State Sen. Bill Stanley\r\n\r\nI apologize for not communicating with you last week, but we were completely occupied with work each and every day. This past week in Richmond, the Senate of Virginia finally completed its work on all bills filed by senators. As a result, we were finally able to adjourn for the evening of \u201ccrossover\u201d on Friday, February 5, after a 13 hour marathon of debate on the remaining bills before us.\r\n\r\nWhile legislation to abolish the death penalty grabbed an outsized share of media coverage, several significant measures approved by the Senate are now headed to the House of Delegates for their consideration. The liberal Democrats are determined to fundamentally change the Commonwealth of Virginia that will make us less safe, and also will make it much harder for businesses to operate successfully in Virginia. I have never seen anything like this in the years I have had the honor and privilege to serve as your senator.\r\n\r\nThe Democrat majority Senate has voted to: pack the state appeals court with their liberal judges by increasing their numbers from 11 to 17; change our Constitution not just to remove the marriage amendment, but also to propose an amendment to enshrine Gay marriage in our Constitution; legalize recreational marijuana; reinstate parole; provide for automatic restoration of civil rights to violent felons; create the institution of a newly-coined phrase of \u201cenvironmental justice\u201d programs in and across all levels of state government; expand job-killing regulations on all small businesses; eliminate mandatory minimums prison sentence for persons convicted of the most heinous crimes; deny our military, OGA, and ex pats the ability to vote overseas-electronically; and further weaken the integrity of our state and local elections. There is even more unwise and radically liberal legislation passed by the House that we will now be considering now in the Senate.\r\n\r\nIt is clear the wishes of the liberal lawmakers of Northern Virginia have dominated this session so far, and they are ignoring the needs of the rest of Virginia. I will keep you updated on these bills as they progress through committee. Republicans were able to find victories for Virginia in spite of the Democrats\u2019 push to make Virginia more like California. The Senate approved legislation to bring some transparency to the deliberations and decisions of the Virginia Parole Board by a bipartisan vote of 33 to 6. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. David Suetterlein (R) of Roanoke County, would require the Parole Board to adhere to the provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Last year, the Parole Board was subjected to investigations by the State Inspector General after the board granted parole to a convicted murderer without first consulting with the victim\u2019s family as required by law. Things got worse after it was learned the Inspector General was investigating several cases of malfeasance related to the Parole Board. Exacerbating the situation, the Northam Administration worked to quash public information about the investigations and the Parole Board asserted its exemption from the provisions of FOIA. Sen. Suetterlein first offered this reform legislation during last year\u2019s special session, when it passed the Senate by a vote of 29 to 10. House Democrats killed the legislation on a party-line vote in committee.\r\n\r\nElection integrity is a long-standing priority for Senate Republicans. Sen. Jen Kiggans (R) of Virginia Beach won bipartisan support for her common-sense bill to ensure deceased Virginians don\u2019t remain on the voter rolls. Her legislation requiring the State Registrar of Vital Records provide a list of Virginians who have died to the Department of Elections on a weekly basis was approved by a vote of 34 to 5. Last year, in a study of 42 states, the Public Interest Legal Foundation found over 350,000 dead people on voter rolls. Maintaining accurate and up-to-date voter rolls is critical to ensuring the integrity of elections and preventing fraud. Sen. Kiggans\u2019s legislation will increase the accuracy of our voter rolls and help to prevent invalid votes from being cast. The fight to open schools so Virginia\u2019s children can again learn in a classroom continued this week. Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R) of Henrico introduced a measure that would require local public schools to make in-person instruction available to every student. The Senate approved her bill by a vote of 26 to 13, with eight Democrats voting in favor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published a study indicating in-person learning with proper safety measures has not \u201ccontributed meaningfully to increased community transmission\u201d of COVID. With the science on the side of opening schools for in-person learning, it is difficult to justify keeping schools closed while our students fall further behind.\r\n\r\nAdditionally, Democrats in charge of both the House and Senate want to tax the payments of PPP given by the government to our small Virginia businesses, even though the receipt of those loans by business owners staved off massive lay-offs of people from their employment during the pandemic that could have bankrupted Virginia\u2019s unemployment compensation fund. Unfortunately, the Democrats\u2019 proposals only partially conformed with the federal PPP tax laws which means those VA businesses that took the loans to keep their employees working under COVID will now pay taxes on the PPP. Whenever there are changes to the federal tax code, Virginia makes adjustments to its taxation policies. When the federal government passed the CARES Act to respond to the pandemic, it included measures so businesses receiving proceeds from the Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) to keep their employees on the job wouldn\u2019t have added taxes for utilizing the program. You might think it would be obvious that Virginia wouldn\u2019t tax PPP funding, either. But, Democrats have a lot of liberal spending priorities to fund. And, they have never been known to favor less taxes and less government spending.\r\n\r\nAs a result, their bill conforming the state\u2019s tax code to the federal government\u2019s does not exempt PPP funds received. The Senate defeated a Republican-offered amendment to the conformity legislation that would have ensured these funds weren\u2019t taxed, with every Democrat voting against this fairness measure. Then, as a compromise, Senate Democrats agreed to approve exemptions that would lower the potential tax burden on a portion of these funds. While not ideal, it does mean struggling small businesses won\u2019t be unfairly taxed for keeping people employed by utilizing a federal program they were encouraged to use.\r\n\r\nAt the time of Crossover, the Virginia Senate passed 12 of the 13 bills that I proposed. They are: Criminal Justice and Court Reform: SB 1105, permits appellate review of convictions obtained by the state with the use of discredited \u201cjunk science\u201d in the case-in-chief against the defendant; SB 1108, increases the jurisdictional damage limits of our General District Courts from $25,000 to $50,000 for cases of wrongful death and personal injury; SB 1122, repeals the outdated Habitual Offender statutes that had been partially repealed in 1999; SB 1415, modifies Child Protective Orders to strengthen punishment of those adults who, while under the restrictions of a Child Protective Order, violate the terms of the Protective Order; SB 1426, reforms our Court\u2019s Orders of Restitution so that victims of crime who are entitled to receive restitution compensation from their convicted offenders actually received the money that they are entitled to in a timely fashion; Public Education\/Health: SB 1106, establishes a \u201cPublic School Repair\/Modernization Fund,\u201d that pools financial resources from public, private, state and local sources for the repair and modernization of school buildings throughout the Commonwealth, both in our rural areas and inner-cities; SB 1109, proposes that the voters of Virginia, during the November 2022 election, vote on a referendum to permit the Commonwealth to secure 3 billion dollars in bond funding to be used to modernize our schools throughout the state; SR 275, proposes a change to the Virginia Constitution that would ensure that all of Virginia\u2019s children who attend a public school, whether primary or secondary, are guaranteed an \u201cequitable education,\u201d regardless of either their financial station in life or where they live; SB 1414, extends the time in which the Henrietta Lacks Commission (created by me in earlier legislation two years ago) can complete their work in the establishment of the Henrietta Lacks Life Sciences and Cancer Research Center in Halifax County; SB1338, permits health care insurance coverage (Medicare\/Medicaid) for patients utilizing telemedicine\/telehealth in their medical treatment; Companion Animal Protection: SB 1412, prevents anyone who has been previously convicted of animal abuse from being able to either work in a licensed pet shop in the Commonwealth, or purchase a companion animal from a pet shop; SB 1417, provides that any animal that is bred and\/or used for medical experiments shall be made available for adoption to citizens of the Commonwealth (so that these dogs and cats can find their forever homes) once their usefulness for experimentation has ended. If there\u2019s an issue or bill about which you\u2019d like to share your views, call the Senate Message Center toll-free at (833) 617-1821. You can also call me at the Richmond branch of my law office, at (804) 225-0528, or email me at email@example.com.