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.

However, balloons are popular at birthday parties and other celebrations and commemorations. Some of McWaters’ colleagues ridiculed his bill.

“We have law enforcement that do very important jobs for us now out on a balloon sting – an undercover balloon sting operation,” said Sen. William Stanley, R-Franklin County. He joked that police would be “pegging” 9-year-olds for arrest, and they would then have to post bail.

That seemingly ludicrous depiction of reality under SB 1107 isn’t just caricature. According to an impact statement prepared by the state Department of Planning and Budget, “The DEQ believes an enforcement presence would be required to survey areas where such balloons may likely be released, such as birthday parties, parks, and weddings.”

At the suggestion of another senator, McWaters amended his bill so that it wouldn’t apply to people under 18.

McWaters said the bill was aimed at raising awareness about the hazards of environmental waste. “We’re really not looking for enforcement here so much. We’re really just trying to educate on this bill.”

The senator summed up the message of his bill as, “Do not be a litter bug.”

Asked how his bill would affect the birthday party and clown businesses, McWaters, in a moment of jest, pointed to the Democrats and answered, “I have consulted with my friends over here on the other side, and they tell me that the clown industry is happy with this bill.”

McWaters said the proposed law would not pose a significant cost to the commonwealth. According to the impact statement, DEQ would have to hire six workers – one for each regional office – to help enforce the measure, at the annual cost of $600,000.

It’s uncertain how much revenue the bill might have generated.

It sought to retain the current civil penalty of $5 per prohibited balloon released. Under the existing law, the money goes into the state’s Lifetime Hunting and Fishing Endowment Fund. However, a citation hasn’t been issued since 2009, and the fund has never received any money, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

The bill would have changed the law by depositing balloon-release fines into the Litter Control and Recycling Fund, which benefits local governments.

On the morning of the debate, McWaters found his office filled with nearly 300 balloons. Without admitting guilt, Stanley said, “If it was me, I was doing it because if we ban balloons, I had to get it in by July 1.” That is the date new laws passed by the General Assembly usually take effect.

Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover, sent the Senate chamber into fits of laughter when he said that last weekend, his young daughter asked him to buy her a balloon. He refused, saying he could not because one of his friends was sponsoring a bill to make releasing balloons illegal.

The girl told her father that McWaters was a “bad man” and that he “needed to put him in jail,” McDougle said.
Bail Bonds Chesterfield VA

Reynolds CC dedicates student center

Reynolds Community College recently celebrated the dedication of the Jerry and Mary Owen Student Center, named for longtime supporters of the college who have made numerous investments in it.

Jerry Owen served on the Reynolds College Board from 1984 to 1988, and he and his wife support the college’s scholarship fund and created an endowment for the Reynolds Middle College, which helps students earn a high school equivalency and transition into a degree or workforce credential program. > Read more.

Capital One sponsors ‘Coders Experience’

Capital One hosted its “Coders Experience” event in Richmond and a number of other state locations Oct. 14. The events attracted hundreds of middle school girls, who learned how to create their own mobile apps, hone problem-solving skills and gain software development knowledge. A second day of Coders Experience events will take place Oct. 21. More than 500 Capital One volunteers are participating in the 10 events. > Read more.

Hermitage band member named All-American

The U.S. Army All-American Bowl Presented by American Family Insurance Selection Tour will visit Hermitage H.S. Oct. 19 to recognize Truman Chancy as a 2018 U.S. Army All-American. Hermitage High School will honor Chancy before his classmates, bandmates, family and friends at the high school’s band room during band practice, and he will be presented with his honorary All-American Marching Band jacket. > Read more.

Crime Stoppers’ Crime of the Week: Oct. 16, 2017

This week, Metro Richmond Crime Stoppers is asking for the public to assist the Richmond Police Department in the identification of wayward artists that were using buildings as their canvas.

In the early morning hours of Sept. 14, four people were recorded on security cameras vandalizing multiple properties in the area of the 2500 blocks of West Main Street and Floyd Avenue. The suspects (pictured) were walking north on Robinson Street and spray painting the properties as they meandered along. > Read more.

Slipping through

Hermitage quarterback Jay Carney escapes defenders during the Panthers' 33-0 win against Godwin Friday night. Hermitage is 8-0 and has won its past four games by a combined score of 172-28. > Read more.

Henrico Business Bulletin Board

October 2017

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Varina Library will host a Halloween Horror Side by Side of “Psycho” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The group will view the original 1960 film “Psycho,” directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock, and the 1998 American horror film of the same name, directed and produced by Gus Van Sant, side by side. For details, call 501-1980 or visit Full text

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