Victoria Cobb, President
Saturday, February 22, 2020
With only fourteen more days left until the 2020 General Assembly Session adjourns, there’s still a lot of work to do on a number of bills, as well as the 2020-2022 biennium budget. Of course, the issue that’s ablaze in Virginia right now is legislation that’s targeting religious freedom by seeking to elevate “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) above fundamental and constitutionally protected religious freedoms.
Ever since we sounded the alarm about the impact that bills like HB 1049 (D-Levine), HB 1663 (D-Sickles) and SB 868 (D-Ebbin) will have on churches and religious schools, in our alert, “This Bill Will Destroy Churches and Religious Schools!,” the response has helped change the trajectory of these bills. Instead of cruising through both chambers, both HB 1663 and SB 868 are now facing opposition from the business community as well as a broad spectrum of faith-based organizations. And then following a Religious Liberty Press Conference earlier this week with faith leaders, representatives of churches and religious schools, and already-victimized individuals who voiced their concerns over these dangerous bills, local and national media are now covering the issue. Here are a few links to articles on the subject:
Next week the Senate General Laws committee will hear both HB 1663 and HB 1049 which were taken by this week in order to continue working on potential amendments. Over in the full House SB 868 was passed by for four days in row, another good sign that amendments are boing worked into the legislation. What remains to be seen is the nature of the amendments (if any are made) and whether they provide any real protections for churches and religious organizations. For a more in-depth update read our blog Status of Bills Attacking Religious Freedom.
Also this week the Democrat-led House and Senate passed their own budget plans (HB 30 and SB 30), which among other things restore funding for abortions. After adding language that brought Virginia in line with the federal “Hyde Amendment” last year, both budget versions this year will allow Virginia to fund abortions in cases of rape, incest, to save the life of the mother, and if the baby has a fetal abnormality. Both budgets also continue funding the “LARC” program which funnels $2 million each year to Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics to pay for and insert intrauterine devices (IUDs).
Finally, the budgets also included additional funding and full time employees for the Attorney General’s Division of Human Rights to implement legislation (like HB 1663 and SB 868) that add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes under Virginia law. This funding and the new positions are all part of the Left’s scheme to “Seek and Destroy” Christian churches, schools, non-profits, and business owners who dare to defy the state’s view of marriage and sexuality.
Here are some other highlights for the week which include good news, the unfortunate passage of certain bills, as well as some bills (both good and bad) that are still alive in committee or about to be voted on by the full House or Senate.
Some good news….
Continued to 2021 – Legitimizing Suicide – HB 1063 (D-Kory) abolishes the common-law crime of suicide. Senate Judiciary voted 10-3 to continue the bill until 2021.
Passed House – Requiring Online Posting of FLE content – HB 1394 (R-Leftwich), a bill that TFF initiated, requires each local school board to make sex-education materials available to parents on the school division’s official website either on its public domain or through a parent portal. The bill passed the Senate Education and Health Committee 12-3.
Unfortunately, the following bills passed this week….
Gambling Expansion (Casinos, Sports Betting, Internet Lottery) –SB 36 (D-Lucas), which passed the House 66-31, will allow casinos in up to five localities (Bristol, Danville, Richmond, Virginia Beach/Norfolk, and Portsmouth) if approved through a local referendum. SB 384 (D-McPike) passed the House 59-38, and will legalize sports betting at both a central location and online. Last, SB 922 (R-Norment), which allows lottery tickets to be sold over the internet, passed the House 73-26. These gambling bills will bring increased crime, more addictions and the overall degradation of our communities and society.
Statewide “Transgender” Policies in Schools – HB 145 (D-Simon) passed the Senate 22-18 and SB 161 (D-Boysko) passed the House 58-40. They direct the Department of Education to develop model policies for all local school divisions on how they must handle “transgender” students in facilities use, pronoun use, etc.
Sex Change on Birth Certificate By Request – SB 657 (D-Boysko) allows anyone to legally “change” their birth sex on their official birth certificate by doing nothing more than make a simple request to the State Registrar using a form, along with a simple doctor’s note. The bill specifically says the Registrar shall not require any evidence or documentation of any medical procedure. It passed the House 52-45. An identical bill, HB 1041 (D-Simon), will be heard in the Senate Education and Health committee this week.
Bills still alive in committees…
Expanded and Unsafe Abortion Access – HB 980 (D-Herring) and SB 733 (D-McClellan) i) allows almost anyone – not just physicians – to perform abortions, including physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners and even certified nurse midwives; ii) eliminates all requirements involved with informed consent prior to an abortion, including written materials and even the performance of an ultrasound before performing an abortion so that the woman has the opportunity to see the image and hear the baby’s heartbeat; iii) removes the 24 hour wait period between the ultrasound and abortion; (iv) eliminates all the health and safety regulations and oversight from the state’s abortion centers that have proven so very necessary; and v) removes the civil penalties for abortionists who failed to do these things.
HB 980 passed the Senate Judiciary committee 9-6 and SB 733 will be heard by the House Courts of Justice committee.
Popular Vote Compact – HB 177 would enjoin Virginia to the National Voter Compact, which would effectively eliminate the Electoral College in favor of a national popular presidential vote if enough states enter into it. The bill passed the House 51-46 and will be heard in the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee this Tuesday.
Gambling Expansion (Casinos, Sports Betting) – HB 4 (R-Knight), (identical to SB 36), which allows casinos in up to five localities (Bristol, Danville, Richmond, Virginia Beach/Norfolk, and Portsmouth) if approved through a local referendum passed Senate General Laws and Technology 11-1. HB 896 (D-Sickles), which passed Senate General Laws and Technology 13-0, will legalize sports betting at both a central location and online.
Legalization of Recreational Marijuana – SB 2 (D-Ebbin) passed House Appropriations 16-6, and HB 972 (D-Herring) passed the Senate Judiciary 10-4 and was referred to Senate Finance and Appropriations. They decriminalize (effectively the same thing as “legalizing”) marijuana in Virginia.
Transportation Taxes and Fees – HB 1414 (D-Filler-Corn) is a massive transportation bill that will impose more taxes and fees on every hard-working Virginian. It passed 55-43.
Plastic Bag Tax – HB 534 (D-Carr) imposes a regressive statewide fee of five cents per bag on disposable plastic bags, with a few exemptions. It passed 52-46.
To review what’s happened throughout the General Assembly session you can click on any of the links below to read the previous weekly recaps.
Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Things To Keep An Eye On At The Half-way Point, Mid-session Report Card on Religious Freedom, Week 6