February 2012

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29 Feb 2012

Senate Narrowly Approves Mandatory Ultrasound Bill

The Virginia Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that will require any woman seeking an abortion to undergo a mandatory ultrasound examination. House Bill 462 has been the focus of extensive debate during this year’s General Assembly. It even fell victim to national ridicule last week before being amended on the recommendation of Gov. Bob McDonnell.

29 Feb 2012

Panel Kills Franklin Charter Changes for 2012

A House subcommittee Wednesday killed a bill that would have changed the Franklin City Charter and, among other things, would have required City Council members to resign their seats to run for mayor. Sen. Harry Blevins, R-Chesapeake, introduced Senate Bill 311 at the start of the legislative session. The Senate unanimously approved it on Jan. 23, sending it to the House for consideration.

28 Feb 2012

Sixth-Grade Girls Still Must Get HPV Vaccine

The Virginia Senate has rejected a House-approved bill to repeal a law requiring girls to get a dose of the human papillomavirus vaccine before entering sixth grade. The Senate voted 22-17 to send House Bill 1112 back to the Senate Education and Health Committee, effectively killing it for this legislative session.

28 Feb 2012

Governor Signs Law Lifting Limit on Buying Guns

With the stroke of his pen Tuesday, Gov. Bob McDonnell removed the limit on how many handguns Virginians can buy each month. McDonnell, a Republican, signed legislation repealing the 19-year-old law prohibiting the purchase of more than one handgun per month. The repeal takes effect July 1.

28 Feb 2012

Law to Make Challenging Property Assessments Easier

A bill to help Virginians in appealing property assessments on wetlands is awaiting the governor’s signature. Property owners are already allowed to appeal assessments to their local board of assessors, but House Bill 80 would require that the National Wetlands Inventory Map be considered in the appeal. The Senate last week joined the House in unanimously approving the measure.

27 Feb 2012

Reeves Enjoys Success in 1st Senate Term

More than a year before last November’s elections, Spotsylvania County insurance agent Bryce Reeves started campaigning for the 17th Senate District seat. A lot of people figured he would need more than an early start: Reeves, a Republican who had never held elective office, was challenging Edd Houck, a Democrat who had held the Senate seat since 1984. But on Election Day, Reeves won – by 226 votes.

27 Feb 2012

House Restores Funding for Alicia’s Law

The House of Delegates has restored funding for Alicia’s Law, a two-year-old effort targeting sexual abuse of children, after Democrats said Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposed state budget shortchanged the program. McDonnell planned to transfer $1.3 million from the Internet Crimes Against Children task force, a police unit created by Alicia’s Law, to the state’s general fund. But in a unanimous vote Thursday, the House approved restoration of the ICAC funding.

27 Feb 2012

Senate Shelves Marshall’s ‘Personhood’ Bill

The General Assembly has decided to postpone until next year consideration of a bill that would grant personhood rights to a human embryo from the moment of conception. The Senate last week sent the measure, House Bill 1, back to a committee after Democrats and some Republicans said it could have unforeseen consequences. Democratic officials and abortion rights groups saw the move as a victory.

26 Feb 2012

Bills Boost Job Prospects for Veterans

Efforts to expand job opportunities for veterans are receiving overwhelming support in the General Assembly this session, but veterans’ requests for tax exemptions and easier access to retail discounts have gained little traction. Virginia’s moves to expand education and employment opportunities for veterans come on the heels of high veteran unemployment figures. The national unemployment rate for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan topped 12 percent late last year.

26 Feb 2012

History Reconstructed: Assembly Honors Black Lawmakers

“Remember, girls, you’re not just anyone; you’re Virginia Teamohs!” At home in New York’s Harlem neighborhood, that’s what Rafia Zafar’s Southern-born grandmother would say to keep her granddaughters in line. Years later, Zafar, a Harvard-educated English professor at Washington University in St. Louis, would come to realize the significance of those words. Zafar’s great-great-grandfather was George Teamoh, who was born a slave in Portsmouth in 1818 and became a state legislator after the Civil War. An accomplished orator and advocate of African-American self-help, Teamoh served in the Virginia Senate from 1869 to 1871. Teamoh was one of about 100 blacks elected to the General Assembly during Reconstruction – until racial discrimination and Jim Crow laws relegated African-Americans to second-class citizenship. Those history-making legislators are finally getting recognition: They’re being honored by the 2012 General Assembly.

25 Feb 2012

Panel Blocks Bill to Ask Legal Status of Arrestees

Prince William County officials are upset that a Senate committee has defeated Delegate Richard Anderson’s bill requiring police to ask arrestees whether they are legal U.S. residents. House Bill 1060, which had passed the House earlier in February, failed on a 7-7 vote last week in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.

25 Feb 2012

Law Would Let All ABC Stores Open Sunday

The General Assembly has passed a bill expanding the number of ABC stores that can open on Sundays.
Currently, state-owned liquor stores can operate on Sundays only in urban areas, such as cities with more than 100,000 residents. House Bill 896, sponsored by Delegate David Albo, R-Springfield, would allow the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to open any of its stores after 1 p.m. on Sundays.

24 Feb 2012

Senate Requires Ignition Interlocks for Drunken Drivers

Opponents of drunken driving are applauding the Senate for passing a bill to require even first-time DUI offenders in Virginia to install a device to prevent them from operating their vehicle while intoxicated. The Senate approved House Bill 279 on a 26-13 vote Wednesday. It would require Virginia drivers to have an ignition interlock installed after their first DUI offense. Currently, the devices are required only after a second or subsequent DUI conviction.

24 Feb 2012

Legislators Craft Less Invasive Ultrasound Bill

Both chambers of the General Assembly started revising legislation forcing women to get a fetal ultrasound before an abortion after Gov. Bob McDonnell persuaded lawmakers not to require a vaginal probe as part of the procedure. That change was reflected in the revised version of House Bill 462 that the Senate Education and Health Committee approved Thursday on an 8-7 party-line vote.

23 Feb 2012

Democrats, Republicans Battle Over Voter ID Bills

Democrats hope the U.S. Justice Department will intervene if the Republican-controlled General Assembly passes laws imposing more stringent identification requirements on Virginia voters. Two measures moving through the General Assembly – House Bill 9 and Senate Bill 1 – would prohibit prospective voters from casting official ballots if they can’t show proper identification. Republicans say the bills would help prevent fraud at the polls, but Democrats say the legislation would discourage elderly, minority and low-income people from voting.

23 Feb 2012

General Assembly, CDC Diverge on HPV Vaccine

While Virginia is moving to repeal its requirement that girls get vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, the federal government and a major medical association are urging just the opposite: that boys as well as girls receive the vaccine.

20 Feb 2012

More Than 1,000 Protest Anti-Abortion Bills

More than 1,000 people turned out at the Capitol on Monday to silently protest a wave of legislation that they claim undermines women’s reproductive rights. The demonstration focused largely on two measures: House Bill 1, which would give the legal status of a human being to a fertilized egg, and HB 462, which would require a trans-vaginal ultrasound before undergoing an abortion.

20 Feb 2012

Senate Offers Relief on Machinery Tax

The House and Senate seem headed in different directions on whether to give businesses relief from the machinery and tools tax levied by local governments. The Senate has passed a bill to give businesses grants to offset the tax on newly purchased equipment for the first two years. Under the latest version of Senate Bill 549, businesses would pay the tax to their city, county or town but then get reimbursed by a state grant. The bill passed last week, 28-12.

20 Feb 2012

Both Sides Say Castle Doctrine Bill Was Rushed

Both sides in the Second Amendment debate in Virginia are looking to combat Monday’s Senate passage of House Bill 48, better known as the “Castle Doctrine.” The bill, introduced by Delegate Richard “Dickie” Bell, R-Staunton, passed the House on Feb. 9 on a 70-28 vote. On Monday afternoon, the Senate voted 24-16 to approve a slightly different version of the bill. The two chambers must resolve the wording before the bill can be sent to Gov. Bob McDonnell to be signed or vetoed.

18 Feb 2012

Jails Can Shackle Inmates Giving Birth

Local jails and regional prisons in Virginia can continue to shackle female inmates during childbirth – a practice that Delegate Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, says is appalling. Hope sponsored a bill this legislative session to prohibit the shackling of women prisoners while in labor or giving birth. However, the bill is dead for this session after failing to make it out of a subcommittee last week.

18 Feb 2012

Divided Senate OKs Help for Private Schools

In yet another bill that divided Republicans and Democrats, the Virginia Senate on Friday passed legislation to provide tax credits for individuals and businesses that fund scholarships for low- and middle-income students to attend parochial and private schools.

18 Feb 2012

Bills Would Outlaw New Designer Drugs

Legislators and medical experts are concerned about the rising use of synthetic drugs known as “bath salts,” which cause a cocaine-like high – and in rare instances can cause death.

17 Feb 2012

Panel Kills Bill to Allow Sunday Hunting

A House subcommittee has defeated a Senate-approved bill that would have permitted hunting on Sundays in Virginia. A subcommittee of the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee recommended Wednesday that Senate Bill 464 be tabled. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ralph Northam, D-Norfolk, would have allowed hunting on Sundays on private property by the landowners, their immediate family or people who have written permission from the landowners.

17 Feb 2012

House Votes to Redefine ‘Triggerman’ Rule

The Virginia House of Delegates has advanced a bill that would make a broader range of criminals eligible for the death penalty. House Bill 389, proposed by Delegate Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, would redefine the “triggerman” rule in murder cases. The term “triggerman” refers strictly to the direct perpetrators of homicide, according to the current state law.

17 Feb 2012

School Consolidation Study Dies in House

A proposal inspired by Isle of Wight County to study the benefits of consolidating certain administrative functions of school districts and local governments died in the House this week. Delegate Rick Morris, the sponsor of House Joint Resolution 110, said the goal was to “look for cost savings and apply those cost savings to the classroom.”

16 Feb 2012

House, Senate Disagree on Teacher Contract Bills

The Virginia Education Association, which represents the state’s teachers, can breathe a little easier about legislation to overhaul how teachers are hired and evaluated. VEA leaders were alarmed Monday when the House voted 55-43 for a bill that would end what critics describe as a tenure system for public school teachers. Under the bill, sponsored by Delegate Richard “Dickie” Bell, R-Staunton, new teachers and principals would receive three-year contracts instead of continuing contracts – making it easier to fire them.

16 Feb 2012

Bills Undercut Reproductive Rights, Democrats Say

Democratic leaders and women’s right advocates sounded the alarm Thursday about three bills they said would limit a woman’s reproductive freedom in Virginia. They said House Bill 1, which would grant individual rights to an embryo from the moment of conception, would be a step toward making all abortions illegal. On Tuesday, the House of Delegates passed the measure on a 66-32 vote.

14 Feb 2012

VCU Students Rally for Equal Rights

On a windy and dreary Valentine’s Day, about 40 VCU students and other Richmond residents held a rally to protest legislation they said would undermine a litany of rights – from abortion rights and gay rights to voting rights and free speech.

14 Feb 2012

House OK’s Bill to Boost Craft Breweries

Here’s something to toast: A bill approved by the Virginia House of Delegates and sent to the state Senate may cut the steep cost of starting up a brewery for craft beer.

13 Feb 2012

Young Delegate Has Door Open for Constituents

It would be understandable if you saw Peter Farrell in the General Assembly Building and thought he was a legislative intern. With his earnest smile and tight haircut, he could easily pass for a college student. But Farrell isn’t working for a lawmaker; he is one. He represents the 56th House District, which includes Louisa County and parts of Goochland, Henrico and Spotsylvania counties.

13 Feb 2012

House OK’s Overhaul of Teacher Contracts

TEACHER EVALUATIONS 02/13/12 Mechelle Hankerson: hankersonml@vcu.edu; 757-323-2773 Words: 500 Multimedia: None   House OK’s Overhaul of Teacher Contracts   RICHMOND – After undergoing a dramatic edit last week in committee, a bill to fundamentally change how teachers are hired and evaluated passed the House on a 55-43 vote Monday.   ————————————————————   House OK’s Overhaul […]

12 Feb 2012

Pet Lovers Howl at Classifying Dogs as Livestock

Animal welfare advocates recently voiced concerns over legislation to redefine livestock animals in state law to include hunting, show and breeding dogs. Senate Bill 610, sponsored by Sen. Richard Black, R-Sterling, also sought to place all animal care oversight under a single state agency – the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. A Senate committee has postponed consideration of the bill until next year.

12 Feb 2012

License Plate Would Boost Tourism on Eastern Shore

The Eastern Shore of Virginia soon could get money to rev up its tourism promotion efforts whenever motorists buy or renew a specialty license plate depicting that scenic region off Virginia’s mainland. The Senate has passed a bill to channel proceeds from the specialty plates’ sales into a fund to promote tourism on the Eastern Shore.

12 Feb 2012

Democrats Accuse GOP of ‘Divisive’ Agenda

Facing a torrent of what they consider “bad bills,” Democrats in the General Assembly acknowledge that they do not have enough votes to stop socially conservative legislation on issues like abortion, gay rights, voter identification requirements and drug testing of welfare recipients. House and Senate Democrats gathered Thursday to criticize the wave of “divisive social-issue legislative overreach” they say Republicans are perpetrating in Richmond.

11 Feb 2012

Ex-Sen. Quayle Appointed to Parole Board

During his 20 years as a state senator, Fred Quayle served on the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. The panel handled legislation to write or revise criminal laws, establish punishment levels and shape the parole system, he noted. Quayle’s committee work and other legislative experience helped prepare him for his next role in state government – as a member of the Virginia Parole Board.

10 Feb 2012

Lawmakers Honor Kidnap Victim’s Courage

The Campbell County teenager who endured five months as a captive of Filipino terrorists was honored Thursday in a special ceremony at the Virginia Capitol. Surrounded by his family in the chamber of the House of Delegates, Kevin Lunsmann, 14, received a plaque as well as a resolution passed by the General Assembly commemorating his daring escape.

10 Feb 2012

Repeal of ‘Kings Dominion Law’ Moves to Senate

Virginia school districts finally may be able to start classes before Labor Day without getting special state permission under a bill that the House approved and sent to the Senate. But it remains uncertain whether the measure will survive in the upper chamber; the Senate committee killed a similar Senate bill on a 9-6 vote last month.

10 Feb 2012

Proposal Could Pay for Chaplains’ Tuition

For the second consecutive year, Delegate Thomas “Tag” Greason, R-Lansdowne, is proposing a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to provide tuition assistance to chaplains for religious training or theological education. And for the second year in a row, Greason’s proposal is languishing in a committee.

10 Feb 2012

Party ID Won’t Be Listed on Local Ballots

Front Royal Mayor Timothy Darr could have been forced out of office if the General Assembly had passed legislation requiring local election ballots to list each candidate’s political party. That’s because Darr works for the U.S. Department of Defense – and federal law prohibits federal employees from running in elections under party affiliation.

09 Feb 2012

Cemetery Zoning Bill Is Gutted

Lawmakers responded to overwhelming protest by residents of James City County today by gutting large portions of a bill that would have exempted buildings on cemetery grounds from building codes. “When I introduced the bill, I had no idea there was a problem or issues in James City County,” said the legislation’s sponsor, Delegate Riley Ingram, R-Hopewell. “I am, of course, now keenly aware of that fact.”

08 Feb 2012

Senate Votes to Repeal Gun Purchase Limit

Virginians soon may be able to purchase more guns than they can carry, all in one buy – for the first time in almost two decades. With the exception of law enforcement officials and some concealed-weapon permit holders, a 1993 state law has prohibited the purchase of more than one handgun every 30 days. On Monday, the Senate passed a bill to revoke this law; the House had approved a similar measure last week.

08 Feb 2012

General Assembly Honors Late Dumfries Mayor

Fred Elvin Yohey Jr. was a dedicated public servant to the town of Dumfries. He was on the town council from 1996 until 2004 and then served as mayor from 2006 until his death on Nov. 6. For his public service, the General Assembly recently passed a resolution to honor Yohey’s memory.

08 Feb 2012

Volunteer Fire Departments Soon May Bill Insurers

Two bills moving through the General Assembly would authorize volunteer fire departments to charge homeowners’ insurance policies after responding to fire-related emergencies. One measure is House Bill 1202, sponsored by Delegate Joseph Johnson, D-Abingdon. It unanimously passed the House on Wednesday. Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Tazewell, is sponsoring an identical proposal – Senate Bill 140. It unanimously passed the Senate on Friday.

07 Feb 2012

McDonnell, Cuccinelli Call for ‘School Choice’

Gov. Bob McDonnell, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and other Republican officials called for more “school choice,” including helping low-income students attend private schools, at a rally at Capitol Square on Tuesday. They were joined by several hundred students from Richmond-area private schools and other school choice supporters.

06 Feb 2012

After Spat, Senate Will Consider New Judges Later

Former legislators C.L. “Clay” Athey and Clarence “Bud” Phillips will have to wait a bit before they are appointed as judges in Virginia. That’s because Democrats in the Senate recently rejected Republicans’ plan to name Athey and Phillips as new circuit court judges while reappointing 47 incumbent judges.

06 Feb 2012

Law Would Improve Breast Cancer Detection

It would be routine for women in Virginia to learn their breast density whenever they get a mammogram under legislation moving through the General Assembly. That information would help women with dense breasts detect and get treatment for cancer.

05 Feb 2012

Tax Exemption May Aid Businesses, Stress Localities

Virginia’s machinery and tools tax, which some businesses see as a burden but local governments view as a critical revenue source, would be slashed under legislation before the General Assembly.

05 Feb 2012

At Capitol, Tech Silent on Campus Safety Issues

Five years after Virginia Tech made campus safety the focus of lawmakers across the nation, the school seems to be shying away from the issue during this year’s General Assembly session. While Virginia Commonwealth University student groups made campus safety an explicit priority at their “Rams Day on the Hill,” students attending “Hokie Day 2012” on behalf of Virginia Tech were hesitant to say the school was focusing on anything except higher education funding.

05 Feb 2012

McDonnell Is ‘Friend’ of Coal Industry

Calling his administration “a friend to the coal industry,” Gov. Bob McDonnell has reiterated his goal to make Virginia “the energy capital of the East Coast.” McDonnell made those remarks last week in delivering the keynote speech at the Eastern Coal Council’s annual legislative breakfast.

03 Feb 2012

Senate Approves Mandatory Ultrasound Legislation

The Virginia Senate has passed a bill requiring the use of ultrasound testing prior to the performance of an abortion. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Winchester, now goes to the House of Delegates. If passed – a likely prospect in the GOP-controlled House – the measure will be sent to Gov. Bob McDonnell to be signed into law.