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House Passes Religious Freedom Bill

On the day of the crossover deadline, the House of Delegates has passed a contentious religious freedom bill.

Patrons of HB 773 like Delegate Todd Gilbert say the bill is meant to prevent discrimination against those who define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Delegate Mark Sickles, who is openly gay, says the bill empowers discrimination against those with different beliefs.

The bill passed 56 to 41. Governor McAuliffe has previously vowed to veto legislation that targets same-sex marriage.

Senate Defeats Charter School Constitutional Amendment, House Passes It

The state Senate has defeated a bill that would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would make it easier to open charter schools.

Most of the GOP voted in favor of the bill, which they say gives students enrolled in failing schools more learning options.

Though 2 Republicans voted with the Democrats, many of whom have long complained that charters drain funds from traditional k-12 schools.

Democratic Senator Mamie Locke of Hampton says other options are available.

COPN Reform and Repeal Bills Pass House

The House of Delegates passed two bills today (2/15) that would make significant changes to the state system for approving health care construction projects.

Hospitals say Certificate of Public Need Program or COPN gives them the ability to provide access to critical healthcare services to low income patients that otherwise would not be profitable.

Republicans say the program gives hospitals a monopoly to provide other more profitable services, prohibiting outpatient care centers from offering the same services.

Senate Approves a Fresh Look at Food to Liquor Sales Ratio for Restaurants

A bill that would establish a pilot program to determine the appropriate balance between food and liquor sales at restaurants has passed the Senate.

Virginia has long resisted allowing traditional bars to operate in the Commonwealth, requiring that no more than 45% of a restaurants’ sales come from hard liquor.

The pilot program in the proposed bill would allow restaurant owners to meet that percentage based on the wholesale cost instead of the price charged to the consumer.

Republican Senator Frank Wagner spoke in favor of the bill.

Miller Invokes Harvey Family to Gain House Passage of Electric Chair Bill

On Wednesday (2/10) Republican Delegate Jackson Miller of Manassas spent over 15 minutes describing in graphic detail the violent murders of the Harvey and Tucker families while making the case for his bill to expand the use of the electric chair in Virginia.

Ricky Gray is scheduled to be put to death on March 16th for the 2006 murders, but the Commonwealth currently doesn’t have the drugs to perform the execution. Delegate Miller’s bill would make the electric chair the default method of execution if lethal injection drugs are unavailable.

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