By James Miessler and Diana DiGang, Capital News Service 04/21/2016 General AssemblyGeneral Assembly 2016
The General Assembly failed Wednesday to override any of Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s vetoes of legislation championed by Republicans, including bills to defund Planned Parenthood and let home-schoolers participate in public-school sports.
Overriding a veto requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate. That was doable in the House, where there are 66 Republicans and 34 Democrats. But it proved impossible in the Senate, where Democrats hold 19 of the 40 seats.
Virginia legislators will return to the state Capitol April 20 to consider whether to uphold or override Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s vetoes and recommendations of legislation passed during their 2016 session.
The Democratic governor vetoed 32 bills approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly. That is the most vetoes since 1998, when Jim Gilmore, a Republican, was governor and most legislators were Democrats.
McAuliffe objected to a slew of hot-button bills – from a measure that would allow some school security officers to carry guns on the job, to the so-called “Tebow Bills” that would allow home-schoolers to participate in high school sports.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday vetoed anti-abortion legislation that would have cut off state funding to Planned Parenthood’s six Virginia health centers, which provide care to more than 22,000 men and women each year.
McAuliffe rejected House Bill 1090, a measure supported by Republicans to prohibit the Virginia Department of Health from funding groups that provide “non-federally qualified” abortions.
“This bill, aimed at Planned Parenthood, would harm tens of thousands of Virginians who rely on the health care services and programs provided by Planned Parenthood health centers by denying them access to affordable care,” the Democratic governor said in his veto message.
If the governor adds his signature, Virginians could be fined $100 for smoking in a car in the presence of children. The Senate joined the House by giving final approval to a bill that would make smoking in a motor vehicle with passengers younger than 8 a violation punishable by a civil penalty of $100.
The violation would be a secondary offense, meaning it would affect only individuals who have already been pulled over by police for a traffic violation or other offense.
The Senate passed House Bill 1348 in a vote of 27-12 on March 3. The bill is now in the hands of Gov. Terry McAuliffe. If signed, the law would take effect July 1. McAuliffe has until April 11 to act on the legislation.
By Shuran Huang and Rachel Williams, Capital News Service 03/14/2016 EducationGeneral AssemblyGeneral Assembly 2016
Thomas Burgess begged his mother to be home-schooled with his sister Gina, who as a kindergartner severely struggled with school anxiety. At 5, Gina dreaded going to the communal bathroom shared by three other classrooms. She hated the stares from her peers, so she waited to use the bathroom until after school.
From second to eight grade, Thomas was home-schooled, too.
“When we first moved to Roanoke, we did this satellite TV home-schooling program,” said Burgess, now a freelance writer and editor in Richmond.
A handful of men and women who want Virginia to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment rallied outside a committee meeting room at the General Assembly, holding signs that read “Equal Means Equal” and “ERA.”
But the House Privileges and Elections Committee decided to shelve the ERA, which would guarantee women and men equal rights, for another year.
“This is the fifth year in a row we have passed [the amendment] with bipartisan support in the Senate. And on crossover, you see that it’s not only ignored but completely obstructed,” said Eileen Davis, co-founder of the group Women Matter. “At what point are you simply obstructing the democratic process? We’re not giving up.”
In an 8-7 vote along party lines, a Senate committee on Thursday approved a bill to prohibit the Virginia Department of Health from funding Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortions. The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill Monday. The eight Republicans on the Senate Committee on Education and Health voted in favor of House Bill 1090; the panel’s seven Democratic members voted against it.
HB 1090 states that the Health Department “shall not enter into a contract with, or make a grant to, any entity that performs abortions that are not federally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where non-federally qualified abortions are performed.”
Many rape survivors are still waiting for the test results of their rape kit. Not only are survivors often denied swift justice, but having untested rape kits sitting on shelves fails to protect other women.
Someone who commits rape is likely to do it again, said Sen. Richard H. Black, a Republican representing Loudoun and Prince William counties, told a meeting of the Women’s Roundtable and League of Women Voters on Wednesday at the General Assembly.
He said 2,300 rape kits in Virginia have yet to be tested. It’s crazy, Black said, to have a woman endure the invasive procedure and then making her wait years for the test results.
After amendments from Henrico Del. John O’Bannon’s subcommittee, the Virginia House unanimously passed a bill Monday that requires institutions to refrigerate dead bodies that will be stored for more than 48 hours.
Sen. Kenneth Alexander’s bill, SB 595, unanimously passed the Senate as well, despite initial opposition from home funeral advocates. O’Bannon, R-73, voted in favor of the bill in the House subcommittee on health, welfare and institutions after the amendments were made to accommodate those concerns.
The bill originally required “any person or institution” to refrigerate bodies at less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but the amendments eliminated all language pertaining to people to focus only on institutions.
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