Virginia State Capitol building (Photo courtesy: Thinkstock/Sean Pavone)
The 2017 Virginia General Assembly session convenes Wednesday at noon, meaning 140 lawmakers, dozens of lobbyists and countless residents will descend on Capitol Square over the next six weeks.
In addition to considering amendments to the state's biennial budget, lawmakers will weigh policy changes to state law. Hundreds of bills have already been filed, and more will surface before a Jan. 20 deadline. Below are 10 we’re tracking to start the session.
- Del. Delores McQuinn (D-Richmond) has put forth a measure asking the state to allocate about $35,000 annually for the upkeep of just under 7,000 African-American burial sites in two long-neglected sites: Evergreen Cemetery in Henrico and East End Cemetery in the city. McQuinn’s proposal received mention in a New York Times op-ed published over the weekend.
- Another measure, put forth by two House Republicans, would allow local school boards to authorize in-school security officers to carry a gun, so long as the school board “solicits input” from the chief of police, the security officer in question was formerly a law enforcement officer and they complete certain training courses.
- A dozen Republicans have signed on as co-patrons to this bill, which would prohibit public universities and colleges from curtailing freedom of speech on campus. The measure is meant to “ensure our institutions of higher education encourage healthy debate and prevent censorship of contrary viewpoints or perceived controversial speech,” its chief patron, Del. Steve Landes, told the Augusta Free Press in September.
- The endless well of historic tax credits for rehabilitation and renovation projects may be drying up. Del. Richard “Rip” Sullivan (D-Arlington) has proposed an amendment to the state’s historic tax credit provision. If passed, it would impose an annual $5 million cap per taxpayer.
- Del. Bob Marshall (R-Manassas) is asking his colleagues to pass a so-called “bathroom bill.” An excerpt from its summary: “The bill also requires that the principal of a public school notify within 24 hours the parent or guardian of a child attending such school if the child requests to be recognized or treated as the opposite sex, to use a name or pronoun inconsistent with the child's sex, or to use a restroom or other facility designated for the opposite sex.” The ACLU, Equality Virginia and some of Marshall’s fellow lawmakers have already publicly condemned the proposal, which has been likened to North Carolina’s HB 2.
- This bill, proposed by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico), would require a school division to publish an annual student immunization report on its website.
- Del. Richard Bell (R-Staunton), put forth this measure to expand the state’s definition of hate crimes to include “acts” against police officers, firefighters or first-responders. In a September release, Bell cited the shooting in Dallas last July, in which he says officers were attacked “not because of who they are, but because of the uniform they wore.”
- A bill proposed by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Sen. William Stanley Jr. (R-Moneta) would repeal the mandatory six-month driver’s license forfeiture for first-time marijuana offenses. The proposal passed the Senate last year, but failed in a House subcommittee.
- Del. Benjamin Cline (R-Amherst) has proposed that Virginia declare each Jan. 22, beginning this year, as the “Day of Tears” to coincide with the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, which said women possess a constitutional right to have an abortion.
- Several bills seeking to amend the Virginia Freedom of Information Act have been prefiled, but this one would remove an exemption on working papers and correspondence for presidents or chief executive officers of state universities. Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) is carrying it in the Senate. Del. Kay Kory (D-Falls Church) is carrying it in the House.