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Bill To Reduce State Oversight Of Electric Utilities Passes General Assembly

A bill reducing state oversight of Virginia’s two largest utilities has been passed by the General Assembly and is headed to the Governor’s desk. 

The Senate already approved the legislation and the house approved the bill that prohibits the State Corporation Commission from reviewing base rates of Dominion Virginia Power and Appalachian Power for several years.

During the freeze, the SCC will not be able to order rate rebates or reductions if the utilities make too much money as they have done in the past.

Virginia House And Senate Pass Budgets

The House and Senate debated and passed their amended budgets yesterday(Feb. 12).

While revenue collections are slightly up in recent weeks, overall spending is down over a billion dollars since the two-year budget was enacted in 2014.  

Both spending plans add pay raises for state workers and eliminate new and increased business fees proposed by Governor Terry McAuliffe. 

House leaders say instead of creating new programs they chose to reinvest in core functions of government.  

Democrats say the budget does not do enough to advance kitchen table issues.  

Poll Gives Clinton Commanding Lead in 2016 Matchup

In a Wason poll released this morning (Feb. 12), Hillary Clinton continues to lead the field in potential presidential candiates for 2016. In the new poll, Hillary Clinton polls 65% among pontential Democratic voters.

Jeb Bush comes closest with 43 percent to her 48 percent in that matchup. Nobody else is close. Republicans are still not sure who they like among their parties candidates. At present it is Bush 20, Scott Walker 16, and Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie both at 10.

Redistricting Reform Bills Face Long Odds in Virginia House

The state Senate has passed several bills this session taking different approaches to change the way Virginia draws its state legislative and congressional districts to an independent or bipartisan process.

Currently, the state constitution gives the General Assembly the power to draw its own districts, as well as those for Virginia's 11 congressional seats.

The issue is political, but not along the typical partisan breakdown. Members of both parties use the system to their own advantage when they hold a majority.

Virginia House and Senate Pass Ethics Reform

The House of Delegates and state Senate have passed omnibus ethics reform bills that would cap gifts to lawmakers and their families at 100 dollars, with additional limits for gifts to the Governor.

While lawmakers acknowledge they must pass something to regain the public’s trust after the Bob McDonnell trial in the Senate at least, they’re not very happy with the bill they passed yesterday.

Assembly Passes Bills to Expand DNA Database to Certain Misdemeanors

The House and Senate have passed bills that will add those convicted of certain misdemeanors to the state’s DNA database.

Those convicted of sex crimes, indecent exposure and other misdemeanors that show a high correlation with subsequent felonies would be added to the DNA database.

Republican Delegate Rob Bell of Albemarle is the bill’s patron.

The Virginia ACLU has expressed concerns about the bill, citing privacy issues.

Medical Marijuana Bills Pass In General Assembly

The House and Senate have both passed bills that would decriminalize the use of cannabidiol oil or CBD, an extract of marijuana for the treatment of epilepsy. The oil has no intoxicating properties but has proven an effective method of preventing seizures in some patients.

The legislation does not allow for the development or distribution of the drug, but would prohibit the prosecution of those who possess it.

Teresa Elder has a son with a serious epileptic condition. He’s been put on life support several times due to complications from seizures.

Senate Committee Passes Bill For Two New State Songs

A Senate Committee may have found a way restore a state song for Virginia. Actually, not one, but two of them.

The bill includes this song, “Sweet Virginia Breeze,” written by locals Robin Thompson and Steve Basset as the official “popular song.” Written in 1979 it is popular and catchy.

The second proposed state song is titled “Our Great Virginia,” to the melody of Shenandoah, and would be the “traditional” song.

Virginia lawmakers have fought over a new state song since “Carry Me Back To Old Virginny” was deemed racial offensive and retired in 1997.

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