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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.

‘Castle Doctrine’ is closer to becoming law

Citizens looking for more personal protection can rest easy after two bills that would allow the use of deadly force in one’s home moved forward this week in the General Assembly.

Staunton Delegate Robert “Dickie” Bell’s House Bill 48, better known as the “Castle Doctrine,” won an endorsement Friday from the House Courts of Justice Committee. The vote was 12-6. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

The Castle Doctrine, which is law in 31 states, states that people can use physical or deadly force against intruders in their home if they believe the intruder could hurt them or if an intruder commits an overt act against them.

Anti-bullying legislation advances to Senate

A bill to mandate training for Virginia public school personnel on how to handle bullying is on its way to the Senate after passing the House, 98-2.

House Bill 504 would amend the code dictating school safety training for public school employees to specifically include “evidence-based antibullying tactics.”

Activists turn out for Equality Virginia’s lobby day

Gay rights advocates have been active at Capitol Square this legislative session, seeking laws that would ban discrimination in employment and adoptions on the basis of sexual orientation.

About 75 people turned out last week for the annual Lobby Day held by Equality Virginia, which advocates for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Activists spent the morning of Jan. 24 lobbying members of the General Assembly on LGBT-related legislation. That was followed by a series of workshops on various topics and a legislative reception in the evening.

Bill would let professors carry guns

Delegate Bob Marshall of Manassas has proposed a bill that would allow full-time faculty members to carry guns on college campuses. House Bill 91 would ban policies by public institutions of higher education that prohibit full-time faculty members with Virginia concealed handgun permits from packing heat.

The Republican lawmaker’s rationale is that faculty members with guns could deter violence on campus. However, others believe the measure could backfire.

Marshall sees hope for ‘personhood’ bill

Now that Democrats no longer control the House or the Senate, Delegate Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, is hoping the General Assembly will pass his bill defining a human embryo or fetus is a person under the law.

House Bill 1 would provide that “unborn children at every stage of development enjoy all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of the Commonwealth.”

The bill, which is before the House Courts of Justice Committee, says that this “personhood” status starts “from the moment of conception.”
Marshall said HB 1 is significant for several reasons.

2012 Va. General Assembly Q&A

State legislators have returned to Richmond for a 60-day session of the General Assembly, with questions about funding for transportation, education and the state’s retirement system taking center stage as the session began earlier this month. The Henrico Citizen invited each delegate and state senator whose district encompasses a portion of Henrico to provide their thoughts about the 2012 session. The answers of those who responded appear below.

1. What is the most important issue facing the General Assembly this year? Why?

Farrell – This year the most important issue facing the General Assembly is clearly the budget. There will obviously be high demands from certain state programs for funding as federal funding is falling back. Managing such demands in a concise and responsible manner will be the most challenging and critical issue facing members of the General Assembly this year.

County to legislature: ‘Don’t hurt us’

"Don't hurt us."

That's the clear and simple message being delivered by Henrico County's elected officials, administrators and lobbyists to the General Assembly, which convened in Richmond for a 60-day session last week.

The missive represents a change from years past, during which county officials annually presented "wish lists" of top priorities to the county's General Assembly delegation. Six years ago, that list contained 14 items. This year, it's down to just one: Do no harm.

By placing their sole focus on those three words, local officials hope to make a salient point to lawmakers: localities – Henrico included – are struggling to deal with their own financial problems and cannot afford additional funding cuts from the state.

New program promotes safety in digital life

Virginia students will learn the benefits and dangers of the Internet and other technology, and may be drawn to math and science careers, thanks to an online program being offered free to the state’s schools.

“Students today have access to the tools necessary to succeed – computers, the Internet, smartphones. But do they know how to leverage technology in a responsible and safe way?” said Virginia Secretary of Education Laura Fornash. “We owe it to our children and students to teach them how to use technology responsibly.”

Fornash and other officials introduced the program, called My Digital Life, at a press conference at the state Capitol on Thursday.

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