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Legislative Update

Senate Intel releases election security findings in first volume of Bipartisan Russia Report

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WASHINGTON – Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) released “Russian Efforts Against Election Infrastructure,” the first volume in the Committee’s bipartisan investigation into Russia’s attempts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. elections.

Today’s installment builds upon the unclassified summary findings on election security released by the Committee in May 2018. This was the first volume completed due to the fundamental importance and urgency of defending our democratic elections.

As part of its investigation, the Committee will also release final volumes examining the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) of Russian interference, the Obama Administration’s response to Russian interference, the role of social media disinformation campaigns, and remaining counterintelligence questions. The Committee has submitted its volume on social media for declassification review and intends to release the remaining installments in fall 2019.

Over the last two and half years, the Committee’s investigation has spanned more than 15 open hearings, more than 200 witness interviews, and nearly 400,000 documents.


Statement from Chairman Burr:

“In 2016, the U.S. was unprepared at all levels of government for a concerted attack from a determined foreign adversary on our election infrastructure. Since then, we have learned much more about the nature of Russia’s cyber activities and better understand the real and urgent threat they pose. The Department of Homeland Security and state and local elections officials have dramatically changed how they approach election security, working together to bridge gaps in information sharing and shore up vulnerabilities. The progress they’ve made over the last three years is a testament to what we can accomplish when we give people the opportunity to be part of a solution.

“There is still much work that remains to be done, however. I am grateful to the many states that provided their points of view, which helped inform our recommendations. It is my hope that the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bipartisan report will provide the American people with valuable insight into the election security threats still facing our nation and the ways we can address them.”

Statement from Vice Chairman Warner:

“When the Russians attacked elections systems in 2016, neither the federal government nor the states were adequately prepared. Our bipartisan investigation identified multiple problems and information gaps that hindered our ability to effectively respond and defend against the Russian attack in 2016. Since then – and in large part as a result of the bipartisan work done on this issue in our Committee – the intelligence community, DHS, the FBI, and the states have taken steps to ensure that our elections are far more secure today than they were in 2016. But there’s still much more we can and must do to protect our elections. I hope the bipartisan findings and recommendations outlined in this report will underscore to the White House and all of our colleagues, regardless of political party, that this threat remains urgent, and we have a responsibility to defend our democracy against it.”

You can read, “Volume I: Russian Efforts Against Election Infrastructure” here.

Key Findings and Recommendations:

• The Russian government directed extensive activity against U.S. election infrastructure. The Committee found the activity directed at the state and local level began in at least 2014 and carried into at least 2017. The Committee has seen no evidence that any votes were changed or that any voting machines were manipulated.

• Russian efforts exploited the seams between federal authorities and capabilities, and protection for the states. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are, by design, limited in domestic cybersecurity authorities. State election officials, who have primacy in running elections, were not sufficiently warned or prepared to handle an attack from a hostile nation-state actor.

• DHS and FBI warnings to the states in the late summer and fall of 2016 did not provide enough information or go to the appropriate people. The Committee found that while the alerts were actionable, they provided no clear reason for states to take the threat more seriously than other warnings.

• DHS has redoubled its efforts to build trust with the states and deploy resources to assist in securing elections. Since 2016, DHS has made great strides in learning how election procedures vary across states and how to best assist those states. The Committee determined DHS’s work to bolster states’ cybersecurity has likely been effective but believes more needs to be done to coordinate efforts.

• Russian activities demand renewed attention to vulnerabilities in U.S. voting infrastructure. Cybersecurity for electoral infrastructure at the state and local level was sorely lacking in 2016. Despite increased focus over the last three years, some of these vulnerabilities, including aging voting equipment, remain. As states look to replace machines that are now out of date, they should purchase more secure voting machines. At a minimum, any machine purchased going forward should have a voter-verified paper trail.

• Congress should evaluate the results of the $380 million in state election security grants allocated in 2018. States should be able to use grant funds provided under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to improve cybersecurity in a variety of ways, including hiring additional IT staff, updating software, and contracting vendors to provide cybersecurity services. When those funds are spent, Congress should evaluate the results and consider an additional appropriation to address remaining insecure voting machines and systems.

• DHS and other federal government entities remain respectful of the limits of federal involvement in state election systems. America’s decentralized election system can be a strength against cybersecurity threats. However, the federal government and states should each be aware of their own cybersecurity limitations and know both how and when to obtain assistance. States should remain firmly in the lead on running elections, and the federal government should ensure they receive the necessary resources and information.

• The United States must create effective deterrence. The United States should communicate to adversaries that it will view an attack on its election infrastructure as a hostile act and respond accordingly. The U.S. government should not limit its response to cyber activity; rather, it should create a menu of potential responses that will send a clear message and create significant costs for the perpetrator.

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Legislative Update

Obenshain: New laws in Virginia that take effect July 1

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With the approach of July, I wanted to provide you with an update on new laws that are taking effect as well as an update on the Commonwealth’s budget.

Every year, the General Assembly passes bills during Session which starts in early January and goes for either 45 days or 60 days depending on if it’s a budget year or not. If bills pass the legislature, they go to the Governor and if he signs them into law, most will go into effect on July 1 of that year.

Additionally, every two years (on even-numbered years), the General Assembly passes the Commonwealth’s two-year budget which is then amended or signed by the Governor. Governor Youngkin recently sent back a short list of amendments on which the General Assembly then voted and on Wednesday, he signed the budget for the next two years.

Below is a list of some of the most notable and important items that will go into effect as well as items that would have been good for Virginians but were not passed this year.


• The budget included $4.2 billion in tax relief in the form of one-time tax rebates, a reduction in the grocery tax, tax relief for veterans, and an increase in the standard deduction.

$730 million was included for over two years for salary raises for teachers.

Law enforcement officers are receiving $113 million in overdue salary increases.

$45M in additional funds to support placing an SRO in schools that do not currently have one.

• The grocery tax was partially repealed. Despite pledging their support for its full repeal for years, the Democrats balked and would agree only to reduce it from 2.5 cents to 1 cent.

• Although my bill to expand the ability to open charter schools failed, the House and Senate passed a bill to allow for lab schools to be started in conjunction with colleges and universities across the Commonwealth.

Language was included in the budget to create a criminal charge for possession of over 4 ounces of marijuana.

• The House and Senate passed legislation that would make the votes of the Virginia Parole Board subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

• A bill requiring school principals to report to law enforcement and parents criminal offenses passed the House and Senate and was signed into law.

• On March 1, Youngkin signed an order that ended school mask mandates statewide. You can read more about it here.

• A bill requiring parental notification about sexually explicit material in schools passed the General Assembly.

• Senate Democrats defeated a bill that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks and a bill that would have required consent before an abortion.

• Senate Democrats defeated a number of bills that would have rolled back gun control efforts passed in past years by progressives. I outlined them in my update here.

Democrats voted in a block to reject Governor Youngkin’s proposed three-month gas tax holiday.

• My bill that would have reinstated Virginia’s photo ID requirement in order to vote was defeated in the Senate.

If you have any questions about laws that are going to be taking effect in July or any bills that did not make it out of the General Assembly this year, don’t hesitate to email me at mark@markobenshain.com.

Mark Obenshain

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Legislative Update

Warner & Kaine applaud Senate passage of Legislation to extend child nutrition waivers

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U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded the Senate passage of legislation to extend critical COVID-era school lunch flexibilities that have prevented children all over the country from going hungry during the summer and throughout the school year. The passage of the Keep Kids Fed Act comes just one week before waivers are set to expire, imposing cumbersome restrictions on parents just as summer break kicks off.

“Parents across Virginia are facing higher costs across the board – the last thing they need right now is to lose the commonsense flexibilities that have made it easier for them to keep their kids fed. We’re very proud to have voted to pass bipartisan legislation that will extend these flexibilities and help keep food insecurity at bay. We hope that the House will pass this bill expeditiously and send it to the President’s desk for approval,” said the senators.

The Keep Kids Fed Act will:

  • Extend flexibilities for summer meals in 2022 by waiving area eligibility so summer providers can serve all children for free and continuing options like meal delivery and grab-and-go.
  • Extend some of the administrative and paperwork flexibilities for schools through the 2022-23 school year.
  • Allow students with a family income at or below 185 percent of the poverty level to qualify for free or reduced-cost meals for the 2022-23 school year.
  • Increase the reimbursement rate for school lunch and school breakfast to help offset the increased cost of food and operating expenses. Schools will receive an additional 40 cents for each lunch and 15 cents for each breakfast served.

Provide an additional 10 cents per meal or snack for Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) daycares and home providers, and expand eligibility to more providers. When combined, these actions will help offset increased costs for providers.


Sens. Warner and Kaine have been vocal about the need to ensure that children have continuous access to healthy meals. They have expressed alarm about the imminent expiration of the child nutrition waivers and recently pushed Senate leadership to extend these flexibilities before the waivers expire. In April, they introduced the Support Kids Not Red-Tape Act – similar legislation to grant the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) additional flexibility so that schools and summer meal sites can stay open.

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Legislative Update

Warner and Kaine: On passage of Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

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U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after the Senate voted to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act – landmark legislation to curb gun violence in the wake of horrific mass shootings in Uvalde, Buffalo, and cities across the nation:

“Virginians know all too well the pain of gun violence—pain no one should have to experience. While nothing can bring back a life lost to gun violence, we are hopeful that the reasonable measures advanced through this bill will help curb the plague of shootings that continue to haunt American communities. We will continue to work to build on today’s milestone by advocating for additional measures to protect our neighborhoods from further senseless attacks. In the meantime, we urge our colleagues in the House to move quickly so that this bill can start saving lives.”

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act includes similar provisions to those proposed by Sens. Warner and Kaine in their Virginia Plan to Reduce Gun Violence—a bill they introduced last year based on a series of commonsense measures adopted by Virginia. These provisions include improving background checks, strengthening safeguards for victims of domestic violence, and incentivizing states to implement their own Extreme Risk Protection Orders to remove firearms from individuals who pose a high risk of harming themselves or others.

The full text of the bill is available here. A summary of the bill is available here.


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Legislative Update

Warner statement on Supreme Court decision overruling Roe v. Wade

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and eliminated the federal constitutional right to abortion in America:

“This decision jeopardizes the health and autonomy of millions of American women and turns back the clock on nearly 50 years of settled and reaffirmed law – reflecting a Court that has increasingly issued politicized rulings that undermine the fundamental rights of Americans. This decision will take control over personal health care decisions away from individuals and give it to politicians in state legislatures across the country. I am heartbroken for the generations of women who now have fewer rights than when they were born, many of whom will be forced into life-threatening or prohibitively expensive circumstances to access health care as a result of this radical decision. For them and for all Virginians and Americans, I will continue working to protect needed access to safe, legal abortion.”

In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman’s freedom to choose to have an abortion. The Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade means that after nearly 50 years, this freedom is no longer guaranteed nationwide, and more than half of states are expected to ban or harshly limit access to abortion following today’s ruling. In several states, there will be no exceptions for women who become pregnant through rape or incest or in cases where abortion is necessary to protect the health of the woman.

Overturning Roe v. Wade also opens the door for states to attempt to restrict or ban common birth control methods such as Plan B or intrauterine devices.


 

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Legislative Update

Kaine statement on Supreme Court decision overruling Roe v. Wade

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – On June 24, 2022, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine released the following statement regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that the Constitution “does not confer a right to abortion,” overruling Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey:

“I am deeply disturbed that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, upsetting decades of precedent protecting the right of women to make fundamental personal decisions about contraception and abortion without unnecessary government interference. That’s why I’ve been engaged in efforts in the Senate to codify the basic framework of Roe v. Wade and related cases into federal law. We’re not going to give up on the fight to protect the right to choose.”

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Legislative Update

Warner and Kaine announce $9 million in federal funding for affordable housing in Virginia

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced the designation of $9,000,000 in federal funding to three Virginia-based organizations helping to provide affordable housing and services to low-income individuals. The funds were administered by the United States Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund through the department’s Capital Management Fund.

“Affordable, safe housing should be available to every Virginian,” the senators said. “This funding will allow Virginia organizations to continue their crucial work of securing housing for those in need.”

The funds will be broken down as follows:

• $5,000,000 for the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, Inc. in Arlington, VA.
• $2,000,000 for AHC Inc. in Arlington, VA.
• $2,000,000 for the Piedmont Housing Alliance in Charlottesville, VA.


This funding comes in addition to the nearly $115 million in funding for affordable housing in Virginia announced earlier this year. Sens. Warner and Kaine, a former fair housing attorney, have long supported efforts to increase affordable housing in Virginia. The Senators have introduced legislation that would address rising home prices, assist first-generation homebuyers, and close the widening wealth and homeownership gaps. Also, Kaine led the introduction of the Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2022, which would expand protections under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to include banning discrimination based on source of income, giving more individuals and families access to affordable housing, and a shot at economic mobility.

Sen. Warner has also been a leader in Congress for CDFI investment. To combat the hemorrhaging of jobs and economic opportunities during the pandemic, Sen. Warner led a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act. Sen. Warner was later able to secure provisions from the bill in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, which was signed into law on December 27, 2020, providing an unprecedented $12 billion in funding for CDFIs. Last week, Sen. Warner introduced legislation to help unlock more equity and long-term financial capital for CDFIs to boost economic growth in low-income communities.

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Blue Ridge Arts Council

Blue Ridge Education

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C&C's Ice Cream Shop

Christine Binnix - McEnearney Associates

Code Ninjas Front Royal

Cool Techs Heating and Air

Down Home Comfort Bakery

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Green to Ground Electrical

Groups Recover Together

House of Hope

I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

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No Doubt Accounting

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Ole Timers Antiques

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Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

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Reaching Out Now

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Royal Blends Nutrition

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Ruby Yoga

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Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

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St. Luke Community Clinic

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The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

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Vetbuilder.com

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

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Upcoming Events

Jun
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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Jun 29 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
Jul
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6:00 pm Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Jul 1 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
…and be sure to attend our Fourth of July event!
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10:00 am A Tree-mendous Walk @ Sky Meadows State Park
A Tree-mendous Walk @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jul 2 @ 10:00 am – Jul 3 @ 11:00 am
A Tree-mendous Walk @ Sky Meadows State Park
Sensory Explorers’ Trail. Join Shenandoah Chapter Master Naturalist Paul Guay and explore the rich natural history of trees along the park’s Sensory Explorers’ Trail. Discover the tips and tricks of basic tree identification and the[...]
11:30 am Declaration of Independence reading @ Warren Heritage Society
Declaration of Independence reading @ Warren Heritage Society
Jul 2 @ 11:30 am – 12:30 pm
Declaration of Independence reading @ Warren Heritage Society
On 2 July, at 11:30, the Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution will read the Declaration of Independence on the porch of the Archives at the Warren Heritage Society. [...]
12:00 pm Settle’s Kettle @ Sky Meadows State Park
Settle’s Kettle @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jul 2 @ 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Settle's Kettle @ Sky Meadows State Park
Log Cabin in the Historic Area. Follow your nose to the Log Cabin to see what tasty treats are cooking on the hearth. Watch as a Sky Meadows volunteer dons historic clothing and cooks delicious[...]
12:00 pm The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jul 2 @ 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work in the Historic Area. Members of the Blacksmith Guild of the Potomac have set up shop and are ready to show[...]
Jul
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6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Jul 6 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
Jul
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6:00 pm Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
Jul 8 @ 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Fire Pit Fridays @ Shenandoah Valley Golf Club
…and be sure to attend our Fourth of July event!
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all-day Great American Campout @ Sky Meadows State Park
Great American Campout @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jul 9 – Jul 10 all-day
Great American Campout @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Don’t miss your chance to camp out in the beautiful Historic Mount Bleak backyard. See all that Sky Meadows has to offer through activities beginning at noon on Saturday and running until noon[...]