Virginia legislature reconvenes to address budget, marijuana, guns

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The Virginia General Assembly is set to reconvene Wednesday to consider Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed amendments on legislation that includes the state budget, marijuana legalization and gun control.

The governor proposed 18 amendments to the state budget bill, some of which would grant the executive branch more discretion over federal COVID-19 relief money. This includes funding for child care services and Medicaid. An amendment would also give the superintendent of public instruction the authority to waive deadlines and requirements that were missed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other amendments would extend the corporate income tax reporting date by one month to July 1 and allocate $250,000 for an independent investigation into allegations of illegal activity by the Parole Board.

Northam left many of the other provisions of the bill untouched. This includes a 5% pay raise for teachers, about a half a million dollars in one-time public education funding to offset losses related to COVID-19, and funding for public higher education to offset tuition increases for students. It includes funding for COVID-19 vaccines and money to implement criminal justice reform bills passed by the General Assembly.

Amendments on Senate Bill 1406 and House Bill 2312, which legalize the recreational use of marijuana, would speed up the process of legalizing possession. The amendment, which has garnered support from several Democratic lawmakers, would legalize possession by July 1 of this year, which is less than three months away.

Cultivating, selling and commercially transporting marijuana would still not be legal until 2024, under the bill’s current language. This is mostly to provide time to establish regulations and approve licenses. The legislation would also allow local governments to prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana within their jurisdictions.

The General Assembly will also address an amended bill to allow some illegal immigrants to receive a state identification card and a bill to prohibit a person who is convicted of assaulting a family member from buying a firearm for five years. The legislature will also consider an amendment to legislation that would phase out two coal subsidy programs. The amendment would send the money saved by the state to the University of Virginia’s College at Wise in Southwest Virginia.

Northam has already signed several pieces of legislation. This includes a ban on carrying firearms near polling places, expanding eviction protections and expanding healthcare. The governor also approved legislation that would allow businesses to exempt most of their Paycheck Protection Loan expenses from the state income tax.

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