General Assembly

Political parties at odds over voter ID laws


Voter identification laws are a hot issue in Virginia and across the country. Republicans say such laws combat voter fraud, which they insist is widespread. Democrats say the laws discourage voting by minority and elderly citizens who may be less likely to have a photo ID.

The debate has played out in Virginia, where Republicans control the General Assembly and a Democrat is governor, with few signs of a compromise.

McAuliffe vetoes 6 more bills; GOP calls him ‘disengaged’


Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Monday vetoed six bills, including three Republicans said would help prevent voter fraud but the Democratic governor said would create barriers to voting.

McAuliffe has now vetoed 37 bills from the General Assembly’s 2017 session – and 108 during his four-year term as governor, surpassing any of his predecessors.

Republican legislative leaders say McAuliffe has broken his promise to be bipartisan, calling his office “the most disengaged administration we have ever worked with.”

Governor vetoes Republicans’ ‘educational choice’ legislation


Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Thursday vetoed several bills that Republicans say would have increased school choice but McAuliffe said would have undermined public schools.

Two bills, House Bill 1400 and Senate Bill 1240, would have established the Board of Virginia Virtual School as an agency in the executive branch of state government to oversee online education in kindergarten through high school. Currently, online courses fall under the Virginia Board of Education.

Law ensures Virginians can resell tickets


In a defeat for Ticketmaster, a new state law will allow Virginians to resell tickets they’ve bought for concerts, football and basketball games, and other public events.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed two bills that would protect people involved in reselling tickets – a practice critics call scalping. The law also says you can’t be turned away if you show up at an event with a ticket you received from someone else.

One of the measures – House Bill 1825 – was sponsored by Del. David Albo, R-Fairfax.

McAuliffe vetoes bills he says could restrict voting rights


Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday vetoed a bill that he said could disenfranchise qualified voters but Republican legislators said could reduce voter fraud.

HB 2343, sponsored by Del. Robert Bell, R-Charlottesville, would have required the state Department of Elections to provide local registrars with a list of voters who, according to data-matching systems, have been found to be registered in another state.

Pinsker declares candidacy for House of Delegates


Matt Pinsker announced his candidacy recently for the June 13 Republican primary in the Virginia House of Delegates' 56th District. The seat is held by Republican Peter Farrell, who recently announced that he will not seek re-election in November.

A lifelong resident of the area, Pinsker attended Mills E. Godwin High School, graduated from the College of William & Mary and owns a law firm. In addition to serving in the Army Reserves and running a small business, he is an adjunct professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and has expertise in homeland security.

Gov. McAuliffe expected to sign marijuana reforms


Virginia probably will ease up a bit in its laws against marijuana by making it easier for epilepsy patients to obtain cannabis extract oils and by relaxing the penalty for people caught with small amounts of marijuana.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe is expected to sign the handful of marijuana-related bills passed by the General Assembly during its recent session. They include SB 1027, which will allow Virginia pharmacies to make and sell marijuana extract oils for treating intractable epilepsy, and HB 2051 and SB 1091, which will eliminate the state’s punishment of automatically suspending the driver’s license of adults convicted of simple marijuana possession.

New laws would help and hurt access to information


For advocates of government transparency, the General Assembly’s 2017 session was a mixed bag, resulting in bills that both increased and decreased information available under the Freedom of Information Act.

According to Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, the session saw fewer FOIA-related bills than in past years. Even so, the group stayed busy opposing legislation that Rhyne said would keep important information from the public.

Most House bills die on unrecorded votes


During the recently concluded legislative session, three bills to increase the minimum wage in Virginia died in the House Labor and Commerce Committee. Want to know who voted for or against the measures? Sorry; the votes went unrecorded.

A bill requiring transgender people to use the restroom for the sex on their birth certificate died in the House General Laws Committee. Want to know who voted for or against it? No luck; those votes weren’t recorded, either.

A bill prohibiting politicians from converting their campaign funds for personal use died in the House Privileges and Elections Committee.

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