Virginia Viewpoint – March 3, 2023 – Beware the Ides of March

March 8, 2023

Election update:

Beware the Ides of March. As the General Assembly session came to a close, the constant stream of retirement speeches serves as that Ides of March warning of misfortune for the Commonwealth. With these announced retirements (and maybe more to come), the Commonwealth loses hundreds of years combined experience in the state legislature.

In the Senate:

Sen. Dick Saslaw – Democrat Leader and one of the longest serving members in the legislature;

Sen. Tommy Norment – Republican minority leader from James City;

Sen. Janet Howell – Democrat Co-Chair of the Finance & Appropriations Committee and lead budget conferee;

Sen. John Edwards – Democrat from the Roanoke area and Co-Chair of the Judiciary;

Sen. John Bell – Democrat from Prince William; and

Sen. Jill Vogel – Republican in Fauquier area.

In the House:

Del. Rob Bell – Republican from Charlottesville and Chairman of the Courts committee;

Del. Kathy Byron – Republican from Lynchburg and Chairwoman of the Commerce & Labor committee;

Del Roxann Robinson – Republican from Chesterfield and Chairwoman of General Laws;

Del. James Edmunds – Republican from Halifax;

Del. Tim Anderson – Republican from Virginia Beach;

Del. Margaret Ransone – Republican  from Westmoreland;

Del. John Avoli – Republican from Staunton;

Del. Kathleen Murphy – Democrat from Fairfax;

Del. Mike Mullin – Democrat from Williamsburg;

Del. Ken Plum – Democrat from Reston and the longest serving member of the House of Delegates;

Del. Wendy Gooditis – Democrat from Leesburg;

Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler – Democrat from Virginia Beach;

Del. Jeff Bourne – Democrat from Richmond; and

Del. Dawn Adams – Democrat from Richmond, who recently vied for nomination for Sen. Jennifer McClellan’s seat.

Several House members are also running for the Senate including:

Del. Lamont Bagby for the senate seat vacated by Sen. Jennifer McClellan who won election to Congress;

Del. Danica Roem for a newly created Senate seat;

Del. Schuyler Van Valkenburg who is running against incumbent Del. Siobhan Dunnavant;

Del. Chris Head who is running for a new Senate seat in Roanoke; and

Del. Suhas Subramanyam will run for Senate seat vacated by Sen. Bell.

Legislative update:

The Governor will now need to call a Special Session of the General Assembly to consider a broader budget. While the Commonwealth has a budget and would continue to operate under the existing budget even past July 1, 2023, the Governor and the General Assembly will want to fund some very important initiatives, like mental health, education and public safety.

Many of Governor Youngkin’s legislative initiatives including tax relief, public safety reforms, workforce development, veterans services, mental health reforms, K-12 education funding and teacher pay raises faced many challenges and hurdles in the Democrat led Senate.

In support of businesses and employees, two comprehensive workforce development bills, HB 2195 (Del. Kathy Byron) and SB 1470 (Sen. Frank Ruff & Sen. George Barker) were passed bringing together bi-partisan legislative and industry support.  This legislation helps to streamline workforce development programs and data into a single agency, the Virginia Department of Workforce Development and Advancement.

Virginia lawmakers also passed a bill to combat organized retail theft by increasing the penalty to a felony with increased potential jail terms.  HB 1885 (Del. Kathy Byron) and SB 1396 (Sen. Richard Stuart) passed by a close vote in the House and a much bigger margin in the Senate.

HB 1770 (Del. Terry Kilgore) and SB 1265 (Sen. Dick Saslaw) sponsored legislation to restore broader oversight by the State Corporation Commission over Dominion Energy and its ability to set electricity rates for customers.

Cannabis was a hot topic again this Session.   HB 2294 (Del. Terry Kilgore) proposed to limit hemp products that contain THC and passed both houses with amendments.  SB 1133 (Sen. Adam Ebbin) would establish the retail market framework in Virginia passed the Senate but ultimately died in a House committee.   SB 1233 (Sen. Mark Obenshain) and HB 2428 (Del. Tony Wilt) passed that would put restrictions on the advertising of marijuana products and has been sent to the Governor.


a)            Assembly to pass ‘skinny’ budget as stopgap measure

By MICHAEL MARTZ AND DAVID RESS, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall – 7 articles a month)

The General Assembly will consider a stop-gap budget bill to buy time for the House of Delegates and Senate to bridge their wide differences over $1 billion in tax cuts that Gov. Glenn Youngkin proposed in revisions to the two-year budget adopted a year ago. House and Senate budget negotiators regrouped on Saturday after a blowup the previous day about the amount of tax cuts that the Senate would accept and the reduced spending it would require in Democratic priorities.

b)            Tax rebates ‘definitely on the table’ in ongoing budget talks

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall – 7 articles a month)

One-time tax rebates are part of the state budget talks that the Senate and House of Delegates hope to resume as early as next week after negotiations broke down late last week over the $1 billion package of tax cuts Gov. Glenn Youngkin is seeking. House and Senate budget negotiators are still considering a package of tax cuts, but one that looks different than what Youngkin proposed, with one-time rebates instead of a cut in the corporate income tax rate that Democrats had flatly rejected.

c)            Janet Howell, first woman to lead Senate Finance Committee, to retire

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall – 7 articles a month)

Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, made it official on Tuesday. She will retire after 32 years in the Virginia Senate, including four as the first woman to lead the powerful Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee. Howell, 78, is still leading the Senate in negotiations with the House of Delegates for a new state budget, which would be her sixth in four tumultuous years that began with the COVID-19 pandemic. She is the longest serving female legislator in the assembly.

d)            Flurry of Virginia legislators announce retirements

By SARAH RANKIN, Associated Press

Over a dozen Virginia legislators, including the long-serving Senate Republican Leader Tommy Norment, have recently ruled out seeking re-election this year under maps overhauled during the latest redistricting cycle. Norment and legislative veterans Democratic Sen. John Edwards and Republican Del. Kathy Byron are among the General Assembly leaders and committee chairs who most recently have announced retirements timed to the Saturday close of the regular legislative session.

e)            Norment, long among the most powerful in the Capitol, is retiring

By DAVID RESS, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall – 7 articles a month)

Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment made a point of doing it quietly, without making — or listening to — the usual sentimental speeches when a long-serving member of the General Assembly retires. “I came in quietly, and I want to leave quietly,” said Norment, R-James City, who as leader of the Senate Republican caucus and for a time doubled up as majority leader of the Senate and co-chair of the Senate Finance committee, has been one of the most powerful – and at times feared – politicians in the Capitol.

f)             Byron, Edwards the latest senior legislators to announce retirements

By ANDREW CAIN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall – 7 articles a month)

Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford, and Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, are the latest senior legislators to announce they will not seek re-election in a wave that has already taken out more than a tenth of the 140-member General Assembly. New legislative boundaries that the Virginia Supreme Court imposed in December 2021 paired dozens of lawmakers – like Byron and Edwards – in districts with other incumbents, prompting a raft of retirements. Other lawmakers face tough primary challenges or re-election fights in newly drawn districts.

g)            Edwards decides not to seek another term as Roanoke senator

By LAURENCE HAMMACK, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall – 5 articles a month)

After getting back home to Roanoke about 9 p.m. Saturday, after his 28th regular session in Virginia’s Senate had come to a close, John Edwards decided it was time to decide. “I guess there’s a time for everything,” Edwards said in a telephone interview from his law office Monday, the day he announced he would not seek another four-year term. “The time is right. Timing is everything in life. I’ve been there for 28 sessions, and I’ll still be there until January,” said Edwards, who will turn 80 this October.” It’s been a long time, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

h)            With nomination in hand, Bagby turns to March 28 special election

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall – 7 articles a month)

Fresh off a convincing victory in the Democratic primary for the 9th Senate District, Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, turned the page to the next election to fill the seat held by Congresswoman-elect Jennifer McClellan, D-4th, and, likely, another primary to defend it in a new district. Bagby appeared at state Democratic Party headquarters in Richmond on Monday morning, about 10 hours after he seized the party’s nomination for the Senate seat with 72% of the vote after a lightning campaign against two formidable fellow Democrats.

i)              McClellan wins special election for Virginia’s 4th District

By SARAH RANKIN, Associated Press

Democrat Jennifer McClellan defeated her Republican opponent in a special election Tuesday to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, where she will be the first Black woman to represent Virginia in Congress. McClellan, a veteran state legislator from Richmond, prevailed over pastor and Navy veteran Leon Benjamin in the race for the blue-leaning 4th District, which has its population center in the capital city and stretches south to the North Carolina border.

j)              Va. lawmakers reach tentative deal to tighten reins on Dominion Energy

By GREGORY S. SCHNEIDER, Washington Post (Metered Paywall – 3 articles a month)

Virginia lawmakers have reached a tentative bipartisan agreement to bring the state’s biggest utility, Dominion Energy, under tighter regulatory oversight — reversing years of actions that loosened the reins over the powerful company. The complex legislation, which took until the waning hours of the General Assembly session to hammer out, would restore broader authority to the State Corporation Commission to set electricity rates for consumers. Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) took a direct hand in helping to reach the deal.

k)            With hemp regulations passed, future legal cannabis market still to be determined

By CHARLOTTE RENE WOODS, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall – 7 articles a month)

Virginia lawmakers were not ready to set up a recreational cannabis market this session, but they did pass Gov. Glenn Youngkin-backed bills to more tightly regulate the hemp market. Products sold can only have up to 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol — otherwise known as THC — and up to 2 milligrams of THC per package, according to the law. THC is the compound found in cannabis plants that creates a sense of euphoria when inhaled or consumed.

l)              Data center companies outline early plans for Prince William County ‘digital gateway’

By HANNAH DENHAM, Washington Business Journal (Subscription required for some articles)

Two companies that hold high hopes of building data centers on Gainesville land now under contract and dubbed the “digital gateway” are moving forward with their requests to Prince William County officials to rezone the site, according to county documents. Overland Park, Kansas-based QTS Realty Trust Inc. and Dallas-based Compass Datacenters recently updated rezoning applications that they had submitted last year.

m)           Virginia passes law to crack down on organized retail theft


It’s a scene that’s gone viral over and over, with social media videos showing groups of thieves brazenly stealing bags of merchandise from stores around the country. Organized retail theft is a financial problem for businesses and a crime trend that police and lawmakers want to stop. In Virginia, where a state report found that approximately $1.3 billion in merchandise is stolen this way annually, state lawmakers approved legislation Thursday that will make organized retail theft a felony and make those convicted of the crime eligible for prison sentences of up to 20 years.

n)            Virginia sport betting again topped $500 million in January

By DAVID MCGEE, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall – 15 articles a month)

Virginia residents continued their strong interest in sports betting in January, wagering in excess of $500 million for the fourth consecutive month. Virginians wagered more than $513.15 million during the month, representing the third highest handle in state history. During the first 31 days of this year they wagered an average of about $16.5 million per day, according to the Virginia Lottery, which released monthly sports wagering figures on Wednesday.

o)            Virginia’s new cannabis authority faces more responsibilities, possible budget cuts

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Virginia Mercury

Lawmakers have signaled they want the new Virginia Cannabis Control Authority to take over the state’s medical marijuana program and act as the main enforcer of stricter rules on cannabis-related advertising. But the authority, which is still staffing up after being established in 2021, is also battling the prospect of a major budget cut included in an initial spending plan approved last month by the Republican-controlled House of Delegates.



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