the Democratic nominee in the race, will represent the 71st House District, which includes parts of Richmond and Henrico County.

With all precincts reporting, Bourne received 3,708 votes, almost 90 percent of the ballots cast. The second-place candidate, Libertarian John W. Barclay, got about 7 percent. Regie Ford, an independent candidate, received about 3 percent.

Bourne fill the seat vacated by a fellow Democrat, Jennifer McClellan, who was elected to the state Senate last month.

Audience boos as panel rebuffs redistricting advocates


Dozens of people jeered Republicans on a House committee Friday after they declined to revive legislation aimed at changing the way political districts are drawn in Virginia.

More than 100 people gathered for the meeting of the House Privileges and Elections Committee. Some of them yelled “Cowards!” and “Shame on you!” after the panel refused a request by Democrats to reconsider five redistricting proposals that a subcommittee had killed earlier in the week.

During the Friday morning meeting, the committee blew through its agenda and did not take up the proposed constitutional amendments addressing redistricting.

Virginia likely to ease rules on marijuana


Virginia won’t be pulling a Colorado by decriminalizing marijuana this year. But the state might relax its penalties for possessing marijuana and its rules on who can use marijuana products for medical reasons.

Legislators this session introduced more than a dozen marijuana-related proposals. A Senate committee last week killed two bills to decriminalize the substance, and a House bill likely will die this week.

However, lawmakers seem amenable to making marijuana products more available for medical purposes and to being more lenient with Virginians convicted of simple possession of marijuana.

‘Left-lane bandits’ may face $250 fine


The House of Delegates has approved a bill that would impose a mandatory $250 fine for driving too slowly in the left lane on highways. HB 2201 was introduced by Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol, and co-sponsored by Democrats Del. Kaye Kory of Falls Church and Sen. Scott Surovell of Fairfax to show bipartisan support for the measure. O’Quinn said this is something that affects all Virginians, regardless of which side of the aisle they align themselves with.

“It doesn’t matter which corner of the commonwealth you come from,” he said when addressing the bill on the House floor Monday. “It doesn’t matter which interstate or four-lane highway that you have going through the districts you represent. I guarantee you are going to encounter this many times, even if you’re on the highways for just a few minutes.”

Immigration advocates win and lose


Virginia colleges won’t be forced to give federal authorities sensitive details about students who may be undocumented immigrants, after a legislative subcommittee killed a bill opposed by immigration advocates.

However, another panel killed legislation that immigration advocates had wanted: It would have allowed eligible undocumented students to pay in-state college tuition.

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Henrico County Public Schools will hold a major hiring event to talk with interested teachers and other professionals about opportunities within Virginia’s sixth-largest school division. Henrico Schools is seeking teachers for all content areas for the 2017-18 school year, as well as school counselors, librarians, psychologists, social workers and nurses. The event will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Glen Allen High School. Those interested can register online through Feb. 24 at http://www.henricoschools.us (look under “Hot Topics”). Attendees are encouraged to bring multiple hard copies of their resumes to share with school administrators. Walk-ins are also welcome to attend. For details, call (804) 652-3664. Full text

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