What's happening at the General Assembly in plain English

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House Kills Bill Limiting Overdose Prosecution

Bicycle-Passing Bill Advances

Senate Rethinks Uranium Exploration Guidelines

Two-Term Amendment Shelved Until 2015

Prince William Delegates Outline GA Agendas

Pro-Slavery Law Rescission Considered by Md. Legislature

Va. Lawmakers Introduce Anti-Human Trafficking Bills

Ethics Bill Aims to Reform FOIA Again

Bill Proposes Animal Cruelty Registry for Virginia

 

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By Quinn Casteel

1/17/14

 House Kills Bill Limiting Overdose Prosecution

 

RICHMOND - HB557 would have provided limited medical amnesty to those reporting a drug overdose caused by illicit drug use or alcohol abuse. The VCU chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy was instrumental in citing this public health issue to Del. Betsy Carr of the 69th District.

 

House Kills Bill Limiting Overdose Prosecution

 

By Chris Suarez

Capital News Service

 

            RICHMOND -- Legislation protecting Virginians reporting drug overdoses was introduced earlier this month after years of lobbying by a Virginia Commonwealth University student organization, but the bill will have to wait to be heard during next year’s General Assembly.

            Students for Sensible Drug Policy was the VCU group instrumental in helping introduce House Bill 557, Safe Reporting of Overdoses. The legislation sought to provide limited legal amnesty to anyone reporting a drug overdose.

            The bill aimed to protect anyone experiencing or witnessing a drug overdose -- whether from a controlled substance or synthetic cannabinoid -- according to VCU SSDP Co-president and Treasurer Rose Bono.

            “According to the office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia, hundreds of people die every year from unintentional drug overdose,” Bono said. “This is an important issue to the public health of Virginia.”

            The bill also provided protections for minors suffering from an alcohol-related overdose, addressing an issue common to colleges and universities throughout the country.

            “We’ve met parents and relatives of those who have died of overdose,” said the bill’s chief patron Delegate Betsy Carr, D-Richmond. “This (bill) is an attempt to save those lives.”

            The bill was heard in the Courts of Justice subcommittee earlier this week. After deliberation, the subcommittee recommended “laying it on the table,” essentially ending discussion on the bill during this session of the General Assembly, according to VCU SSDP President Jurriaan Van Den Hurk.

            Bono and Van Den Hurk say the VCU group plans to continue addressing the issue in the future.

            Bono says the drafting of this legislation has been in the works over the course of several years with help from former organization leaders and the national SSDP office.       After much lobbying and organizing, Carr adopted the issue by becoming chief patron of the bill.

            The national SSDP office encourages its local chapters to lobby for regulations in their respective universities that would protect students experiencing overdoses. Because VCU falls under the jurisdiction of the City of Richmond, university officials told members of the SSDP they would have to appeal to local legislators to adopt a law for the commonwealth, according to Bono.

            During the subcommittee meeting, Delegate Jackson Miller, R-Manassas, motioned to table the bill, citing unintended consequences the bill could cause such as providing amnesty  to drug dealers selling far more harmful adulterated drugs.

            “If someone was selling a bad batch of heroin and making people sick, and the police would show up at an overdose caused by that, the (police) wouldn’t be able to do anything about it,” Van Den Hurk said “They (subcommittee) said the bill wasn’t written well enough to account for those loose ends.”

            Van Den Hurk says the organization isn’t giving up on the issue. They will wait to see which members will take up leadership roles and shape a new policy to address the issue once he and Bono graduate this semester.

 

Lauren McClellan- mcclellanlm@vcu.edu,

Bicycle-Passing Bill Advances

 

RICHMOND – The Virginia Senate Transportation committee recently has approved a bill increasing the distance at which cars must pass bicycles from 2 feet to 3 feet.  The bill has been introduced in the past by many legislators, but has failed to pass as opponents think there are enforceability issues with the bill.  If enacted, the bill would also change the distance at which a car can pass electric personal assistive mobility devices, mopeds and animal-drawn vehicles.

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Bicycle-Passing Bill Advances

By Lauren McClellan

Capital News Service

 

RICHMOND – The Virginia Senate Transportation committee recently has approved a bill increasing the distance at which cars must pass bicycles, from 2 feet to 3 feet.

     Senate Bill 97, introduced by Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Fredericksburg, has been unsuccessfully introduced in the past by Reeves and a number of other Republican and Democratic legislators. 

     Previous opponents of the bill, including Sen. Charles W. Carrico, R-Galax, have cited enforceability issues as a reason for barring passage of the bill, saying that it is hard for drivers to know the difference between 2- and 3-foot distances while driving. 

    This bill would change the distance at which a car can pass electric personal assistive mobility devices (scooters and wheelchairs), mopeds and animal-drawn vehicles.

     Twenty-two other states and Washington, D.C. have similar laws that say drivers must pass bicycles with at least 3 feet of room.

     The Virginia Bicycling Federation supports the bill and its members have been meeting with legislators to advocate for the bill’s passage.

    "We had reps from the City of Virginia Beach speaking to the Senate Transportation Committee in support of SB97," stated Scott Cramer, board member of the VBF from Norfolk, Va.  "When city officials, not just cyclists, want to be seen as bike-friendly, that's a big step forward.”

     To Cramer, the new bill would give cyclists another layer of protection from vehicles that have wide trailers or large mirrors.  Cramer also thinks that the passage of this bill would help the relationship between Virginia cyclists and drivers.

     "It will help Virginia's standing as a bicycle-friendly state, since having a 3-foot pass law is a criterion from the League of American Bicyclists," Cramer stated in an email. "It sends a message to citizens -- drivers and cyclists -- that cyclists' space on the road should be respected."

     In 2013, the League of American Bicyclists rated Virginia the 16th most bike-friendly state.  The league provided feedback with their ranking, stating that Virginia should consider enacting a 3-foot passing law.  

     In 2015, Richmond will host the Union Cycliste Internationale World Road Championships.  Lee Kramer, marketing and communications director for the event’s Richmond organizing body, thinks SB 97 could benefit all of the commonwealth.

     “We hope this event is not (only) about bike racing, but making the region more bike-friendly for recreation and transportation,” Kramer said.  “Any legislation that further supports (this) is a good thing as far as we’re concerned.”

 

1/16/14

 

Senate Rethinks Uranium Exploration Guidelines

RICHMOND—Senate Bill 547, proposed by Sen. Frank Ruff Jr., R- Mecklenburg, is being tabled until the 2015 General Assembly session. The bill, as it was introduced, would have required Virginia Uranium Inc. and other permit holders to reimburse the State Department of Health for periodically providing a nontechnical analysis of water supply samples to residents within 750 feet of uranium exploration activity.

 Senate Rethinks Uranium Exploration Guidelines

By Eric Luther

Capital News Service

 

RICHMOND -- A bill was tabled this past week that would require uranium exploration permit holders to reimburse the State Health Department for providing water supply analyses to residents near Southside drilling activities.

            Proposed by Sen. Frank Ruff Jr., R- Mecklenburg, Senate Bill 547 mandated permit holders sample and submit an analysis of private wells within 750 feet of exploration activity to the Virginia Department of Health every six months to inspect water quality.

The bill, which is being carried over until next year’s General Assembly session, required an easy-to-understand explanation of the test results. The legislation also necessitated a final sample be taken six months after each exploratory hole is plugged.

            According to a press release, Ruff chose to postpone his bill after speaking with several stakeholders and Pittsylvania residents whom experienced problems with their wells after exploratory drilling occurred. Because necessary state reports given to families were technical in nature, Ruff says they did not understand the full health risks they faced.

            “My goal is to get somebody at the health department to take that report and translate it into something people can understand,” Ruff said. “We hope we can have a more comprehensive way of looking at it.”

             Ruff says the bill in no way suggested future mining activity take place in the commonwealth.

            “There was a bill last year to lift the moratorium,” Ruff said. “It was withdrawn at the last minute because there was no support for it.”

Co-patron Sen. William Stanley Jr., R- Moneta, says water quality is a concern of everyone in Southside Virginia.

            “Whenever drilling occurs there seems to be an alteration to the quality of water,” said Stanley, denoting an increase of lead in some surrounding wells. “Not only are we requiring a testing of that water … but also a disclosure of any changes in the water quality to the homeowner.”

            Stanley says SB547 -- as it was introduced -- was intended to safeguard the health of Virginians from any adverse effects drilling for core samples might create.

            “What we’re trying to do is protect the water of our people,” Stanley said. “It is one of our greatest natural resources.”      

            According to Stanley, Southside Virginia is home to some of the best watersheds in the country.

Jack Dunavant, president of Dunavant Engineering and Construction in Halifax County, has opposed uranium mining in Virginia for more than 30 years. He says SB547 may have looked good on paper, but ultimately was not.

“I don’t know how you could craft it (a bill) so a lot of these people would understand it,” Dunavant said. “I don’t know how to alert people other than to tell them it (the level of contaminants) exceeds certain acceptable limits.”

The engineer says SB547 was a step in the right direction, but the legislation needs to impose further regulations on any company wishing to begin exploratory drilling.

“It’s an OK bill,” Dunavant said. “But they (permit holders) should be required to notify any adjacent land owner and anyone who has a well within 1,000 feet of the property line where they’re drilling.”

Dunavant says the overwhelming majority of Southside residents oppose any sort of mining in the area.

“I cannot see the state ever allowing mining to happen because of the long-term detriment,” Dunavant said. “The bottom line is it’s not a question of if  -- it’s (chemicals) going to get out -- but when and by what means.”

            Dunavant says if companies could mine without leaving behind tailings, no one would have a problem extracting uranium.  However, the technology simply does not exist.

            “Most people don’t have the expertise to understand it,” Dunavant said. “This stuff is insidious. We have to be smarter about what we do.”

            Stanley says SB547, as it was introduced, was a good consumer protection bill.

             “Any mining -- if it ever occurred -- would have to be not only safe but not affect our livestock and our people,” Stanley said. “I would think water quality comes before profits. People come before profits.”

            An email was sent to a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Health but it had not been returned at press time.

 

Term Limits

01/16/2014

Two-Term Amendment Shelved Until 2015

 RICHMOND -- An amendment to the Constitution of Virginia that would allow the governor to serve two consecutive terms was put off until 2015, when the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates will consider it. Sen. John C. Miller, D-Newport News, said postponing the legislation was a matter of practicality.

 Two-Term Amendment Shelved Until 2015

 Jackson McMillan

Capital News Service

 

RICHMOND – An amendment to the Constitution of Virginia that would allow the governor to serve two consecutive terms was put off until 2015, when the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates will consider it.

Senate Joint Resolution 7, introduced by Sen. John C. Miller, D-Newport News, states, “The authorization to serve two terms in succession shall be applicable to persons first elected to serve as Governor in 2017 and thereafter.”

Miller says postponing the legislation was a matter of practicality.

“Constitutional amendments have to be voted on and there has to be an intervening election,” Miller said. “Then they have to be voted on a second time. So, it just makes sense in the process to hold it (the amendment) over to 2015”

The Virginia Constitution requires that amendments must be approved by a majority of the members of each house prior to and after an election. If the amendment were passed by the succeeding legislature, the measure would then be sent to voters.

Amendments such as SJR7 are introduced frequently in both legislative houses. Del. Harry R. Purkey, R-Virginia Beach, offered similar legislation every year of his delegacy (from 1994-2012). During the 2013 session, Senate Joint Resolution 276, introduced by Sen. Thomas Garrett, R-Hadensville, passed through the Senate but later died in House committee.

Virginia is the only state in the country that still limits governors to a one-term limit.

John Aughenbaugh, Ph.D., a political science professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, says imposing term limits on the governor is based on a combination of reasons.

“In part, it (the restriction is based on) culture and history,” Aughenbaugh said. “It reflects many of Virginia’s founding fathers’ belief that if government was going to have power, it (the power) should be in the legislative branch.

“(The other) part of it is the rather current fear by some that there is no good reason to change,” Aughenbaugh said. “They’ll (legislators) say, ‘Give me some solid administrative reasons and maybe I’ll consider it.’ ”

Miller says the House of Delegates is jealous of the appointive powers of the governor.

“I think (tradition) is part of it,” Miller said. “We’re a citizen legislature, because (Thomas) Jefferson wanted us to go home at the end of session and be with people and not become a professional legislature.  So part of it is tradition, but we’re in the 21st century, and I think we ought to join the rest of the country and have governors that can serve consecutive terms.”

Delegate Bob Marshall, R-Prince William, has been a long-term opponent of such legislation. He says allowing the governor to a second term would distract them (the governor) from fulfilling the duties of the executive branch.

“If we allow governors a second term, they would spend the first one maneuvering for their second term instead of focusing on their chief priorities,” Marshall said.

Miller says he thinks a second term would give governors an opportunity to accomplish more of their agenda.

“I think if you get a good (governor), you ought to be able to keep him for a second term for continuity,” Miller said. “Trying to come in and form an administration and get the things you want to do done in a four year time span is difficult.”

Delegate Marshall disagreed.

“(The voters) elected you to be a good guy now,” Marshall said. “Not later.”

For the amendment to succeed, Aughenbaugh said he thinks the membership in the House of Delegates will need to change.

“With the current membership of the House of Delegates, I don’t think the chances (of passing an amendment like this) are that good, largely because those who are opposed tend to be small-government Republicans,” Aughenbaugh said. “Those people do care about this.”

Miller says negotiations will have to continue in order for the measure to pass.

“If past history is any indication,” Miller said, “there’s going to have to be a discussion between the governor’s staff and House folks about what they’re willing to give up – if anything – and what they’re willing to accept.

“Sometimes around here, you just have to keep banging on the door until people catch up and see the wisdom of it,” Miller said.

 

Slavery History

Tamieka Briscoe

1-14-14

Pro-Slavery Law Rescission Considered by Md. Legislature

ANNAPOLIS - Some Maryland lawmakers say they are seeking to correct a past wrong and want to repeal a pro-slavery law that remains in effect after more than 150 years.
The Corwin Amendment, named after Ohio politician Thomas Corwin, would have permanently prevented Congress from overriding state slavery laws.

 

Pro-Slavery Law Rescission Considered by Md. Legislature

By Tamieka Briscoe
Capital News Service

 

ANNAPOLIS - Some Maryland lawmakers say they are seeking to correct a past wrong and want to repeal a pro-slavery law that remains in effect after more than 150 years.

     The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ended slavery in the United States, but the initial proposed 13th Amendment - called the Corwin Amendment - would have done just the opposite.

     The Corwin Amendment, named after Ohio politician Thomas Corwin, would have permanently prevented Congress from overriding state slavery laws.

     Approved by Congress in 1861, the Corwin Amendment was ratified by Maryland the following year. However, the outbreak and outcome of the Civil War prevented the legislation from ever becoming the law of the land.

    Maryland and Ohio were the only two states to ratify the amendment through legislative vote. Illinois ratified the amendment by constitutional convention, which was ultimately considered invalid because ratification required state legislative approval. While Ohio rescinded the law in the 1860s, Maryland’s acceptance of the amendment has yet to be overturned.

     Shannon Welch, a Chevy Chase native who is now a senior at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., stumbled across the Corwin Amendment during a summer internship at the Center for Legislative Archives in Washington, D.C. She said she read about Ohio’s ratification and rescission of the measure and was curious about Maryland’s connection to the amendment. When she discovered her home state had not rescinded the 152-year old law, she took action.

     One of the people she reached out to was her state senator, Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery County. Frosh, a Wesleyan University graduate, agreed to initiate the legislation to rescind Maryland’s ratification of the measure.

    “I contacted him on a whim,” Welch, 21, said. “I sent an email to multiple state representatives to see why this had never been overturned, and Senator Frosh emailed me back.”

    Frosh, who is running for state attorney general, said he does not anticipate any problems getting the bill passed.

 

     “We ought to put Maryland on the right side of history,” Frosh said. “I don’t believe this will be a heavy lift.”

      The bill's supporters say the measure to rescind the pro-slavery law has little to do with legality and more to do with legacy.

     “The Corwin Amendment is an amendment that failed, therefore any efforts to undo it at this point, is symbolic,” said Jonathan L. Entin, a professor of law and political science at Ohio’s Case Western Reserve University. “I believe that the legislators in Maryland are saying, ‘We are embarrassed that our past legislators did this ridiculous thing, and we want to set the records straight.’”

     Entin also said it is common for legislators to correct past laws that conflict with the liberties afforded by the U.S. Constitution.

 

     “Massachusetts did not ratify the Bill of Rights until 1939,” Entin said. “It was also symbolic.”

     The symbolism lies in the fact that the U.S. Constitution has a supremacy clause through which federal laws supersede state laws, Entin said. For this reason, the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery, applies to every state. In another example, Entin also referenced an Alabama interracial marriage ban that was not repealed until 2000.

     “It doesn’t matter what the Alabama Constitution says,” Entin said. “If Alabama had tried to enforce that provision, it could have been tried in court and the U.S. Constitution would prevail.”

 

     The bill is being sponsored in the Maryland House of Delegates by Delegate Curt Anderson, D-Baltimore; Delegate Jill Carter, D-Baltimore and Delegate Joseph F. Vallario, Jr., a Southern Maryland Democrat.

NoVa Issues

01-10-14

By Quinn Casteel

 

Prince William Delegates Outline GA Agendas

RICHMOND -- With the Virginia General Assembly underway, Prince William County delegates have begun pushing forward on the 47 bills of which the legislators are the chief patrons. During the first week of session, Delegates Richard Anderson, R-Woodbridge; Luke Torian, D-Dumfries; Michael Futrell, D-Dumfries  and Jackson Miller, R-Manassas each highlighted one or more bills they are focused on enacting during the 2014 General Assembly session.

Prince William Delegates Outline GA Agendas

By Quinn Casteel

Capital News Service

 

RICHMOND -- With the Virginia General Assembly underway, Prince William County delegates have begun pushing forward on the 47 bills of which the legislators are the chief patrons.

During the first week of session, Delegates Richard Anderson, R-Woodbridge; Luke Torian, D-Dumfries; Michael Futrell, D-Dumfries  and Jackson Miller, R-Manassas each highlighted one or more bills they are focused on enacting during the 2014 General Assembly session.

Delegate  Miller, R-Manassas

In addition to his service as Republican majority whip, Miller’s top projects will include participation on the newly-formed bipartisan ethics committee, mental health issues and House Bill 606, which deals with the number of judges assigned to different types of courts.

The Virginia Supreme Court has completed a study of judges’ caseloads of throughout the state and found areas with higher populations such as parts of Prince William County had judges with large caseloads. Miller’s bill will try to re-allocate the number of judges in each district based on these findings.

“In one area of the state you have judges working their tails off like in Prince William,” Miller said. “And (in) other areas of the state they just simply don’t have the same caseload.”

With the most recent census showing a 30-percent rise in the Prince William County’s population during the past decade, Miller said he thinks the services rendered through the state should reflect that increase.

“It’s going to be a very difficult bill because -- like with any re-allocation bill -- some jurisdictions are going to win … and some are going to lose,” Miller said.

Delegate Futrell, D-Dumfries

Veterans and current military families are among the strongest emphases for Prince William County’s newest delegate.

One of Futrell’s top priorities, House Bill 777, would stop the state taxing of the retirement pay of veterans living in Virginia.  Similar pieces of legislation already have been passed in North Carolina and other “military-friendly” states. Futrell says passage of his bill would be an important step in keeping veterans and active military members in Virginia.

“Instead of going to Texas or California, the skills and things that they’re (the veterans) learning in the military, whether it’s leadership, management or science and technology, these are things that we can utilize right here in our commonwealth.” Futrell said.

Futrell also has proposed House Bill 782, which would give a $1,000 tax credit to anyone purchasing a home from military personnel whom are scheduled for deployment.

Aside from his focus on military families, Futrell also is working on implementing regional innovation councils aiming to bring more businesses to Prince William County.

Delegate Torian, D-Dumfries

With the population of Prince William County at 410,000 and growing, one of Torian’s main focuses is House Bill 685, which would distribute communications sales and use tax revenues across the state in proportion to the population of the jurisdiction. 

According to the Virginia government website, communication sales and use-tax revenue distribution is based on the locality’s share of telecommunications and television funds, which are raised from various taxes such as the video programming excise tax.

        “Our economic base is very important to us, so we need to do everything we can to ensure that we’re being fiscally responsible,” Torian said. “And we’re receiving the revenue that is reflective of our population growth.”

     Torian is another member of the bipartisan ethics group, for which he is taking a primary role in pushing forward House Bill 689. The bill would require legislators and lobbyists to file financial disclosure reports semiannually rather than just once a year.

     “It brings greater credibility and accountability to what we’re doing,” Torian said.

Del. Anderson, R – Woodbridge

     House Bill 997, which deals with proceedings for the removal and relocation of human remains, is of particular relevance to Anderson and Prince William County because of the recent dispute over the discovery of pre-Civil War remains at the Lynn family graveyard on the construction site of the county’s 12th high school.

     Anderson proposed the bill with the goal of establishing a law that “more clearly defines the procedures” for making determinations about disinterring, relocating and reinterring the remains found in gravesites that happen to be in a construction zone.

     “It created some community consternation,” Anderson said of the Lynn family graveyard situation. “I attribute that to the fact that there is a lack of concrete guidance for the local governments, and this bill will lay that out.”

     Additionally, Anderson said he plans to emphasize his work in a bipartisan group that will present six or seven government ethics bills. The series of bills will focus on what government officials can or cannot receive from third parties, and how these transactions are recorded.

 

 

01/17/14

 

Va. Lawmakers Introduce Anti-Human Trafficking Bills

 RICHMOND — General Assembly members have introduced multiple anti-human trafficking bills for the current legislative session. Richmond Justice Initiative, a local faith-based, anti-human trafficking nonprofit organization held its annual Lobby Day at the General Assembly Thursday to advocate for the legislation. The Lobby Day included a press conference with a group of bipartisan legislators working to pass anti-human trafficking bills.

 

Va. Lawmakers Introduce Anti-Human Trafficking Bills

 

By Kate Miller

Capital News Service

 

RICHMOND — General Assembly members have introduced multiple anti-human trafficking bills for the current legislative session.

Delegate Barbara Comstock, R-McLean, and Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, introduced bills HB994 and SB453. This legislation would create a human trafficking stand-alone offense in Virginia. The term “human trafficking” currently is not defined by Virginia law.

Obenshain says this legislation would help Virginia law enforcement officers who struggle to find remedies to human trafficking.

“We have put together a comprehensive human trafficking statute,” Obenshain said, “to give law enforcement the tools necessary to address these offenses in a comprehensive way.”

Obenshain says Virginia is one of only two states that do not have a

comprehensive human trafficking statute.

The Richmond Justice Initiative, a local faith-based, anti-human trafficking nonprofit organization, is advocating for the passage of HB994 and SB453.

RJI held its annual Lobby Day this past week at the General Assembly. During the Lobby Day, a group of about 45 RJI volunteers met with legislative representatives to advocate for the bills.

An anti-human trafficking press conference with bipartisan legislators was held in association with RJI.

Obenshain, Comstock, Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria; Delegate Tim Hugo, R-

Centreville; Delegate David Bulova, D-Fairfax; Delegate Watts, D-Annandale and Delegate Marcus Simon, D-Falls Church, participated in the press conference.

Hugo says human trafficking is an important issue to both political parties.

It’s a family issue,” Hugo said. “It’s a human issue … and I don’t think partisanship has a role to play in this (human trafficking).”

Delegate David Bulova, D-Fairfax, introduced HB767, which would allow property used in connection with certain human trafficking crimes to be subject to forfeiture to the state.

Bulova says the bill is meant to combat the profit motive for traffickers.

“Law enforcement can take away your (human trafficker) assets,” he said. “So that under no circumstances will anybody ever be able to profit from this absolutely terrible crime.”

According to Bulova, immediate assets used in connection with trafficking as well as any profits or interest derived from those assets would be subject to forfeiture.

Bulova says HB660 and HB1155 — other proposed bills dealing with asset

forfeiture for human trafficking — would essentially have the same effect as HB767.

“The idea is to take the best from all of the versions (of the bill), bring them into one (legislative effort) and ensure that we’re going to the Courts of Justice Committee with a united front,” Bulova said.

Obenshain and Delegate Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville, introduced SB454 and HB235. These measures would add individuals who solicit sex from a minor to the Sex Offender Registry.

“This crime would not exist if it weren’t for the demand for it,” Bell said. “Fewer women will be trafficked if we can have fewer men who are trying to have relations with them through prostitution.”

Hugo introduced HB 485, which would add certain prostitution and abduction offenses as crimes for which attorneys may issue administrative subpoenas to obtain records for criminal investigations.

It is important to focus on electronic communication in the fight against human trafficking, according to Hugo.

“The street has now been replaced by the online world,” Hugo said.

Hugo also introduced HB486, which would require people currently mandated to report suspected child abuse or neglect to also report suspected trafficking of children.

Hugo says such legislation has not been passed yet because of lack of awareness of the issue of human trafficking.

“I don’t think there’s any evil … on anybody’s mind,” Hugo said. “It’s just people haven’t thought that some people are that bad that they would try to do this (traffic) to young children.

 

FOIA REFORM

01/17/14

 

Ethics Bill Aims to Reform FOIA Again

 RICHMOND – Among the flurry of ethics reform bills being proposed throughout the Virginia General Assembly is Senate Bill 212, which would remove Freedom of Information Act exemptions for legislators and their aides.  Under current law, General Assembly members and legislatives aides are exempt from Virginia’s FOIA act, which means their working papers and written correspondence are unattainable for public viewing.

Ethics Bill Aims to Reform FOIA Again

By Quinn Casteel

Capital News Service    

 

RICHMOND – Among the flurry of ethics reform bills being proposed throughout the Virginia General Assembly is Senate Bill 212, which would remove Freedom of Information Act exemptions for legislators and their aides. 

The new FOIA bill, which is part of an ethics package authored by Sen. J. Chapman Petersen, D-Fairfax, would remove Delegate Tag Greason’s, R – Potomac Falls, House Bill 1639 less than a year after its approval.

HB1639 also is known as the 2013 General Assembly FOIA Exemption Act. The measure officially added legislative aides to the exemption list of Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act.

Currently, General Assembly members and legislatives aides are exempt from Virginia’s FOIA act, which means their working papers and written correspondence are unattainable for public viewing. Petersen said SB212 would increase accountability in the Virginia legislature.

 “We need as much transparency as possible, and then people can make up their own minds,” Petersen said. “(FOIA) has an incredible influence on people because it makes you realize, ‘Hey I’m under scrutiny at all times.’”

House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox, R-Colonial Heights, and House Minority Leader David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, announced a bipartisan agreement pushing forward a plan for ethics reform.  This proposed legislation come following a financial controversy surrounding former Republican Gov. Robert R. McDonnell.

“The (FOIA) exemption has been broadly interpreted, and it’s now used for everything,” said Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. “Anything that narrows that scope and keeps things in check is a good thing.”

Delegate Luke E. Torian, D-Woodbridge, patrons House Bill 689, which would require legislators and lobbyists to file financial disclosure reports semiannually rather than annually. Along with the rest of the ethics legislation, the bill’s stated goal is to prevent another controversy by aiming for more government transparency.

“We just simply want to let the citizens of the commonwealth know that we’re operating with a tremendous level of integrity,” said Torian, one of an increasingly large group of bipartisan House members involved in ethics reform.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe was sworn in as governor this past week, while McDonnell faces federal and state investigations regarding gifts received while in office. The Justice Department said in December a decision for or against indicting McDonnell could come as late as February.

Petersen said in the current culture there is a symbiotic relationship between donors and politicians.

“It may be that way in every government, but I think right now it’s more pronounced in Virginia because you have unlimited gifts, unlimited donations, and the transparency is minimal,” Petersen said. “It’s all self-reporting.”

 

 

 

ANIMAL CRUELTY REGISTRY

1/16/14

Bill Proposes Animal Cruelty Registry for Virginia

RICHMOND -- An online animal cruelty registry will be established in the Commonwealth of Virginia this month if Senate Bill 32 is passed.  Sen. William Stanley, R-Richmond, says now is the time for Virginia to pass its own registry bill.

 

Bill Proposes Animal Cruelty Registry for Virginia

 By Jessi Gower

Capital News Service

 

RICHMOND -- An online animal cruelty registry will be established in the Commonwealth of Virginia this month if Senate Bill 32 is passed.    

    Although several states have enacted third-, second- and first-offense felony animal cruelty laws, New York is currently the first and only state to pass an animal abuse registry bill.

     Chief Patron of SB32, Sen. William Stanley, R-Richmond, says now is the time for Virginia to pass its own registry bill.

     “I think a registry of this nature is long overdue in Virginia,” Stanley said.

     Many animal rights groups across the country have shown support for bills dealing with animal cruelty registries, but there are groups who are known to have reservations about such registries.

     The Humane Society of the United States has criticized such legislation and says a public online registry isn’t the way to deal with those convicted of animal felonies.

     “Experience has made clear that such individuals would pose a lesser threat to animals in the future if they received comprehensive mental health counseling,” the humane society blog stated.  “Shaming them with a public Internet profile is unlikely to affect their future behavior- except perhaps to isolate them further from society and promote increased distrust of authority figures trying to help them.”

Stanley disagrees and says he believes the registry will not only help to stop animal cruelty, but will also help to prevent it.

“I think sunlight is the best antiseptic,” Stanley said. “Sometimes people will think twice before they commit a crime, knowing that it would be on public display.”

If the bill passes, 782 individuals who already have been convicted of felonies against animals would be automatically listed on the public online registry.

“The best way is to allow the public to know who these very serious felons are,” Stanley said. “So they can prevent animals from getting into the hands of the wrong people.”

In 2011, Delegate Daniel Marshall, R-Danville, proposed similar legislation with his House Bill 1930.  Kristen Howard, executive director for The Virginia Crime Commission says the commission reviewed this study but did not make any recommendations on the bill because of a lack of endorsement for the bill.

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