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This Week at the 2018 Virginia General Assembly-Week 2

January 19, 2018 by Jeff Caruso

This Week at the 2018 Virginia General Assembly-Week 2

Conference staff worked hard this week to ensure Virginia retains vital pro-life protections and to advance protections for the mentally ill, families struggling to leave behind the cycle of poverty and drug abuse, and immigrant children trying to earn an education for a better life.
As our work on behalf of life, justice and the common good continues, please plan to join Diocese of Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge and Diocese of Richmond Bishop Barry Knestout as we pray with and for our civic leaders and the needs of Virginia at the third annual Virginia Vespers: Evening Prayer for the Commonwealth on Feb. 15 at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. Register here.
Here’s a look at how legislation on our agenda fared.
Protecting pro-life victories: Several bills (SB 133, Locke; SB 201, Favola; SB 292, McClellan) which would have rolled back vital and hard-won pro-life provisions in Virginia law were defeated early Thursday morning in a Senate committee, all by an 8-7 vote. These bills would have removed important informed consent requirements before an abortion, repealed hard-fought and hard-won health and safety standards for abortion facilities, and made it less likely for a woman qualifying for government-funded abortions to report to law enforcement that her pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. Conference staff testified in opposition to the bills.
Abolishing the common-law crime of suicide: A bill (HB 42, Kory) which would have abolished the common-law crime of suicide and likely lowered the penalty for assisting suicide was defeated in a bipartisan 6-2 vote in a House subcommittee on Wednesday. Conference staff testified in opposition to the bill.
Retaining ban on guns in places of worship: Current law bans a person from carrying a gun or other dangerous weapon to a place of religious worship while a meeting for religious purposes is being held, unless the person carrying the weapon has a “good and sufficient reason.” Conference-opposed legislation (SB 372, Sen. Chafin) that would repeal this current law passed out of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee on Wednesday in a 9-6 vote, and a Senate floor vote is expected early next week. Click here to tell your senator to vote “No” on this bill!
Sparing mentally ill people from death penalty: The Conference met with committee members and testified on behalf of SB 802 (Sen. Favola), a proposal to spare the severely mentally ill from the death penalty. In an 11–3 vote, the Senate Committee for Courts of Justice decided to send the bill to the Crime Commission for study.
Raising grand larceny threshold: Various Conference-proposals to raise the threshold for grand larceny above $200 were rolled into SB 105 (Sen. Suetterlein), which would raise the threshold to $500. It passed the Senate 36-3. We now call upon the House of Delegates to pass this sensible legislation, offering mercy and rehabilitation rather than excessive punishment. Virginia is currently one of two states to have such a harsh felony larceny threshold.
Removing bans on SNAP and TANF funding for previous offenders: SB 203 (Sen. Favola) would allow people who were formerly convicted of intending to distribute small amounts of marijuana who now undergo drug treatment and periodic drug screenings to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. SB 204 would likewise lift the lifetime ban on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families for individuals who have been convicted of first-time simple possession felonies but now meet the same requirements. The Conference supports these measures because they would help give people who are trapped in cycles of poverty and drug use adequate resources to escape that lifestyle. Each bill passed the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services and was referred to Senate Finance in 8-6 votes.
Allowing DACA young people in-state tuition: The Conference supported two bills introduced by Sen. Marsden that would have codified eligibility for in-state tuition to Virginia’s immigrant youth. SB 237 would have clarified the law to reflect Virginia’s current policy of granting in-state tuition to students protected under DACA. SB 810 would have offered in-state tuition to any Virginia resident whose parents pay income taxes and who is seeking status as a permanent U.S. resident. The Senate Education and Health Committee rejected both proposals in 8-7 votes. The Conference continues to call on Virginia to invest in its future labor force and community leadership, regardless of immigration status.