Despite a shift in power within the Virginia General Assembly, Central Virginia Republican lawmakers have filed new measures, as well as revivals of previously unsuccessful legislation.
Though representation in many parts of the commonwealth flipped parties this past election, ensuring a Democratic majority in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate, Central Virginia remains largely Republican. Those GOP legislators have proposed a mixture of conservative bills and some that appear to be in response to the new majority party.
Del. John McGuire, R-Louisa, has introduced HB 162, which would cause the commonwealth or a locality to waive its sovereign immunity on properties designated as “firearm free,” meaning government could be liable for injuries and other damages that occur in places where the government entity has banned weapons.
McGuire also has filed HB 373, which would repeal a portion of the state code that makes it a felony to carry a “gun, pistol, bowie knife, dagger or other dangerous weapon” to a place of worship without a “good and sufficient reason.”
Both bills have received committee assignments.
Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, has revived the so-called Tebow bill, which seeks to allow home-schooled students to participate in interscholastic sports and other school-based programs. In previous General Assembly sessions, the bill has passed through the legislature only to be vetoed by the Democratic governor. It remains unclear whether the bill will see similar traction under a Democratic majority.
HB 1593 from Del. Matt Fariss, R-Rustburg, would add the Stanton Family Cemetery in Buckingham County, with 36 eligible graves, to the list of cemeteries qualified to receive funds from the state Department of Historic Resources.
HB 860, introduced by Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, would allow school staff members to administer inhaled asthma medication to students with prescriptions, which is not currently allowed.
Perhaps the most high-profile bills from Charlottesville-area legislators are those that seek to allow localities to remove war monuments. Prompted by the Charlottesville City Council’s 2017 votes to remove two Confederate monuments and a subsequent lawsuit, Del. Sally Hudson, D-Charlottesville, introduced HB 1625 last week.
Along with its state Senate companion bill, SB 620, Hudson’s bill seeks to remove a prohibition that prevents disturbing or interfering with any war monument or memorial. The bills have received broad support from Democrats in both the House and Senate and from Gov. Ralph Northam, who included mention of the bill in his session-opening address.
In addition to the statues bill, Hudson has filed HB 1108, which seeks to remove salary limits for city councilors, a measure her predecessor, David J. Toscano, opposed.
Both bills, along with various other pieces of legislation introduced by the freshman delegate, have received subcommittee assignments and are expected to be discussed in the next two weeks.
Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, and Bell have filed bills to amend the town charter for Scottsville, seeking to allow changes, including: staggered elections for the Town Council; removing the authority of the council to appoint police officers besides the town sergeant; and authorizing the council to appoint a town administration.
Similarly, Deeds and Hudson have filed companion bills to update Charlottesville’s charter in order to “modernize” and “reorganize” various provisions to conform to state and federal law, as well as to current city organization.
In keeping with the broader Democratic approach to gun control, Deeds has introduced several gun control bills, one of which, SB 615, would allow a locality to issue an ordinance making it unlawful for a person to carry a firearm in locality-owned buildings and parks. Charlottesville and other municipalities have asked for the ability to limit when people can carry firearms in public places.
On Jan. 13, SB 15 was incorporated into SB 35, filed by Sen. Scott A. Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, which seeks the same outcome.