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Votes

From Late Night Comedy to Your Bedroom

Why the General Assembly matters more in Virginia than most states.

See for Yourself

Visit http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/ and click on "members and session," and see the "quick links" section for live video links, information on who your legislators are and how to track bills. Every resident is represented by one state delegate and one state senator; look up your and email to be placed on their mailing lists. Consider attending their local meetings.

The Virginia General Assembly began its annual session last week on Jan. 8.

The actions of the Virginia General Assembly matter more to localities than it would in many other states. In Virginia, localities have only the power specifically granted by the General Assembly, the Dillon rule.

So, for example, Montgomery County and Prince Georges County in Maryland recently voted to increase the minimum wage in those localities. They didn’t need permission from Maryland General Assembly to do so. Arlington and Alexandria might be inclined to follow suit (the District government also voted to increase the minimum wage) but do not have that power.

The General Assembly limits how localities can raise revenue, what kinds of traffic regulations they can implement, whether they can control where guns are allowed, whether school districts can begin classes before Labor Day, and much more.

Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria sent their members of the Northern Virginia delegation of state senators, all Democrats, and delegates, overwhelmingly Democrats (13-5), to Richmond, where the House of Delegates is overwhelming Republican and control of the Senate is still up in the air pending special elections.

Del. Ken Plum (D-36) filed HB536 which would "increase the minimum wage from its current federally mandated level of $7.25 per hour to $8.25 per hour effective July 1, 2014, and to $9.25 per hour effective July 1, 2015, unless a higher minimum wage is required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act." It isn’t likely to see the light of day.

Anyone can watch the Virginia House of Delegates or Senate on streaming video when either is in session, and the Virginia General Assembly proved last year that it can be worthy of national attention for entertainment. It is in fact well worth tuning in once or twice or more. Visit http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/ and click on "members and session," and see the "quick links" section for video links.

Legislators will consider literally thousands of bills between now and March 8.

Some quite random examples of proposed legislation from local delegates and senators:

  • Del. Dave Albo (R-42): Driving while intoxicated; refusal of blood or breath tests. This bill would allow a person who has been arrested for driving while intoxicated and who has refused to submit to a blood or breath test be given another opportunity to consent to testing after the arresting officer has advised the person of the consequences of his refusal.

  • Del. David Bulova (D-37): One bill would allow the employment of lights for the observation of deer (spotlighting) for certain activities authorized by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Another would provide that property used in connection with certain crimes associated with human trafficking is subject to forfeiture to the Commonwealth.

  • Del. Scott Surovell (D-44) has propose the repeal of last year’s hybrid tax, plus a bill that would place a cap on the compensation that may be paid to a special counsel appointed to handle certain legal matters where it would be improper or uneconomical for the Attorney General, or the Attorney General is unable, to handle such matters. That cap would be the same as allowed for a court appointed attorney, a very small amount.

  • Del Barbara Comstock (R-34) proposes to allow local school districts to set their own calendars. Another bill would include non-motor vehicles including bicycles among vehicles that any driver must not tailgate. Another would require most state colleges and universities to allocate 75 percent of their slots for in-state students by 2019-2020 school year.

  • Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) proposes to prohibit firearms on the floor of the House of Delegates. Another bill would require public institutions of higher learning in Virginia to provide a dedicated page on its website to information on mental health resources available to students.

  • Del. Rob Krupicka (D-45) proposes that an unexpired Virginia driver's license remains valid for purposes of voter identification at the polls notwithstanding the fact that it has been suspended or revoked under certain circumstances. Another bill would clarify that vehicles must stop to allow pedestrians to cross highways at marked crosswalks.

  • Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-67) proposes an amendment to the U.S. Constitution; "Makes application to the U.S. Congress to call a constitutional convention for the purpose of proposing a constitutional amendment that pertains to the subject of balancing the federal budget."

  • Del. Kaye Kory (D-38) also proposes to allow local school districts to set their own calendar and to repeal the hybrid tax. Another bill would clarify a law which prohibits a person from overtaking or passing another vehicle stopped at a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection when a pedestrian is present.

  • Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49) proposes a Virginia version of the Dream Act, allowing in-state tuition for students who came to the U.S. as children without documentation when certain conditions are met.

  • Del. Mark Sickles (D-43) proposes to create the Virginia Health Benefit Exchange, which will be established and operated by a new division within the State Corporation Commission.

  • Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) proposes the repeal of the constitutional amendment dealing with marriage that was approved by referendum at the November 2006 election.

  • Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37) would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor for the owner of a website to both post an arrest photo and solicit, request, or accept money for removing the photograph.

  • Sen. Chap Petersen (D-34) proposes to require drivers and passengers to wait for a reasonable opportunity to open vehicle doors on the side adjacent to moving traffic, an effort to prevent the "dooring" of bicyclists.