This Week at the 2022 General Assembly–Week 9
The Virginia General Assembly will complete its work on all matters except for the budget by tomorrow, March 12.
More on unusual Senate actions: As mentioned in last week’s update, this week we want to explain the unconventional and very disappointing route HB 304, the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, took in the Senate after the House passed it on February 15 on a party-line 52-48 vote.
On February 25, a Senate Education and Health subcommittee voted 5-3 to recommend that the full committee refer HB 304 to the Judiciary committee. However, the full committee, at its last meeting of the year on March 3, disregarded the bill entirely. It simply disappeared from the committee’s docket as seen in this screenshot. Pocketing a bill goes against the Senate tradition of giving every bill a hearing, so Senate leaders who support the legislation raised an objection on the Senate floor later that day. Scrambling to deflect this move, opponents of the bill re-referred it to the Rules committee, which has a 13-4 Democrat majority.
On March 4, the Rules committee held a rushed hearing on the bill where all in person proponents combined got 2 minutes total to speak. In addition, abortion survivor Robin Settell signed up to speak virtually and got only 30 seconds! The bill was then defeated 11-4. Those of you who live in the districts of Rules committee members have received an alert asking you to express gratitude or disappointment for their vote (depending on how they voted); please do so now!
Many constituents came to advocate for this bill on Defending Life Day. The unusual procedural machinations designed to kill it – first to avoid a hearing and then to refer it to a lopsided committee – show that grassroots engagement remains critical.
This bill will be back! Bill patron, Delegate Freitas, gave a stirring speech on the House floor. You can watch his speech here.
In addition, HB 156 – a bill that would have prohibited state and local health officials from initiating communication with minors about sex-related topics without parental consent – took a similar path. It was removed from the Education and Health committee’s March 3 meeting docket. After bill supporters’ objections later that day, it was re-referred to the lopsided Rules committee, where it was defeated 12-4 on March 4.
Curbing Delta 8 THC and child-tempting edibles: As we reported last week, we support a Senate-passed bill to help rein in the growing crisis caused by edibles infused with Delta 8, a synthetic form of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) derived from chemically modified hemp. Over the last year, many children have suffered adverse reactions after accidentally ingesting these “gummy bear” products. On Wednesday, the House amended and then approved the measure (89-7). On Thursday, the Senate agreed to the House amendment 33-7 (link not yet available). Having passed both chambers, the bill will next go to the Governor’s desk. We would like to thank everyone who advocated against THC commercialization and for this critical mitigation measure – especially our allies in health care, substance abuse prevention and law enforcement.
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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.