This Week at the 2022 General Assembly–Week 8
With only a week left in the 2022 session, many committees have already met for the last time, with the remainder to finish up their business on Monday. Most legislation has already been passed or defeated, with a comparatively small number of remaining bills to be addressed next week. Below is a rundown of this week’s action.
We also want to highlight that on Monday the U.S. Senate rejected the deceptively named, extreme “Women’s Health Protection Act”, which a USCCB alert that many of you acted on rightly called “the most extreme abortion on demand bill ever seen.” The statement by Bishop Burbidge and Bishop Knestout on the U.S. Senate’s rejection of this horrendous measure can be read here.
Protecting abortion survivors: Babies sometimes survive abortion attempts and they deserve to be treated like any other baby born under complicated circumstances. There is no scientific or legal reason to distinguish between human beings born after an attempted abortion and human beings born after an attempted live birth. Unfortunately (and after a series of unconventional actions that we will have more to say about later) a Senate committee this morning defeated (11-4) the bill which would have established concrete protections for extremely vulnerable infants in these situations and would have ensured the abortion provider cannot simply back away from the table and leave the baby to suffer and die.
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 Thursday, a bill that would have restored some of this law, including requiring women to be given information about pregnancy support programs in Virginia, was defeated in a Senate committee (10-5).
Proposed constitutional amendments: On Tuesday, a House subcommittee voted on two proposals to amend Virginia’s constitution. One resolution, which we opposed, sought 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.” That measure was defeated 6-4. The other resolution, which we supported, sought to restore voting rights for persons convicted of a felony once they have completed their sentences. That measure was also defeated 6-4.
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. Without re-approval, commercial sales will remain illegal. In February, the Senate passed a 450-page commercialization bill. On Monday, a House subcommittee voted 5-3 to recommend the bill be continued to 2023; that result was then affirmed Tuesday by a committee (12-10). Consequently, the issue of THC commercialization is likely off the table this year. We oppose commercialization because of its harms to children, health and safety. Conversely, we support a Senate-passed bill to mitigate some of the harms. Next week, the House will consider that bill. If you have not already contacted your Delegate to oppose “pot shop” commercialization, please use our action alert today to urge your delegate to vote NO on any such legislation.
Scholarship tax credit: The Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits program is Virginia’s only school choice program. Through donor-funded scholarships, the EISTC program is a lifeline for thousands of low-income students, providing them critical financial assistance to attend schools that best meet their needs. Donors who make these scholarships possible receive a 65% state tax credit. A bill that would – among other things – have increased the tax credit to 70% passed the Senate earlier this session, but on Monday it was defeated 22-0 in a House committee due to budget considerations.
Parental consent for family life education: In February, the House passed legislation 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. Sadly, on Thursday, a Senate committee rejected this critical bill (12-3).
Parental oversight of school counseling: Legislation introduced in the House would require that public school counselors consult with, notify and obtain parental consent prior to student participation in school counseling services. We support this legislation because parents are often left in the dark regarding what type of counseling their children receive during the school day. In February, the House passed this common-sense legislation. On Thursday, however, a Senate committee rejected it 8-7.
Parental consent for health official communications: Legislation prohibiting state and local health officials from initiating communication with minors about sex-related topics without parental consent passed the House earlier this session, but this morning (after a series of unconventional actions that we will have more to say about later) it was defeated 12-4 in a Senate committee.
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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.