This Week at the 2019 Virginia General Assembly-Week 6
On Tuesday the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond hosted our fourth annual Virginia Vespers: Evening Prayer for the Commonwealth, which featured Bishop Knestout as the presider and Bishop Burbidge as the homilist. We welcomed state legislators and other General Assembly officials, as well as fellow Catholics and people of all faiths and political parties to pray with and for legislators and the needs of Virginia. Choirs from All Saints Catholic School, Saint Gertrude High School, Benedictine College Preparatory School and the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart inspired those gathered with beautiful music. Thank you to everyone who joined us!
Surrogacy expansion, embryo destruction: On Wednesday, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 9-6 to send (HB 1979, Sullivan) to the full Senate, where a final vote is expected on Monday. The bill would allow unmarried individuals to use artificial reproduction technology and surrogacy contracts to create human embryos. We need you to act now to tell your Senator to oppose it! An estimated 620,000 frozen embryos are now stored in the U.S., and that number could greatly increase if bills like HB 1979 pass in Virginia and other states. Due to the failure of a committee amendment, surrogacy contracts can even continue to require abortion when pregnancies result in more than one child. Please urge your Senator to vote NO on HB 1979.
Parental consent for family life education: On Thursday the Senate Education and Health Committee voted 10-5 to reject a critical bill for parental rights (HB 2570, LaRock). The legislation would have required parental consent to enroll children in public school Family Life Education programs. Earlier this month, the House voted to pass the bill (50-48). Currently, parents only have the ability to opt out their children, but the opt-out process can be burdensome, socially awkward for the child, and does not always work. The ever-evolving FLE curriculum made headlines last year in Albemarle County after an explicit video was shown to 14-year-old girls without their parents’ knowledge.
Death penalty exemption: Today, a House Courts of Justice subcommittee voted 4-1 to defeat a bill (SB 1137, Favola) that would have exempted people with severe mental illness from the death penalty. In January, the Senate voted 23-17 to pass the bill, a historic step forward signaling a positive shift in the debate on capital punishment. The Commonwealth already spares juveniles and those with intellectual or developmental disabilities from the death penalty. SB 1137 would have simply ensured that those with serious mental illness receive the same humane treatment in the criminal justice system.
Pre-K education win!: As detailed in a victory alert yesterday, the House voted (56-42) to pass SB 1015 (Stanley), a bill that would provide low-income pre-K kids in districts with no public options the ability to attend a quality pre-K private program. This is an example of a public-private partnership that ensures that no child is penalized based on his or her zip code. The bill has passed both chambers after a four-year push! One last hurdle to go. Be on the lookout for updates.
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In prayer and in public, your voices are urgently needed to bring Gospel values to bear on vital decisions being made by those who represent you.
~~~The Virginia Catholic Conference is the public policy agency representing Virginia’s Catholic bishops and their two dioceses.