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Welcome to today’s edition of the Dogwood Daily. We’ve got a round-up of all of today’s Virginia news coming right up.

But first…

Just like the rest of the country, Virginia can sometimes seem more divided than ever. A new program aims to address that with a new exchange program between rural and urban Virginia.

Five things you need to know today …

  1. Gay rights (finally) in the Commonwealth— Both the Virginia House and Senate passed bills banning discrimination against the LGBTQ community Thursday. The bills specifically prevent discrimination in housing, public, and private employment based on someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition to the expected support from Democrats, the bills also received significant support from Republicans members in both chambers. The legislation is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam, who has voiced support for the measures. -Richmond Times-Dispatch
  2. So long, General Lee— Confederate generals probably don’t need their own holidays, right? The Virginia House voted to abolish Lee-Jackson Day in the state, a state holiday celebrating Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson. The chamber voted 55-42 to approve the legislation from Del. Joe Lindsey (D-Norfolk), which will strike the state holiday and replace Election Day as a state holiday. The Senate recently passed its own version of the bill on January 21. Gov. Northam has voiced support for striking the holiday from the calendar and is expected to sign the legislation into law. -ABC 13 News 
  3. Assault weapons ban— The House Public Safety Committee voted 12-9 to send a revised version of an assault weapons ban to the full House of Delegates. While the original bill called for current assault weapons-owners to register their guns with the state police, the amended version removed the requirement. After the vote, anti gun safety protestors began shouting at committee members, forcing the Capitol Police to escort them out of the meeting. The legislation, which was proposed by Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria), will now head to the full House of Delegates for a vote. The bill will have to be passed by Tuesday in order to be sent to the Senate. -Richmond Times-Dispatch 
  4. State panel lambastes Hampton Roads Regional Jail— A state panel in charge of examining inmate deaths is accusing Hampton Roads Regional Jail of intentionally obfuscating their efforts. The jail came under scrutiny after the 2015 death of a Jamycheal Mitchell, who died after prison officials failed to transfer him to a state mental hospital. The panel was also tasked with investigating the deaths of Jakub Plucinski, Victor Fountain and Tyrone Bailey, all of whom died in the past 3 years. The Richmond Times-Dispatch obtained a letter from the panel blasting the jail for “testing [the board’s] will to conduct thorough investigations.” –Richmond Times-Dispatch
  5. PTSD coverage for first responders— The Finance and Appropriations committee voted 14-1 in favor of SB 561, which would provide workers’ comp to first responders experiencing PTSD. The bill highlights the specific instances that would be covered by the policy change, including witnessing a death or the injury or someone who subsequently dies. Sen. Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier) introduced the bill, and noted the need for this legislation following the mass shooting in Virginia Beach last year. The bill will now head to the Senate floor for a vote. -Virginia Business