Virginia State Capitol (Photo courtesy: Thinkstock/Sean Pavone)
1. Both the Senate and the House passed a Del. Delores McQuinn (D-Richmond) proposal to provide about $35,000 annually for maintenance of the Evergreen Cemetery in Henrico County and East End Cemetery in the city. Gov. Terry McAuliffe supports the initiative.
2. A bill that would allow local school boards to permit in-school security officers to carry guns sailed through the House. The Senate passed the measure on a 24-16 vote, meaning its fate lies with the governor. McAuliffe vetoed a similar bill last year, citing concerns that it would “expose schools and students to unnecessary risk and potential harm by allowing individuals without adequate training to carry firearms on school grounds,” according to a statement. Del. Scott Lingamfelter, one of the bill’s Republican co-sponsors, said this year’s version outlines a more rigorous vetting process, Capital News Service reported.
3. A largely symbolic measure that would prohibit public universities and colleges from limiting free speech on campus passed both chambers with bipartisan support.
4. Developers and preservationists were dealt a blow when lawmakers passed a bill capping at $5 million the amount of historic tax credits an individual taxpayer can claim. (The House version we had flagged died in committee, but a similar version first introduced in the Senate by Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) passed both chambers after back and forth over when the cap would go into effect.) If signed into law, it would apply beginning in 2019.
5. One of the session's most controversial measures died a swift death after a week. A House subcommittee tabled Del. Bob Marshall’s (R-Prince William) “Physical Privacy Act,” which sought to restrict bathroom access to individuals of the facility’s designated sex. Opponents characterized the proposal as an attempt to discriminate against transgender individuals, similar to that of a North Carolina bill passed last year.
6. Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) measure that would have required school divisions to make available immunization data on its students was voted down at her request in the Senate Health and Education committee.
7. Del. Dickie Bell’s (R-Staunton) bill that would have expanded the state’s definition of a hate crime to include acts against law enforcement officers and first responders did not make it to a vote in a House subcommittee. Bell told The News Virginian that its tabling was a “slap in the face to the people I had included in the bill.”
8. Lawmakers voted en masse to ease punishments for first-time marijuana offenders, eliminating the state’s mandatory six-month driver’s license suspension. The bill, proposed by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Sen. William Stanley Jr. (R-Monete), now heads to McAuliffe, whose signature would seal a victory for pot proponents in the state.
9. Virginia became the first state to recognize Jan. 22 as the “Day of Tears” after the House passed Del. Benjamin Cline’s (R-Amherst) resolution marking the anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. The resolution was met with frustration from some Democrats and abortion rights groups, who said it shamed women for personal health decisions.
10. The working papers and emails for presidents or CEOs of state universities will remain off limits under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act after a Senate subcommittee killed this bill proposed by Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax).