The 2015 session of the Virginia General Assembly is entering the home stretch as Senate and House Committees race to hear bills that have passed the other chamber and get them to the floor for a vote before the 46-day session comes to an end next Saturday.
The House and Senate are also engaged in budget negotiations as they attempt to flesh out the differences between the House and Senate budget bills. The Conference will continue to push for its budget priorities as these negotiations continue.
Here’s how some of the Conference’s priorities fared this week:
Compounding execution drugs: Introduced on behalf of the McAuliffe Administration, (SB 1393, Senator Saslaw), a bill opposed by the Conference, would authorize Virginia’s Department of Corrections to contract with companies to compound drugs from scratch to use for lethal injection executions. Today, the bill passed the House Courts of Justice Committee in a 12-5 vote (link unavailable) after passing the Senate last Tuesday in a 23-14 vote (NAY reflects Conference’s position). The bill now goes to the floor for consideration by the full House next week.
Protecting Chaplains: Conference-supported legislation (SB 690, Senators Black and Barker), ensuring that state government officials could not censor the religious content of sermons made by chaplains of the Virginia National Guard or the Virginia Defense Force, passed unanimously in the House of Delegates on Tuesday after passing the Senate unanimously a few weeks ago. Parties with various perspectives on the bill agreed to a helpful amendment that provided important clarifications and alleviated concerns that had been expressed when this initiative was considered last year. The bill now awaits the Governor’s signature.
Seclusion and restraint regulations: Two Conference-supported bills (SB 782, Sen. Favola and HB 1443, Del. Dickie Bell) would require the state Board of Education to adopt regulations consistent with U.S. Department of Education guidelines on the use of seclusion and restraint techniques in Virginia’s elementary and secondary public schools. Currently, there are no regulations for the use of these dangerous behavioral support techniques, which are disproportionately used on students with physical and intellectual disabilities. The use of seclusion and restraint has resulted in bodily and psychological injury to Virginia students, and schools currently have no obligation to inform parents when seclusion and restraint practices are utilized. The proposed regulations would require the use of evidence–based behavioral support techniques. This week, HB 1443 passed the Senate 37-1 after passing the House unanimously, and SB 782 passed the House unanimously after passing the Senate in a 35-4 vote. The bills now await the Governor’s signature.