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Votes

Legislators Begin General Assembly Process

Gov. Mark Warner’s (D) decision last week to reopen 12 Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices in Virginia brings “relief” to state Sen. William “Bill” Mims (R-33).

“It was an enormous burden on the people of Loudoun and the Herndon area to only have one DMV office locally in Leesburg,” Mims said. “I’m glad he’s admitted that mistake and taken the appropriate steps to open the DMV office. … There were enormous delays after Warner’s decision. Going to the DMV is a necessity, not a luxury, and the state has the responsibility to make that as convenient as possible.”

Mims, Del. Richard "Dick" Black (R-32) and Del. Thomas Davis Rust (R-86) prepared a budget amendment to reverse the closures. The General Assembly, which convened on Jan. 8, will have to pass the amendment before the offices can be reopened, expected by the end of the month. Without Warner’s decision, as announced during his State of the Commonwealth Address, the General Assembly would have made the closures a top priority for the session, Mims said, adding, “It’s nice to be able to remove that with complete success.”

MIMS SUBMITTED more than 30 bills to be considered during the 45-day session, which is scheduled to adjourn Feb. 22, and plans to submit at most another five bills by the end of next week.

“All of them are at the committee level, and I expect many of them will be heard by committee this week,” Mims said.

The Senate Commerce Committee heard and voted unanimously in favor of one of Mims’ bills, which if passed will lower the age of youth referees from 13 to 12 years, as requested by the Student Youth Soccer Association. The association told Mims it cannot find enough referees 13 years and older.

“State law does regulate when teen-agers can go to work in various capacities. This is one area where the state law was too strict,” Mims said. “We certainly don’t want to cancel games.”

Mims said the Chesapeake Bay Foundation gave its support for a bill streamlining the state’s administrative processes and that a bill to curb identity theft has received support from various groups and organizations.

“A lot of what’s being done now is behind the scenes before these bills will be heard in committee,” Mims said.

DEL. RICHARD “DICK” BLACK (R-32) submitted several bills for the House to consider, including House Bill (HB) 1520, or Hannah’s Law, which a subcommittee for the Courts of Justice Committee unanimously passed Jan. 8 to send to the full committee. Black drafted the bill after hearing a report of two Ashburn boys, ages 5 and 6, who allegedly made sexual overtures and beat a 3-year-old girl last June after locking her in their bedroom.

“They beat her unconscious with a toy truck,” Black said, adding that when the girl regained consciousness, the boys asked if she was dead. “When they found she wasn’t, they beat her more until she was unconscious again.”

Hannah’s parents were told the juvenile court had no jurisdiction over the two boys, since they were below the age of legal responsibility, nor did the boys’ mother voluntarily submit the boys to counseling, Black said. “What the bill does, it gives the juvenile courts jurisdiction, so they can require mandatory counseling for children in these circumstances.”

Another of Black’s bills, HB 1489, will be considered with four similar bills that, if passed, will require ministers, priests and rabbis to report suspected child abuse by the clergy. “It’s crucial to restore the integrity of the church and to avoid the situation that occurred in Boston, where we had pedophiles transferred from one church to another,” he said.

BLACK RECEIVED support from the Commonwealth Transportation Alliance for House Joint Resolution 551, which through a constitutional amendment would prevent the state from pulling money out of the Transportation Trust Fund for other uses.

“I think it’s important they came on board because they are an organization with political clout,” Black said about the organization of road builders, engineering firms and transportation advocates. “They all agreed this is the most comprehensive bill to protect transportation funds.”

Last week, Black asked Whitt Clement, Secretary of Transportation, if Warner would support the proposed constitutional amendment. “The secretary would not directly answer the question but indicated the governor probably would not support anything that barred raids on the transportation funds,” he said.

Black also received support for HB 1402, which would require parental consent for abortions. The bill has 52 co-sponsors in the House and 19 co-sponsors in the Senate.

“The feeling in the General Assembly, the bill is very likely to be enacted into law. The enactment of that law will save the lives of 1,000 boys and girls every year in Virginia,” he said.