General Assembly 2017

Equality groups to host House of Delegates candidate forum Oct. 24


Four equality organizations are partnering to host a Virginia House of Delegates candidate forum in Henrico Oct. 24.

The forum is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at Ridge Elementary School, preceded at 5:45 p.m. by a "Meet the Candidate" session.
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Subcommittee kills transgender ‘bathroom bill’


A bill that would have told transgender individuals which bathroom they must use died in a General Assembly subcommittee Thursday. The panel took a non-recorded vote to table the bill, much to the chagrin of its sponsor, Del. Bob Marshall, R-Prince William County. By tabling the bill through a voice vote, the subcommittee members were able to keep their records hidden from the public.

The House General Laws Committee also killed another Marshall-sponsored bill, and killed another delegate’s bill dealing with sexual identity.
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Take politics out of redistricting, citizens say


Citizens demanding an end to gerrymandering packed a legislative subcommittee hearing Monday as lawmakers and members of the public all voiced concerns over the influence of politics on redistricting.

Critics say the current system, in which the General Assembly redraws the boundaries for legislative districts, allows politicians to choose their constituents instead of the other way around. As a result, many legislators run unopposed in districts that are heavily Republican or heavily Democratic.
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McAuliffe vows to veto anti-abortion bills


Gov. Terry McAuliffe spoke Jan. 19 in support of legislation proposed by members of the Women’s Health Care Caucus and vowed to veto bills he believes would endanger women’s reproductive rights. McAuliffe said legislators should learn from controversies in North Carolina following the passage of what he called “socially divisive bills.” McAuliffe said he told the General Assembly not to send him these types of bills because they have no chance of becoming law.

“I have sent a strong message already. They have an abortion bill, a 20-week abortion bill, that was signed on by, I think, eight members of the General Assembly. I have made it very clear I will veto it. That bill has zero chance of becoming law in the commonwealth of Virginia,” McAuliffe said.
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Virginia wine sales increase by 6 percent


Pour yourself a drink and raise a toast to the record 6.6 million bottles of Virginia wine sold last year – an increase of more than 6 percent from 2015.

Officials said Thursday that a new economic impact study shows the state’s flourishing wine industry contributes more than $1.37 billion annually to Virginia’s economy. This is an increase of 82 percent from the last economic impact study in 2010.

“This new study shows that this growth is being driven by small wineries, which demonstrates that the increased rural economic development is truly beneficial to local communities,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a press release.
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Living on minimum wage


Athena Jones is the first person her clients see at the start of the day. She gets them out of bed, changes their clothes and makes them breakfast. Her workday consists of providing emotional and physical support, assisting clients with bathing and bathroom visits, and helping them be as independent as possible.

As a home-care worker, this is Jones’ job. She does it for minimum wage – $7.25 an hour.

An advocate for people who struggle to live on minimum wage, Jones traveled from Portsmouth to Richmond this week to speak to legislators about bills to raise the state minimum wage above the federally mandated rate. She said a raise would help her save money and give back to her community.
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Broadband legislation draws criticism


A Republican lawmaker on Thursday defended her broadband-access bill from critics who say it favors established internet providers such as Comcast and Verizon while limiting competition from other companies and local governments. Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford County, said HB 2108 actually seeks to “expand the availability of broadband to Virginians who do not currently have it.”

The bill, titled the “Virginia Broadband Deployment Act,” has garnered sharp criticism from advocates of rural broadband expansion. Byron said a Roanoke Times editorial criticizing the bill has spurred death threats against her.
> Read more.

Senate panel rejects plastic bag tax


The Senate Finance Committee has killed a bill to impose a 5-cent tax on disposable plastic bags that stores give their customers. But the proposal’s sponsor says he isn’t giving up.

The tax would have applied to grocery stores, convenience stores and drug stores in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, which encompasses most of Virginia. As an incentive to collect the tax, the bill would have allowed retailers to keep 1 cent of the 5-cent levy.

Revenue from the plastic bag tax – estimated at as much as $18 million a year – would have been used to support the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan, which works to reduce pollution in the bay and the region’s streams, creeks and rivers.
> Read more.

Bills would help, hurt undocumented immigrants


Three bills that would help undocumented immigrants, and one that would hurt them, have been introduced in the Virginia General Assembly as state legislators tackle an issue that loomed large during the presidential election.

HB 1857 would protect in-state tuition for undocumented students, while HB 2001 seeks to root out such students from Virginia’s public colleges and universities. HB 1682 would allow undocumented immigrants to get temporary driver’s licenses, as long as they are paying taxes and have auto insurance. Finally, HB 1779 would expand the state’s definition of a hate crime to violence based on someone’s immigration status.
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Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden will host Goblins & Gourds from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. This harvest celebration features live music from the Richmond Indigenous Gourd Orchestra, pumpkin decorating, storytelling, vermiculture, blacksmithing, crafts, a hands-on cooking demonstration and more. Included with regular Garden admission which is $8 to $13. For details, visit http://www.lewisginter.org. Full text

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