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General Assembly

Governor approves bipartisan mental health bill


A month after being approved by the General Assembly, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed House Bill 206 into law at the beginning of April. The legislation requires each four-year public institution of higher education in the commonwealth of Virginia to create and feature on its website information dedicated solely to the mental health resources available to students at the institution.

The bill was drafted and proposed by a group of students from the University of Virginia, including Hannah Bondurant, a third-year student at the university.

“It’s an easy solution that hopefully will bridge treatment that is available and people actually getting help,” Bondurant told the Cavalier Daily.

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.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the Natural Resources Subcommittee, Northam proposed an amendment to limit Sunday hunting to state or federal military bases and wildlife management areas.

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.

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.

Local officials weigh in on ‘Tebow’ bill

Henrico Del. Jennifer McClellan said home-schooled children could have an unfair advantage over other students under a bill that would let them participate in public school sports.

“It doesn’t create a level playing field because public school kids have a lot of regulations they have to live by,” said McClellan, who voted against the bill that passed the House last week. “Home-schooled kids could spend two hours in the morning at the gym. You have two different sets of kids competing for spots on the same team.”

Pet lovers howl at classifying dogs as livestock

Canine friends may be safe this year, but their legal status in the commonwealth may be questioned again next year.

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.

Several hundred people converged on the Capitol on Jan. 26 for Virginia Humane Lobby Day to oppose SB 610, said Robin Starr, chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA, one of the event’s organizers.

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.

The rally was organized by the Family Foundation of Virginia, a nonprofit group that espouses conservative principles and religious values. The rally was held to support two bills before the General Assembly: HB 321 and SB 241.

Senate votes to repeal gun purchase limit

Bill would require two epi pens in all Virginia public schools

A bill that would require public schools to maintain two epinephrine pens is a response to death of a 7-year-old student earlier this month from an allergic reaction, Henrico Delegate John O’Bannon said last week.

Amarria Johnson of Chesterfield County suffered an anaphylactic attack Jan. 2 after a student gave her peanuts at recess. School personnel, police and firefighters performed CPR and used an AED on Johnson after she went into cardiac arrest, but were unable to save her, according to a Chesterfield police report.

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