This Week at the 2022 General Assembly–Week 3
The 2022 Virginia General Assembly has completed its third week of work, and committees in both the House and Senate continue to plow through many bills we are following closely. Updates of our work throughout the week can be found below.
First, however, it is important to note the improved legislative climate here on some matters of fundamental importance to Catholics. As we begin Catholic Schools Week on Sunday, we are grateful that the Commonwealth’s only school choice program, the Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits Program, continues to produce results for parents and the state’s budget. In addition, we are eager to continue building momentum to restore protections for the unborn that were lost over the past two years. Please join our critical efforts to protect life by attending the first ever Defending Life Day on February 9th in Richmond! This event will bring together the pro-life voice of Virginia into the halls and offices of the General Assembly building. Learn more and sign up by visiting VaProLifeDay.org where you can register and find important information about being a district captain, the schedule of the day and the map. Talking points, legislative updates and tips for effective advocacy will be provided to make your constituent meetings easy and successful. Please join us!
Religious liberty: A law enacted in 2020 added “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected categories in many areas of state law. Our repeated attempts to amend the legislation to ensure religious liberty protections for religious employers, churches, schools and other ministries to practice their beliefs fell short. On Wednesday, a bill re-attempting to add religious liberty protections to this law was debated in a Senate committee. It failed, however, by an 8-7 vote (in this case the “nay” votes in the link were the ones supporting the VCC-endorsed bill). We supported the bill and will continue working to protect ministries’ ability to practice their beliefs – including the beliefs that God created each person male or female and established marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
Safe haven protections: Safe haven laws, present in every state, provide a way for a parent to safely deliver an unharmed newborn baby to a designated place of safety without risk of prosecution. On Wednesday, a Senate committee passed (14-0) a bill that expands Virginia’s safe haven law aimed at protecting mothers in crisis and ensuring the safety of their newborn babies. This legislation aligns our current protections to the standard 30-day window seen in other states’ safe haven laws and sets standards for any newborn safety device if a hospital chooses to install one.
Stillborn tax credit: On Monday, a House subcommittee heard a bill that would have created a new $2000 income tax credit for the parents of stillborn babies, who almost always face out of pocket burial expenses not covered by insurance. Introduction of this legislation was a positive step towards recognizing the sacredness of human life and assisting parents experiencing the tragedy of stillbirth. We encouraged the subcommittee to support this tax credit, but it failed to advance due to a tie vote (4-4).
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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.