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This Week at the 2019 Virginia General Assembly-Week 3

January 25, 2019 by Jeff Caruso

This Week at the 2019 Virginia General Assembly-Week 3

We have many new developments to report this week. Read highlights of our work during the third week of session below. But first, please register for Vespers, which is only a little more than two weeks away!
ERA:  After a full hearing, a House Privileges and Elections subcommittee voted 4-2 on Tuesday not to pass the ERA (HJ 577, Rasoul; HJ 579, Carroll Foy; HJ 583, Ward; SJ 284, Sturtevant). Procedural efforts to revive the ERA continued today and failed in the House Privileges and Elections full committee. There is no denying the ERA poses a threat to the unborn. Last week, Planned Parenthood and other groups filed a lawsuit arguing that the Pennsylvania Constitution’s ERA language, which is consistent with the federal ERA, must be construed to require taxpayer funding of abortion through Medicaid.  The suit also requests that the court “declare that abortion is a fundamental right under the Pennsylvania Constitution.” Please continue to voice opposition to the ERA as efforts to revive it continue. Thank you again to all who have acted and all who have come to Richmond to speak against it!
Child protection: We support legislation being considered this year to add clergy to the state’s list of mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect, with exemptions for clergy-penitent communications. We supported the same proposal the last time it was introduced (during the 2006 session). The bill strengthens protections for children in state law and respects religious doctrines and practices. It complements the longstanding reporting policies of Virginia’s Catholic dioceses. This morning, the Senate bill (SB 1257, Vogel) passed the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee 14-0 (vote not posted yet).  A Senate floor vote is expected next week. Identical House bills (HB 1659, Delaney and HB 1721, Gooditis) are expected to be heard next week.
Marriage: On Monday, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee heard legislation (SB 1007, Ebbin and SB 1306, Edwards) that sought to take the one-man/one-woman marriage provisions out of Virginia’s code. The effort failed 7-8. Though the provisions are not currently in effect due to federal law (the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision), preserving our state law’s marriage provisions is vitally important because federal laws can change.
Birth Certificates: The Senate Education and Health Committee voted 9-6 on Thursday to reject a bill (SB 1643, Boysko) that would have eliminated the current legal requirement that a person provide proof of a medical procedure before changing how one’s sex is listed on a birth certificate. We opposed SB 1643 because birth certificates are historical documents and the bill would have moved the state law in this area farther from the objective reality of how persons are created and closer to subjective views of gender identity.
Guns in places of worship: Current law bans a person from carrying a gun or other dangerous weapon into a house of worship while a religious gathering is being held, unless the person carrying the weapon has a “good and sufficient reason.” Legislation (SB 1024, Black) that would repeal this current law passed the Senate earlier this week in a 21-19 vote. We will continue to oppose this bill in the House.
Driver Privilege Cards:  A House Transportation subcommittee voted 4-2 this morning to defeat a bill (HB 1843, Bloxom) that would have authorized certain immigrants to obtain temporary driver privilege cards.  Immigrants who reported income on a Virginia tax return, showed proof of motor vehicle insurance and provided an unexpired passport from their home country would become eligible to apply for a driver privilege card at their local DMV.  On Wednesday, the Senate Transportation Committee voted 7-6 to defeat similar legislation (SB 1740, Surovell and SB 1641, Boysko). We testified in support of these measures to enable safe transportation to church, work and school and to access health care.
Carve-out for Contraception: We advocated against legislation (SB 1452, McClellan and HB 2636, Simon) that would create a special process for nonprofits, including abortion facilities, to obtain discounted licenses to dispense contraceptives or treatments for sexually transmitted disease. The carve-out for these nonprofits would include a reduced licensing fee and an exemption from permitting fees. The legislation also proposes fast-track regulations to implement these provisions. The Senate Education and Health Committee approved SB 1452 in an 8-7 vote. A Senate floor vote is expected next week. A House subcommittee defeated HB 2636 6-4.   

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The Virginia Catholic Conference is the public policy agency representing Virginia’s Catholic bishops and their two dioceses.