General Assembly

Assembly sustains all of McAuliffe’s vetoes

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.

The 2 moms who won the right to breast-feed

Last summer, Kate Noon, a mother of two in Richmond, read a news article about Virginia’s dubious distinction as a state where women don’t have the right to breast-feed their children in public. It made her angry, and so she called her state delegate, Jennifer McClellan. About the same time, 100 miles away in Fairfax County, Rebecca Geller, had recently given birth to her third child. “While nursing my newborn daughter, I was alarmed to learn that Virginia did not have legal protections in place for breast-feeding women who wanted to feed their children in public places,” she said. So Geller reached out to her delegate, Dave Albo.

The two mothers were working in parallel paths, attempting to update the law on breast-feeding in Virginia. It is one of three states – along with South Dakota and Idaho – where women lack the right to breast-feed in public.

McAuliffe signs medical marijuana bills

Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed into law Thursday legislation to decriminalize two medical marijuana derivatives for the treatment of intractable epilepsy.

McAuliffe signed House Bill 1445 and Senate Bill 1235, which decriminalize the use of Cannabidiol oil and THC-A oil by patients who suffer from persistent epileptic seizures. The bills contained an emergency clause and took effect immediately.

The new law does not provide a prescription for the substances; however, a certification from a doctor will serve as an “affirmative defense” for epilepsy patients arrested and charged with possession of marijuana.

Rep. Scott: Let independent panel draw districts

U.S. Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, a Democrat representing Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, says the General Assembly should take some of the politics out of redistricting by having an independent commission redraw political boundaries.

When legislators themselves do redistricting, they have a personal interest in protecting their political future and their party, Scott said. That’s why he’d prefer that redistricting be done by a bipartisan or nonpartisan panel.

“It would still be partisan, but the difference is that it’s not personal,” Scott said in an interview after speaking to political science students and faculty Monday at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Bills create ‘right to try’ experimental drugs

Lawmakers and advocates for people with life-threatening illnesses made a final push Monday to pass legislation giving Virginians the “right to try” experimental drugs and other treatments.

“It comes down to one thing,” said Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Moneta, “that the fundamental right to life that is granted to us by our creator, also necessarily encompasses the right to fight for your life, the right to try whatever measure necessary to live.”

He spoke at a press conference urging his colleagues to give final approval to House and Senate bills inspired by Josh Hardy, an 8-year-old boy from Fredericksburg who has been fighting cancer.

Proposed budget boosts employees’ pay

Virginia teachers, state troopers and other state employees would all receive pay raises thanks to a state budget agreement moving toward approval in the General Assembly.

Teachers would see a 1.5 percent pay raise while State Police officers and other state employees would receive a 2 percent increase under the conference report crafted over the weekend by House and Senate negotiators seeking to amend the state’s 2014-16 budget. Final votes may be held as early as Thursday, General Assembly leaders announced Monday.

Sen. John Watkins, R-Chesterfield, said Virginia was fortunate to have thousands of committed state employees whose day-to-day work is integral to the efficient and effective operation of government.

Virginia lawmakers eye new laws on drones

As the federal government establishes national guidelines for commercial drones, the General Assembly is considering whether and how to restrict drones in Virginia.

At the start of the legislative session, five bills regarding drones had been submitted – two affecting hobbyists and the others affecting government agencies.

House Bill 2017, proposed by Del. Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, and Senate Bill 937, proposed by Sen. Jennifer Wexton, D-Leesburg, sought to allow local governments to ban individuals from flying drones under 55 pounds. However, both measures are dead for this session.

House kills bill to legalize selling switchblades

Any Virginians using this week’s snow days to start planning a “Warriors”-style gang – complete with throwing stars and switchblades – must now put the jean jacket back in the closet and go back to the drawing board.

On Wednesday, the House of Delegates reversed itself and killed a controversial but virally popular bill – SB 1130, which would have repealed the state’s ban on the sale of (or possession with intent to sell) novelty handheld weapons including brass knuckles, “oriental darts” and blackjacks.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Tom Garrett, R-Louisa, originally passed the House of Delegates on Tuesday by a vote of 56-42 and appeared to be on its way to Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Governor signs law allowing Uber, Lyft to operate

After operating under a temporary agreement for the better part of a year, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft now have a law allowing them to transport passengers in Virginia after Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a bill that sets licensing procedures and standards for drivers.

“I am proud to sign this legislation, which supports innovation in our transportation system while also protecting the safety of citizens across the commonwealth. Virginia is leading the way on attracting and supporting innovative companies in every sector of our economy,” McAuliffe said Tuesday.

The signing of House Bill 1662 and Senate Bill 1025 formalizes an interim agreement that the governor and Attorney General Mark Herring reached with the taxi-like companies last summer.

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The Red Robin restaurant in Short Pump will host the Tip-A-Cop fundraising event on Saturday, Oct. 22 to benefit Special Olympics. Members of the Henrico Police Division will serve patrons from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for dinner, and 100 percent of tips given to local law enforcement will be donated to Special Olympics. For more information, call Red Robin at 364-6375. Full text

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