This Week at the 2022 General Assembly–Week 6
The Virginia General Assembly passed its first important deadline this past Tuesday: Crossover Day, the day after which each chamber can only consider bills that have passed the other chamber. Any legislation (except the budget) that has not “crossed over” from the House to the Senate or from the Senate to the House is now dead. Although this means the number of bills in play has narrowed considerably, the significant amount that still remain will face increased scrutiny as they move to consideration by the other chamber.
With only three weeks left in session, the General Assembly’s heaviest focus will shift to the state’s budget. The House and Senate “money committees” will meet this Sunday to approve their respective budget proposals and send them on for floor votes to occur next week. Continuing our advocacy from Defending Life Day, we are urging legislators to adopt the federal Hyde Amendment in our state budget, and thereby restrict taxpayer abortion funding to the fullest extent possible.
Protecting abortion survivors: Babies sometime survive abortion attempts and deserve to be treated like any other baby born under complicated circumstances. There is no reason to distinguish between human beings born after an attempted abortion and human beings born after an attempted live birth. A bill passed the House (52-48) which creates concrete protections for extremely vulnerable infants in these situations and ensures the abortion provider cannot simply back away from the table and leave the baby to suffer and die. We will continue to fight for this bill in the Senate!
Women’s Right to Know law: In the 2020 session, many pro-life protections were dismantled, including Virginia’s “Women’s Right to Know” law which provided women crucial information before an abortion. On Tuesday, a bill passed the House (52-48) that would restore much of this law, including requiring women to be given information about pregnancy support programs in Virginia. Be on the lookout for another action alert soon on this bill and the bill to protect abortion survivors!
Assisted suicide: All assisted suicide legislation for the 2022 session has been defeated. As a founding member of No Suicide VA (a diverse alliance of organizations), we have led the opposition to this legislation and would like to thank our allies for their advocacy.
Sexually explicit instructional content: Legislation introduced in the Senate and House would require parental notification annually before sexually explicit content was presented. This legislation would also permit parental review of such “instructional materials” and provide non-explicit alternatives to any student upon parental request. Last week, the Senate approved this common sense bill 20-18, and, on Tuesday, its House companion passed 52-47. Next: each chamber takes up the other’s bill.
Parental consent for family life education: On Tuesday, the House passed legislation (50-49) that would require parental consent to enroll children in public school “Family Life Education” programs. Currently, parents only have the ability to opt out their children, but the opt-out process can be burdensome and does not always work. The ever-evolving FLE curriculum made headlines in 2018 in Albemarle County after an explicit video was shown to 14-year-old girls without their parents’ knowledge. This critical legislation next goes before a Senate committee.
Marijuana commercialization: Last year, Virginia enacted legislation to legalize marijuana possession and home cultivation. The law also created a complex licensing framework to sell high-potency tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in “pot shops,” but conditioned that framework on “re-enactment” this year. Thus, in the absence of re-approval, commercial sales will remain illegal. On Tuesday, the Senate passed a 450-page commercialization bill by a vote of 21-18-1. It will next go before a House committee. We oppose this bill. We also support legislation to mitigate some of its harmful effects, which passed the Senate 40-0 on Tuesday.
Proposed constitutional amendments: On Tuesday, the Senate passed two proposals to amend Virginia’s constitution. One resolution, which we oppose, seeks to remove the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and to replace it with language to “recognize marriages … regardless of the sex or gender of the parties to the marriage.” The Senate passed it 25-14. The other resolution, which we support, seeks to restore voting rights for persons convicted of a felony once they have completed their sentences. The Senate passed it 24-16. Identical House resolutions on both topics were, however, defeated in a House subcommittee last week.
Religious liberty: Legislation enacted in 2020 added “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected categories in many areas of state law. On Tuesday, a bill we support that seeks to add religious liberty protections to this law – to ensure religious organizations and ministries can practice their beliefs about marriage and human sexuality – passed the House 54-45. It will soon be considered in a Senate committee.
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The Virginia Catholic Conference is the public policy agency representing Virginia’s Catholic bishops and their two dioceses.