The 2017 session of the Virginia General Assembly kicked off Wednesday amidst a blanket of (melting) snow.  With no time to waste during the short 45-day session, delegates and senators set to work immediately on the business of the Commonwealth.

This session, the Virginia Catholic Conference welcomes two new associate directors who joined us in November:  Kevin Mauer, who hails from Utah, and Bill Re, who comes from Illinois. Together, they and other members of the VCC team will advocate from a wide-ranging agenda to preserve and expand pro-life protections, protect religious liberty and conscience rights, oppose cuts to crucial safety net programs, and more.   Our agenda for this current session can be found here.

Here’s a look at how some of the Conference’s priorities fared this week:

Ending the Lifetime Ban on SNAP Benefits:  In an 8-7 vote, the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee defeated Conference-supported legislation, SB 830 (Sen. Favola), that would have repealed Virginia’s lifetime ban on those convicted of drug-distribution felonies receiving SNAP benefits (formerly known as “food stamps”). The Conference has long favored efforts to re-integrate into society people who have served their time after committing crimes. Former inmates often are barred from many employment opportunities because of their pasts, and struggle to meet basic needs as they re-integrate into society.

Action Items:

Ask the Governor to Grant a Stay of Execution: On Wednesday, January 18, Virginia is scheduled to carry out the execution of Ricky Javon Gray.  Please act now and urge Governor McAuliffe to commute Gray’s sentence to life without parole instead of executing him.  Pope Francis has said, “Today, capital punishment is unacceptable,” echoing the Catechism, the statements of his predecessors, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope St. John Paul II, as well as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who have taught, “No matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so.”

Plan to join us for these upcoming advocacy and prayer events:

Catholics in the Capital:  On Thursday, February 9th, come to Richmond and meet your delegates and senators and advocate for the important issues outlined in our agenda. Just schedule your February 9 legislators’ visits and our staff will be happy to provide talking points and updates beforehand. Find legislators’ contact information here. Let us know after you’ve made the appointment by emailing

Virginia Vespers:  After meeting with your delegates and senators, join Virginia’s bishops, legislators, fellow Catholics and people of all faiths as we pray for the needs of the Commonwealth at our second annual Virginia Vespers: Evening Prayer for the Commonwealth on Thursday, February 9th at 5pm at Richmond’s historic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. A wine and appetizers reception follows.  Sign up here.