General Assembly

Virginia Senate Votes to Adjourn Special Session

Aug 17, 2015

Governor McAuliffe called the General Assembly into special session to redraw the Commonwealth’s congressional district boundaries, but Republican lawmakers first used the opportunity to try to advance their own selection to the state Supreme Court. 

The day’s sessions turned into a tug-of-war between supporters of McAuliffe’s interim nominee, Justice Jane Marum Roush, and advocates of the GOP’s choice, state Court of Appeals Judge Rossie Alston. 

State legislators meet in a special session Monday to discuss how they will redraw congressional boundaries after two courts ruled the current map is unconstitutional, but lawmakers are likely to divide along partisan lines.

Under a federal court order, Virginia’s legislature has until September first to come up with a new map that eliminates racial gerrymandering – drawing strangely shaped districts that minimize the influence African Americans can have in electing candidates to Congress. Dale Eisman is with the watchdog group Common Cause.

A coalition of nonprofit and advocacy organizations says the General Assembly’s legislative process needs to be more open and clear to the public.  

Members of “Transparency Virginia” attended more than three-quarters of the Assembly’s 101 committee and subcommittee meetings during its recent session.  They found a less-than-stellar record of adequate notice for meetings, recorded votes, and full consideration of bills.

Human-rights advocates are applauding the passage and benefits of Virginia's first standalone sex trafficking law, which goes into effect this July.  They say the new law is long overdue and puts the Commonwealth in step with other states that have passed similar measures. But they also say this should simply start the effort to pass laws that deter sex trafficking-which is the second fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the U.S.

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While the Virginia ACLU applauds Governor McAuliffe's signing of a number of bills this past legislative session, the organization opposes his amendments to several bills that had aimed to reign in the government’s powers of surveillance--and which passed the General Assembly overwhelmingly.  The ACLU is asking state lawmakers to reject the amendments when they soon return to Richmond.  

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