An issue likely to be a centerpiece of Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis’ (R-34) re-election bid, gun control, is also one of her top pieces of legislation this year.
Under current law, most dealers must perform a background check on prospective buyers before selling a weapon. Small dealers, or more often individuals, are exempt from this provision.
The exemption is commonly called the “gun show loophole” since many of these private sales are made in these venues. Devolites Davis is proposing legislation this year which will close the so-called loophole.
While it might be able to pass through the state senate, gun control bills face an uphill battle in the House of Delegates, where the Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety routinely kills gun control legislation.
So, Devolites Davis has added a provision to sweeten the deal. “Anyone that has a background check when they sell will be immune from prosecution,” she said. The issues, she said, came to her attention because three Virginia gun stores are being sued by the State of New York because they sold guns which were later used in a crime. The stores performed the necessary checks, she said.
She hopes that the prosecution immunity, similar to what is done in California, will make the bill attractive enough to some of the more pro-gun members of the Assembly.
DEVOLITES DAVIS plans to bring back a few other bills which have failed in the past. Last year, she introduced legislation which she hopes would make the land use process more transparent.
Under current law, local elected officials must disclose if they have received $100 or more in campaign contributions, in the past 12 months from someone who is seeking a rezoning of their land.
Devolites Davis would extend this disclosure to the Plan Amendment phase.
Local governments have a difficult time denying a rezoning request if it complies with the Comprehensive Plan. For this reason, she thinks it is important to know where the money is at the planning stage.
The bill died in committee in the Senate last year, but she made a change which she thinks will give it a better chance to succeed this year. “It’s coming back because I think the transparency is important,” she said.
She will also re-introduce a bill mandating that electronic voting machines also have a paper printout, or that localities use an optical scanner.
Continuing her usual work on technology issues, she hopes to institute protections which will protect state computers from being accessed by unauthorized people, and a separate bill setting up regulations for electronic signatures.
She also plans to bring back another bill which has failed in the past, red light cameras. The Virginia General Assembly had allowed some localities, including Fairfax County, the City of Fairfax and the Town of Vienna, to use cameras to catch red-light violators.
The enabling legislation expired on June 30, 2004 despite the efforts of local representatives to continue its use. While the cameras are still up in many locations, they may no longer be used to ticket violators.
Governments who use the technology typically praise its use. It helps reduce red light violations at intersections where the cameras are installed and reduces the number of “T-bone” collisions.
Opponents noted that it increased the number of rear-end collisions, and some legislators feared that the cameras would be an invasion of privacy. The various attempts to bring the bill back were routinely killed by the House Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety.
However, the same technology is now proposed for use to help track vehicles using toll lanes on roads built in public-private partnerships. Many who had been opposed to red-light cameras may now be more open to them, Devolites Davis said. “I understand there is a different attitude in the house,” she said.