The 2017 session of the Virginia General Assembly continues to move full speed ahead as we conclude a busy second week of legislative business. The deadline to file bills is today, and Conference staff continues to comb through every bill filed, highlighting those for which to advocate or oppose.
House and Senate committees are in the midst of considering thousands of bills by “crossover” on February 7th , after which date the House and Senate can only consider bills that have passed the opposite chamber. Conference staff testified on quite a few of the bills debated in committees this week. Here’s a look at how some of those fared:
Regulating Abortion Clinics: Conference-opposed legislation, SB 877 (Sen. Favola), which would have repealed the abortion clinic regulations that led operations to be suspended at a Fairfax clinic last spring due to 26 health and safety violations, was defeated in an 8-7 vote by the Senate Education and Health Committee. The Conference played an important role in the passage of the law directing the Board of Health to devise and implement abortion clinic regulations in 2011, and vigorously opposes any efforts to weaken regulation and oversight of the abortion industry.
Recognizing January 22nd as the “Day of Tears” in Virginia: HR 268 (Del. Cline), which encourages Virginians to lower their flags to half-staff every January 22 to mourn the nearly 60 million innocents who have lost their lives to abortion since the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down by the Supreme Court on January 22, 1973, passed the House on Wednesday in a 57-36 vote. This resolution is the first in the United States to pass, and supporters are hopeful that other states will follow Virginia’s lead. The Conference supported the resolution to remember the millions of children lost to abortion. The first Day of Tears will be this Sunday, January 22.
Adoption Tax Credits: Conference-supported legislation, HB 2027 (Del. Freitas), failed to advance out of a House Finance subcommittee on a voice vote. The bill would have created a tax credit and deduction for the adoption of a child within the Virginia foster care system. The subcommittee recommended that the proposal be referred to the Commission on Youth for further study. We look forward to continuing our work on this issue in the future.
Protecting Religious Liberty: In a 4-2 vote, a House General Laws subcommittee advanced a bill, HB 2025 (Del. Freitas), to protect the right of religious organizations, including charities and schools, to follow the teaching that marriage is the union of a man and a woman without being penalized by state government. The full committee will soon consider this bill, one of the Conference’s top priorities for the 2017 session.
Preserving Scholarship Tax Credits: In a voice vote, a House Finance subcommittee rejected a Conference-opposed bill (HB 1707, Del Filler-Corn) that would have reduced tax incentives for donations to charities and K-12 scholarship foundations that help low-income students.
Immigration Enforcement: A Conference-opposed immigration enforcement measure, HB 1468 (Del. Robert Marshall), passed out of the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee in a 10-7 vote. This bill, which would force cities and counties to comply with every federal detainer request and undermine trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement, will be heard on the House floor next week. Alongside many of the Church’s leaders across the nation, Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco has directly addressed the issue in the wake of a highly publicized tragedy that took place within his archdiocese in 2015. You can read the archbishop’s statement in support of local law enforcement’s right to discretion in these matters here.
Raising the Minimum Wage: Conference-supported efforts to raise the minimum wage have been killed in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. The Conference testified at the committee hearing that raising the minimum wage is a pro-family policy that respects the dignity of work and would enable the self-sufficiency of more working families. After the defeat of SB 785 (Sen. Marsden) in an 11-3 committee vote, SB 978 (Sen. Dance), was stricken by the patron. Four Conference-supported minimum wage bills still remain to be considered by a House committee.
Protecting Consumers from Predatory Lending: The Conference received press coverage for its advocacy in favor of SB 1126 (Sen. Surovell), which applies the Commonwealth’s lending regulations to a growing market of loans contracted over the Internet. The Conference has long supported measures to protect vulnerable consumers by closing loopholes that exist in Virginia’s financial law. The bill passed out of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee with bipartisan support, in an 8-5 vote. It is expected to be heard on the Senate floor next week.
Driver’s Licenses for Immigrants: The Conference once again supported legislation, SB 1345 (Sen. Surovell), to allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue driver privilege cards to taxpaying residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. The Church stands in solidarity with undocumented parishioners who contribute to the Commonwealth’s cultural and economic life. Despite overwhelming testimony in favor of the bill, it failed in a 7-6 vote. A companion bill, HB 1682 (Del. Bloxom), will be heard by the House Transportation Committee in the near future. We also look forward to supporting similar pieces of legislation that are patroned by members of both parties, including HB 1419 (Del. Kory), HB 1688 (Del. Lopez), and HB 2020 (Del. Villanueva).
Virginia Executes Ricky Javon Gray
On Wednesday, the Commonwealth put to death Ricky Javon Gray at 9:42 pm, despite the petitions of Catholics and others for Governor McAuliffe to commute Gray’s sentence to life without parole. Gray is the 112th person to be executed by the Commonwealth since 1982, after he was sentenced to death for the 2006 murders of seven Richmond residents. Echoing Pope Francis and the U.S. Catholic Bishops, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington and Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond issued this joint statement expressing their profound sorrow and grief for victims of violence, as well as their hope for an end to capital punishment.
Plan to join us for these upcoming advocacy and prayer events:
Catholics in the Capital: On Thursday, February 9th, come to Richmond and meet your delegates and senators and advocate for the important issues outlined in our agenda. Just schedule your February 9 legislators’ visits and our staff will be happy to provide talking points and updates beforehand. Find legislators’ contact information here. Let us know after you’ve made the appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Virginia Vespers: After meeting with your delegates and senators, stick around and join Virginia’s bishops, legislators, fellow Catholics and people of all faiths as we pray for the needs of the Commonwealth at our second annual Virginia Vespers: Evening Prayer for the Commonwealth on Thursday, February 9th at 5pm at Richmond’s historic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. A wine and appetizers reception follows. Sign up here.