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Virginia reshaped as Democrats put historic stamp on laws

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Democratic legislators in Virginia have dramatically reshaped the state in two months, sweeping aside many of the state’s old business-friendly and socially conservative laws and replacing them with a broad, progressive policy agenda. Lawmakers wrapped up this year's legislative session Sunday after advancing the South's strictest gun laws, broadest LGBTQ protections and some of its loosest abortion restrictions. Democrats had not had full control of the legislature for more than two decades, and their years of pent up frustrations and put-off priorities produced one of the most historic sessions in the state's history. Many Republicans said Democrats had advanced a liberal agenda beyond what the average Virginian supports while trampling on the state's pro-business reputation.


Virginia to expand gambling options, legalize casinos

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia lawmakers have approved a broad expansion of gambling options in a state that's been largely loathe to embracing new betting options in the past. Lawmakers gave final approval to legislation Sunday to allow voters in Bristol, Danville, Richmond, Norfolk and Portsmouth to hold local referendums later this year to approve casinos. Legislators also have approved the expansion of slot-like machines and signed off on online lottery sales and sports betting. Gov. Ralph Northam still needs to give final approval before the legislation can become law.


Lawmakers pass bill allowing Confederate monument removals

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Some of Virginia's scores of Confederate monuments could soon be removed under legislation state lawmakers have approved. The House and Senate passed legislation over the weekend that would undo an existing state law that protects the monuments and instead let local governments decide their fate. The bill's passage marks the latest turn in Virginia's long-running debate over how its history should be told in public spaces. The legislation now heads to Gov. Ralph Northam, who has said he supports giving localities control over the issue. Several local governments have expressed their intent to remove statues.


Officials confirm 2nd case of coronavirus in Virginia

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — Officials in Virginia believe they have discovered a second case of coronavirus in the state. The Virginia Department of Health said Sunday that the second presumptive positive case involves a resident of the City of Fairfax in their 80s who had traveled on a Nile River cruise. Officials say the patient began showing symptoms Feb. 28 and was hospitalized Thursday in stable condition. Virginia recorded its first case Saturday when a U.S. Marine being treated at Fort Belvoir was found to have the virus. Virginia health officials say the two cases are not related and there are no signs that the virus has spread in the state.


Iwo Jima hero, 96, sees US warship commissioned in his honor

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Officials have commissioned a U.S. Navy warship in honor of the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, a 96-year-old war hero who looked on at the weekend ceremony. The USS Hershel "Woody" Williams was commissioned Saturday in Norfolk, Virginia. The USS Williams is an Expeditionary Sea Base ship launched in 2017. Williams called the commissioning a moment in history beyond his comprehension and wished all those who serve on the ship bearing his name to be safe. The ship will primarily support aviation mine countermeasure and special operations missions.


Virginia lawmakers OK limited public sector bargaining bill

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Democrats have given final passage to a bill that would end the state's outright ban on public sector collective bargaining and extend the right to local government workers if their locality opts in. The measure that advanced out of the House and Senate over the weekend marks a historic shift in traditionally business-friendly Virginia but a mixed bag for the workers and coalition of labor unions that pushed for the change. The measure doesn't apply to state workers. Bargaining will be allowed only if a local government or school board authorizes it with an ordinance or by a resolution.


Cruz staying at home after exposure to man with coronavirus

WASHINGTON (AP) — GOP Sen. Ted Cruz says he will remain at his home in Texas after learning that he shook hands and chatted briefly with a man who has tested positive for coronavirus. In a statement Sunday night, Cruz says he met the man 10 days ago at a political conference in suburban Washington. The Texas Republican says he’s not experiencing any symptoms and feels fine and has been advised by medical authorities that the odds of transmission are extremely low. Yet, Cruz says, out of an abundance of caution he will remain at home in Texas for another few days until a full 14 days have passed since the interaction.


With much work unfinished, Virginia lawmakers extend session

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia's 2020 legislative session blew past its scheduled close Saturday with plenty of business left unfinished. The legislature is led by Democrats for the first time in more than two decades. It adjourned late Saturday and agreed to return Sunday to finish working on legislation and a two-year $135 billion state spending plan. Last-minute clashes on the budget and on other major policy items, including legalizing casinos, led to a bipartisan agreement to extend the session. The new Democratic majority has already sent Gov. Ralph Northam several high-profile pieces of legislation that would refashion the Old Dominion as the South's most liberal state.