Newsletter: 2017 General Assembly Session-Volume 6

We are now in the final week of the 2017 Session. We still have quite a bit of work to do, as a number of bills, including the budget, are in conference committees to work out differences between the House and Senate versions. Last week the Senate passed a number of controversial bills.

First, the Senate passed a significantly re-written HB 1853, (Gilbert). As it passed the House, the bill created a fund to reimburse entities that offer firearms safety training to victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, stalking, or family abuse, and required courts, upon the issuance of a protective order, to provide the petitioner for the order be with a list of such approved courses or classes. This bill was similar to SB 1300 (Vogel), which I voted against because it prioritized gun safety courses over all other services victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, stalking, or family abuse need to escape their plight. However, as amended by the Senate, HB 1853 merely permits DCJS to fund gun safety training courses in addition to the other services it provides, caps reimbursements to the amount in the fund, and requires courts issuing a protective order to also provide a list of local resources, including contact information for any sexual and domestic violence victim service provider, Victim Witness Program, Legal Aid or Legal Services office, crisis intervention hotline, individual support services, support groups, emergency companion services, emergency housing or transportation services. With these amendments, I voted for the bill.

The Senate also passed a number of controversial bills on a party line vote that the Governor has already vetoed or is expected to veto.

First, the Senate passed HB 1582 (Campbell) expanding eligibility for concealed handgun permits for individuals 18 years or older an on active military duty or have been honorably discharged from service. The Governor vetoed this bill yesterday because it would allow an individual who completed basic training but was subsequently disqualified from having access to a weapons could apply for a concealed handgun permit. Read the Governor's veto message here.

Second, the Senate passed HB 1432 (Ware) authorizing the concealed carry and sale of switchblades. The Governor vetoed this bill yesterday. Read his veto message here.

Third, the Senate passed HB 1578 (R. Bell), the so-called Tim Tebow bill requiring public schools to open interscholastic programs to home-schooled students, without subjecting those students to the same academic or attendance standards. The Governor vetoed an identical bill last ear, and vetoed HB 1578 yesterday. Read his veto message here.

Fourth, the Senate passed HB 1852 (Gilbert) providing that for a period of 45 days after the issuance of a protective order, the person who has issued the order may lawfully carry a concealed handgun. The bill eliminates the application and training requirements associated with concealed handgun permits and allows petitioners to carry a concealed handgun immediately upon the issuance of any protective order. Last year, the Governor vetoed an identical bill with amendments allowing judges to expedite the concealed handgun permit approval process for individuals who had already given serious consideration to the risks and responsibilities associated with concealing a handgun and completed all necessary training requirements. I expect him to likewise veto this bill.  

Fifth, the HB 2264 (Cline) defunds Planned Parenthood by prohibiting the Department of Health from spending any funds on an abortion that is not qualified for matching funds under the Medicaid program, or providing any grants or other funds to any entity that performs such abortions. The bill also prioritizes the types of entities that the Department of Health contracts with or provides grants to for family planning services. As a practical matter, the bill would prohibit any Medicaid funding for abortions in the case of gross fetal abnormalities, and prohibit the Department from providing any grants to Planned Parenthood for sexually transmitted infection testing. The Governor has stated he will veto this bill.

Sixth, the Senate passed HB 2025 (Freitas). Couched as a "religious freedom" bill, this bill would permit someone solemnizing a marriage to refuse to do so on religious grounds. Any legitimate protections afforded by this bill are unnecessary because they are duplicative of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; Article I, Section 11 of the Constitution of Virginia; and the Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Any additional protections are styled in a manner that prefers one religious viewpoint-that marriage can only validly exist between a man and a woman-over all other viewpoints. Such a dynamic is not only unconstitutional, it equates to discrimination under the guise of religious freedom. For these reasons, the Governor vetoed an identical bill last year, and I expect him to do the same this year.

Finally, the Senate passed HB 1596 (Webert) prohibiting a state agency from requiring a bidder, contractor, or subcontractor from performing services at rates based on prevailing wages and benefits. Virginia does not have a statewide prevailing wage law. Accordingly, this bill would have no impact on state funded procurement projects. Additionally, any project funded in whole or in part
by federal dollars must adhere to the Davis-Bacon Act, including its federal prevailing wage provisions. Projects and employers who adhere to prevailing wage standards improve the lives of working families, local economies, and their communities. This legislation attempts to lower wages and impedes future labor agreements. Virginia's efforts should be focused on increasing wages,
which will improve the lives of our families and aid our efforts to build a new Virginia economy, rather than placing artificial restrictions on their future growth. For these reasons the Governor vetoed a similar bill last year, and I expect him to do so again. 

These are just a few of the bills that passed the Senate this week that I expect the Governor to veto.

Jennifer McClellan presents SB 1493 before House Education Committee where she previously served. 
My Legislation

I am happy to say that the three bills I sponsored that passed the Senate are well on their way to passing the House this week.  

First, SB 1493, my computer science teacher training bill, passed the House unanimously with a substitute confirming it to the House version carried by Delegate Greason (HB 1663). Both bills will go into conference to make technical amendments.

Second, SB 1475, my family life education bill reported unanimously from the House Education Committee today and should pass the House later this week. You can watch me speak to the bill here.

Finally, SB 1494, my TNC broker bill, passed the House unanimously today.
You can track the progress of all my legislation through the final week of session here.