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Gov. Ralph Northam. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Virginia officially became the first Southern state and 23rd state nationwide to end capital punishment, after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) signed legislation to abolish the death penalty on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Virginia has executed nearly 1,400 people since its days as a colony, more than any other state, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

  • Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, only Texas has executed more people than Virginia. Two men remained on Virginia's death row as of late February, per AP.
  • 296 of the 377 people that Virginia executed in the 20th century were Black, Northam noted at the signing Wednesday as he spoke about the historic racial disparities in capital punishment.

How we got here: Democrats won control of the state legislature in 2019 and gave final approval on legislation to repeal the death penalty in February.

What they're saying: "Over Virginia’s long history, this Commonwealth has executed more people than any other state. And, like many other states, Virginia has come too close to executing an innocent person. It’s time we stop this machinery of death," Northam said in a statement after Virginia's legislature passed the bill.

  • "[T]his progress is foremost a reflection of where Virginians have stood for years," leading House Democrats said in a statement that urged other states to follow Virginia's move.
  • "The fact is juries have stopped sentencing defendants to death," the statement read. "The death penalty no longer reflects Virginia's values. The Democratic majority listened to our constituents and ended this outdated, inequitable and inhumane practice. Finally."

Go deeper

In photos: Long lines and fuel shortages amid Colonial Pipeline shutdown

A sign warns consumers on the avaliability of gasoline at a RaceTrac gas station in Smyrna, Georgia, on May 11. The average national price of gasoline has risen to $2.985 a gallon, Bloomberg notes. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/AFP via Getty Images

Reports of fuel shortages across the U.S. emerged on Tuesday as the national average for gasoline prices soared to its highest level since 2014 amid a key fuel pipeline shut down, per Bloomberg.

What's happening: Operator Colonial Pipeline aims to have service restored by the week's end following last Friday's ransomware attack that shut down some 5,500 miles of pipeline from Texas to New Jersey. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) declared a state of emergency after panic-buying created a fuel shortage.

Reports: More than 100 Republicans threaten to form 3rd party over Trump

Former President Trump addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, in February. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More than 100 Republicans will sign a letter Thursday threatening to create a third party if the GOP doesn't "break" with former President Trump, Reuters first reported.

Why it matters: Per Axios' Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, Trump's grip on the GOP has gotten stronger since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The Republican Party's "allegiance to Trump" as he continues to make false claims about his 2020 election loss has "dismayed" the group, according to Reuters.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

In photos: Dozens dead as Israel and Hamas intensify aerial bombardments

People gather at the site of a collapsed building in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes on Gaza City on May 11. Photo: Mahmud Hams / AFP) (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images

At least 35 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed as fighting between Israel's military and Hamas entered a third day, per Reuters.

The big picture: The worst aerial exchanges of fire between Israel and Hamas since 2014 come after escalating violence in Jerusalem that injured hundreds of Palestinians and several Israeli police officers during protests over the planned evictions of Palestinian families from their homes.