Highlights this Week:

The 2021 Special Session II begins next week.
Agenda: ARPA funding allocation and judges.


VDH officials advise citizens to continue staying out of the James River all weekend, due to the sewage leak

Virginia Politics

Government & Policy

Northam, assembly plan to leave $800 million to $1 billion in federal aid uncommitted as hedge against COVID surge


Virginia could set aside up to $1 billion in uncommitted federal aid as the General Assembly prepares to decide next week how to handle the $4.3 billion the state received under the American Rescue Plan Act.

The budget that Gov. Ralph Northam will propose would leave $800 million of the federal funds uncommitted, after rolling out plans to spend about $3.5 billion over the next 3½ years.

“It’s the responsible thing to do,” Secretary of Finance Joe Flores said Thursday.

House and Senate budget leaders say they want to push that number to $1 billion as a hedge against an uncertain recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic going into a potentially perilous fall and winter.

Reporting from the Richmond Times-Dispatch »

Statewide Races

RNC builds army of field staffers to flip Virginia governor’s race

National Republicans are making a big investment in the Virginia governor’s race, an indication that the GOP sees an opportunity in a state that many in the party had written off until recently.

The Republican National Committee is dispatching over 100 field staffers to the state, nearly doubling the size of its program in Virginia’s 2017 race for governor, according to a person familiar with the plans. The organization is also opening 13 offices across the state.

The race — which pits Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a former governor, against Republican Glenn Youngkin — is widely seen as competitive. The party out of power in the White House has a history of winning Virginia’s gubernatorial contests, something that could point to a Republican win this year. Republicans captured the governor’s mansion in 1993, the same year former President Bill Clinton took office, and in 2009, just after former President Barack Obama was sworn in.

View coverage from Politico »

General Assembly

Democratic leaders’ limits on special session debate draw GOP pushback


A decision by Democratic leaders to impose broad restrictions on the Virginia General Assembly’s upcoming special session is drawing criticism from Republicans who say the rules will sharply limit meaningful debate on how the state should spend $4.3 billion in federal pandemic relief money.

In a memo earlier this month, House Appropriations Chairman Luke Torian, D-Prince William, told state lawmakers both money committees won’t entertain amendments proposed by members and won’t reopen discussion of the state’s regular budget.

In a virtual news conference Tuesday morning, GOP leaders in the House of Delegates said that arrangement will result in rank-and-file lawmakers and the public being largely shut out of the process, with the details of how the money will be used potentially being hashed out in private by Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration and a small group of Democratic leaders.

View coverage from Virginia Mercury

Elections 2021

House District 66 will have new representation for the first time in over three decades


Colonial Heights, Va – With the retirement of Del. Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) from the House of Delegates, the race to fill his seat is heating up. Either Mike Cherry (R-Colonial Heights) or Katie Sponsler (D-Colonial Heights) will be the next representative for the people of Colonial Heights and part of Chesterfield.

Cherry and Sponsler have similar professional backgrounds. Both served in the Air Force, Cherry works as a chaplain for the local police department and Sponsler was a police officer for the federal government. 

After retiring from the Air Force in 2011, Cherry became a full-time pastor and eventually began running a Christian Pre-K-12 school called Christian Life Academy in Chesterfield and Colonial Heights. He was also elected to serve on the Colonial Heights City Council in 2016 and won his re-election bid in 2020. “I have won elections within the district that encompasses the 66,” Cherry said in an interview.  “I think I am very qualified and ready to run to take Kirk Cox’s seat and to represent this district well.”

Now a mother with two children on the spectrum, Sponsler first spent her time after the Air Force as a park ranger for the National Park Service before becoming involved with political activism. “I have spent most of my adult life fighting to make sure those values reflected in what I have done for a living are protected in legislation and law,” Sponsler said in an interview. “It was a natural progression for me to start running for office and getting involved with politics.” 

More from Virginia Scope »


Warner confident on bipartisan infrastructure bill, but calls larger spending plan ‘a herculean task’


Fresh from a resounding vote to jump-start action on a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure bill, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., warned that getting the U.S. Senate to adopt a potential $3.5 trillion spending plan will be much harder.

“It will be a herculean task to also get that done,” Warner said in a news call on Thursday.

The Senate voted 69-32 the previous night to advance an infrastructure bill with $550 billion in new spending that he helped devise with a bipartisan coalition.

But the senior Democrat expects no Republican support in passing a budget reconciliation package focused on “human infrastructure” issues such as child care, sick leave and free community college education.

Full story from the RT-D »


KEY MEASURES: Virginia Department of Health

Dashboard updated 7/30/2021. Case counts reflect what has been reported to VDH by healthcare providers and laboratories.

Visit the VDH Dashboard 

Northam encourages indoor masking

“Gov. Ralph Northam — facing a rise in new COVID-19 cases and stalled vaccinations — urged Virginians to get vaccinated…but conceded masks could also help prevent further spread amid the circumstances…”

Coverage from the Richmond Times-Dispatch

CDC: Mask up in high risk areas

Richmond, Petersburg and Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover counties would all qualify as substantial risk under the CDC’s definition, according to the most recent case data from the state health department...

Full story in the RT-D

Business, Economy, & Labor News

New marijuana law in Virginia means some employers may change their drug testing policies as an employment condition

Virginia’s laws against marijuana possession have been loosened somewhat now, but that doesn’t mean people will get a free pass when applying for a job or at work when it comes to cannabis use.

Full story »

Virginia snags “Best Business Climate” state ranking

Virginia Business »

Northam seeks $862 million for unemployment trust fund to head off payroll tax hikes


RT-D »

Va. jobless claims saw slight decrease last week

VA Business »

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2021 Virginia General Election