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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.

Concealed weapons amendment goes to governor

A bill providing retired employees of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles an exemption from being required to obtain a concealed weapon permit was unanimously passed by the House of Delegates this week and now awaits Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s signature.

Senate Bill 279, introduced by Sen. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, would amend Section 18.2-308 of the Code of Virginia to allow retired employees of the DMV’s Law Enforcement Division the same concealed weapons permit exemptions enjoyed by Virginia State Police, Capitol Police, and local law enforcement retirees.

Whistle-blower protection advances in Senate

Whistle-blower protection moved forward this week after a Senate committee voted 36 to 1 in favor of House Bill 728, which would make it illegal to terminate an employee for reasons related to that person’s exposure of waste, fraud or abuse.

“Intimidation and threats are a problem when it comes to quashing the willingness of a public employee to look after the taxpayers,” said Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge, who introduced three bills on this topic—House Bills 728, 731 and 739. “So I think going forward, my intent is to correct a defect in the law because under current law it's not clear what a court does when there is a 'mixed motive' for the dismissal of an employee.”

Legislation seeks local stormwater program opt-out

A stormwater management bill that incorporates three other bills and would allow some localities to opt-out of implementing local stormwater runoff management programs passed the House with a 93 to one vote.

House Bill 1173 would require the Department of Environmental Quality to establish a Virginia Stormwater Management Program for a locality that chooses not to implement a local program and does not have a municipal separate storm-sewer system (MS4), which exists in densely-populated urban areas.

Legislation safeguards pets against domestic violence

At least 71 percent of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters have reported their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets, according to the American Humane Association.

Delegate Benjamin Cline, R-Amherst, says he hopes to give solace to these pets and their owners with House Bill 972. The bill states that a protective order may grant possession of the family pet to the petitioner and prohibit further violence directed toward the pet. If passed, Virginia will join the 23 states that already have laws protecting companion animals.

Bill seeks school area for nursing mothers

An education bill would require school boards to designate an area in each of their schools for a mother employed by the school board or enrolled as a student to express milk for her child.

House Bill 720 would require each school board to set aside a non-restroom space out of public view in a school for mothers to take breaks of “reasonable length” during the school day to express milk to feed a child under the age of one year.

GA delaying individual school grading system

The House Education Committee approved a bill delaying the implementation of a new grading system for schools this past week, but some delegates are questioning if the new system meets the needs of Virginia schools, parents and communities.

This past November, the State Board of Education approved a new A-to-F grading system for individual state schools to supplement the current accreditation system.

The bill passed the House committee and delays incorporating the new grading system for one year, moving the deadline for grades to Oct. 1, 2015.

Herring supports court’s gay-marriage decision

The fight for marriage equality for same-sex couples in Virginia continues to progress through the courts this week after a federal judge ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

Federal District Judge Arenda Wright Allen struck down the law used in the controversial Bostic v. Rainey case as unconstitutional in Norfolk’s federal court this past Thursday. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring declared his support of the ruling against the same-sex marriage ban in the commonwealth.

House GOP debates Medicaid expansion rejection methodology

House Republicans are echoing national GOP rhetoric in rejecting the Medicaid expansion, strongly backed by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Delegate James “Jimmie” Massie, R-Richmond, said Obamacare could likely “implode.” Massie said he handles the “business side” of Medicaid reform.

“I would say (it’s not going) particularly well so far,” Massie said with a laugh. “My opinion is if you think Obamacare was hard signing up for on the website … wait till you try to use it.”

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