VoterVoice Post

This Week at the 2020 Virginia General Assembly--Week 5

February 7, 2020 by Jeff Caruso


This Week at the 2020 Virginia General Assembly--Week 5

Week 5 at the Virginia General Assembly saw committees rushing to get their work done as the Crossover Day deadline looms next Tuesday. After Tuesday, only bills that have been passed by their chamber of origin can be considered for the rest of the session. But while the second half of session will feature fewer bills, some of the ones that remain pose fundamental threats to life and liberty.

Attend the Virginia March for Life next Thursday!  As we reported last week, abortion bills that would dismantle Virginia’s current pro-life protections passed both the House and the Senate. These bills would repeal health and safety protections at abortion facilities, allow non-physicians to perform first-trimester abortions, and severely roll back essential informed consent requirements, including the opportunity to view an ultrasound. As the House bill is considered by the Senate and the Senate bill is considered by the House, we need people to take a public stand and show their legislators that Virginia is still a pro-life state and we expect them to vote that way! On Thursday, February 13, VA March for Life events will start with a 9:15 am Mass celebrated by both Bishop Burbidge and Bishop Knestout at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, followed by a rally and the march.  We still need volunteers!  If you would like to help us with the march, please sign up here.
Attend the March for Life on February 13 and tell your Delegate and Senator to vote no on HB 980 and SB 733!

Religious Liberty: Three bills (SB 868, HB 1049 and HB 1663) to make “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” protected classes in various areas of state law including housing, employment, public accommodations and public contracts were passed by the House and Senate this week without provisions that protect religious organizations’ rights to practice their beliefs regarding marriage and family life. Amendments that would have inserted these protections were ruled “non-germane”, or irrelevant to the topic of the bill, in the House and were defeated in the Senate. As we know, the serious religious liberty implications of these bills are extremely relevant and are of the utmost importance. The opposite chamber will soon consider each bill and we will continue to fight for essential religious liberty protections. Contact your legislators today to urge them to support essential religious liberty provisions for churches, schools and other nonprofit ministry organizations.

Death Penalty: After a lively debate, a Senate committee chose to delay action for one year on a bill to abolish the death penalty in the Commonwealth. We support this bill since all life should be valued from conception until natural death. While it is disappointing that the full Senate will not consider this bill in 2020, we believe that there is fertile ground for further positive action on this issue in 2021. Indeed, by a vote of 32-7, the Senate passed a bill last week to exempt people with severe mental illnesses from the death penalty. This indicates growing bipartisan support in the Senate for reform.

Community College Scholarship Pilot ProgramOn Monday, we testified in support of SB 937, a bill to give community college scholarships worth up to $4,000 annually over the next two years for 200 low-income students. This bill will help to create educational opportunity for students who might not otherwise be able to access higher education, and on Thursday the bill was reported from the Senate Education and Health Committee on a 12-3 vote and unanimously passed through the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee on a 15-0 vote. Unfortunately, however, its House companion bill, HB 455, was tabled 7-1 in a subcommittee.

Protecting Consumers from Predatory Lending: Also this week, SB 421, a bill to extend a 36% interest rate cap to “short term” (payday) loans was reported from the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee by a vote of 11-5.  The Senate will vote on the bill as early as Monday. SB 421 would also apply the laws regulating consumer finance companies to loans contracted over the Internet. A House companion bill (HB 789) that we also support passed the House 65-33 on January 31 and will be taken up by the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor after crossover.

Attend Virginia Vespers on March 5! Please register now for Thursday, March 5, as the Virginia Catholic Conference once again presents a special opportunity to come together with Catholic bishops, priests, parishioners, people of all faiths, educators, social service providers and public officials to pray for the needs of Virginia.  Bishop Knestout, Bishop Burbidge and the Virginia Catholic Conference will host the fifth annual Virginia Vespers: Evening Prayer for the Commonwealth at the beautiful historic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond. The liturgy begins at 5 pm with a reception to follow, and all are invited!

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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.