25 reasons the General Assembly session mattered

3/12/2016 –

The state budget was the marquee issue of the General Assembly session that ended Friday, but here are 25 other reasons why the session mattered.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe now will consider the hundreds of bills that lawmakers passed in the session. Legislators will reconvene April 20 to take up the governor’s vetoes and proposed amendments to legislation.

Abortion

A bill to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, did not advance from a House committee.

Airbnb

Lawmakers agreed to put off for a year legislation to create a statewide legal framework for Airbnb, which connects homeowners looking to rent out their space and guests seeking long-term accommodations.

The delay, the result of opposition from the hotel industry and local governments, would allow time to study the issue.

‘Beloved’ bill

McAuliffe indicates he is likely to veto a measure that would require school districts to give parents alternatives to sexually explicit instructional materials their children are to use in school. The legislation arose after the mother of a Fairfax County high school student expressed concerns about her son reading Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” in class.

Bonds

Lawmakers adopted a $2.1 billion bond package that would tie new capital spending to a major overhaul of Capitol Square in downtown Richmond.

The bill would bar the release of funds for projects McAuliffe backs until the state signs contracts to proceed with the Capitol Square overhaul, which would include replacement of the General Assembly Building.

Charter schools

Lawmakers narrowly defeated legislation that would have put a charter school amendment to the Virginia Constitution before voters in November. The measure would have let the State Board of Education approve charter schools; currently, only local school boards may do so.

Coal tax credits

The governor vetoed a bill to extend tax credits for the state’s coal industry. Two senators from Southwest Virginia said McAuliffe’s veto was retaliation for their refusal to back his pick for the state Supreme Court.

The governor said he had been willing to talk with the legislators but that no such discussions took place. He said the coal tax credits were ineffective.

Confederate memorials

McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would prevent Virginia localities from taking down monuments to the Confederacy and other war-related memorials, saying it would bar communities from making their own decisions.

Ethics

Lawmakers backed tweaks to last year’s overhaul, agreeing that gifts worth less than $20 will not count toward the $100 annual cap on gifts they can accept from a lobbyist or business. But the House blocked Senate efforts to make wholesale changes in the law, including the Senate’s bid to exempt food and beverages from counting toward the $100 annual gift limit.

Everclear

McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would allow the sale of high-proof, clear, odorless grain alcohol in state liquor stores, after college health officials raised alarms.

Executions

Lawmakers backed legislation that would allow the state to use the electric chair for executions if lethal injection drugs are unavailable.

Expungement

A House panel defeated a Senate bill that would have allowed the expunging of simple alcohol and marijuana possession charges for offenders younger than 21, five years after the completion of a sentence.

Fantasy sports

Virginia has become the first state with a legal framework for daily fantasy sports contests offering cash payouts.

The legislation requires daily fantasy sites to register with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and pay an application fee of $50,000. Consumer protections include an age limit, barring those younger than 18 from playing.

Freedom of information

Advocates for transparency beat back a number of proposed restrictions on the people’s right to know. For example, a seven-member House panel that deals with open-records issues shelved separate bills that would have allowed police officers’ names to be kept secret and that would have kept the names of public employees and appointees out of salary databases.

Guns

McAuliffe signed three measures that make up the bipartisan gun deal that he termed a “historic agreement” for Virginia.

The package expands recognition of out-of-state concealed carry permits, reversing Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s decision last year to sever ties with 25 states that have looser permitting rules than Virginia.

Two other bills in the package require domestic abusers under permanent protective orders to give up any guns in their possession within 24 hours, and position Virginia State Police at every gun show to perform voluntary background checks requested by unlicensed sellers who lack access to the federal database that gun dealers use.

Health care

Legislators put off until next year legislation that would deregulate key aspects of the health care industry.

Judges

After refusing to elect Supreme Court Justice Jane Marum Roush, the governor’s interim appointee, to a full term, Republican majorities in the General Assembly elected Appeals Court Judge Stephen R. McCullough to fill the vacancy, ending a long, partisan standoff.

Lawmakers elected Henrico County General District Judge Mary Malveaux to succeed McCullough on the Virginia Court of Appeals.

LGBT

A House committee defeated a bill that would have required people to use restrooms in schools and public buildings that correspond to their “biological gender.” The House also tabled a measure that would have prevented local governments from enacting anti-LGBT discrimination policies.

Proffers

Lawmakers approved major changes to how local governments extract cash and other concessions from residential developers. The measure would bar localities from denying rezoning requests based on “unreasonable” proffer requests.

Some large and fast-growing localities fought the legislation, saying it would hurt their ability to manage growth.

Protective orders

GOP lawmakers rejected McAuliffe’s effort to scale back legislation that would grant near-automatic concealed-carry rights for those who take out protective orders in order to escape domestic violence. McAuliffe now must decide whether to veto the bill.

‘Religious freedom’

Lawmakers passed a measure to protect religious groups from government-imposed penalties over their views on same-sex marriage.

Supporters say the bill — which prevents marriage officiants from being required to participate in a wedding ceremony — would bar government persecution of people of faith, but critics call it a license to discriminate.

Campus sexual violence

Lawmakers touted passage of three bills that were part of McAuliffe’s Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence.

The measures require high school family life curricula to educate students on dating violence and other forms of sexual assault; train law enforcement on handling investigations involving sexual trauma; and tighten requirements for retaining physical evidence from sexual assault investigations.

SOLs

Lawmakers backed a bill designed to help prepare students for technology jobs by calling for the Board of Education to incorporate computer science, computational thinking and coding into the Standards of Learning curriculum. Local school boards also would develop and implement computer science curriculum for students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Tebow Bill

For the second straight year, McAuliffe vetoed a measure known as the Tebow Bill, a reference to former NFL quarterback and home-schooled student Tim Tebow, that would let home-schooled students play public school sports.

Tobacco

The House voted down legislation requiring public school systems to ban tobacco use on school property.

Tolls

Tucked in the state budget is wording establishing a statewide policy for imposing tolls on existing highways. It will now require General Assembly approval, with some exceptions, such as plans for relieving congestion on Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia.

Staff writers Graham Moomaw, Jim Nolan, Michael Martz, Louis Llovio and Andrew Cain contributed to this report.