by Brandon Jarvis

Virginia’s General Assembly is approaching the three-week mark of their short 30-day legislative session and both chambers are really starting to pass a large number of bills each day. Both chambers have to complete their full legislative agenda and send the legislation over to the opposite chamber for consideration before Governor Ralph Northam can sign each bill into law – if he so chooses. 

Senators signed off on legislation that will make some of the emergency COVID-19 voting-safety measures put into place during the 2020 special session permanent law. SB 1245 from Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) would make ballot drop off boxes at polling locations a permanent fixture and it would require the general registrars to begin preprocessing absentee ballots that are returned before election day and to notify an absentee voter of any errors or issues with the completion or return of their ballot that would render it void. The legislation passed on a 21-18 partisan vote.

Senators voted unanimously to support John Bell’s (D-Loudoun) SB 1279, a bill that would require the Department of Veterans Services to develop a comprehensive program to assist military service members, veterans, and their spouses in making a successful transition from military to civilian life in Virginia. 

“Virginians who serve their country should have the support they need to transition out of military service when they choose to re-enter civilian life,” Bell said after the bill passed. “Through skills and workforce assessments and internship and apprenticeship programs, the Commonwealth can help veterans and their families integrate professionally into our economy. I look forward to working with the House of Delegates to make sure military families get the support they deserve.”

SB 1148 from Sen. Jen Kiggans (R-Va Beach) also advanced out of the Senate chamber with bipartisan support for changing the date of the primary elections held in June from the second Tuesday to the third. The chamber debated the bill with Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) saying this is not a real problem and noting that moving the primary election to the first week of summer would disenfranchise younger voters who often go on a family vacation during that week. 

Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) supported the bill, though she wondered how this would affect the school districts that are choosing to switch over to a year-round academic calendar. Kiggans didn’t have an answer to the question, other than saying it would be easy to solve if that problem arises. The bill passed with bipartisan support. 

The chamber also passed a bill that would make the individual votes of the members of the Virginia Parole Board public information, and a bill that would direct the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority to establish an Office of Education and Labor Market Alignment (the Office) to coordinate data analysis on workforce and higher education alignment and translate data to partners.

You can view the rest of the legislation on Friday, along with more of the bills passed each day on the Virginia Scope Political Newsletter. 


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