Last week was "crossover" for the General Assembly- the time when each house of the legislature must complete consideration of bills introduced into its chamber. After Tuesday of last week, only bills introduced by the Senate can be considered by the House of Delegates and vice versa. The exception is the budget bill, which is given an additional week for consideration in each house. Bills that had been tabled during debate in the house in which they were introduced are now effectively defeated.
As I indicated in last week’s column, hundreds of bills have been passed in each house, but most of the bills impact only a small number of people, government and court procedures, and local governments. In order for a bill to become a law it must pass both houses of the legislature in identical form and be signed by the Governor. Bills on the same subject that are passed in different form by the two houses are reconsidered by committees of conference, usually made up of three delegates and three senators. If an agreement cannot be reached and then approved by both houses, the bills are then considered to be defeated.
Here is where some of the high-profile issues are in the House: current law limiting handgun purchases to one per month passed the House. I voted against this. A similar bill is coming over from the Senate. The Governor has said that he will sign it, justifying its legitimacy on the basis of the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
Ultrasound requirements before receiving an abortion also passed the House. Again, I voted "no." No health reasons were given in its support. This will be used as a way to slow down the abortion process and will also make it more difficult for women to make a decision. I also voted against the bill that defines a fetus as a person. The implications for the legislation are not fully known but clearly far-reaching. Whether it outlaws some forms of contraception or could be used to outlaw abortion entirely by the overturning of Roe V. Wade, many real concerns are being raised.
The death penalty was expanded to include others beyond the "triggerman," in murder cases. I also chose to oppose this, as I oppose all death penalty bills. Several immigration bills requiring a check of immigration status of individuals came up as well. I voted against these measures.
Also considered was the Governor’s transportation plan that takes money from education to build roads. I strongly opposed this and voted "no." Education is already underfunded. This plan does not provide adequate monies to meet transportation needs, but we will continue to find a plan that does before the end of session.
There is still a lot of action that will take place on these and other bills. Stay tuned for the second half of the session, now that we are past crossover. Follow General Assembly action at: http://lis.virginia.gov/.