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General Assembly Passes Ethics and Campus Sexual Assault Response Reform

The General Assembly completed its work for the 2015 session and adjourned one day ahead of schedule Friday night. Most notably, lawmakers reached last minute compromises on reforms to the state’s ethics code and campus sexual assault procedures and earmarked $400,000 for victims of the state’s now defunct eugenics program.

The ethics reform package will limit gifts to lawmakers at $100 each, with no cumulative cap, but would include travel and meals.  

Elected officials will continue to report gifts valued over $50.  

Virginia General Assembly Passes Budget

The General Assembly has approved a budget and has adjusted its schedule to leave town  one day ahead of the scheduled adjournment.

The spending plan includes a 1.5 percent pay raise for teachers, a 2 percent raise for other state workers and a much needed $130 million dollar deposit to the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

Thou the budget does not expand the state’s Medicaid program to an additional 400,000 Virginians as envisioned by Governor McAuliffe, it does include new health benefits for over 20,000 of the state’s most mentally ill.

Governor and GA Reach Agreement on ABC Reform

The Governor and the General Assembly have reached agreement on a bill that would reform the Alcoholic Beverage Control to make them follow standard business practices.

The bill, patroned by Republican Delegate Dave Albo of Fairfax, would change the ABC from an agency to an authority.

There have been multiple attempts to privatize the ABC over the past 3 decades but the state has never been able to make sense of selling it’s liquor monopoly.

G.A. Restricts Internet Provider Warnings to Suspected Pedophiles

The General Assembly has passed a bill that would allow prosecutors to prevent Internet service providers from contacting suspected pedophiles when their personal information is subpoenaed.

Child pornographers and rapists are typically caught after law enforcement can trace their videos and images back to their point of origin.

Once law enforcement obtains a subpoena, they must do additional investigation to obtain a search warrant. Only then can officers enter the suspects home, rescue child victims and seize evidence.

McAuliffe Signs Bill to Freeze Electric Rates

Governor Terry McAuliffe has signed a bill that would freeze Dominion Virginia Power’s base rates until 2020 by exempting them from biennial rate review by the State Corporation Comission. Dominion Virginia Power says the legislation will help it comply with new EPA regulations that require Virginia to bring carbon emissions significantly lower than neighboring states.

Citing the SCC, David Botkins, spokesman for Dominion Virginia Power, says this would require the utility company to pass $5-6 billion in cost on to their customers in the next several years.

Key Vote On Stone Brewery Proposal Postponed

Richmond City Council has delayed a key vote on the Stone Brewing deal for another week. Council members emerged from an apparently acrimonious closed-door session and postponed a vote on a land-transfer critical to the deal.

The million-dollar transfer of the old intermediate terminal building would pave the way for Stone’s future riverside restaurant phase, which could require the city to back another $8 million dollar bond issue on top of the $23 million already approved for the brewery.

It is also considered a threat by some local restaurants.

Virginia House Kills Bill to Keep Lethal Injection Drugs Secret

Today the House of Delegates voted 56 to 42 to defeat a bill that would allow the state to keep the manufacturers of drugs used in lethal injections secret.

One of the standard drugs used in executions is manufactured in Europe.

The European Union has prohibited the sale of this drug to the U.S. because of its use in executions.  

The legislation would also have exempted Virginia pharmacies who compound the drug from the Freedom of Information Act.  

House and Senate Advance “Right to Try” Bills

Bills are advancing through the House and Senate that would make it easier for seriously ill patients to try experimental drugs for compassionate use.

Currently new medications can take 5-15 years to reach the market and advocates ultimately want to speed up the FDA approval process.

8-year-old Josh Hardy is a 4-time cancer survivor. He was critically ill after his immune system was compromised following a recent bone marrow transplant. At the recommendation of his doctor they requested compassionate use of an experimental drug. The pharmaceutical company said no.

House and Senate Reach Budget Agreement

House and Senate conferees have completed work on the state’s budget and say they could leave town before their scheduled adjournment on Saturday (2/21).

Increased revenue collections in recent months have given lawmakers more money than expected to spend.

The budget will include 1.5 percent pay raises for teachers and 2 percent raises for state employees. $20 million dollars will go to new instate slots at colleges and universities as well as incentives to accept more transfer students.


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