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.

Assembly approves right to breast-feed in public


Women across Virginia can rejoice now that both houses of the General Assembly have unanimously passed legislation that would protect the right of mothers to breast-feed in public.

“Thank you so much, Senator Wexton, for being a critical force in moving this common-sense legislation forward into a law that will support and protect women, children, and families across the Commonwealth,” one woman wrote on Sen. Jennifer Wexton’s Facebook page.

Wexton, D-Leesburg, proposed Senate Bill 1427, which states, “A mother may breastfeed in any place where the mother is lawfully present, including any location where she would otherwise be allowed on property that is owned, leased, or controlled by the Commonwealth.”

House passes ethics bill


The House of Delegates on Tuesday passed a bill that would limit gifts accepted by Virginia politicians to $100. Delegates voted 93-6 for the measure, which was sponsored by Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah.

HB 2070 is the House’s answer to problems concerning ethics rules for public officials. Gifts accepted by politicians became a hot topic after former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was convicted of corruption charges in 2014.

“This legislation builds on the substantial reforms passed last year,” Gilbert said.

Exemption for spouses of fallen first responders approved


The House of Delegates on Monday unanimously approved a constitutional amendment authorizing property tax exemptions for individuals if their spouse died in the line of duty.

HJ 597, proposed by Del. Tim Hugo, R-Centreville, now moves to the Senate for consideration. To become law, the amendment must be approved by the General Assembly this session and next year and then by voters in a statewide election in November 2016.

The proposed amendment would allow the General Assembly to authorize local governments to provide property tax exemptions for the surviving spouse of first responders, including police officers, firefighters, and search and rescue personnel, who are killed in the line of duty.

Senate OKs limits on use of license plate data


The Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would limit police retention of license plate data to seven days in an attempt to restrict government stockpiling of personal information.

Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, proposed Senate Bill 965 as part of a broader effort to clamp down against government overreach into personal lives, an area he has targeted the past two legislative sessions.

“The state should not use surveillance technology to collect information on its citizens where there is no discrete reason to do so,” Petersen said.

LGBT activists celebrate first victories


At 7 years old and living in the Bible Belt state of Georgia, Donna Price knew she was different. As she told her long, painful story, she still smiled, joked and reapplied her lipstick.

Price lived unhappily as a man for years, even attempting suicide in 2001, until last year, when she went through the medical and legal procedures to officially become a woman.

“I think it’s very important for me to be here, to be visible, to be seen, to be heard,” Price said.

Senate pops proposal to ban balloon releases


The Senate has rejected a bill to ban the intentional release of balloons into the atmosphere, which environmentalists say kill turtles, sea birds and other marine animals.

The bill – a stark contrast to current law, which allows for 50 balloons to be released per person per hour – failed on a 16-21 vote Friday.

Sen. Jeffrey McWaters, R-Virginia Beach, was the sponsor of Senate Bill 1107. He cited a report by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality that said balloon debris in waterways is one of the biggest problems facing marine systems. Many balloons fall into the ocean and are ingested by animals, often causing death.

Bill expands access to overdose-reversing drug


In a lecture hall at Virginia Commonwealth University, two presenters unpack a CPR mannequin as 30 students take their seats. While the scene resembles a first-aid class, trainers Rose Bono and Stephen Doheney are actually on the front line of a program combating the opiate overdose epidemic in Virginia.After the two-hour course, the students will have qualified for civil immunity to administer naloxone, a life-saving drug that reverses heroin and opiate overdoses.

As overdose deaths rise statewide, lawmakers in the House and Senate have advanced three bills that would expand access to naloxone across Virginia.

Countdown’s on for the next state song


The curtain is closing on the General Assembly’s chance to select a new state song for Virginia this legislative session.

At the start of the session, three tunes were proposed as Virginia’s official song. But the bills that would designate a new state song are languishing in committees, and if they’re not acted on by Tuesday, they’re dead for this session.

The General Assembly has been holding auditions for a new state song since “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” was retired in 1997 for its racist lyrics.

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