Tuesday marked the “crossover,” the half-way point of the 46-day Virginia General Assembly session. Going forward, each chamber may only consider legislation that has passed the other chamber. On Thursday, both the House of Delegates and Senate passed their respective budget bills, which will now go to a joint conference committee that will smooth out the differences between the two bills and come up with one bill that will then be voted on by both the House and the Senate.
The Conference sent out our mid-session summary report on Thursday as well, detailing where some of our key legislative priorities stand at present. Click here to view the report. The Conference has seen some hard-won victories that protect recent pro-life gains and address the scourge of human trafficking.
Here’s how some of our 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. Unfortunately, the bill passed the Senate on Tuesday in a 23-14 vote (NAY reflects Conference’s position) and now awaits consideration by the House Courts of Justice Criminal Subcommittee.
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 on the Senate floor and in the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee. A floor vote is expected in the House next Tuesday. 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.
Restricting taxpayer funding of abortion: On Thursday, a Conference-supported budget amendment (Del. R.G. Marshall, Del. Landes, Del. LaRock) that would conform Virginia’s budget to the longstanding federal Hyde Amendment—which prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion except in the cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother—passed the House in a 61-34 vote. Virginia’s Medicaid program currently funds abortions in cases where the child may be born with a disability. This amendment would prohibit such funding.
Prohibiting changes to abortion clinic safety regulations: A Conference-supported budget amendment (Del. R.G. Marshall) to prohibit the use of state funds for the implementation of changes to the abortion clinic safety regulations passed the House 63-36. The State Board of Health is currently conducting a premature and unnecessary review of the regulations, and is expected to propose changes that would significantly weaken common-sense oversight of the abortion industry.