Posted by: Virginia Catholic Conference | 01/27/2017

This Week at the 2017 Virginia General Assembly-Week 3


Today marks the 44th Annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., recalling the tragic 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and the more than 59 million children who have since lost their lives.  The Conference wishes to express our appreciation of and solidarity with all who are marching for the dignity of life from conception until natural death in Washington today.   You can read statements commemorating the 44th Annual March for Life from Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington here and from Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond here.

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Fr. Terence Gordon, FSSP and parishioners from St. Joseph’s Parish in Richmond pose for the camera after today’s March for Life. Kimberly and Patrick Lewis, wife and son of VCC Associate Director Michael Lewis, are pictured in the baby stroller and behind Fr. Gordon

On February 9th, the Virginia Catholic Conference invites you to join us for these advocacy and prayer events:

  • Catholics in the Capital:  On Thursday, February 9th, come to Richmond and meet your delegates and senators and advocate for the important issues outlined in our agenda. Just schedule your February 9 legislators’ visits and our staff will be happy to provide talking points and updates beforehand. Find legislators’ contact information here. Let us know after you’ve made the appointment by emailing office@vacatholic.org.
  • Virginia Vespers:  After meeting with your delegates and senators, join Virginia’s bishops, legislators, fellow Catholics and people of all faiths as we pray for the needs of the Commonwealth at our second annual Virginia Vespers: Evening Prayer for the Commonwealth on Thursday, February 9th at 5pm at Richmond’s historic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. A wine and appetizers reception follows.  Sign up here.

We look forward to seeing you in Richmond on Thursday, February 9!

The 2017 Virginia General Assembly session is quickly approaching “crossover” on February 7th, after which the House may only consider bills passed by the Senate and vice versa.  Over the next week, committees will be working hard to clear their dockets of all bills originally assigned to them.

Here’s a look at how Conference priorities fared this week:

Ultrasound Informed Consent:  Conference-opposed bills SB 1424 (Sen. Locke) and SB 1549 (Sen. Wexton) were defeated in identical 8-7 votes along party lines in the Senate Education & Health Committee. The bills would have weakened informed consent requirements before an abortion. Conference staff testified in opposition to these bills. The Conference was involved in the initial passage of these requirements.

Redefining Marriage:  The Conference opposed SJ 216 (Sen. Ebbin), a proposed constitutional amendment which would have removed from the VA Constitution the definition of marriage as “only a union between one man and one woman.” Conference staff testified against the proposed constitutional amendment in the Senate Privileges & Elections Constitutional Subcommittee. The subcommittee recommended not to advance SJ 216, and the full committee will soon consider that recommendation.

Protecting Religious Liberty:  In a 14-8 vote, the House General Laws Committee approved HB 2025 (Delegate Freitas) to protect the right of religious organizations, including charities and schools, to follow the teaching that marriage is the union of a man and a woman without being penalized by state government.  This bill – one of the Conference’s top priorities for the 2017 session – now heads to the House floor, where there will be a vote next week.  Act now to urge your state delegate to vote for this bill on the House floor!

Driver’s Licenses for Immigrants:  The Conference once again supported legislation, HB 1682 (Del. Bloxom), to allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue driver privilege cards to taxpaying residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. The bill received the support of the Conference, in solidarity with members of our own church communities who contribute to the Commonwealth’s cultural and economic life. Despite overwhelming testimony in favor of the bill, it did not advance out of committee. We look forward, however, to supporting similar legislation, HB 2020 (Del. Villanueva), which would extend driving privileges to all immigrants who are legally present in the Commonwealth.

Immigrant Communities:  In a 68-31 vote, the House of Delegates passed HB 1468 (Del. Robert Marshall). Opposed by the Conference, this bill would force cities and counties to comply with every federal detainer request and undermine trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement. The measure will now move to the Senate.

Enhancing Scholarship Tax Credits:  In identical 7-4 votes, a House Finance subcommittee advanced two Conference-supported bills (HB 1962 and HB 1963, Delegate Massie) that would enhance the Education Improvement Scholarships tax credit program.  HB 1962 would increase the tax credit to 90% from 65%, and HB 1963 would make low-income pre-K students eligible for the program.  Thousands of Virginia students receive the financial assistance they need to attend Catholic and other nonpublic K-12 schools through this vital program.  The program could help many more children if these bills pass.  The full House Finance Committee is expected to vote on these bills on Monday, January 30.  Identical Senate bills will also be debated in the Senate Finance Committee next week.  Please take action here to tell your state delegate and senator to support these bills.

Protecting Consumers:  Conference-supported legislation, SB 1126 (Sen. Surovell), applies the Commonwealth’s lending regulations to a growing market of loans contracted over the Internet. The Conference has long supported measures to protect vulnerable consumers by closing loopholes that exist in Virginia’s financial law. With the addition of a clause saying the bill also must be approved next year, it passed the Senate in a 34-6 vote. See previous coverage of the Conference’s advocacy for this bill here.

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