Bill to ban conversion therapy for minors in Virginia dies in House

According to the Washington Post, a Virginia bill backed by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) that would have banned “conversion therapy” to make gay kids straight has been tabled in the House subcommittee, effectively putting an end to legislation.

If signed into law the bill would have prohibited psychologists, therapists and other health care providers from attempting so-called gay conversion therapy on children under 18. Practicing psychologists would have lost their licenses if caught using the treatment.

Two women who had gone through conversion therapy testified in front of the subcommittee. The women said that they were emotionally scarred from the practice. However, lawmakers also heard from two men who stated that conversion therapy worked for them and helped them overcome same-sex feelings.

Hope said he was introduced to the issue of conversion therapy after speaking with some constituents who had been forced into the process. After seeing what was happening in other states, and reading about the damage the treatment can cause, Hope issued his support behind the bill.

It is important to note that Republicans have a large majority in the Virginia House, and the Health, Welfare and Institutions subcommittee has only one Democratic member.

Ex GOP Senator John Warner Endorses Sen. Mark Warner

According to the Associated Press, former Republican Senator John Warner endorsed his Democratic successor, Sen. Mark Warner, on Monday.

Sen. Mark Warner is running for Sen. John Warner’s Senate seat. John Warner held the seat for 30 years; John told the AP in a telephone interview that he is choosing Mark Warner over Republican Ed Gillespie in November’s election. The Warners are unrelated.

“There are times you must, I think, recognize that certain individuals are superior in their talents and in what they have done and can potentially do for your state,” John Warner said.

New AG Mark Herring Drops Marriage Equality Bomb on Virginia

Herring for Attorney General

Attorney General Mark Herring

This morning, Attorney General Mark Herring (D) announced he does not believe the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional and will no longer defend the law in court, according to the New York Times.

Herring’s decision comes after federal court rulings in Utah and Oklahoma that struck down laws forbidding same-sex marriages in those states. This is a marked shift from Virginia’s previously conservative position on marriage equality.

This morning, Herring spokesman Michael Kelly said the attorney general’s office planned to file a brief in Norfolk (where a challenge to the ban is being heard) to notify the court of the state’s decision.

“The Commonwealth will side with the plaintiffs in seeking to have the ban declared unconstitutional,” Mr. Kelly said in an email according to the New York Times.

“While Virginia has a storied place in the founding of our nation and has contributed to the development of our democracy, it has also been on the wrong side of court cases involving school desegregation, interracial marriage, and state-supported single-sex education,” Mr. Kelly said. He said Mr. Herring planned to say at a news conference Thursday morning, “It’s time for Virginia to be on the right side of the law, and the right side of history.”

VA Special Election Could Sway Balance of Power

Today, Virginians in the state’s 33rd District cast their votes to determine who will succeed Attorney General Mark Herring.

The election, a contentious three-way race according to the Washington Post, could change the balance of power in the state’s currently evenly divided Senate.

The Post writes,

The trio of candidates vying for the seat — Democrat Jennifer Wexton, 10th Congressional District Republican Committee Chairman John Whitbeck and former state delegate Joe T. May, a veteran Republican who is running as an independent — have had only a few weeks to organize their campaigns and rally supporters across the district, a politically competitive territory spanning parts of Loudoun and Fairfax counties.

Polls opened at 7 a.m., despite warnings of major snowfall in the area. Election officials asked residents to vote early to avoid the heaviest parts of the storm.

Rep. Jim Moran’s Statement on Retirement

After 35 years as a public servant, as Mayor of Alexandria, and for the past 23 as a member of the House of Representatives, it’s time to close this chapter of my life and move on to the next challenge. It’s been an honor to represent Northern Virginia. I couldn’t be more fortunate to have spent my career working with such wonderful people trying to make this one of the best places in the world to live, work and raise a family.

The Northern Virginia Democrat is serving his 12th term in an overwhelmingly Democratic district.

“My chosen role in the U.S. Congress has been as an appropriator. I first served as staff to the Senate Appropriations Committee under Chairman Warren Magnuson in my 20s. I’ve seen the appropriations process at its height, and more recently its nadir. When the appropriations process is working, the government functions on behalf of the people, the economy is stronger, and the country overall becomes more inclusive, egalitarian and productive.“With the Murray-Ryan agreement, and the work Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey, and their outstanding Appropriations’ staff exerted to reach the omnibus budget deal we will vote on this week, we’ve achieved a bipartisan agreement that deserves support. It represents a budgetary cease-fire and I hope a historic turning point in getting this necessary funding process back on track.“To my family, friends, staff and supporters, thank you for all you have meant me over the past four decades in political office. What has kept me motivated all these years is serving you and our community. I prepare to leave Congress feeling very fortunate, grateful for what we’ve accomplished, and optimistic for the future of Northern Virginia, the Washington Metropolitan Region, and our nation.”

Lawmakers in VA Push Gay Rights Bill

Democratic lawmakers in Richmond have launched a legislative campaign to expand gay rights across the state, hoping to hop on the party’s sweep in recent elections as well as changing opinions statewide, the Washington Post reports.

The campaign, which includes legislation on discrimination and marriage recognition, comes a day after newly sworn in Governor Terry McAuliffe promised to push for equality for gay couples.

Lawmakers took up the campaign at a morning news conference on Monday, supporting measures to repeal the state’s same-sex marriage ban, banning housing discrimination and gay conversion therapy, allowing civil unions and recognizing same-sex marriages from other states.

“Our marriage laws are becoming more and more antiquated every day,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), the first openly gay state senator. “Virginia needs to be a place. . . where same-sex couples aren’t treated like second-class citizens,” according to the Washington Post.


McAuliffe Takes Office, Starts by Imposing Gift Cap

1389476103000-AP-McAuliffe-InaugurationOn Saturday, Terry McAuliffe (D) was inaugurated as Virginia’s 72nd governor.

The former Democratic National Committee chairman emphasized the need for bipartisanship in leading the state government.

“Common ground doesn’t move towards us, we move towards it,” McAuliffe said during his inauguration speech, according to the Associated Press.

The next four years will be a tumultuous blend of economic policy and political stalemate in the state legislature. McAuliffe made a brief pitch for expanding Medicaid across the state, a hard sell for the GOP-controlled House.

“Like the majority of other states, we need to act on the consensus of the business community and health care industry to accept funding that will expand health care coverage, save rural hospitals, and spur job creation,” the governor said.

As one of his first orders of business, McAuliffe signed an executive order setting a $100 cap on gifts to executive branch members and their families, including himself and his wife and children. The order also establishes an Executive Branch Ethics Committee. This comes as a response to the scandal that plagued former governor Bob McDonnell’s final year on office. McDonnell and his family accepted thousands of dollars from Jonnie Williams, former CEO of dietary supplement maker Star Scientific, Inc. McAuliffe will ask lawmakers to “enact the strongest possible new ethics rules to hold all Virginia elected officials to the highest of standards.”

General Assembly Convenes; Deeds Returns; McDonnell Says Goodbye

bobmcdonnell1Yesterday, Virginia’s General Assembly began a 60-day session that will unfold under a Democratic governor and a potentially divided legislature, according to Jim Nolan with the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The first task the assembly must undertake is settling priorities in the proposed 2-year, $95 billion budget.

“Following them — and in some cases leading them — will be hundreds of lobbyists and flocks of special interest advocates who will nest on Capitol Square in Richmond for the next two months to make friends and influence people, especially those who decide how the $95 billion is spent,” Nolan writes.

Both Democrats and Republicans are expected to pass reformed mental health law following the November 19 stabbing of Sen. Creigh Deeds, by his son, Gus, who later took his own life. Deeds is in Richmond for the 60-day session.

Outgoing Governor McDonnell will deliver his State of the Commonwealth address to the legislature tonight at 7 p.m. The last few months of McDonnell’s tenure have been plagued by the investigation into gifts McDonnell received from wealthy donors. A decision on the investigation is expected in the days following his departure from office on Saturday, when Democrat Terry McAuliffe takes office.


Comstock Announces Bid for Rep. Wolf’s Seat

Barbara Comstock announced her bid for Virginia's 10th District on Tuesday, Jan. 7.

Barbara Comstock announced her bid for Virginia’s 10th District on Tuesday, Jan. 7.

Barbara Comstock announced today that she will vie for the GOP nomination for retiring Rep. Frank Wolf’s (R.-Va.) seat in the 10th District.

Comstock is the first to announce her bid for the highly competitive seat. She is familiar to the Virginia political arena, formerly serving as an aide to Rep. Wolf, a current state legislator and an advisor to many Republicans.

In her written statement, she stressed, “I am running for Congress because I believe my strong record as a common sense conservative leader is what is needed in Congress. I know how to effectively fight for Northern Virginia’s hard working taxpayers having first learned from Congressman Wolf working in his congressional office,” according to The Washington Post.