Governor Budget Amendments

In his optimistic midcourse revisions to Virginia’s two-year, $135 billion spending blueprint, Gov. Ralph Northam proposed hundreds of millions in new spending for vaccine deployment and pandemic response, including half a billion dollars for public schools upended by COVID-19.

It includes millions more to help hold off an oncoming wave of evictions resulting from job losses from the virus, bonuses for state employees and state-supported local personnel and to push broadband internet farther into underserved rural areas.

Bob Lewis, Virginia Mercury

Political Leaders in Richmond

Virginia top state elected officials include:

Ralph Northam, Governor Commonwealth of Virginia
Justin Fairfax, Lt. Governor
Mark Herring, Attorney General

Dick Saslaw, Senate Majority Leader
Louise Lucas, Senate Pro Tempore
Tom Norment, Senate Minority Leader

Eileen Fillen-Corn, Speaker of the House
Charniele Herring, House Majority Leader
Todd Gilbert, House Minority Leader

Executive Orders

Executive Order 75

EO-75 Declaration of a State of Emergency Due to Civil Unrest in Washington, D.C. and Potential Civil Unrest in the Commonwealth
January 6, 2021

Executive Order 74

EO-74 Protecting Businesses From Increasing Cost of Unemployment Insurance
December 22, 2020

Virginia General Assembly

The Virginia General Assembly is the legislative body of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the oldest continuous law-making body in the New World, established on July 30, 1619.

The General Assembly is a bicameral body consisting of a lower house, the Virginia House of Delegates, with 100 members, and an upper house, the Senate of Virginia, with 40 members. Combined together, the General Assembly consists of 140 elected representatives from an equal number of constituent districts across the commonwealth. The House of Delegates is presided over by the Speaker of the House, while the Senate is presided over by the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. The House and Senate each elect a clerk and sergeant-at-arms. The Senate of Virginia’s clerk is known as the “Clerk of the Senate” (instead of as the “Secretary of the Senate”, the title used by the U.S. Senate).

Following the 2019 election, the Democratic Party held a majority of seats in both the House and the Senate for the first time since 1996. They were sworn into office on January 8, 2020.

Here is an excellent concise summary  by Wyatt Gordon of how the Virginia General Assembly works.

Governor Budget AmendmentsGovernor Budget Amendments

In his optimistic midcourse revisions to Virginia’s two-year, $135 billion spending blueprint, Gov. Ralph Northam proposed hundreds of millions in new spending for vaccine deployment and pandemic response, including half a billion dollars for public schools upended by COVID-19.

It includes millions more to help hold off an oncoming wave of evictions resulting from job losses from the virus, bonuses for state employees and state-supported local personnel and to push broadband internet farther into underserved rural areas.

Bob Lewis, Virginia Mercury

Summary

In his optimistic midcourse revisions to Virginia’s two-year, $135 billion spending blueprint, Gov. Ralph Northam proposed hundreds of millions in new spending for vaccine deployment and pandemic response, including half a billion dollars for public schools upended by COVID-19.

It includes millions more to help hold off an oncoming wave of evictions resulting from job losses from the virus, bonuses for state employees and state-supported local personnel and to push broadband internet farther into underserved rural areas.

Bob Lewis, Virginia Mercury

Governor Northam Presents 2021 Budget Amendments

For Immediate Release: December 16, 2020
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Alena Yarmosky, Alena.Yarmosky@governor.virginia.gov

Governor Northam Presents Budget Amendments to Restore Progressive Agenda, Provide Relief to Virginians, and Bolster Economic Recovery

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today addressed the Joint Money Committees of the General Assembly to share his proposed amendments to the 2020–2022 biennial budget. The Governor’s proposed budget provides funding for Virginia’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, bolsters the Commonwealth’s economic recovery, and continues restoring the bold, progressive agenda advanced during the 2020 legislative session.

The Governor’s budget delivers on his signature priorities by making key investments to support early childhood, K-12, and higher education; boost funding for historically black colleges and universities; increase access to quality, affordable housing; transform African American historical and cultural sites; expand high-speed broadband; and reform the criminal justice system. The budget also funds Virginia’s aggressive pandemic response and ensures Virginians will have widespread access to the COVID-19 vaccine as it becomes available.

Importantly, this budget invests in the future while maintaining sound financial stewardship. The Commonwealth’s strong economic fundamentals and the Northam Administration’s focus on prudent management and budget stability have protected Virginia from cutting services, like many other states. While states need additional federal relief, this budget enables the Commonwealth to continue navigating the pandemic—regardless of what happens in Washington.

The Governor’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below and the key highlights of the Governor’s budget amendments can be found here.

AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY:

Good morning, Chairwoman Howell, Chairman Torian, Chairwoman Watts, Speaker Filler-Corn, and members of the General Assembly, ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you for the privilege of speaking with you this morning.

I would like to recognize Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, my wife Pam, and members of our Cabinet and staff.

We’d rather all be meeting in person today. But it is much safer to meet this way, as the covid-19 pandemic starts its tenth month and cases rise.

And before we turn to today’s business and discuss our budget proposals, I’d like to give a short update on the pandemic. Throughout the long months of this health crisis, Virginia has done comparatively well. Our efforts to bend the curve early on worked, and the virus spread through the Commonwealth slowly for most of the past ten months.

Unfortunately, the spread is increasing around the country and here in Virginia too. Our percent positivity has doubled in the past month, as have our daily new case counts. More people are being hospitalized, and unfortunately, more are dying. Virginia is still doing better than about 45 other states, on a per capita basis. But this virus is spreading fast, and we all need to continue to be as careful as possible. Wear a mask, avoid social gatherings, stay six feet away from others, wash your hands.

Vaccines are now being deployed in Virginia. Health care workers got the first shots yesterday. And while it will take months to vaccinate everyone, we can now start to look to the future with hope. We’re all tired, but this is not the time to let down your guard or be reckless.

We have crafted this budget against the backdrop of the pandemic. The plan I will present to you today is intended to help Virginians navigate the next phase of the crisis, and perhaps, its final months. It will position us to recover as quickly as possible as we rebuild our economy in a post-pandemic world. And it’s about advancing the progressive agenda that we all embarked upon together a year ago.

Now, if it feels like we just did this budget exercise, well—we did. In August, I called the General Assembly into special session to deal with the pandemic’s effects on our revenues and budget. The budget I proposed then focused on preserving liquidity to deliver services and pay our bills. It ensured that we did not destabilize our financial footing by using one-time money to pay for recurring expenses.

It preserved financial options, because we cannot predict the future, especially in a pandemic. It made targeted investments to help guide Virginia through the crisis. And it restored funding for priorities that will make Virginia stronger, such as investments in historically black colleges and universities and African American historical and cultural sites; stable and affordable housing; broadband access; and reforms to modernize our criminal justice system. I thank you for your diligent work, returning to me a budget that aligned with our shared priorities. I was pleased to sign that budget just over a month ago.

The budget I present today preserves our focus on flexibility, targeted investments, and help for Virginians. While we believe an end to this crisis—and a rebounding of our economy—is in sight, we are not there yet.

We must continue to make choices that help Virginians get through these times. You will see investments in vaccination, affordable housing, skills training, and early childhood education, for example.

We have put a special focus on the second year of the budget, which starts next July. By then, we hope most Virginians will be vaccinated, and our society—and economy—will have begun returning to more normal activities.

Helping support this recovery takes investment and planning as well, and you will see that in this budget. When we crafted the last budget in August, our team of outside economic advisors had met, and agreed on a new economic forecast for Virginia. It was recessionary—while Virginia’s revenues did not take as great a hit from the pandemic as we expected early in the year, we did see a slowing economy and revenue losses, and that was expected to continue.

That team of advisors met again last month, to revise the forecast again in light of current conditions. Our economic picture is now more stable, and we can expect more revenue over the coming year and a half than was predicted in August. This is good news.

Based on the expert advice of economists and business leaders, our team now estimates $1.2 billion in additional revenue in this biennium. We all need to understand how important this is: Revenues are exceeding official forecasts, even during a pandemic. This is in sharp contrast to other states.

Other states have laid off workers, cut services, and even borrowed money to pay the bills—actions that will weaken their financial pictures for years to come. But in Virginia, our finances are solid, and the actions we have taken have kept our triple-A bond rating secure. We are one of only 13 states that hold this rating, and it’s because we laid out a long-term financial plan, and we have stuck to it, in good times and bad. We must continue this work.

These additional revenues are what allow us to help Virginians who need it, and prepare for recovery. You’ll see throughout this budget that our spending decisions are focused on supporting people now, and building foundations for the future.

Part of that foundation is a healthy reserve fund. That is why I am allocating $650 million to our reserves. This level of reserve funding will get us to the goal of having 8 percent in reserves by the end of my term. This is more than any previous governor of either party.

It’s important to note that these are dollars we had previously earmarked for reserves, then unallotted. They come from one-time cash balances, which is why they should not be used to pay for ongoing programs. Instead, putting them in reserves makes sure they’re accessible if revenues don’t grow as quickly as expected, so we won’t have to make budget cuts.

While we expect to turn a corner on this pandemic in the coming months, if there is anything we have learned this year, it is to prepare for the unexpected. Putting these revenues in reserves gives us flexibility.

It’s important that we don’t promise one-time resources for ongoing spending. That’s why we’re using $100 million to reduce unfunded liabilities in the Virginia Retirement System. This one-time investment will focus on the retirement plan for public school teachers, the state employee health insurance credit program, and benefits for our first responders. This is sound fiscal policy that will keep VRS on a more solid footing—and importantly, it means our public servants can feel more secure about their future benefits.

For thousands of Virginians, the pandemic has meant lost jobs, lost income, and serious financial struggle. My administration has worked throughout this pandemic to help those folks who need it.

We have distributed $3.1 billion dollars in federal CARES Act funding, helping individuals, businesses, health care providers, and local governments around the Commonwealth. That includes $1.3 billion to our localities, who have used it for innovative responses to the crisis.

We’ve seen small business support programs, hazard pay for health and public safety workers, technology investments, and a thousand other ways to help Virginians navigate this pandemic. I am hopeful that Congress will act soon to pass new legislation to provide additional assistance.

We took steps to make it as easy as we could to apply for unemployment, upgrading a system that was a generation old. We worked to put a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for those having trouble paying their rent or mortgage.

We have dispersed more than $40 million in federal CARES Act funding to the Rent and Mortgage Relief Program to help more than 13,000 households, and we have earmarked $100 million to help people having trouble paying their utility bills during this crisis.

We know that just as individuals and families are struggling, so are our small businesses. We distributed nearly $100 million to help 2,500 small businesses across the Commonwealth survive.

While programs to help people with rent and utility payments continue, it’s also important to look ahead, and help unemployed Virginians get back on their feet. And to continue helping those who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, this budget devotes $25 million to maintaining our historic investment in the Housing Trust Fund. This builds on the $85 million we put into that fund this biennium, an unprecedented investment in helping make sure people have stable housing.

As we invest in Virginians, we want to help those who are struggling get back on their feet. That’s why this budget partially restores funding for the G3 program, which we “unallotted” in April from the original budget.

G3—Get a Skill, Get a Job, Give Back—is a program I have championed since before I became Governor. It helps people get job skills training in high-need fields, through our community colleges. Even more importantly, it provides the financial aid necessary to help people get that training. G3 will provide free community college for certain low- and middle-income Virginians who enroll at our two-year colleges in pathways that lead to a high-demand job. These pathways include the skilled trades, healthcare, technology, early childhood, and public safety. For those folks who have seen their jobs disappear during this pandemic, G3 could be a lifeline. That’s why I have prioritized this important investment.

That is also why we’re allocating $30 million to restore financial aid increases at public colleges and universities across our Commonwealth. We had proposed these increases last winter, but unallotted them. We’re also restoring our plan to increase Tuition Assistance Grants for students at private institutions to $4,000.

For Virginia State University and Norfolk State University, our public historically black colleges and universities, which have long been underfunded, we’re proposing additional assistance to help support student access and success. While it is wonderful to open the newspaper this morning and see news of major philanthropic gifts to VSU and other HBCUs, this is in addition to, not in place of, state support that is still necessary.

And for George Mason University and Old Dominion University, we’re restoring funding to address enrollment disparities, increases in transfer students, and support educational program development.

I thank the General Assembly for working with us to ensure that some of our CARES act funding has gone to ensure people whose jobs have been impacted by the pandemic can get the training and credentials they need.

I have also maintained our historic level of funding for broadband in this budget—$50 million in each year. For G3 to work, for our students to access virtual classrooms, for businesses to survive, for Virginians to access telehealth—they need broadband internet. It is as critical now as electricity was in the last century. Increasing broadband access has been a priority since I took office, and the pandemic has simply highlighted how necessary it is.

Now I’d like to turn to our public schools. Of all the services administered by state and local governments, our schools have been the most disrupted by this pandemic. Early in the spring, schools quickly shifted to a virtual format. School divisions across Virginia have spent this fall working to balance learning with safety, trying to find the right combination of in-person, virtual, or hybrid learning.

Often the way children attend school has changed week by week, as local school boards and divisions respond to the evolving health situation in their local communities. I know this has been hard on every student, every teacher, every parent, and every school administrator in Virginia. I continue to be impressed with how school staff, students, and families have risen to meet these challenges.

As families have faced decisions about the best way to safely educate their child, school divisions have seen some drops in enrollment. We understand that every family must do what’s best for their children. We also expect enrollment numbers to rebound once the pandemic has subsided and in-person learning becomes the norm again. While these enrollment declines normally would result in less state funding that would devastate our public education system. That is why this budget helps school divisions, students, and teachers.

This budget accounts for the reduction in enrollment but also protects school divisions with funding to ensure they don’t suffer from any loss of funding under the enrollment formulas that drive the allocation of state dollars. We’re budgeting more than $500 million over two years to help schools weather this temporary decrease.

I also know that the challenging nature of this school year is hitting students especially hard. It is not easy for children to be separated from their friends, or to miss the school activities they enjoy. I believe our students need help now, more than ever. That is why I am providing $26.6 million in this budget to increase the number of school counselors. We have pushed for more school counselors for a long time, and this will ensure we have one full-time school counselor for every 325 students. Let’s get it done. The mental health of our students is too important to wait for another budget year.

So is the education of our littlest learners. This budget restores funding for early education, including a pilot program to provide three-year-olds access to early childhood education programs, and grants to address pay equity issues for early childhood educators. Early childhood education has been a priority for me since I was in medical school. The majority of brain development occurs in these early years. We want every child to enter kindergarten ready to learn.

Our teachers have gone above and beyond this year, adapting to new ways of connecting with their students, while protecting their own health and that of their families. My budget provides a 2 percent bonus for instructional and support positions. That is consistent with budget language from the General Assembly that says when our revenues get better, our teachers deserve to be rewarded—a goal we share.

We have worked for a long time to raise teacher pay. We were all proud in 2018 to give our teachers the largest single-year pay raise in 15 years. And last year, I proposed adding a three percent pay raise on top of that. While we had to unallot the money for that raise, teachers deserve it. So if we see our revenues improve as we expect next month, I’ll push to change this one-time bonus into a permanent pay raise of at least 2 percent.  It is a small way to say thank you for your devotion to educating our children.

The budget also includes a bonus for state employees, adjunct faculty, and state-supported local employees. That includes local mental health workers and social workers, some state-supported law enforcement officers, and others. Workers in every government agency have had to adapt to changes this year. For some, it meant working from home.

For others, like our DMV workers, it has meant plexiglass barriers, masks in the office, and other new challenges. This is one simple way to say thank you.

I am grateful for every public servant in Virginia’s workforce. But our elections officials have had a particularly grueling year. They held multiple elections during a pandemic, and they did it successfully and smoothly. I am grateful to them.  It is time to update our state voter registration system—a system that benefits everyone, no matter who you vote for. In a world where we have to worry about cyber attacks and bad actors, this is an investment in security so we stay ahead of them. I have included $16.7 million for this.

We all are heartened by the news of vaccines that are starting to be put into arms as we speak. This is the light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel. Vaccines are the only way we can end this pandemic and get back to a more normal life. But to do that, we must vaccinate millions of Virginians. That’s a lot of shots in a lot of arms. It will take a great deal of time, effort, and money. That money should come from the federal government. But we’ve all learned not to wait. So in this budget, I have provided $90 million to support this vaccination effort and ensure we have the supplies, staffing, and other infrastructure needed to vaccinate eight million Virginians.

The Virginia Department of Health has been planning for this mass vaccination effort for months, and they have hit the ground running as vaccine doses were shipped into the Commonwealth just this week.

We don’t always pay as much attention as we should to our public health departments, and the vital work they do. Under Virginia’s system, both the state and local governments have a role in operating our health departments. But the formula we use to determine how much the state pays for those local health departments hasn’t been updated in a generation—years in which Virginia has changed from a rural state to an urban and suburban one.

With this formula frozen in time, places that have seen their economies change—like Lee and Wise counties in the coalfields, or cities like Petersburg and Richmond—are stuck paying more than they should. Updating the formula is an equity issue, and we’re going to get it done this year. We’ll also make sure that no local health department gets less funding as a result.

And while the pandemic is the greatest public health crisis we have faced in modern times, we know that every day, Virginians face personal health issues—and sometimes, public policy can help them live healthier lives.

For example, maternal and neonatal mortality rates have changed little since 2004, and we also have seen an alarming racial disparity; Black mothers are more than twice as likely to die from complications from pregnancy as other mothers are.

Countless advocates have said: If you want to improve maternal health, expand the services you cover for pregnant women and new mothers. You should cover services by doulas. Doulas provide non-clinical support to pregnant women through their pregnancy and after they give birth, and multiple studies show they improve health outcomes for the mother and the baby. For that reason, this budget provides $2.4 million for doula services for pregnant women.

We are also providing $4 million over two years to expand access to long-acting reversible contraceptives. LARCS help women be in control of their own reproductive decisions, and that’s a good thing.

This budget also lays the groundwork to legalize marijuana in the Commonwealth. We know that laws to ban marijuana historically were based in discrimination, and criminalization laws have disproportionately harmed minority communities. Virginia has studied the experience of other states—including taxation, banking, criminal justice, licensing, and regulation. Our path forward will lead with social equity, public health, and public safety. This session is the time to get this done.

Reforming our marijuana laws is one way to ensure that Virginia is a more just state that works better for everyone. It also will eventually bring in tax revenue that can be used to further make sure we are providing equitable access to opportunity.

For example, just half of the potential annual revenue could pay for two years of quality Pre-K to every one of Virginia’s most vulnerable three- and four-year-olds—children who deserve the best start in life.

As we consider ways to make our criminal justice system more fair and equitable, we must talk about improving our system of expunging past crimes from people’s records.

I have put $20 million into this budget, so it will be ready when we conclude the important discussion of how best to conduct expungements. Like marijuana legalization, this is a priority that needs action in this session.

This is an important step toward modernizing our criminal justice system. We are also proposing to add four judges to Virginia’s Court of Appeals, along with support staff, to ensure the court can hear more appeals cases in a timely manner under an increasing workload.

2020 has been a landmark year. Not only has the pandemic upended our lives and our society, we have seen mass protests against racial injustice. These protests have sparked change, both in our systems and in our symbols.

We use statues and monuments as symbols to tell the story of who we are as a people. But for too long, our monuments have told only part of the story. Monuments to the Confederacy are legacies of a Lost Cause mentality that has burdened Virginia for too many years. This year, finally, those monuments are coming down.

This budget includes funding to install a new statue to represent Virginia in the U.S. Capitol. Already a commission has voted to replace the current statue, and they will soon propose a replacement that reflects what Virginia is today. This is difficult work, and it must be guided by trusted voices that the community respects.

I have provided almost $11 million to help the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, working with the city of Richmond, lead the work to redefine the public art of Richmond’s Monument Avenue, now that 7 of the 8 Confederate statues have been removed, and the last one will come down soon. The VMFA is one of the world’s leading museums, and is an ideal partner in this work.

Monuments and statues are not the only ways we tell the story of who we are. Cultural and historical sites are an important and meaningful part of our complicated past.

Here in Richmond, efforts have been underway for some time to preserve the site knowns as the Devil’s Half-Acre, or Lumpkin’s Jail, in Shockoe Bottom. It was part of a notorious market selling enslaved human beings.  My budget includes $9 million for preservation work and to help turn it into the Slavery Heritage Site.

I’ve also included funding to help restore and return headstones from Columbian Harmony Cemetery. It was an historic African American burial ground in Washington, D.C.

People buried there included two sons of abolitionist Frederick Douglass; Elizabeth Keckley, confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln; Phillip Reid, who helped create the statue of Freedom atop the U.S. Capitol dome; many Black Union Army veterans; and one of D.C.’s first Black policemen.

In the 1960s, the cemetery was moved to make way for commercial development. The stones were sold. To dump their grave markers, or sell them for scrap stone, is dehumanizing—and that was part of the goal. Some of them found their way across the Potomac to our shores.

Now that those head stones are on Virginia land, it’s our duty to help get them back to the graves they were meant to mark. We have worked with the descendant community, as well as D.C. Mayor Bowser and Maryland Governor Hogan, to make this happen. My budget includes $5 million for this project.

Along with these investments in historic resources, we’re restoring funding for targeted environmental protection and sustainability. The last time I was in New York City to meet with our bond rating agencies, they all asked me the same question: what is our plan for climate resilience? How, they asked, is Virginia preparing for the very real problem of climate change?

We have made a number of investments in our administration to increase coastal resilience. To build on those, in this budget, we are restoring nearly $12 million for water quality, air quality, and land conservation initiatives at natural resources agencies. This includes DEQ Staffing to make sure the permitting process moves more quickly. These are important investments to ensure that we don’t fall behind in protecting these critical assets.

We are also targeting $1 million to develop a hardwood forest habitat program that will encourage landowners to regenerate hardwood trees, and support the watershed improvement program. These investments in agricultural sustainability will reap benefits long into the future.

The pandemic has limited our ability, and desire, to travel the way we used to. We all know, it is safer to stay home. But as we look past the pandemic, our roads and our railways still need investment. It’s an important priority to ensure that people and goods can move more easily and efficiently around the Commonwealth.

That’s why this budget invests $50 million in our rail to Roanoke initiative, providing the Department of Rail and Public Transportation the resources needed to buy right of way to help make this project happen. This is an important down payment on extending passenger rail connections in Southwest Virginia.

The pandemic has shown us that much work can be done from anywhere—but that means transportation access is more important than ever. Already we have folks who work in Northern Virginia or D.C., live and work remotely in Fredericksburg or Richmond, and just take the train north when they need to visit the office. There’s no reason people can’t also do that from Roanoke—and beyond. We just have to make it happen.

Together with the planned expansion of the Long Bridge over the Potomac River from Virginia into D.C., this will make rail travel around the Commonwealth easier, and it will ensure that Southwest Virginia shares in the greater flexibility these connections will bring.

The pandemic has taught us to prepare for the unexpected, and help people get through this crisis. That is what this budget does. It provides targeted support to help people, and lays a foundation for recovery as we move into the next phases of the pandemic.

When we started this year, we could never have predicted what was in store. It has been one of the most difficult years of many of our lives. But I am proud of how Virginia has handled the crises of this year.  When it became clear the pandemic was not going to end in two weeks, or a month, we acted quickly to freeze all state hiring and discretionary spending. That saved more than $350 million.

We worked with you in the legislature to set aside the historic investments in Virginia’s future we had planned, so we could have maximum flexibility in our budget. Our revenues dipped, but not as much as we feared.

We came together this fall to focus our state resources on helping Virginia get through this crisis. And now, we look forward to an eventual end for this pandemic, and the hard—but welcome—work of getting Virginia’s economy back on its feet.

As we wrote this budget, our decisions were driven by one question: how much will this help Virginians?

We will reach the other side of this pandemic. And I am confident that this budget will help us get through this, and rebound more quickly. I look forward to working with you all in the upcoming General Assembly session to ensure we provide Virginians the help they need, and invest in their future.

I’d like to end with a thank you. For months now, Virginians in all corners of this state have been doing the right thing.

Of course, there are some folks whose antics grab the headlines. But most people just want to live their lives. They want to keep themselves and their loved ones healthy. They want their kids to do well in school, they want good jobs to put food on their tables. They want their communities to be safe and healthy as well.

And we’ve seen so many people taking care of each other. From our nurses and doctors, to our teachers, our grocery store workers, the bus drivers—to every Virginian who pulls that mask out of their pocket and puts it on before they go into the store.

Virginians care about each other. That has been a bright light in a dark year, and I am grateful every day for the people of this great Commonwealth.

Thank you, and happy holidays.

Bob Lewis budget recap

Source: Virginia Mercury

Northam’s sunny budget rewrite roils Republicans with his proposed Court of Appeals expansion
Bob Lewis – December 17, 2020

In his optimistic midcourse revisions to Virginia’s two-year, $135 billion spending blueprint, Gov. Ralph Northam proposed hundreds of millions in new spending for vaccine deployment and pandemic response, including half a billion dollars for public schools upended by COVID-19.

It includes millions more to help hold off an oncoming wave of evictions resulting from job losses from the virus, bonuses for state employees and state-supported local personnel and to push broadband internet farther into underserved rural areas.

But he drew the wrath of Republicans for $5.1 million he proposes for adding four new judges to the 11-judge Virginia Court of Appeals to expand Virginians’ right to appeal trial court decisions. The cost of boosting the understaffed court brimming with Republican appointees represents four one-thousandths of 1 percent of the overall two-year budget.

Northam made his rosy recommendations Wednesday in a videoconference to members of the General Assembly’s budget-writing committees based on estimates showing Virginia faring better than most states and projecting revenue growth over the course of 2021. The proposals he submitted as COVID numbers continued to spike in Virginia and nationally are based on revised economic forecasts for $1.2 billion more revenue than in August’s forecast, just before the General Assembly convened a special session to revise a budget that had been ravaged by the pandemic just a few months after its passage last March.

The Democratic governor based much of his optimism for growth in the second year of the budget ― fiscal year 2022 which begins July 1 ― on the prospect that a significant share of the state’s population will have received new coronavirus vaccines now entering the market.

“While we believe an end to this crisis and a rebounding of our economy is in sight, we are not there yet,” Northam said in his comments to the House and Senate money committees.

In the penultimate year of the single, non-renewable four-year term to which Virginia uniquely limits its governors, Northam proposes putting $650 million into the state’s “rainy day” reserve fund. Another major chunk, more than $500, goes to K-12 public education to underwrite funding for local school districts, including bonuses for teachers and additional counselors.

But it was his proposal to add four seats on the state Court of Appeals that prompted complaints from legislative Republicans of a Democratic plot to “pack” the court with liberal appointees.

State Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

Senate GOP caucus chairman Ryan McDougle of Hanover said Northam is trying to “politicize” Virginia’s judiciary and replicate what Democrats considered doing after President Donald Trump cemented a solid conservative U.S. Supreme Court majority with the October confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the third Trump nominee in his single four-year term.

“I will adamantly oppose this effort by the governor to appease and appeal to his party’s extreme left-wing,” McDougle said in a news release distributed by his caucus.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kirk Cox of Colonial Heights, who was House speaker before last year’s Democratic legislative takeover, also anguished over the appellate court expansion in a statement released by his campaign.

Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

“I recognize that additional capacity may be needed at the Court of Appeals, and I believe that civil cases merit review at the Court of Appeals,” he said. But he said that Northam and the Democratic House and Senate should not get to select the judges – something that was done for nearly 20 years by GOP-dominated legislatures in which Cox himself served. “The enactment date of any court expansion should be staggered and new judges should be appointed by a nonpartisan merit-based selection committee to ensure this does not become a partisan attempt to remake our well-respected Court of Appeals.”

The 2020 General Assembly adopted a resolution that tasked the Judicial Council of Virginia with studying the appeals court’s organization and jurisdiction. Among the justifications the resolution asserts for a possible expansion, it notes that “Virginia has been the only state in the United States without a guaranteed right of appeal in criminal cases for over a decade and has recently become the only remaining state in the United States without a guaranteed right to appeal in all other cases.”

 

Speed unemployment claims

Source: Virginia Mercury

Lawmakers propose fixes for Virginia’s beleaguered unemployment insurance program

Ned Oliver, December 24, 2020

(Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

Lawmakers say they plan to propose legislative fixes next month to speed unemployment claims in Virginia, which ranks last in the country for quickly processing applications that require staff review.

The legislature’s Commission on Unemployment discussed the proposals in a Wednesday meeting, outlining bills that, among other things, would reduce the program’s reliance on paper mail and prevent the state from stopping benefits once they’ve started without first investigating.

“All of the legislation … is aimed at helping things go more smoothly, with the goal of starting to get the wheels moving for you but also preparing Virginia to weather a storm like this in the future,” said Del. Sally Hudson, D-Charlottesville, a labor economist at the University of Virginia.

Currently the agency is required to deliver certain communications on paper through the mail, which Hudson says slows the process down while costing the Virginia Employment Commission unnecessary postage fees. Hudson told the commission Del. Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax, plans to introduce bills that would allow phone and email communications as a stand-in “when appropriate.”

Hudson said she also plans to introduce a bill that would require more timely responses from employers contesting employees claims. She said currently businesses can blow deadlines four times, at which point they’re assessed a $75 fee. She envisions tightening that to one missed deadline before employers forfeit the right to appeal a claim for that worker.

Two other proposed bills would give the state more leeway to forgive overpayments in situations where doing so would violate standards of “equity and good conscience” and codify a recent executive order issued by Gov. Ralph Northam that ended the practice of stopping unemployment benefits based on employer appeals before the appeals are adjudicated.

“Once VEC starts paying money to a claimant, it shouldn’t stop just because an employer asks for an appeal,” Hudson said. “The claimant should continue receiving their benefits until someone has actually decided in the employer’s benefit. It’s kind of an innocent-until-proven-guilty standard.”

Some of the proposals are likely to face pushback when the General Assembly convenes next month. Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan, worried businesses would be saddled with the cost of overpayments that were forgiven. “Who picks up those costs?” he asked.

Hudson responded that if the state’s process is running efficiently, there would be few overpayments to forgive and they would be identified and stopped faster.

On the issue of late filings from employers, a lobbyist representing small businesses suggested they deserved some leeway as they were struggling with layoffs amid the pandemic. “Many are small employers with no HR departments,” said Nicole Riley, director of the Virginia chapter of the NFIB, which represents small businesses. “I think the reason why you saw opportunities for employers to have multiple notices is because many small business owners probably missed the first ones.”

More than a million people applied for unemployment benefits in Virginia since the pandemic began, according to Department of Labor statistics. While many claims that can be automatically validated using payroll data and are uncontested by employers have been paid within two weeks, thousands of other applicants have been forced to wait months for staff to review their claims.

The agency reported at the meeting that they are still working on processing applications backlogged in July.

Gov. Ralph Northam recently issued an executive order that his administration said started payments to 70,000 people still in the backlog, though they will be required to pay that money back if they are ultimately deemed ineligible.

Advocacy groups applauded the efforts but urged Northam and lawmakers to go further. Pat Levy-Lavelle, an attorney at the Legal Aid Justice Center, told members of the commission that he’d heard from clients who should have begun receiving payments as a result of Northam’s order but are still waiting and unsure where to turn.

He suggested pulling adjudication staff from other state agencies to help with the backlog and bringing in the National Guard to help with staffing if necessary.

“We’re talking about ordinary Virginians and their families, and they have nothing left,” he said

Transgender health services

Source: Virginia Mercury

Northam’s budget would guarantee transgender health services for Medicaid enrollees  

Ned Oliver, January 4, 2021

(Getty Images)

Tucked away in the 750-page revised budget Gov. Ralph Northam presented last month is a single line that his administration says would guarantee that transgender enrollees in Virginia’s expanded Medicaid program have access to gender-affirming care.

“This is an important equity issue and a critical part of making our commonwealth welcoming and inclusive of all,” Northam’s spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, said in an email.

If the General Assembly agrees to the language, Virginia would become at least the 19th state to explicitly affirm that transgender care is covered by its Medicaid program, according to statistics gathered last year by UCLA School of Law.

Another 12 states have adopted laws or regulations expressly banning coverage of gender-affirming care for transgender Medicaid enrollees, UCLA’s review found. (At least two of those states, West Virginia and Alaska, are currently facing lawsuits challenging the policies. )

Virginia is one of 20 states with no express policy on the issue.

Leaders of the state’s Medicaid program said the care, which can range from counseling to hormonal therapy and gender reassignment surgeries, is already covered by all six of the health insurance providers that administer Virginia’s Medicaid program.

But they said making the state’s policy on the issue clear and unambiguous is an important step forward.

“Transgender individuals face a tremendous amount of stigma in society,” said Dr. Chethan Bachireddy, the chief medical officer overseeing Virginia’s Medicaid program. “An affirmative policy not only says, ‘This is what we’re doing,’ in a way that’s explicit and public. But it’s also helping to reduce some of the stigma that might be associated with seeking care related to gender dysphoria.”

There are an estimated 34,500 transgender people living in Virginia, 2,000 of whom are on Medicaid, according to UCLA, though the researchers and Bachireddy cautioned that those numbers likely undercount the population of transgender adults the state is serving because not all are comfortable openly sharing the information.

To those who might oppose the budget amendment on political grounds — GOP lawmakers overwhelmingly voted against legislation making it easier for transgender people to change their birth certificates earlier this year — Bachireddy said he could only view the issue through a medical lens. And on that front, he said the language would merely bring Virginia in line with standards of care agreed upon by the national and international medical community.

“To me it’s not a political issue, it’s an issue of health and health care,” he said.

Northam’s proposed budget includes several other initiatives aimed at increasing access to sexual and reproductive health services for low-income Virginians.

That includes $2.4 million to provide doula services to Medicaid-enrolled pregnant women, services studies have shown improve health outcomes for both mothers and their children and Northam has previously linked to a broader effort to reduce high maternal mortality rates among Black women.

Northam also proposes including $4 million in additional funding for long-acting contraceptives and language that would allow pharmacies to dispense 12-month supplies of other prescription pharmaceuticals.

Bachireddy called both proposals “no brainers,” citing studies have shown that not requiring people to pick up birth control prescriptions every month results in fewer unintended pregnancies.

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2020 VA General Assembly LeadersPolitical Leaders in Richmond

Virginia top state elected officials include:

Ralph Northam, Governor Commonwealth of Virginia
Justin Fairfax, Lt. Governor
Mark Herring, Attorney General

Dick Saslaw, Senate Majority Leader
Louise Lucas, Senate Pro Tempore
Tom Norment, Senate Minority Leader

Eileen Fillen-Corn, Speaker of the House
Charniele Herring, House Majority Leader
Todd Gilbert, House Minority Leader

Summary

Virginia top state elected officials include:

Ralph Northam, Governor Commonwealth of Virginia
Justin Fairfax, Lt. Governor
Mark Herring, Attorney General

Dick Saslaw, Senate Majority Leader
Louise Lucas, Senate Pro Tempore
Tom Norment, Senate Minority Leader

Eileen Fillen-Corn, Speaker of the House
Charniele Herring, House Majority Leader
Todd Gilbert, House Minority Leader

Governor Ralph Northam

Current Position: Governor since 2018
Former Positions: Lt. Governor from 2014 – 2018; State Senator for VA Senate District 6 from 2008 – 2014
Affiliation: Democrat

Mission Statement:
“Governor Northam approaches public service with the same passion he brought to his military and medical service. He is committed to working with leaders from both parties to build a Virginia that works better for every family, no matter who they are or where they live.”

About Ralph Northam

Source: Government page
For more information: see Virginia onAir post

Ralph Northam 2

Before he was inaugurated as the 73rd Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Ralph Northam served as an Army doctor, pediatric neurologist, business owner, state Senator and Lieutenant Governor.

A native of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Governor Northam was educated at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), where he graduated with distinction.

After graduation, Governor Northam was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. He served eight years of active duty and rose to the rank of major.

He attended Eastern Virginia Medical School and then traveled to San Antonio for a pediatric residency, where he met his wife Pamela, a pediatric occupational therapist at the same hospital.  Governor Northam did his residencies at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and served as chief neurological resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital. As an Army doctor, he served in Germany, treating soldiers wounded in Operation Desert Storm.

When Governor Northam and Pamela returned home, they chose to build their life in Hampton Roads. He began practicing pediatric neurology at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk. He established Children’s Specialty Group, his current medical practice, to provide expert pediatric care for patients. Governor Northam also served as assistant professor of neurology at Eastern Virginia Medical School, where he taught medicine and ethics.

Governor Northam volunteered as medical director for the Edmarc Hospice for Children in Portsmouth, where he spent 18 years caring for terminally ill children.

Governor Northam approaches public service with the same passion he brought to his military and medical service.  He is committed to working with leaders from both parties to build a Virginia that works better for every family, no matter who they are or where they live.

Governor Northam is the first native of the Eastern Shore to serve as Governor since Governor Henry A. Wise took office 1856. He is also the first VMI Keydet to serve as Governor since Governor Westmoreland Davis took office in 1918.

Governor Northam and First Lady Pamela Northam have two adult children: Wes, a neurosurgical resident in Chapel Hill, and Aubrey, a web developer in Richmond.

Justin Fairfax

Current Position: Lt. Governor since 2018
Affiliation: Democrat

About Justin Fairfax

Source: Government page
For more information: see Virginia onAir post

Justin Fairfax 2Justin was elected Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia on November 7, 2017. Justin is only the second African-American in history, and the first in nearly 30 years since the tenure of Governor L. Douglas Wilder, to be elected to statewide office in Virginia. His Inauguration took place on January 13, 2018.

Justin, 39, has been recognized as one of the top young attorneys in the nation and a rising star in American politics. He is a prominent and highly successful lawyer, political figure, philanthropist, and a proud husband, father, and community leader. In 2013, at the age of 34, Justin was awarded the National Bar Association’s “Nation’s Best Advocates Award,” which recognizes 40 top attorneys nationwide under the age of 40. He most recently served as a top commercial and white-collar criminal litigator in the Northern Virginia office of the prestigious law firm, Venable, LLP, which he departed in January 2018 to focus on his duties as Lieutenant Governor during his first General Assembly session.

He previously served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia in the Major Crimes and Narcotics Unit of the Alexandria Division. During his tenure as a federal prosecutor, he was appointed to serve as the Deputy Coordinator of the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force. Prior to his service as a federal prosecutor, he worked as a litigator at WilmerHale, LLP in Washington, D.C., following his stint as a federal law clerk to United States District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee in the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division.

Justin received a scholarship to attend Columbia Law School where he was selected to be a member of the Columbia Law Review and earned his Juris Doctorate in 2005. He also received a scholarship to attend Duke University where he graduated in 2000 with a degree in Public Policy Studies and was selected as the class graduation speaker for the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy.

Mark Herring

Current Position: Attorney General since 2014
Former Positions: State Senator for VA Senate District 33 from 2007 – 2013
Affiliation: Democrat

About Mark Herring

Source: Campaign page
For more information: see Virginia onAir post

Mark Herring 2

Mark Herring was raised by a single mother in Loudoun County, Virginia. She instilled in him that when you see a problem in your community, you have an obligation to try and fix it. He worked construction and other jobs in order to help pay for college. And he’s never forgotten where he came from, which is why he works every single day to make our families and communities safer.

As Attorney General, Mark has assembled an elite team of prosecutors to crack down on heroin dealers, violent gang members, gun runners, human traffickers, and those who attempt to exploit our children online.

He is helping survivors of sexual assault pursue justice by eliminating a three-decade-old backlog of more than 2,000 untested rape kits to find and prosecute criminals.

He has made communities safer by cracking down on illegal guns and promoting commonsense gun safety laws, like universal background checks, that keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals. And he has worked to improve relations between police departments and the communities they serve with innovative training and recruiting initiatives.

Since the day he was sworn in, Attorney General Herring has worked nonstop to defend the rights of Virginia taxpayers, seniors, veterans, and military families. He has won more than $100 million in debt relief and restitution for veterans and military families, and his best-in-the-nation Medicaid Fraud unit has saved taxpayers more than $60 million.

Just 12 days into his term, General Herring became the first attorney general to successfully argue that his state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples should be struck down, winning at the district court and appeals court before the United States Supreme Court let the decision stand, bringing marriage equality to the Commonwealth within 10 months of his taking office.

He has won huge victories in courts for clean air and water including the Chesapeake Bay, for affordable health care, and for the right of all Virginians to live and worship free from hate and discrimination.

Prior to being elected Attorney General, Mark served as a state Senator representing Loudoun and Fairfax counties. Mark worked on issues facing one of America’s fastest-growing counties and some of the world’s most innovative businesses. Mark also served on Loudoun County’s Board of Supervisors, and was a small business owner, running a private practice in his hometown of Leesburg where he has practiced law for more than 20 years.

Mark received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the University of Virginia, and graduated with honors from the University of Richmond School of Law.

Mark and his wife, Laura, have been married for 27 years. They have two children, daughter Peyton, 24, and son Tim, 21.

Dick Saslaw

Current Position: State Senator for VA Senate District 35 since 1980
Affiliation: Democrat

About Dick Saslaw

Source: Campaign page
For more information: see Virginia onAir post

Dick Saslawproudly serves Virginia’s 35th Senate District and as Democratic Leader in the Senate of Virginia. His distinguished public service has brought about real, positive results for families in Northern Virginia. Throughout his tenure in the General Assembly, Dick has fought for investments in public K-12 and higher education, fought to improve the social safety net, maintain Virginia’s business-friendly climate, and find solutions for Northern Virginia’s transportation problems. In Richmond, he has distinguished himself for his ability to work across the aisle to get results.

Senator Saslaw worked tirelessly and helped lead the charge to expand Medicaid for hundreds of thousands of Virginians without access to healthcare. No longer will Virginia leave billions of federal dollars unclaimed. Instead, these monies will help benefit more than 400,000 of our Commonwealth neighbors in need of affordable healthcare and provide hope for the otherwise desperate. Senator Saslaw was honored by the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association as a 2018 “Healthcare Hero” for his multi-year dedication to expanding Medicaid in the Commonwealth.

Democratic Leader Saslaw plays a key role in working with Governor Ralph Northam to grow the New Virginia Economy. Competing in a 21st-century global economy, Virginia must focus on building a talented workforce pipeline that can attract and retain businesses and investment. Senator Saslaw has helped advocate for innovative new programs like the Workforce Credentials Grant, which provides funding for workers looking for education and training in high-demand industries like cybersecurity. Virginia boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation and ranks 4th on CNBC’s list of “America’s Top States for Business.”

In the General Assembly, Senator Saslaw serves on the Senate Committees on Finance, Commerce & Labor, Courts of Justice, Education & Health, and Rules. Dick has been honored by groups far and wide for his efforts to make Virginia a great place to live, work, and raise a family. These awards include:

Virginia Education Association “Legislator of the Year”
The Hispanic Alliance “Leader of the Year”
League of Conservation Voters “Legislative Hero”
Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce “NOVAForward Legacy Award”
Virginia Chamber of Commerce “Leadership in Energy Award” & “Free Enterprise Award” (Transportation Category)
Virginia Transit Association “Distinguished Legislative Leadership Award”
Virginia Professional Fire Fighters “Legislator of the Year”
Virginia FREE “Virginia’s Most Effective Senator”
VA Autism Project & Autism Speaks “Autism Champion”

Dick grew up in Washington, D.C. He served in the U.S. Army for two years prior to earning a B.S. in economics from the University of Maryland. In college, he was a member of the track team, and is still an active runner. He is a successful local businessman in the gasoline and auto service industry.

Dick and his wife, Eleanor, are proud grandparents and have lived in Northern Virginia since 1968. Eleanor currently serves on the State Board of Virginia’s Community Colleges is a previous chair of the board. She also previously served as president of the State Board of Education. Dick and Eleanor’s adult daughter, Jennifer, is a graduate of the 35th District’s own Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, the University of Virginia, and the Stanford School of Law. She is also a former Peace Corps volunteer.

Louise Lucas

Current Position: State Senator for VA Senate District 18 since 1992
Affiliation: Democrat

About Louise Lucas

Source: Wikipedia
For more information: see Virginia onAir post

Louise LucasThe Honorable L. Louise Lucas is a Portsmouth native and product of the Portsmouth Public School System. She is President/CEO of Lucas Lodge, Lucas Transportation, Portsmouth Day Support Program and Southside Direct Care Provider organizations operating in The Lucas Professional Center located in Portsmouth.

Senator Lucas began her federal career in 1967 as an Apprentice Shipfitter at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) and became the first Woman Shipfitter in July 1971. Senator Lucas began her public sector career path as Interim Executive Director of the Southeastern Tidewater Opportunity Project (STOP) in 1985 and was appointed Executive Director in 1986 where she served until 1992.

Graduating with honors, Senator Lucas received her Bachelor of Science degree (Cum Laude) in Vocational-Industrial Education from Norfolk State University in 1971 and her Master of Arts Degree (Magna Cum Laude) in Urban Affairs with a concentration in Human Resources Planning and Administration also from Norfolk State University in 1982.

Senator Lucas served in the position of Congressional Liaison for Sponsored Program at Old Dominion University from 1992 – 1994. She also served as Assistant Professor, Department of Academic Affairs and Special Assistant to the Vice President for University Advancement at Norfolk State University from 1994 – 1998.

Senator L. Louise Lucas was elected to the Virginia General Assembly in November 1991 and continues to serve the citizens of the 18th Senatorial District.

Senator Lucas is the mother of two daughters, Lisa L. Lucas-Burke and Theresa Lynn Lucas-Lamb who partner with her in various business entities and one son, the late Jeffery Lee Lucas, Sr. She has five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Tom Norment

Current Position: State Senator for VA Senate District 3 since 1992
Affiliation: Republican

About Tom Norment

Source: Campaign page
For more information: see Virginia onAir post

Thomas NormentTommy Norment first came to Virginia’s 3rd Senatorial District as a child when his father worked at Cheatham Annex.

A graduate of James Blair High School in Williamsburg, Tommy attended college at Virginia Military Institute before returning to Williamsburg to attend the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary. In 1987, Tommy was elected to the James City County Board of Supervisors. He served as Chairman of the Board in 1991 before being elected to the Senate of Virginia.

Tommy maintains an active role in the community. He is a member of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Board of Trustees and the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation’s Board of Directors. He is on the Hampton Roads Board of Directors of TowneBank and he chairs the Williamsburg Board of TowneBank. Tommy is also a member of the Williamsburg Area Chamber of Commerce and the James City County Ruritan Club.

Professionally, Tommy is an attorney with Kaufman and Canoles, P.C., and a professor at the College of William and Mary.

Eileen Filler-Corn

Current Position:  State Delegate for VA House District 41
Affiliation: Democrat

About Eileen Filler-Corn

Source: Campaign page
For more information: see Virginia onAir post

Eileen Filler-CornEileen Filler-Corn has served in the Virginia House of Delegates, representing the 41st District, since 2010. The 41st District, located in Fairfax County, includes Burke and parts of Fairfax, Fairfax Station and West Springfield. Eileen has over two decades of experience in both the public and private sectors, working across party lines to make a difference in the lives of all Virginians.

In the House of Delegates, Eileen is a member of the Transportation Committee, Finance Committee and the Commerce & Labor Committee. She currently serves on the Joint Commission on Transportation Accountability, Health Insurance Reform Commission, Joint Commission on Technology and Science, Virginia Commission on Intergovernmental Cooperation and the Transportation Public-Private Partnership Steering Committee. She also chairs the Advisory Council on Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS) & Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS). Additionally, she is the chair and a founding member of the bipartisan General Assembly Arts Caucus. She also serves as Vice Chair for Outreach of the House Democratic Caucus, having previously served as the House Democratic Whip.
Outside of the Virginia General Assembly, appointments include: Chair of the Board for Jobs for Virginia Graduates and Virginia State Director for both Women in Government and the National Foundation for Women Legislators. In addition, she was selected to join the bipartisan Governing Institute’s Women in Government Class of 2017. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of the following organizations: American Jewish Committee (AJC), Clean Air Partners, the Center for Public Policy Innovation (CPPI) and Jewish Federation for Group Homes (JFGH).

In addition to serving in the House, Eileen Filler-Corn is the Director of Government Relations at Albers & Company. Eileen brings over 25 years of extensive governmental, legal and political experience to the firm, designing and implementing strategies unique to every client in order to achieve their specific goals and objectives.

Previously, Eileen served in the Administrations of Governor Mark Warner and Governor Tim Kaine, advising on state and federal relations. For over 25 years, Eileen and her husband Bob have lived in Fairfax County, Virginia, along with their children, Jeremy and Alana.

Charniele Herring

Current Position:  State Delegate for VA House District 46 since 2009
Affiliation: Democrat

About Charniele Herring

Source: Campaign page
For more information: see Virginia onAir post

Charniele HerringCharniele has lived in Northern Virginia area for over 30 years, most of them in the West End of Alexandria.  Charniele has a rich history of community involvement as a volunteer, a member of Rotary, and a past Chair of the West End Business Association. She has served on the Alexandria Commission for Women, including Chairing the organization.  She was also appointed by Governor Tim Kaine to the state’s Council on the Status of Women. She presently serves on the Board of the Parent Teacher Leadership Institute of Alexandria and as a Trustee of Hopkins House—advocating for strong pre-k education.

Born into military family, Charniele moved often as child before landing permanently in Northern Virginia.  When she was a teenager, Charniele’s mother lost her job and despite their best efforts they ended up homeless.  For a time, Charniele and her mother stayed in a homeless shelter at nights while Charniele attended West Springfield High School during the day and her mother searched for work.  The experience of being homeless shaped Charniele’s character and taught her the values of hard work, resilience and looking out for those people society often overlooks.

Charniele got the chance to attend college as part of the STEP Program that allowed students from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to prove they were capable of college level work.  She commuted to George Mason for four years and graduated with a degree in Economics, and while she was in school she gave back as a volunteer crisis intervention counselor and trainer at Alexandria Mental Health Services and worked with nonprofit advocates on issues surrounding homelessness prevention.  Charniele’s first job out of college was as a VISTA volunteer providing low-income housing for at-risk families before attending law school at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law.  After law school, Charniele worked at the oldest African-American owned firm in Greater Washington before opening up her own firm here in Northern Virginia. She currently works as General Counsel to Admin & Logistics, Inc, a government contracting firm.

Todd Gilbert

Current Position:  State Delegate for VA House District 15 since 2006
Former Positions: Prosecutor from 1997 – 2006
Affiliation: Republican

About Todd Gilbert

Source: Campaign page
For more information: see Virginia onAir post

Todd GilbertDelegate Todd Gilbert represents the 15th district in the Virginia House of Delegates; it includes all of Page and Shenandoah Counties and portions of Warren and Rockingham Counties. He was first elected to the House in 2005. In 2018, Delegate Gilbert was elected Majority Leader of the House of Delegates. Delegate Gilbert is a member of the Courts of Justice Committee, the Rules Committee, and serves as the Vice-Chairman of the House General Laws Committee. He also serves on the Virginia State Crime Commission, which helps to study and direct polices on public safety throughout Virginia and he is the Chairman of the House Criminal Law Subcommittee.

Delegate Gilbert has received numerous awards and distinctions during his tenure in the House of Delegates including the Virginia YMCA’s “Service to Youth Award” for his annual work with their Model General Assembly in Richmond. In 2013, he was named the Family Foundation’s “Legislator of the Year” for his work in promoting family values and religious freedom in Virginia. The Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys also awarded Gilbert their inaugural “Champion of Justice Award” for his extensive work in public safety policy. Both the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and the Virginia State Police Association have honored Gilbert with their “Legislator of the Year” Award. The American Conservative Union also named him a “Defender of Liberty” for his 100% conservative voting record during the legislative session. Finally, in 2017, Gilbert was named a “Legislator of the Year” by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce for his years of work as a pro-business leader.

Prior to his election to the House of Delegates, Delegate Gilbert began his career as a full-time prosecutor. His first job was with the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Lynchburg, where he was a member of the Violent Crime Prosecution Team. In 1999, he was fortunate to be able to return home and work in the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Shenandoah County for six years where he was lead prosecutor in a number of major cases. After his election to the House, Gilbert worked for several years as a prosecutor in both the Warren County and Frederick County Commonwealth’s Attorneys Offices. He has taught the art of trial advocacy to fellow prosecutors at the Commonwealth’s Attorneys’ annual trial advocacy school. Taking advantage of his experience in Virginia’s criminal justice system, Gilbert’s primary legislative focus is public safety.

Gilbert is a 1989 graduate of Central High School of Woodstock, where he served as student body president and played three varsity sports. He attended the University of Virginia, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Government in 1993. While at UVA, he was a legislative intern in the Capitol Hill office of then U.S. Representative George Allen. Upon graduation, he attended the Southern Methodist University School of Law, where he earned his law degree in 1996 and also led the student body as president of the Student Bar Association. While at SMU Law, Gilbert won the school’s annual mock trial competition and participated on the school’s competitive mock trial team.

When not in Richmond for the legislative session, Delegate Gilbert now works in a private law practice. He is a member of the First Baptist Church of Woodstock.

Todd is married to the lovely and talented Jennifer Wishon Gilbert, and in 2017 they were blessed with a son.  Jennifer is a broadcast journalist who is currently the White House Correspondent for CBN News. Jennifer covers the President and national politics in Washington, D.C. The Gilberts live on a small farm outside of Mount Jackson, Virginia.

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Executive OrdersExecutive Orders

Executive Order 75

EO-75 Declaration of a State of Emergency Due to Civil Unrest in Washington, D.C. and Potential Civil Unrest in the Commonwealth
January 6, 2021

Executive Order 74

EO-74 Protecting Businesses From Increasing Cost of Unemployment Insurance
December 22, 2020

Summary

Executive Order 75

EO-75 Declaration of a State of Emergency Due to Civil Unrest in Washington, D.C. and Potential Civil Unrest in the Commonwealth
January 6, 2021

Executive Order 74

EO-74 Protecting Businesses From Increasing Cost of Unemployment Insurance
December 22, 2020

January 2021 Executive Orders

Executive Order 75

EO-75 Declaration of a State of Emergency Due to Civil Unrest in Washington, D.C. and Potential Civil Unrest in the Commonwealth
January 6, 2021

December 2020 Executive Orders

Executive Order 72

EO-72 and Order of Public Health Emergency Nine – Common Sense Surge Restrictions Certain Temporary Restrictions Due to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
December 10, 2020

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Virginia General Assembly 1Virginia General Assembly

The Virginia General Assembly is the legislative body of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the oldest continuous law-making body in the New World, established on July 30, 1619.

The General Assembly is a bicameral body consisting of a lower house, the Virginia House of Delegates, with 100 members, and an upper house, the Senate of Virginia, with 40 members. Combined together, the General Assembly consists of 140 elected representatives from an equal number of constituent districts across the commonwealth. The House of Delegates is presided over by the Speaker of the House, while the Senate is presided over by the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. The House and Senate each elect a clerk and sergeant-at-arms. The Senate of Virginia’s clerk is known as the “Clerk of the Senate” (instead of as the “Secretary of the Senate”, the title used by the U.S. Senate).

Following the 2019 election, the Democratic Party held a majority of seats in both the House and the Senate for the first time since 1996. They were sworn into office on January 8, 2020.

Here is an excellent concise summary  by Wyatt Gordon of how the Virginia General Assembly works.

Summary

The Virginia General Assembly is the legislative body of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the oldest continuous law-making body in the New World, established on July 30, 1619.

The General Assembly is a bicameral body consisting of a lower house, the Virginia House of Delegates, with 100 members, and an upper house, the Senate of Virginia, with 40 members. Combined together, the General Assembly consists of 140 elected representatives from an equal number of constituent districts across the commonwealth. The House of Delegates is presided over by the Speaker of the House, while the Senate is presided over by the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. The House and Senate each elect a clerk and sergeant-at-arms. The Senate of Virginia’s clerk is known as the “Clerk of the Senate” (instead of as the “Secretary of the Senate”, the title used by the U.S. Senate).

Following the 2019 election, the Democratic Party held a majority of seats in both the House and the Senate for the first time since 1996. They were sworn into office on January 8, 2020.

Here is an excellent concise summary  by Wyatt Gordon of how the Virginia General Assembly works.

Capitol

Source: Wikipedia

The General Assembly meets in Virginia’s capital of Richmond. When sitting in Richmond, the General Assembly holds sessions in the Virginia State Capitol, designed by Thomas Jefferson in 1788 and expanded in 1904. During the American Civil War, the building was used as the capitol of the Confederate States of America, housing the Congress of the Confederate States. The building was renovated between 2005 and 2006. Senators and Delegates have their offices in the General Assembly Building across the street directly north of the Capitol. The Governor of Virginia lives across the street directly east of the Capitol in the Virginia Executive Mansion.

History

Source: Wikipedia

The Virginia General Assembly is described as “the oldest continuous law-making body in the New World”. Its existence dates to its establishment at Jamestown on July 30, 1619 by instructions from the Virginia Company of London to the new Governor Sir George Yeardley. It was initially a unicameral body composed of the Company-appointed Governor and Council of State, plus 22 burgesses elected by the settlements and Jamestown.

The Assembly became bicameral in 1642 upon the formation of the House of Burgesses. At various times it may have been referred to as the Grand Assembly of Virginia. The General Assembly met in Jamestown from 1619 until 1699, when it first moved to the College of William & Mary near Williamsburg, Virginia and later met in the colonial Capitol building. It became the General Assembly in 1776 with the ratification of the Virginia Constitution. The government was moved to Richmond in 1780 during the administration of Governor Thomas Jefferson.

Salary and qualifications

Source: Wikipedia

The annual salary for senators is $18,000. The annual salary for delegates is $17,640.

Under the Constitution of Virginia, Senators and Delegates must be 21 years of age at the time of the election, residents of the district they represent, and qualified to vote for members of the General Assembly. Under the Constitution, “a senator or delegate who moves his residence from the district for which he is elected shall thereby vacate his office”.

The state constitution specifies that the General Assembly shall meet annually, and its regular session is a maximum of 60 days long in even-numbered years and 30 days long in odd-numbered years, unless extended by a two-thirds vote of both houses . The governor of Virginia may convene a special session of the General Assembly “when, in his opinion, the interest of the Commonwealth may require” and must convene a special session “upon the application of two-thirds of the members elected to each house”.

Redistricting reform

Source: Wikipedia

Article II, section 6 on apportionment states, “Members of the … Senate and of the House of Delegates of the General Assembly shall be elected from electoral districts established by the General Assembly. Every electoral district shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory and shall be so constituted as to give, as nearly as is practicable, representation in proportion to the population of the district.”  The Redistricting Coalition of Virginia proposes either an independent commission or a bipartisan commission that is not polarized. Member organizations include the League of Women Voters of Virginia, AARP of Virginia, OneVirginia2021, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Organizing Project. Governor Bob McDonnell’s Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting for the Commonwealth of Virginia made its report on April 1, 2011. It made two recommendations for each state legislative house that showed maps of districts more compact and contiguous than those adopted by the General Assembly.

In 2011, the Virginia College and University Redistricting Competition was organized by Professors Michael McDonald of George Mason University and Quentin Kidd of Christopher Newport University. About 150 students on sixteen teams from thirteen schools submitted plans for legislative and U.S. Congressional Districts. They created districts more compact than the General Assembly’s efforts. The “Division 1” maps conformed with the Governor’s Executive Order, and did not address electoral competition or representational fairness. In addition to the criteria of contiguity, equipopulation, the federal Voting Rights Act and communities of interest in the existing city and county boundaries, “Division 2” maps in the competition did incorporate considerations of electoral competition and representational fairness. Judges for the cash award prizes were Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.

In January 2015, Republican State Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel of Winchester and Democratic State Senator Louise Lucas of Portsmouth sponsored a Senate Joint Resolution to establish additional criteria for the Virginia Redistricting Commission of four identified members of political parties, and three other independent public officials. The criteria began with respecting existing political boundaries, such as cities and towns, counties and magisterial districts, election districts and voting precincts. Districts are to be established on the basis of population, in conformance with federal and state laws and court cases, including those addressing racial fairness. The territory is to be contiguous and compact, without oddly shaped boundaries. The commission is prohibited from using political data or election results to favor either political party or incumbent. It passed with a two-thirds majority of 27 to 12 in the Senate, and was then referred to committee in the House of Delegates.

In 2015, at Vesilind v. Virginia State Board of Elections in a Virginia state court, plaintiffs sought to overturn the General Assembly’s redistricting in five House of Delegate and six state Senate districts as violations of both the Virginia and U.S. Constitutions because they failed to represent populations in “continuous and compact territory”.

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