Dogwood Download: Things You Should Know for Tuesday, Feb. 16

A man casts his ballot at an early voting center at the University of the District of Columbia on October 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

By Brian Carlton

February 16, 2021

Yes, the power’s still out for some. Your city council elections may be changing dates and a couple gun bills passed through a Senate committee.

Daily Number

4 – Until this year, the record for the most Democratic candidates for governor was four. We broke that in 2021, with five seeking the spot. The record was set in 1949.  

Work Continues on Power Outages

If you live north of Richmond, things are fine. But in the capital city and below, more than 10,000 people are still without power today. Dominion officials estimate that they need to restore power to just over 30,000 customers. For Appalachian Power, the number is under 10,000 and then cities like Danville estimate just over 1,000 people are still in the dark. 

In some cases, the problem is the location. As rain continued to fall throughout Monday and into early Tuesday morning, it was hard to get access to more rural areas. Still, as the weather is expected to dry out today, all companies hope to have the lights fully restored by tonight. That’s just in time for temperatures to drop into the low 20s or possibly the high teens in some areas. 

Constitutional Amendment Passes House and Senate

As we’ve mentioned before, while same-sex marriage is legal in Virginia, the state Constitution says differently. Specifically, a 2006 amendment defines marriage as ‘only a union between one man and one woman.’” The Virginia General Assembly took another step toward changing that on Monday.

By a 60-37 vote, the Virginia House adopted SJ 270, Sen. Adam Ebbin’s bill. It repeals the 2006 statement and replaces it with one that says “all marriages [will be treated] equally under the law, regardless of the sex or gender of the parties.”

Now this doesn’t mean it automatically takes effect. There’s still a couple more steps to take. Any proposed amendment has to be voted on twice, so once this year and then again in next year’s session. If it passes next year, then it goes before the voters for a final decision.

Alexandria’s COVID-19 Numbers Keep Dropping

Dogwood Download: Things You Should Know for Tuesday, Feb. 16

The number of new COVID-19 cases throughout the Commonwealth is dropping. We shared over the weekend how Southwest Virginia’s numbers keep falling. Now let’s look over to NoVA, where Alexandria is hitting a four-month low.

The percentage of new cases over the last seven days, out of all those tested, is 6.4% in the city. The numbers have been trending down after a spike in January.

Your City’s Election Day May Be Moving

More than 16 cities and 100 towns across Virginia hold their local elections in May. That’s going to be changing next year. On Monday, the Virginia House approved a bill the Senate had passed in January. Virginia State Sen. Lionell Spruill (D-Chesapeake) created SB 1157 to try and get more people involved in local politics.

Spruill’s argument is that more people would vote for their school boards, city councils and mayors if the races were held in November. City races tend to have significantly smaller turnouts. Some people say they forget. Others can’t get off work. Spruill believes by making the shift, local races will see much higher turnouts.

The bill will also save cities and counties money. They won’t have to pay to set up a second election each year, with all the expenses that includes. Instead, everything will be on one day.

Several mayors and city councils spoke out against the change in committee hearings, saying they wanted things to remain the same. Despite that, the Senate approved the bill in January and the House passed it 50-44.

Nothing happens with this year’s elections. The change doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2022.

Gun Bills Move Forward in The Senate

The Senate Judiciary Committee was fairly busy on Monday, tackling a wide range of projects. That included multiple bills outlining when and where it’s legal to carry firearms. 

The first one up on Monday was HB 1992, filed by Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-Fairfax). If a person gets convicted for assaulting their husband or wife, the bill prevents them from buying, possessing or transporting a firearm for a maximum of three years. That also includes assault on divorced spouses or anyone you’ve had a child with but didn’t marry. 

The original version included anyone convicted of assault of any family or household member, but the Judiciary Committee reduced that. For a few minutes, the bill appeared to fail, as there was a 7-7 tie. Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) originally abstained, but then changed her vote in favor. 

The bill now goes to the Senate Finance Committee, where it’ll be voted on later this week.

The Judiciary Committee also approved HB 2081 by an 8-6 vote. The bill bans all firearms inside polling places, with exceptions for law enforcement and retired law enforcement officials. Now some of Virginia’s polling places already have this, because guns are banned in schools and places of worship. Both of those double as polling places on Election Day.

It’s also not exactly uncommon. Places like Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, Missouri, Ohio and Florida all have versions of the same law in place.  With the approval, HB 2081 goes straight to the Senate floor, where it’ll be considered later this week.

Question of the Day: How Should We Spend The Surplus?

Vaccine Pre-Registration Starts Today at 8 A.M.

Just a reminder that the statewide vaccine pre-registration system goes live today at 8 a.m. You can access it here. New registrants can just fill out the form on the site.

As for those already on the waiting list? You’ll have to wait a few weeks but by March, everyone will get a notification by email, text or through a phone call to update your information in the system. That simply verifies what you already entered.

If you have any problems, the Virginia Department of Health set up a hotline at 877-275-8343.

UVA Law Students Win Case Using Sign Language

We wrap up today’s Download with a story about a unique court case, one that doesn’t involve any politics. Two University of Virginia School of Law students recently found themselves in court. No, they weren’t in any type of legal trouble. Rather, the two ladies seized an opportunity to hone the skills they learned in the classroom.

Jehanne McCullough and Nina Oat landed a real-life court case, inside a real courtroom, with a real judge. And they argued for their client by using sign language, as Dogwood’s Amie Knowles explains.

CATEGORIES: Uncategorized


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