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Virginia General Assembly Halftime Report: Here Are the Bills That Have Passed and Failed So Far

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It’s halftime at the Virginia General Assembly.

The state Senate and House of Delegates have finished hearing and deciding on their own bills, and those passed now will “cross over” to the other chamber to be considered. The session ends Feb. 25.

If a bill passes both chambers and is signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, it becomes law.

About 1,500 of the 2,600 pieces of legislation proposed this session have passed one chamber so far.

Many annual favorite bills pitched by progressives and Democrats died swift deaths in the Republican-controlled House and Senate. Other bills will not get past Democrat McAuliffe’s veto pen.

Of the 350 bills that already have passed both chambers, only one – which brings the state’s tax code into conformity with federal law – has been signed by McAuliffe.

Some of this year's issues and where they stand to date:

Alcohol

Passed

Alcohol in commercial lifestyle centers: Creates a new type of alcohol license that would allow patrons to take alcohol outside in "pedestrian-friendly commercial centers with at least 25 acres and 100,000 square-feet of mixed use development." (HB1987, SB1391)

Constitutional Amendments

Passed

Property taxes, spouses of disabled vets: Creates a property tax exemption for surviving spouses of disabled veterans, even if they move. (HJ562)

Transportation fund lockbox: Designates that transportation funds can be used only for transportation unless the General Assembly votes to borrow from the fund with a more than two-thirds vote. Funds would have to be paid back within four years. (HJ693)

General Assembly veto power: Gives the General Assembly the ability to suspend or nullify any administrative rule or regulation. (HJ545)

Failed

Redistricting commissions: Several bills aimed to create nonpartisan redistricting commissions.

Governor term limits: Allows the governor to serve for two terms.

Felon civil rights restoration: Authorizes the General Assembly to restore civil rights to anyone convicted of a felony who has completed the sentences and paid the fines.

Economic Development

Passed

Port host cities fund: Creates two funds for cities that have ports. One would go to transportation routes heavily used by port traffic. Another would go to economic development. While the framework has passed, money for the funds may be hard to come by. (SB2013)

Elections/Voting

Passed

Proof of citizenship before voting: Requires those registering to vote to provide proof of United States citizenship, like a birth certificate, passport or naturalization documents. (HB1598)

Amended and passed

Automatic suspension of constitutional officers: Calls for automatically suspending constitutional officers if convicted of a felony. The House version was changed to apply to any officers, including city council and school board members and other public officers. (HB364, SB1487)

Failed

Ban personal use of campaign fund: Makes it illegal for politicians to use campaign funds for personal use. (HB1446)

Environment

Passed

Coal ash reevaluation, recycling: Requires Dominion Virginia Power to reevaluate and explore options to recycle coal ash in storage pits across the state. (SB1398)

Sand replacement permits: Authorizes the Virginia Beach Wetlands Board to create a general permit for sand removal instead of a more onerous process currently in use for removing sand from your property and putting it back on the beach. (HB1517)

Failed

Creation of coastal resiliency secretary: Creates a cabinet position dedicated solely to obtaining federal funding to combat sea-level rise and develop a statewide adaptation strategy. (SB1349, HB1964)

Hurricane and Flooding Risk Reduction Act: Creates an authority and a blueprint for the state government to respond to a massive hurricane. The group would be responsible for planning flood barriers and other flood- and hurricane-reduction infrastructure. (HB2320)

Freedom of Information Act/Transparency

Passed

City, school boards must post register: Requires localities and school boards to post their check registers online. (SB795)

Exemptions for fracking chemicals: Exempts disclosing certain chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act; deems them a trade secret. (HB1678)

Guns/Hunting

Passed

Blaze pink while hunting: Allows hunters to wear blaze pink instead of blaze orange hunting apparel when required during firearms deer hunting season. (HB1939)

Failed

Dogs on private property: Fines hunters whose dogs go on private land without landowners' permission. (HB1900)

Health Care/Mental Health

Failed

Expedited screening in jails: Aims to screen new jail inmates for mental illness within 72 hours. (HB1783)

Marijuana

Passed

Marijuana decriminalization study: While no formal bill passed either chamber, Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment has asked for the crime commission to study decriminalization.

Failed

Decriminalize marijuana possession: Those in possession would be slapped with a fine of no more than $250 for a first violation and $1,000 for multiple violations. (HB1906, SB908)

Police/Crime/Corrections

Passed

Raise felony theft threshold: Increases from $200 to $500 the threshold amount of money or value of goods taken at which the crime rises to grand larceny. (SB816)

Failed

Jail death investigators: Hires two professionals to investigate suspicious deaths at jails, and assigns professionals to the now-citizen Board of Corrections. (HB1723)

Technology

Passed

Delivery robots: Allows electric personal delivery devices to operate on sidewalks. The little autonomous white robots will deliver goods and food orders to residents. (HB2016, SB1207)

Revenge porn civil suit: Creates a civil cause of action against an individual who knowingly and intentionally creates any image of any nonconsenting person who is nude or semi-nude. The bill also creates a civil cause of action against “revenge porn,” defined as anyone who maliciously disseminates or sells nude images without permission. (SB1210)

Amended and passed

Virginia Broadband Deployment Act: The bill was largely criticized for what some said would stifle competition and make it more onerous for cities to create their own broadband services. The amended bill cuts out all of that. What remains is a bill geared toward adding transparency in municipal broadband systems. (HB2108)

Porn as public health hazard: The bill previously designated porn a public health hazard, but it was toned down and now only recognizes pornography as “leading to individual and societal harms.” (HJ549)

Tourism

Passed

Airbnb/short-term rentals: Authorizes a locality to adopt an ordinance requiring the registration of persons offering property for short-term rental. (SB1578)

Transportation/Tolls

Passed

Left-lane fine: Virginia drivers going too slow in the left lane could get $250 fines. (HB2201)

Regional gas tax floor: Creates a floor to collect the tax revenue Hampton Roads has been missing for years because of a legislative oversight. The bill would bring in an additional $21 million a year to fund transportation mega-projects. (SB1456)

Police interaction during driver’s ed: Requires teaching students in driver’s education classes what to do when stopped by police, including “appropriate interactions” with officers. (HB2290)

Failed

Mega-region airport study: Study the feasibility and practicality of building a mega-region airport in Greater Hampton Roads. (HJ690)

Drunk biking: Makes it illegal for any person operating a bicycle, Segway or moped on a highway while intoxicated. (SB1223)


This story originally appeared on PilotOnline.com.

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