Friday concluded the first full week of the 2021 General Assembly Session. While the overall number of bills is down this year because of limits on how many each member could introduce, there’ve still been several pieces of legislation heard that strike at the heart of religious liberty, educational choice, and which infringe on some of our most fundamental rights. Thanks to the Family Foundation for tracking and summarizing these key bills:
Constitutional Government and Limits on Executive Powers
Still Alive: SB 1235 (Peake – R) would put an end to the Virginia Department of Health’s Teen Sex Text Hotline and other dangerous programs that involve contacting children without parents’ consent or knowledge. The bill was close to being defeated, but Senator Steve Newman (Bedford – R) made a motion was made to pass it by for the week in order to work out some amendments. Stay tuned for more on this.
Defeated: HB 2066 (Webert – D) sought to ensure that any complaints to the Virginia Health Department alleging a violation of an emergency order (e.g. social distancing or face masks) must include the complainant’s first and last name and at least one form of contact information, which is made part of the public record. This would greatly reduce petty complaints against businesses and churches, while encouraging people to work out their concerns with one another rather than anonymously going straight to the government. Democrats defeated the bill on a party-line vote.
Defeated: HB 2087 (Cox – R) sought to ensure that emergency rules, regulations or orders issued by the Governor under the Emergency Services and Disaster Law expire after 45 days, unless the General Assembly takes action. HB 2149 (Adams, L. – R) would limit them to 60 days. Democrats defeated both bills on party-line votes.
Still Fighting: SB 1101 (Ebbin – D) would add Virginia to the National Popular Vote Compact that would allocate Virginia’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote, regardless of the candidate Virginians choose! It effectively would end the Electoral College by joining Virginia into a compact with some of the deepest blue states, such as California and New York, to do the same. The patron asked the bill to be passed by for the day, which signifies they don’t have the votes to pass it, but we anticipate the bill to come up next week. The House version HB 1933 (Levine – D) has not yet been heard.
Still Alive: SB 1303 (Dunnavant – R) would require a public school district to give parents the option for their child to attend either in-person or virtual schools, like some localities are offering. Currently, many school boards are preventing students from returning to in-person learning, leading to many negative outcomes for kids academically, socially, and emotionally. After a robust debate in the Senate Education and Health committee, the bill ended in a tie (since one Senator was absent), which means it’s technically still “alive.” It is the committee chairman’s prerogative to add the bill to the docket next week to be reheard. Stay tuned for more on this.
Defeated: HB 2244 (LaRock – R) would have required as part of Virginia’s Family Life Education curriculum that public school students be presented a video recording of an ultrasound of a live unborn baby. By showing a recording of an ultrasound of a baby in the womb – something that every mom and dad gets to see – students can see the miraculous process of human development that God created. Unfortunately, Democrats defeated the bill on a party-line vote. (Click HERE to read more).
Defeated: HB 1742 (Webert – R) would have created an education voucher to be used at another public or a nonpublic school in the event that in-person instruction is not available. Democrats defeated the bill on a party-line vote.
Defeated: HB 2090 (Cox – R) would have established the Reimbursement for Education Access Decisions (READ) Fund, which permits the local school board to use federal CARES Act funds to reimburse parents for tutoring services or other related education costs incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. Democrats defeated the bill on a party-line vote.
Defeated: HB 2225 (Davis – R) would have created an Empowerment Scholarship Account for parents with children who have an individualized education plan (IEP) to use at a private school of their choice, equal to the amount appropriated for public schools. Special needs children have suffered more than any other group with schools shutting down in-person learning. Democrats defeated the bill on a party-line vote.
Passed Senate: SB 1276 (McClellan – D) would allow coverage of abortion on demand in health insurance plans in Virginia’s Obamacare health exchange. Taxes pay for managing the exchange and for subsidizing health plans in many cases. The Senate passed the bill 20-17, and it now goes to the House for consideration. An identical bill, HB 1896 (Hudson – D), passed the House Labor and Commerce committee and will now be considered by the full House.
Religious Conscience Protections
Still Fighting: SB 1178 (Ebbin – D) seeks to eliminate the religious conscience protections for genetic counselors who assist a patient in understanding certain genetic tests and any inheritable diseases that could be used to choose an abortion or the destruction of a human embryo. A Senate Education and Health subcommittee approved the bill, but the full Education and Health committee vote ended in a tie following another debate. The bill could be brought up again this week. (Click HERE to read more.)
Still Fighting: SB 1360 (McClellan – D) is a dangerous “workplace harassment” bill that would punish virtually all private employees for dissenting over the LGBTQ ideology. It would make any “direct or indirect” and “verbal or nonverbal” conduct on the basis of “sexual orientation,” or “gender identity”, etc. “workplace harassment” – even when the accusation occurs outside the workplace. The Senate Commerce and Labor committee voted to pass by the bill for the week after The Family Foundation and the NFIB called into question the vague and problematic language used in the bill. This is a small victory, but we anticipate this bill will be heard again next week.
Legalization of Marijuana
SB 1406 (Ebbin – D) would legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services committee approved a 500+ page bill (a substitute version dropped on them at the last minute with no time to read) and reported it to the Senate Courts of Justice and Finance committees to consider criminal and financial elements of the monstrous bill. This would have a devastating impact on families and our communities. (Click HERE to learn more about the dangers of legalized marijuana.)