State Sen. William “Bill” Mims (R-33) and Del. Richard “Dick” Black (R-32) lost some but won more when it came to the bills they wanted the General Assembly to pass during the 2003 legislative session.
Mims saw 27 of his 36 proposed bills pass and land on the Governor’s desk to be signed into law, while six of Black’s 22 bills will get Gov. Mark Warner (D)’s consideration for the March 24 deadline.
“With the measures I wanted to advance, there were more successes than failures,” said Mims, a six-year senator who lives in Sterling. “I regret that the General Assembly as a whole didn’t deal with some of the largest issues we have to face.”
Mims referred to the General Assembly’s postponement of transportation and education initiatives and the reallocation of those funds, along with several initiatives for tax reform. “That’s a disappointment. Those are major issues through Virginia,” he said.
FOR MIMS, his major successes this session included helping reopen the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office in Sterling, creating the Virginia Fair Housing Board, tightening the identity theft laws and increasing penalties for driving while intoxicated offenses.
Mims and state Sen. Russell Potts, Jr. (R-27) offered legislation to the Senate calling for the reopening of the 12 DMV offices Warner closed late last year. After a Senate amendment instructing DMV to open the offices and a budget amendment providing needed operational funds passed, DMV opened the offices on Feb. 20. The entire $26 billion budget is scheduled to be approved April 2, when the General Assembly will reconvene for a veto-override session.
“It took the General Assembly to force the reopening when they should have never been closed in the first place,” Mims said.
Mims’ major legislative bills include Senate Bill (SB) 1102, which creates the Virginia Fair Housing Board to enforce the provisions of the Fair Housing law and to hear housing discrimination complaints.
“Housing discrimination based on race, disability and prohibited factors simply is wrong,” Mims said. “All Virginians know it’s wrong. Unfortunately, our enforcement has not worked well.”
Mims’ identity theft legislation, SB-979, aims to curb the use of Social Security numbers on state documents and to punish the illegal distribution of those numbers, such as posting them on the Internet for sale.
“This new law will help shield this most sensitive information,” Mim’s said, adding that identity theft “is a serious crime, and I’m pleased the Attorney General is treating it seriously.”
Another piece of legislation, SB-1019, increases the penalties for the conviction of driving while intoxicated offenses to $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third and subsequent offenses. “This is a crime that is completely preventable if drivers would drink responsibly,” Mims said.
But with all of his successes, Mims had a few disappointments.
“I introduced on behalf of Gov. Warner to tighten our seat belt laws. There is no doubt it would have saved many lives,” Mims said about the failure of SB-1325, under which the negligence of wearing seat belts in motor vehicles would have been a primary offense, instead of a secondary offense as the law now stands.
Mims’ other disappointment was a lack of support from the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee to extend protections of the Whistle Blowers Protection Act to private sector employees. Mims plans to push the two bills through the next legislative session if he is reelected in November.
BLACK'S SUCCESSES involved human rights and pro-life legislation.
"He was extremely pleased with the results of the session,"
said legislative aide Callie Brennan, who spoke on behalf of Black while he was out of town last week.
Black saw the passage of House Bill (HB) 1402 that requires parental consent for abortion for girls under the age of 18, and the Choose Life license plate.
Other bills Black saw pass include:
* House Bill (HB) 1520 or Hannah’s Law, which gives the juvenile courts authority to require mandatory counseling for children who commit crimes while below the age of legal responsibility.
Black drafted the bill after hearing a report of two Ashburn boys, ages 5 and 6, who in June 2002 allegedly made sexual overtures and beat a three-year-old girl named Hannah. Hannah's parents were told the juvenile court had no jurisdiction over the two boys, nor did the boys’ mother voluntarily submit the boys to counseling.
"This is an important measure to protect children who have been attacked by other children and to help the children who attack them be giving them the assistance they need," Brennan said. "It gives some type of recoil for young children who have been attacked."
* House Bill 1516, which prevents localities from prosecuting individuals with a concealed carry permit who enter parks and other areas carrying a concealed handgun. Localities controlled gun use until 1987, when the state adopted uniform gun laws but allowed the localities to maintain previously adopted laws.
* House Bill 1518, which prevents public schools from banning Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts from conducting meetings at school facilities. The private organizations are under fire for the use of God in their pledges.
"This is to protect them, saying public schools cannot discriminate against them," Brennan said.
With his successes, Black saw a few of his bills fail to get passage. He saw a house joint resolution protecting the Transportation Trust Fund die in the Senate after it was voted 96-0 out of the House. The joint resolution was combined with other resolutions into HJ-645 to prevent the state under constitutional amendment from using Transportation Trust Fund and Highway Maintenance and Operating Fund moneys for other uses.
Also, Black's HB-1519 was tabled at the committee level. The bill proposes preventing localities from raising property taxes by more than 5 percent from the previous year, unless increases in population or a voter referendum dictates the need for a higher increase.