Controversial bills: How your legislators voted

The General Assembly adjourned March 10— without a budget, which some might consider the most important reason communities send legislators to Richmond.

Nonetheless, legislators got a lot of bills passed and signed into law, thanks to an overwhelmingly Republican majority in the House of Delegates and the evenly matched state Senate with Republican Lieutenant Bill Bolling as 20-20 tie breaker.

And several of them grabbed national attention. Here's a rundown of some of the more controversial bills, and how local legislators voted.


Abortion: Informed consent with a transvaginal probe ultrasound (HB462, SB484)
This is one of the two bills that subjected Virginia to national derision on Saturday Night Live— and elsewhere. The original bill required women seeking abortions to pay for an expensive, invasive procedure called a transvaginal ultrasound, wait 24 hours, and have it go on their permanent record. The bill was revised to require an abdominal ultrasound, and signed into law March 7 by Governor Bob McDonnell.

Yeas: Delegates Rob Bell, Matt Fariss, Steve Landes, Senator Bryce Reeves
Nay: Delegate David Toscano, Senator Creigh Deeds

It's okay to discriminate against gays wanting to adopt (HB189, SB349)
The conscience clause allows private adoption services to refuse to place children with homosexual couples if it violates their religious beliefs— and they still get to keep state funding.

Yeas: Delegates Bell, Fariss, Landes, Senator Reeves
Nays: Delegate Toscano, Senator Deeds

Buy as many handguns as you like (HB940, SB323)
The law enacted under former Governor Doug Wilder that limited handgun purchases to one in a 30-day period was in response to Virginia's notoriety as a source for gun trafficking. Deemed too restrictive, Virginians can now stock up on handguns because Governor McDonnell has already signed this into law.

Yeas: Senators Deeds and Reeves, Delegates Bell, Fariss, and Landes
Nay: Delegate Toscano.

Ignition interlocks for first-time DUIs (HB279)
Virginia steadfastly refuses to make texting while driving illegal— or even a primary offense, but the state just got tougher on first-time DUI offenders, who must install an ignition interlock to get a restricted license, previously a requirement for second- and third-time offenders. McDonnell has signed this bill.

Yeas: Delegates Bell, Fariss, Landes, Toscano, Senators Deeds, Reeves

Don't forget a photo ID at the polls (SB1, HB9)
Although voter fraud has never been much of an issue in Virginia, the General Assembly is not taking any chances. And a voter registration card is not going to cut it if you want to vote in this state, although provisional ballots are allowed. The Senate split along party lines on this with Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling casting the tie-breaking vote.

Yeas: Delegates Bell, Fariss, and Landes, Senator Reeves
Nays: Delegate Toscano, Senator Deeds

Life sentence for child rape (HB973, SB436)
Rob Bell says he carried this bill mainly because pedophiles are among the worst recidivists— even after serving the current 25-year sentence. But some parents worry that with a life sentence, child molesters have no incentive not to murder their victims.

Yeas: Delegates Bell, Fariss, Landes, and Toscano, Senator Deeds and Reeves


Unborn embryos are people, too (HB1)
The personhood bill, which says life begins at conception and that the unborn have the same rights as those living outside the womb, is the other bit of General Assembly legislation to get guffawed on SNL. Sponsor Bob Marshall, who has made a career of anti-abortion legislation, is challenging George Allen for the Republican nomination for U.S. senator. The bill died quietly in the Senate after passing the House 66-32.

Yeas: Delegates Rob Bell, Matt Fariss, Steve Landes
Nay: Delegate David Toscano

Sunday hunting (SB464)
Supported both by the board of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the governor, the bill sailed through the Senate, only to die in committee in the House. It'll be back.

Nays: Senators Deeds, Reeves

Urinate in a bottle to get social services (HB73)
Requires that people in VIEW— Virginia Initiative for Employment not Welfare— get screened by program heads to see if there's probable cause to suspect drug use, and if so, get a drug test. This bill foundered in the House Appropriations committee after it passed Health, Welfare, and Institutions committee.

Yea: Rob Bell

Study the revenue impact of selling marijuana in ABC stores (HJ140)
Pot continues to be a political hot potato in the tough-on-crime-even-if-you-used-to-do-it-yourself yet revenue-strapped General Assembly, and a resolution just to study the issue languishes in the Rules committee, as did its sister bill that asks Governor McDonnell to petition the DEA to reclassify marijuana out of the same category as heroin. Steve Landes sits on the Rules committee.

Forget the human papillomavirus vaccine (HB1112)
Carried by the same delegate who urged transvaginal ultrasounds, Kathy Byron (R-Lynchburg), the bill would eliminate the HPV vaccine that girls are now required to have before entering the sixth grade. The bill passed the House of Delegates; the Senate dispatched it to committee.

Yeas: Delegates Bell, Fariss, and Landes
Nays: Delegate Toscano

Read more on: general assembly


I love the objective, unbiased titles created for some of the bills (in case it's unclear, that's sarcasm)

The TANF drug-testing bills had companions in the Senate, and the final version (SB6) actually passed the Senate before being left in House Appropriations, so there are local Senate votes to report on that.

You also might want to add a few other controversial abortion-related bills that drew votes from our local legislators, like HB62, which would have disallowed Medicaid funding for indigent women to receive an abortion in cases in which a physician certifies that he believes that the fetus would be born with a gross and totally incapacitating physical deformity or mental deficiency. There was also SB637, which would have prohibited abortions after 20 weeks, based on the medically unsubstantiated idea of "fetal pain." That bill nearly escaped the Senate, despite tremendous constitutional issues.

And HB1 hardly "died quietly" in the Senate. It actually passed out of committee amidst one of the largest pro-choice demonstrations at the Capitol this year, and what signified a great spark in Virginia women's overall response to such legislation.

In the future, I'd love to see The Hook pay more attention to these issues while the session is ongoing. Citizen participation was a critical component to this year's session, and given that Cville counts the House Minority Leader as its Delegate, we do have some faces that are out in front of the media more than other areas...Our area might have seen even more such participation if our local media placed more value on these topics.

Never got around to burning my draft card. Now maybe I'll burn my voter registration card since SB1 passed.
They want to make sure no ineligible voter casts his or her vote for the pack of thieves and liars that run our government.
After all, if voting made a meaningful difference- it would be illegal. Either your candidate loses- or they win, and turn into a big fat disappointment

Bob is spot on. If this is supposed to be a "news" story, it falls quite short. It is opinion and one-sidedness. Heck, Provence even had a gripe about the "child rape life sentence" bill. Of course, she had to put both sides of the story in her little rant on that one bill: how dare a liberal think that a child rapist should be incarcerated for life?

And the pot bill...again, true lib colors come out, using the moral relativity test. If I received three traffic tickets for going 35 in a school zone, I should not vote to keep the speed limit as law because "I did it too when I was young." Such logic.
I 'spose that's why our media is in this market.

And of course, we all want be wee-weeing into an endless abyss by providing "social services" to drug users. I think I want my tax dollars going to support addicts. How dare taxpayers demand that?

And that Voter ID discriminatory? Even Eric Holder thinks so! And I value everything he says. I would submit that, in any larger metro area (Va Beach, Richmond, northern counties), I could find evidence of voter fraud. While we may not have it here (then why does Charlottesville have the most media-present registrar I have ever seen?), it does exist. If voting is such a precious ritual, then a little photo ID is not such a hardship.

R.I.P.: Peter Ham

Don't bother burning your voter card: it's not accepted as ID for, you know, voting.

Why are Charlottesvillers not up in arms to outs the lame Rob Bell? Are we paralyzed with inertia? Or do we place more value on playing nice with whomever we have than getting good legislators -- no matter how bad they are.

Rob Bell is an incredibly hard worker for the people of his district, with a high level of integrity. I have not agreed with every position he takes, but I have a great deal of respect for him.

I am surprised that Rob Bell proposed a bill to mandate a life sentence for child rape but failed to understand and adopt the language of HB2490 and was not in favor (as Chair of the VA Crime Commission) of a bill to require collaboration of campus/local police when campus rape occurs - these "children" involved in campus rape are only 5 years older than the max age in his child rape bill. I've been told, off the record, that he sees campus rape as "different" from real rape. Is there really a difference? The trauma is the same....

Liberalace --

Indeed, we should make sure that drug addicts do not receive any welfare benefits or social services. That is why we would have tested them for use of one of the most addictive and widely available drugs on the market, nicotine, right? Let's not forgot another highly addictive drug, caffeine. While we are at it, we should test them for the recreational drug whose abuse causes the most deaths each year: alcohol.

Let's get serious: the war on drugs was never really about morality, except perhaps at the lower levels of enforcement. America's drug policies are about expanding corporate profits and the power of the police and of the executive branch of government.

For all the talk about not spending tax dollars on poor people, there seems to be little objection to spending tax dollars on militarizing the police, flying helicopter patrols to look for feral hemp (and arrest people who are unlucky enough to have this weed growing on their land), and building more prisons to house the world's largest prison population (not per capita, just "largest").

-- B

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Rob Bell does not represent Charlottesville, so that might be why Charlottesvillians are not up in arms about him.

So Rob Bell opposed gay adoption, huh? Very, very interesting, to say the least.....

Believe it or not, people that live in Albemarle County do live in "Charlottesville". At least that is what their address tells them and that is what they consider their locality.

Lots of thought policing going on here today. What's now up is in no way an honest representation of the comments that have been made. Rather than mark one of several deleted comments, it would be far more ethical to note that these discussion are frequently the creation of whoever is editing things.

I have always presented my voter registration card at the polls and there never has been any problem.
I do not drive(never have). I do not fly(on airplanes). I do all my banking and other financial activities with ATMS or online.My bank account, library card, etc were set up years ago before all this "security" madness hit our society.
I am retired, still have my employers card with my photo, but since its not state issued not acceptable.
I feel like Jack Burns the Brave Cowboy in Ed Abbey's book of the same title. "He said "I don't need an ID, I know who I am."
That book was written when it was illegal for a male not to have and carry a draft card, eben if a veteran who had served in a previous war. The State still likes to think it owns us.
I may have cast my last ballot. Maybe the best way to deal with the system is not fight it,but to simply not participate in it.

@cville reader2 - it has nothing to do with Bell being "hard working" and everything to do with awful gerrymandering. If we had even remotely sensible HOD or SS districts, C'ville would tip Mr. Bell's seat to D or moderate GOP. Ditto Matt Farris' seat. Sadly, Hollowboy has about a bit of a point about your vote 'not counting'. The voter suppression bill is an attempt to shore up these safe seats for a while, since long-term demographic shifts are really running against these culture warriors.

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Some commenters don’t like the tone of this article, claiming that it is “opinion” and “one-sided,” with one noting sarcastically the “objective, unbiased titles” given to bills voted on in the General Assembly. That, however, IS the crux of the article: how area legislators voted on particular bills that were “controversial” and that “grabbed national attention. And that’s news, not opinion.

I want to thank 26World and cville reader2 and Susan Russell and B for thoughtful and helpful comments. 26World suggests more emphasis by the local media on the kind(s) of legislation spawned by conservative Republicans, cville reader2 wonders why Bell gets re-elected while Susan Russell calls out Bell’s hypocrisy (and there’s a lot of it), and B sheds light on the epic failure of the war on drugs.

I wonder why LiberalAce favors drug testing for poor welfare recipients, but says not a word about drug testing those who get subsidies for historic preservation and conservation tax credits. These credits cost taxpayers more than $100 million a year, and that does not include the additional subsidies that accrue under local land use tax subsidy programs (60 percent of the land in Albemarle county in land us). See, for example:

Bob says that Rob Bell is a “hard worker” and has a “high level of integrity.” Perhaps. I don’t doubt that Bell works hard, and I’ll bet he loves his family, and if he owns a dog he probably doesn’t kick it. But let’s just look at the kinds of legislation that Bell , who claims to be a lover of freedom and believer in limited government, voted for.

Bell voted to require women seeking a legal, constitutionally-protected abortion to undergo an “expensive, invasive procedure called a transvaginal ultrasound, wait 24 hours, and have it go on their permanent record.”

Bell voted to allow private adoption agencies to legally practice discrimination. So much for “liberty and justice for all.”

Bell claims to be a law-and-order Republican, but he voted to eliminate minor gun purchase restrictions even though it’s already incredibly easy to buy guns in Virginia and the Commonwealth is already “the number one source for illegal guns entering New York” and one of the top ten for “illegal guns that are shipped across state lines for use in crimes.”

Bell voted to make it harder to vote, even though democracy is based on popular sovereignty (“We, the People”) and there is no evidence that there’s any kind of voter “fraud” problem. Maybe Bell is not fond of government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Bell voted to make what amounts to religious belief –- that life begins at conception –– into law.

Bell was not alone on these issues. He was joined in nearly every case by his conservative brethren. It’s hardly “one-sided” or “opinionated” to point out these votes.

Wow, just saw that I had two comments "deleted by moderator" -- I've never ever had something deleted as inappropriate on any comment site before -- more to the point, I said nothing that should violate any rules -- just hit back against defense of Bell.

Strange editing going on.

See if this one gets deleted.

@cville reader2, I follow a lot of the comment threads here and a significant number of comments get deleted with no trace, leaving a very distorted picture of the discussion that has taken place. It is often very difficult to understand why something has been deleted, since deleted comments often seem to have been well within the posted guidelines. At least a few here are still marked as deleted. Others that have been censored weren't.

On the other hand, this article by the same author has produced an absurd stream of commentary by someone frequently responsible for doing just that and as usual, none have been deleted.

Of course this is the Hook's playground and they can take it and the ball anytime they like. Just saying it doesn't do much for their already strained credibility that they allow rampant lunacy but deface more normal discussions.