This Week at the 2020 Virginia General Assembly--Week 8
The Virginia General Assembly is nearing the conclusion of its work for 2020, so this past week saw long hours spent debating bills in committee and on the floor. The 2020 session is scheduled to end next Saturday, March 7. We appreciate your taking action on the many alerts we’ve sent over these past two months. And we’re not done yet! Be on the lookout for a few more alerts next week as we reach critical points on a few final issues.
Attend Virginia Vespers March 5! Please register now. Bishop Knestout, Bishop Burbidge and the Virginia Catholic Conference will host the fifth annual Virginia Vespers: Evening Prayer for the Commonwealth on Thursday, March 5 at the beautiful historic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond. The liturgy begins at 5 p.m. A reception follows, and all are invited. Registration closes on March 2, so don’t wait: register now!
Attend a Pro-Life Rally on the Steps of the U.S. Supreme Court! The U.S. Supreme Court will hold oral arguments next week in the case of June Medical Services v. Gee. The Louisiana law in question requires abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals – a common sense protection for women. On Wednesday, March 4 there will be a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC 8:00am - noon. As Virginians, many of us live close enough to participate locally!
Extreme abortion bills pass both chambers: We are deeply disappointed to report that HB 980 and SB 733 both made it through the rest of the legislative process this week and are on their way to the Governor’s desk. If Governor Northam signs them into law, it would mean that Virginian women will be able to obtain first trimester abortions from nurse practitioners and nurse midwives, with no ultrasound or 24-hour waiting period, and without obtaining informed written consent information like the risks involved, the gestational age and written materials/ alternatives. These bills would also repeal health and safety protections at abortion facilities. On Monday the Senate passed HB 980 on a 20-20 tie vote broken by the Lieutenant Governor. The House passed SB 733 Thursday night on a vote of 53-45.
Religious Liberty: Activity continued this week on 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. On Monday, Delegate LaRock (R – Hamilton) offered a floor amendment to SB 868 that attempted to make clear that religious employers can follow their religious tenets in their employment practices. The language he offered would have conformed the bill’s language to a religious exemption found in federal law. His amendment, however, was rejected 54-46. The bill then passed the House 54-46. HB 1663 (identical to SB 868) passed a Senate committee last night and will be debated on the Senate floor sometime next week. Be on the lookout for another alert from us on Monday, as we continue to seek amendments to enable religious employers and ministries to follow their beliefs regarding marriage and sexuality. Meanwhile, we are pleased to report that, on HB 1049, the Senate committee added language to protect the ability of Catholic Charities and other faith-based organizations to partner with the state to provide refugee resettlement and other services. We appreciate the extensive time the committee spent discussing this concern and especially thank Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R - Henrico) for offering the amendment and for her persuasive and effective presentation of it in the committee meeting.
Protecting Consumers from Predatory Lending: Last week, SB 421, a bill to extend a 36 percent interest rate cap to “short term” (payday) loans, passed the House 61-36. SB 421 would also apply the laws regulating consumer finance companies to loans contracted over the Internet. The House companion version (HB 789) passed the Senate Wednesday 28-12 (with an amendment) and the amended legislation was approved by the House (62-30).
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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.