General Assembly

House panel shoots down ban on guns in libraries


A House subcommittee shot down a bill Thursday to allow libraries owned or operated by local governments to ban firearms from their premises.

On a 4-1 voice vote, Subcommittee No. 1 of the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee recommended tabling HB 1418. The bill, proposed by Del. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond, sought to allow localities to adopt ordinances to prohibit the carrying firearms in public libraries.

“The (library) staff strongly feels that a library should be used as a reading circle and that schools and libraries are inappropriate places to openly carry firearms,” McQuinn said.

Senate panel OKs bill to defund planned parenthood


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.”

Rape survivors may find solace in legislation


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.

Virginia House passes dead-body bill


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.

Panel kills bill to keep officers’ names secret


After nearly an hour of debate, a legislative panel killed a bill that would have exempted law enforcement officers’ names and training records from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

A subcommittee of the House General Laws Committee tabled Senate Bill 552 for the General Assembly’s current session. State officials plan to study the issue as part of a review of the state’s FOIA law.

FOIA allows any citizen to gain access to government documents, including names and salaries of public employees. Currently, personal information such as health records, home addresses, Social Security numbers and bank account information is exempt.

Conference committee to draft final state budget


A conference committee of House and Senate members is working to hash out the differences between the state budget proposals passed by the two chambers.

The committee’s decisions will affect government spending for the next two years. Neither proposed budget includes new taxes or tax increases. Both increase funding for K-12 education, higher education, economic development and health care – but without expanding Medicaid, which serves low-income residents.

“I am confident our conferees will do an outstanding job of advocating this plan when we meet with our House counterparts,” said Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and a member of the conference committee.

Poll: Virginians think prisons cost too much


Most Virginians agree that the prison population costs too much money, according to a recent poll by the Charles Koch Institute, an educational public-policy organization, and Prison Fellowship, a Christian nonprofit that advocates for criminal justice reform.

On Wednesday, the two groups hosted a panel of experts to discuss the poll results and fiscally responsible ways to both reform the prison system and make communities safer.

“In Virginia, there are actions that can be taken in the short run to dramatically improve our current justice system,” said Vikrant Reddy, senior research fellow at the Koch Institute. “We can improve public safety, reduce costs and respect each individual’s dignity.”

Home-schoolers ask governor to ‘Let Us Play’


Supporters of home-schooled students playing sports in public schools unleashed their secret weapon at the Virginia Capital on Wednesday – home-schoolers themselves.

Home-schooling advocates and their children gathered in the state Capitol to hear remarks from Del. Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville, and Sen. Tom Garrett, R-Lynchburg, the sponsors of legislation commonly called the “Tebow bill.”

Afterward, the home-schoolers and parents signed a large card urging Gov. Terry McAuliffe to sign the legislation into law. The group presented the message to the front gate guard at the Governor’s Mansion.

No decrease in SOL testing this year


Until two years ago, Virginia third-graders were required to take four Standards of Learning exams per year. Students were tested across all disciplines and asked to demonstrate skills taught not just in third grade, but going back to kindergarten. Only five states tested young elementary school students this much.
Now, Virginia third-graders are tested only in math and reading with less cumulative material from previous grade levels. Testing was reduced in other grade levels, too. From a high of 34 SOL tests, students in the commonwealth now must pass 29 such exams before receiving a high school diploma.

A bill proposed by Sen. John Miller, D-Newport News, would have taken this a step further. Senate Bill 203 sought to roll back SOL testing to the federally mandated minimum of 17 SOLs before graduation.

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Trinity Lutheran Church, 2315 N. Parham Rd., will present pianist Magda Adamek at 7 p.m. A native of Poland, Adamek joined the faculty at VCU in 2015. Her program includes the picturesque “Preludes Book I” by Claude Debussy, as well as the ravishing and rarely heard “Nine Preludes” by polish composer Karol Szymanowski. Admission is free. For details, call 270-4626 or visit http://www.trinityrichmond.net. Full text

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