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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.

Equal Rights Amendment Stalls Again in House Committee

The House of Delegates Privileges and Elections Committee has again refused to docket a bill to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, killing it for the year.

Most Americans think the Equal Rights Amendment is already the law, but they’re wrong.

The ERA would guarantee equal rights for women, including pay for equal work.

It was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1972, with a 10 year deadline for ratification. In 1982, 35 states had ratified the amendment, three short of the three forths needed. Virginia is one of the 15 states who have yet to ratify.

GA Eliminates Local Option for Minimum Wage Floor in Public Procurements

The General Assembly has passed a bill that would prohibit local governments from requiring contractors to provide compensation or benefits above the state or federal minimum wage.

Democrats tried to adjust the bill to require a $10.10 minimum wage for public procurements, though Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam ruled the amendments not germane to the original bill.

Republicans say the bill prevents the artificial inflation of the price of business contracts.

CTB Formally Abandons Petersburg-Suffolk Expressway

The Commonwealth Transportation Board has formally abandoned a 55-mile expressway from Southeastern Virginia to Petersburg that rankled environmentalists and cost taxpayers $250 million dollars that may never be recovered.

The original proposal was public-private partnership and a 55-mile high speed toll-road from Petersburg to Suffolk, paralleling US 460 and authorized by the McDonnell administration.

Now, it is a 17-mile improvement to 460 from Suffolk to Zuni. Nothing here.

Virginia Legislature Approves Loaded Shotguns in Cars, Reverses "Brass Knuckle" Vote

Both the House and Senate have passed a bill that would exempt concealed carry permit holders from local bans on carrying loaded shotguns in cars.

Supporters of the bill say it brings uniformity to the state code as gun owners travel between localities.

Republican Senator Tom Garrett of Buckingham is the bill’s patron.

Republicans rejected an amendment to require gun owners to keep their concealed carry permit with them if carrying a loaded shotgun, despite objections from Democrats.

The bill passed the House 62 to 34.

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