A storm passes over the Capitol. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury - Sept. 11, 2018)

With a mental health system in crisis, lawmakers inch toward stabilization

BY: - February 27, 2019

In its changes to the state budget, the 2019 General Assembly inched closer to stabilizing  Virginia’s struggling mental health system. The effort is in part driven by the ongoing crisis within the state’s psychiatric hospitals, which have seen an unprecedented uptick in admissions, resulting in dangerous overcrowding. On Tuesday, eight of the state’s 10 psychiatric […]

Charlottesville led the way on reforming cash bail system

BY: - February 27, 2019

By Daniel Berti/ Capital News Service  When someone is charged with a crime, prosecutors and judges want to make sure the defendant shows up for court. So they usually require the person to put up cash bail — money the defendants forfeit if they skip town. But now, many officials — from local prosecutors to the state […]

GOP senators staying out of House’s push for Fairfax hearings

BY: - February 26, 2019

In the waning days of the General Assembly session, Republicans in the House of Delegates steadily ratcheted up pressure on Democrats as they pushed legislative hearings on sexual assault claims against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. Meanwhile, over in the Senate where Fairfax was presiding daily over the chamber, GOP members have been relatively quiet beyond […]

Virginia Mercury

Virginia budget jumpstarts foster care reform, increases TANF benefit

BY: - February 25, 2019

The massive, bipartisan foster care system overhaul proposed this session after a scathing report was released in December passed the General Assembly without a single ‘no’ vote from either chamber. Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, sponsored the legislation, with 39 senators signing on to co-sponsor. Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, carried the $2.8 million budget amendment, which both […]

Virginia’s biggest proposed solar project is also among its most contentious local land use fights

BY: - February 25, 2019

As a proposal to construct the largest solar energy facility on the East Coast prepares to go before the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors Tuesday night, determined opposition from some neighbors highlights the tension between what locals want in their backyards and growing demand for renewable energy. This January, the Spotsylvania Planning Commission recommended the […]

The three words that killed hands-free driving legislation in Virginia

BY: - February 25, 2019

Ultimately, three words led to the downfall of hands-free driving legislation that lawmakers hoped would finally allow police to crack down on widespread use of phones while driving. Legislation banning drivers from holding a phone for any reason passed the House. And it was poised to pass the Senate when an apparently innocent amendment was […]

Redistricting reform clears first major hurdle with General Assembly approval

BY: - February 25, 2019

Virginia lawmakers took the first step to creating an independent redistricting process by approving a bill that would create a 16-member commission. The constitutional amendment has to pass the General Assembly again next year and then be approved by voters in a statewide referendum before going into effect. The amended proposal passed unanimously in the […]

‘No short road to redemption:’ Budget is a step toward racial reconciliation, black lawmakers say

BY: - February 25, 2019

With race front-and-center during the General Assembly session that concluded Sunday, lawmakers approved a budget that fulfilled requests from black lawmakers to begin addressing inequities. “Poverty is a commonwealth-wide conversation and it shouldn’t be up to just the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus to discuss, it should be our collective responsibility,” Del. Cia Price, D-Newport News, […]


Tracking bills during the General Assembly session: like drinking from a fire hose

BY: - February 25, 2019

I once got a call from a journalist frustrated by a state law that allowed the government to withhold important information. He wasn’t just frustrated with the law, he was frustrated with me because — admittedly — I didn’t catch the bill that led to the law when it made its way through the General […]

Fairfax, facing looming legislative hearing, warns of ‘political lynching’

BY: - February 24, 2019

Moments before the General Assembly adjourned for the year Sunday, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax addressed two sexual assault allegations from the dais where he presides over the Senate, tying a House GOP push for legislative hearings to the state’s history of lynchings. “If we go backwards to rush to judgment, and we allow for political […]

Virginia State Capitol

What else is in the budget: More money for lawmakers, police bodycam moratorium, abortion scrutiny

BY: - February 24, 2019

House and Senate budget negotiators have agreed on a spending plan that halts college tuition hikes, gives raises to state employees and teachers and socks away a half billion in rainy day funding. But those are just the biggies. Here are some of the other things lawmakers slipped in that are less likely to make headlines (along […]

Democratic delegate tells ‘rape apologists’ to ‘eat s***’

BY: - February 22, 2019

Republicans “went nuclear” Friday, as one Democratic delegate put it, announcing that they’ll hold legislative hearings on sexual assault allegations against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax with or without support from their colleagues across the aisle. Democrats — at risk of alienating two key constituencies, women and black voters — have struggled to respond as the […]