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Column: Gun Safety Among Early Legislative Actions

Though barely two weeks old, the General Assembly Session is already moving at breakneck speed, with multitudes of bills being considered and with ongoing discussions of how to move Virginia forward on key issues including transportation and gun safety.

In the aftermath of Newtown and other tragedies, I introduced a package of gun safety measures seeking to make Virginians safer. My bill to criminalize firearm sales to those ruled mentally incompetent or involuntarily committed was unanimously recommended by the Courts of Justice Committee and sent to the Finance Committee for funding consideration. My legislation regarding stolen firearms was combined with another bill and if passed would see that police report stolen weapons to the National Crime Information System. Regrettably my measure to require a background check before every firearm purchase in the Commonwealth, closing the “gun show loophole,” was not passed out of committee, nor was my legislation that would have prohibited guns in the State Capitol and our legislative office building.

The nomination of University of Virginia Board of Visitors Rector Helen Dragas has been a hot topic within the UVA community and with many constituents since last summer. You may remember the controversy over the forced resignation and subsequent rehiring of UVA President Teresa Sullivan. There was considerable criticism over the lack of transparency and Ms. Dragas’ leadership in the episode; indeed, UVA’s accrediting body sanctioned the university with a “warning” for not following its own governance requirements. For the first time in nine years, I opposed confirming a gubernatorial appointment and spoke against the nomination. However, the full Senate confirmed the nomination, which now moves to the House of Delegates.

I remain concerned with the incredibly long lines at the polls of last November. Two of my bills to simplify and clarify the absentee ballot process have passed committee unopposed. Legislation I co-sponsored to allow senior citizens to vote absentee without an excuse passed the Senate. Unfortunately, legislation I co-sponsored for “no-excuse absentee voting” failed, along with my bill extending polling hours to 8 p.m.

Governor McDonnell has offered a transportation plan acknowledging the need for increased funding. Notably, he proposes that we become the first state to eliminate the gas tax and instead raise Virginia’s sales tax from 5 percent to 5.8 percent. However, eliminating the gas tax is no guarantee of a correlating price cut at the pump. He also proposes an additional $100 annual fee for fuel-efficient vehicles. I disagree with this approach and oppose penalizing clean fuel vehicle drivers — especially if other drivers no longer have to pay a gas tax at all.

I have been working with Senator Don McEachin of Henrico for several years to codify prohibitions against state employment discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. After a prolonged debate in the General Laws Committee and an 8-7 vote, the bill now moves to the Senate floor.

To read more about Senator Ebbin’s agenda, visit www.adamebbin.com. He can be reached at 804-698-7530 or at district30@senate.virginia.gov.