As the 2016 Virginia General Assembly session enters its final week, House and Senate negotiators are busy working out their differences so that both chambers can vote on a final budget next week to guide state spending for the next two fiscal years.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate continued to take action on bills that have passed the other chamber.  Here’s a look at how Conference priorities fared this week:

Defunding Abortion Providers:  In an 8-7 vote (YEA represents the Conference’s position), the Senate Education and Health Committee passed Conference-supported legislation, HB 1090 (Delegate Cline), which would prohibit the state from contracting with, or providing a grant to, any abortion provider that performs abortions outside of the three Hyde Amendment exceptions (life of the mother, rape and incest).  The legislation would also divert public health funds away from the abortion industry toward vital community health centers.  The full Senate will vote on the measure early next week.

Electric Chair Expansion Bill:  In a 9-5 vote (NAY reflects the Conference’s position), the Senate Courts of Justice Committee passed Conference-opposed legislation, HB 815 (Delegate Miller), which would require the state to electrocute death row prisoners when the Department of Corrections (DOC) certifies that lethal injection drugs are not available “for any reason”. The legislation would effectively make the electric chair Virginia’s permanent execution method.  Noting the teaching of Pope Francis and his predecessors, as well as our bishops, the Conference opposes use of the death penalty. Electrocution is also especially inhumane, and DOC should not be given virtually unlimited discretion to mandate the use of the electric chair. The full Senate will vote on the measure early next week.

Act now to urge your senator to support life on both of these bills by clicking here.

Protecting Religious Liberty:  In a 14-7 vote (YEA represents the Conference’s position), the House General Laws Committee approved Conference-supported legislation, SB 41 (Senator Carrico), to protect religious ministries against governmental discrimination based on their belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.  When the bill passed the Senate earlier this session, it had been more narrowly drawn to protect clergy members who decline to participate in marriage ceremonies that conflict with their beliefs.  With the help of Senator Carrico, the House committee added safeguards to ensure that religious charities and schools also could practice their beliefs without penalty.  The Conference thanks Senator Carrico and Delegate Gilbert for their collaboration in expanding the bill’s protections during the House committee debate.  The full House will vote on the measure next week.

Scholarship Tax Credit Program:  In a 21-19 vote (YEA reflects the Conference’s position), the Senate passed Conference-supported legislation, HB 1017 (Delegate Massie), which increases the number of days scholarship foundations participating in the Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits program may use to process donations of marketable securities.  The bill now awaits the Governor’s signature.