The 2014 session of the Virginia General Assembly is in full swing. The Virginia Catholic Conference kicked off the session on Wednesday, January 8 with our 2nd annual Virginia Stands for Life prayer walk and rally on Capitol Square. Hundreds of people of all ages and faith backgrounds braved the record-breaking cold temperatures to gather on the Capitol grounds to remind our elected officials of the continued support of pro-life legislation across the Commonwealth. Speakers included representatives from several pro-life organizations, and we were honored to have renowned pro-life leader Lila Rose of Live Action as our keynote speaker! Lila Rose rallied the crowd with her words as she celebrated Virginia’s achievements regulating abortion clinics and requiring ultrasounds as part of informed consent prior to an abortion. She encouraged Virginians to protect these gains and push for more life-saving legislation.
After the rally, Conference staff hit the ground running to implement our 2014 legislative agenda. Here’s an update on how a few items on the Conference’s legislative agenda fared during the first full week of the 2014 session:
Tuition Equity Act: Conference-supported legislation, SB 249 (Senator McEachin), would grant in-state tuition status to immigrant students who have been granted Deferred Action status through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The bill would allow DACA students to receive in-state tuition at Virginia colleges and universities if they attended high school in Virginia for three years and can prove they (or their parents/legal guardian) have filed Virginia income taxes for three years. Currently, DACA students attending Virginia colleges and universities must pay out-of-state tuition rates. The Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education passed the measure on a 2-2 vote and will now go before the full Senate Education and Health Committee.
Scholarship Tax Credit Program: SB 269 (Senator Stanley) would allow donations to scholarship foundations to be claimed for a Scholarship Tax Credit in the taxable year the donation was made. Currently, a one-year delay between the tax year in which the donation is made and the tax year in which the credit can be claimed has prevented some potential donors from participating in the program. After passing the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday on a 10-5 vote, the bill could be voted on by the full Senate as early as Monday.
Death Penalty: HB 942 (Delegate Surovell) sought to eliminate electrocution as a means of administering the death penalty in the Commonwealth. The Conference supported this measure, consistent with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ longstanding opposition to the death penalty. The measure died by a voice vote of 4-1 in the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Subcommittee #1. The Conference opposed HB 1052 (Delegate Miller), which provides that electrocution shall be used to administer the death penalty if the Director of the Department of Corrections certifies that the drugs necessary to perform a lethal injection are not available as a method of execution. The bill was passed by the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Subcommittee #1 and passed the full committee 15-6.
Do you wish you could come to the General Assembly and directly impact the outcome of proposed legislation in Virginia? Come to Richmond January 30th and join us for our annual Catholic Advocacy Day! This is a unique opportunity for Catholics across the Commonwealth to come to Richmond, hear from the Bishops, and visit the offices of their legislative representatives to advocate for the common good! Register today!