Now that the deadline the Governor to veto, amend, or pass legislature sent to him by the General Assembly has come and gone. Let’s take a look at what bills are likely to become issues in the General Assembly when they reconvene for their regular spring session April 15th.
Despite many of our legislators describing this past special session as having been “eerily calm” and how business like and efficient it was. They certainly got the business part right, since most of their significant legislature was all about business – Dominion Powers business. Their actions coupled with the Governors passing all of their pro Dominion bills, should make it abundantly clear that Dominion is the business of Virginia.
It’s no coincidence that even before the session was concluded the Governor signed SB1349 which exempts Dominion from having any reviews of their base rates for 5 years, and SB1163 which allows them to recover their costs for building the Atlantic Coast Gas Pipeline from their customers. Along with SB1334 which allows Dominion to recover their costs for procuring right of way access for that pipeline from their customers.
If you follow the news with any regularity you’re probably familiar with a concept know as “Friday afternoon dumps,” where a government or administration releases information at the end of the day on Friday, knowing that it will likely be buried deep in the weekend news cycle and is not likely to come to light until after long after the Sunday talk shows are over and Sunday editorials in the papers have come out.
Here in Virginia, the Governors office has found another way to slow walk the release of public information, taking full advantage of the built in latency of the states LIS system which tracks the progress of bills as they pass their way through his office. Usually the LIS systems information is updated every 2 or 3 days several days, making any attempts to track a bill progress on a daily basis an exercise in futility.
In the case of bills waiting to be signed, vetoed or amended, by the Governor that process was somehow stretched out to a week or more, making it virtually impossible to know what the status of a particular bill was. Much of the information about the bills sitting on the Governors desk was compiled weeks ago, and it was only after the March 29th midnight deadline had passed that the Governors actions of these past 2 weeks became publicly available.
In the case of Dominion, it was the passage of HB1475, which was passed on 3/17 and like SB1163 further “legalizes” Dominions ability to “capture” their infrastructure costs from their customers for their Atlantic Coast Pipeline, along with HB2237 which he passed on 3/26 which allows them to build a 400 MW demonstration solar plant at their ratepayer’s expense. The Governor also amended SB1161 on 3/27 which subsidizes Dominions burning of coal in their coal burning power plants at taxpayer expense. So far, no details are publicly available about what this amendment entails.
A state of affairs which puts me in mind of an observation by the comic, Lewis Black, “the only thing dumber than a Republican or a Democrat is when these pricks work together.” While they may be divided on many things they are unquestionably united in being “regulatory captured” when it comes to anything concerning Dominion Power.
Another thing they are untied in is the preservation of the states and law enforcement ability to limit public access to information, whether it is restricting limiting their ability to spy on the citizens of the commonwealth and how long they can retain that information SB965 (amended by the Governor), seizing their property without a warrant or due cause, commonly known as “Asset Forfeiture.”
The only bill addressing this issue, HB1287 died in earlier in committee, while presumably SB721 which would compel law enforcement agencies to issue a receipt in 3 days after property has been seized would remedy this situation. Now that the Governor has passed his recommendations for this bill on to the Senate, it remains to be seen what the details of his recommendations are, and what if anything the Senate will do with them.
By far the General Assemblies most popular way of limiting access to public information is to simply deny certain kinds of FOIA requests by legislating them out of existence, which is likely the case with SB968, SB963, HB1946, and SB919.
One bill, SB1393 which was recently killed in the House would have hidden all information about executions by lethal injection, and is perhaps the worst example of restricting access to public information, especially since it was enthusiastically supported by the Governor, the Attorney General, and the Senate. Fortunately it was narrowly defeated in the House.
Virtually all of the bills which were passed through the Governor’s office have followed this pattern of delayed communication, and for some of the more questionable or politically sensitive bills there was no public information available until this morning. Whether this was part of his administrations calculations to give the Republicans as little time as possible in crafting their response to any of the bills that he vetoed or amended, or it these delayed actions reflect institutionalized inertia remains to be seen.
These bills are listed below by topic, bill number and when they were passed, vetoed, or amended.
SB763 Passed 3/19 and HB1360 crowd funding exemption Passed 3/19
HB1608 + HB2395 – prohibit localities from requiring contractors to pay living wage (both vetoed) 3/27
SB816 remove listing religious reasons for vote absentee Passed 3/17
HB1318 photo id requirement for absentee voting (vetoed) 3/27
SB986 + HB1237 (adjust precincts in 17th Senate) (vetoed) 3/26
HB1538 (relax standards on match of id name vs. polling information) Passed 3/17
Civil Liberties & Public Disclosure & Law enforcement
HB2112 –eliminate training requirement for undercover work (no training facility) Passed 3/17
HB1928-DNA samples taken for certain misdemeanors Passed 3/16
HB1578– State Police certify DNA of sex offenders in Data Base Passed 3/16
HB1353-post dated additions to sex offender database with little consideration for mistaken identity Passed 3/29
HB1946 Passed 3/23 electronic communication of administrative subpoenas not subject to FOIA
SB919 Passed 2/26 electronic communication of administrative subpoenas not subject to FOIA (both pertain to human trafficking and sex crimes against minors- if Commonwealth Attorney makes written certification)
SB963– FOIA exemptions if not part of public business (not prearranged or @ function open to public) Passed 3/17
SB968 – FOIA exemptions healthcare committees –withheld from discovery Passed 2/26
SB721– receipt for property seized under asset forfeiture (Recommendation sent to Senate) 3/27
SB965-Two amendments 3/27 – eliminate the 7 day limit for government retention of personally identifying data, replacing it with a 60 day limit, and eliminate the inclusion of all other surveillance technologies, and make it only applicable for license plate readers.
Guns Now, Guns Today, and Guns Forever
SB1137 – legal to carry loaded shotguns rifles in vehicle Vetoed 3/37
SB948 – do not share handgun permit information w/other states if they don’t share similar laws Vetoed 3/27
HB2286– possession of firearms & weapons by felons whose rights have been restored (Substitute introduced) 3/26
HB2009 – Requires the chief law enforcement officer to provide a certification for transfer of a machine gun within 60 days if the applicant is not prohibited by law from receiving the machine gun Vetoed 3/27
SB783 – seclusion & restraint standards and limitations in public schools Passed 3/16
HB1714 –take science SOL assessments after 8th grade Passed 3/17
HB1490 + SB874 – expedited retake of tests (except writing test) Both Passed 3/16
HB1626 – home school student participate in interscholastic programs (Tebow bill) (an ALEC initiative) Vetoed 3/27
HB1752 + SB724 – Board of Educaton prohibited from adopting Common Core standards (ALEC initiative) Vetoed 3/27
HB324 – creation of virtual schools (another ALEC initiative) Passed 3/27
SJ256 – Authorize school districts to create charter schools (yet another ALEC initiative) Must pass for 2 consecutive years and then be put to public ballot initiative before it becomes law
SB1440 & HB2330 both passed 3/26 Supposedly reform the tobacco commission
SB1399 Passed 3/17 & HB2070 (Rec. sent to House) 3/27 both bills propose a $ 100 limit on gifts but neither would limit the ALEC loophole