Mandatory Minimum Sentencing May Disappear Mandatory Minimum Sentencing May Disappear

Chase’s lawsuit gets dismissed, the death penalty gets passed by and SNAP access gets expanded.

Daily Number

54 inches– That’s the amount of snow “The Great Arctic Outbreak” dumped on Virginia during February of 1899. Multiple storms caused problems across the Commonwealth, as Quantico froze at 20 degrees below zero. There’s even records that authorities rationed food near the end of the month.


Death Penalty Bill Passed by for the Day

For the second straight day, the Virginia Senate declined to vote on the death penalty. On Thursday and again on Friday, senators voted for HB 2263 to “pass by for the day.” And if you’re saying wait, I thought the Senate already voted to repeal the death penalty, you’d be correct.

But when the House and Senate versions of a bill are different, it has to go through a negotiation process, tweaking the wording until both sides are satisfied. In this case, State Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin Co.) introduced an amendment Thursday that would slightly change the end result.

Under Stanley’s amendment, anyone currently facing the death penalty would have their sentence commuted to life in prison if the repeal goes through. They would not have the opportunity to apply for parole.

Now, the final vote is scheduled for Monday.


Wait, Did A Bill Actually Pass Unanimously?

The headline tells the truth. Virginia lawmakers actually came together this week to pass HB 1820. The House and Senate voted unanimously to expand access to and eligibility for food stamp programs.

The bill sets the gross income eligibility standard at 200% of the federal poverty guideline. Also, if someone is pursuing a college degree or any type of post-high school education, that would count toward work and training requirements to be eligible for food stamps.

“I’m thrilled that the Senate has joined the House in unanimously supporting this bill,” said Del. Dan Helmer, who filed the bill. “During a pandemic in which food insecurity has nearly doubled in Virginia, this common-sense legislation brings federal dollars to Virginia that we had long left on the table and will have an immediate impact on Virginia families and students.”

The bill now goes to the governor’s desk. Gov. Northam has said he plans to sign it in the next week.


Question of the Day: Are You Interested in The Election?


Richmond Judge Tosses Chase’s Lawsuit

It was over in just a few minutes. On Friday, a Richmond Circuit Court judge dismissed State Sen. Amanda Chase’s lawsuit against her own Republican Party. Chase and her attorney Tim Anderson argued that the current Republican plan to hold a convention violates state COVID-18 restrictions.

Even if that were true, Richmond Circuit Court Judge Margaret Spencer said, Chase wouldn’t be the one to enforce those rules. There’s also a question of what exactly she would be enforcing. The Republican Party of Virginia does currently plan to meet May 1 for a statewide convention. However, restrictions could change between now and then.

An organized convention would violate the state’s current COVID-19 restrictions which ban indoor events with more than 25 people. Option two is an unassembled convention, but that has to be approved by the group first. In an unassembled version, regional polling places are set up across the state. Yet, just like in the regular version, only certified delegates can vote. These delegates are selected by each local party and then have to pay convention dues, typically $35, in order to vote. 

Chase, who’s running for the Republican nomination for governor, filed the lawsuit hoping a judge would ban the organized (or assembled) convention. She believes that in an organized convention, Republican Party leaders will choose who becomes the nominees.

In a statement post to her Twitter feed, Chase said the people lost on Friday.

“Apparently the Richmond Circuit Court is going to hand the noose to the RPV so they can go hang themselves,” Chase wrote. “Sadly, the people of Virginia lost today. The 72 members of the SCC will be choosing our Republican nominees unless than can come together.”

Conventions, however, are pretty much standard Republican practice in Virginia. Since 1969, the party has only used a primary four times in the governor’s races.


Important Dates Coming Up

  • Feb. 22-High school football starts a six-game season under the new guidelines for spectators.
  • Feb. 24-Free, no appointment drive-thru COVID-19 testing event in Arlington County (from 2 to 6 p.m. at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road.)
  • March 8 – International Women’s Day
  • March 15– All schools in the Commonwealth have to submit a plan to return to in-person learning.
  • March 16 – Freedom of Information Day
  • March 23 – Special election for District 38 Virginia Senate. Democrat Laurie Buchwald will compete against Republican Travis Hackworth.

Virginia Assembly Bans Guns at Polling Places

Guns won’t be allowed in any Virginia polling places this year. The General Assembly made that clear Thursday, as the Senate signed off on HB 2081. The bill, which previously passed the House, now goes to Gov. Ralph Northam for his signature.

Del. Mark Levine’s plan bans all firearms inside polling places, with exceptions for law enforcement and retired law enforcement officials. It also puts a 40-foot buffer around the building. Before this, you couldn’t approach a voter within 40 feet of the polling place and now you can’t bring a gun within 40 feet of an operational polling site. Here’s more information about the bill.


Ettinger: Just a Reminder, Self-Care Won’t Save Us

Finally today, we shift over from the news side to Eve Ettinger’s latest column. While it’s good to focus on self-care, when you’re dealing with all the changes in a pandemic, it’s important not to expect everything to work.

This isn’t okay, the tools we have on hand are not enough, and sometimes self-care is recognizing that very little of the hardships you are experiencing is within your control, Ettinger argues. It’s time, she says, to be a little kinder to each other as we all try to just survive this year.