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(2015) Week 3: Hot Bills

Emotions ran high this week as Senate committees dealt with many of the most controversial measures.  We voted on hot button issues ranging from gun safety, abortion rights, discrimination against GLBT Virginians, "King's Dominion" law, and medical marijuana for children with acute epilepsy.

Gun safety measures were defeated in close, almost party line, votes.  Sadly, we continue to go backwards on reasonable gun safety measures. Closing the gun show loophole was defeated.  My bill prohibiting the possession of firearms by those charged with family violence failed. Also defeated was reinstating the "one gun a month" limit on gun purchases.  When in effect, that limitation had effectively stopped Virginia from being the gun running capital of the East Coast.  A bill to allow guns on school property passed through committee.  Another bill to let concealed weapons permit holders purchase lifetime permits also passed through committee. It is still possible that some of the reckless bills may be defeated during the legislative process.  It is not possible that the reasonable gun safety bills (that are supported by almost ninety percent of voters) will pass.

During the debate on the gun bills we consistently heard testimony from the NRA and Citizens Defense League on one side and, on the other side, State Police, local police, Commonwealth Attorneys, police benevolent societies, victims groups, Chiefs of Police, and -- poignantly--family members of victims of gun violence.  Needless to say, the NRA and CDL always prevailed.

Efforts to repeal the medically unnecessary ultrasound procedure prior to an abortion failed.  So did efforts to remove the 24 hour waiting period after the ultrasound procedure.

My constitutional amendment to repeal the current amendment banning same sex marriages in Virginia again failed on a party line vote.  However there is the remote possibility that a bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation may pass the Senate.

Several bills aimed at allowing local school boards to determine their own calendar failed yet again.  Under the nicknamed "Kings Dominion Law" schools cannot open before Labor Day unless they get a weather related exemption.  I support letting the local school boards set their own opening date.  However, the tourism industry always defeats the bills.

A bill to allow parents to purchase marijuana oils for their children with rare and severe forms of epilepsy is still working its way through Senate committees. I strongly support the bill and really don't understand the objections.  The children are having dozens, sometimes hundreds, of seizures a day and some seizures are causing brain damage.  Because Virginia does not allow use of medical marijuana oils, some families are leaving the state at great personal and professional cost and others are probably breaking the law to help their children.  Sometimes I feel we are losing compassion with our inflexible policies to fight drug use.

Another "hot bill" to decriminalize (not legalize) marijuana failed.  I voted for it.

Next week those of us on Senate Finance will be composing the Senate budget which will be made public on Sunday.  It promises to be another intense week!