In brief: Killed bills, uneasy homage, big checks and more

Niko has been behind bars for about four years and it doesn’t look good for him to get out.

Courtesy Prayers for Niko Niko has been behind bars for about four years and it doesn’t look good for him to get out. Courtesy Prayers for Niko

Dead or alive

The General Assembly has been in session two weeks, and it is whittling down the more than 2,000 bills legislators filed. Here are some bills that have survived so far—and others that were DOA.


  • An in-state tuition bill for undocumented students made it out of the Senate Education Committee January 8 on an 8-7 vote, with one Republican senator joining the ayes.
  • The General Assembly doesn’t often consider freedom of the press, and this year it will look at two bills. Delegate Chris Hurst, a former reporter and anchor for WDBJ in Roanoke, carries a bill that protects student journalists from censorship and their faculty advisers from punishment. Former print journalist Delegate Danica Roem’s bill shields reporters from revealing sources in most cases.
  • A bipartisan group in both houses of the General Assembly want to raise the minimum age to buy cigarettes and vapes from 18 to 21.


  • The Save Niko bill, which allows dogs found dangerous to be transferred to another owner or shipped to a state that doesn’t border Virginia, made it out of an agriculture subcommittee last week, only to have members change their minds this week. The bill could have freed cat-killer Niko, who has been on doggie death row at the SPCA for about four years.
  • The ’70s-era Equal Rights Amendment passed the Senate 26-14 January 15 and headed to the House of Delegates, where it traditionally dies in committee. This year was no exception—the amendment was tabled by a Republican-led Privileges and Elections subcommittee January 22.
  • More than a dozen gun safety bills, including universal background checks, temporary removal of firearms from the home of someone deemed a risk to himself or others, and Delegate David Toscano’s bill restricting open carry at permitted events like the Unite the Right rally, were swiftly dispatched January 17 in the rural Republican-controlled subcommittee of the House Committee on Militia, Police, and Public Safety, chaired by southern Albemarle’s Delegate Matt Fariss.
  • Several bills that would decriminalize or even legalize pot died January 16 in a Courts of Justice subcommittee, with Delegate Rob Bell voting to prevent Virginia from going soft on personal marijuana use.
  • A bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 made a rare appearance on the Senate floor January 21, where it died on party lines 19 to 21.

Quote of the week

“I believe there are certain people in history we should honor that way in the Senate . . . and I don’t believe that [Robert E. Lee] is one of them.”—Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, a descendant of slaves, tells the Washington Post after ceding the dais and gavel during a tribute to Lee January 18

In brief

Shutdown scams

Attorney General Mark Herring warned about scams that target furloughed employees. Don’t accept an employment offer for a job you didn’t apply for, he says, and be cautious of predatory lending, including payday, auto title, open-end, and online loans. And those seeking to help should be cautious too—Herring says to avoid cash donations and only give if you can confirm the charity or fundraiser is legit.

Sally Hudson announces run. Eze Amos

Biggest donations in local races

Local philanthropist Sonjia Smith wrote a $100,000 check to UVA prof Sally Hudson, who wants the seat now held by Delegate David Toscano, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Smith also gave $10,000 to Sena Magill for City Council, $5,000 to Albemarle sheriff candidate Chan Bryant, and $20,000 to an Andrew Sneathern for Albemarle commonwealth’s attorney committee, which donated $9,635 to Jim Hingeley, who will announce his run January 23.

Government heavy

The Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau came closer to being stacked with elected and government officials when county supes voted 5-1 for a 15-member tourism board in which industry experts would be outnumbered 9 to 6 by government people. City Council had its first reading of the changes January 22.

$2.3 million roof

Carr’s Hill’s $7.9 million renovation went up another couple of mil when workers discovered the 14,000-square-foot manse’s roof needed to be replaced, not repaired. It’s the first major overhaul of the 1909 Stanford White-designed home of UVA presidents, and Jim Ryan is temporarily housed in Pavilion VIII on the Lawn while the work goes on.

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