Excerpted from a Voter Express article by Carol Noggle, Voter Protection Officer, State League of Virginia
Yes, it was a “wild” General Assembly session, as one newspaper headline stated. All sorts of unanticipated drama involving constitutional officers, but the legislative process continued with the LWV-VA and others in attendance. Observers could see during floor sessions some differences in the House and Senate culture, protocol and decorum, including somedebate obstruction. “Will the Gentleman yield?” “No, I will not yield.” Each side of House attempted to “hijack the rules.” Frequent Point of Personal Privilege (PPP) statements were very “pointed” from both sides on various bills including those regarding firearms in churches, ERA ratification, limiting the power of the Governor, changes to long-standing Rules, teaching Bible literature in the schools, and even on which June Tuesday to have the Primary elections. The House, with many subcommittees, affects the disposition of bills differently than the Senate. The House subcommittees have been described as “powerful gatekeepers” because a successful bill in the full Senate will fail in a House subcommittee that has only seven members.
What actually happened? Of 93 election related bills, 24 passed; among them:
• No-excuse absentee voting, though only for seven days.
• Absentee polling places will stay open properly for voters who are in line at 7pm.
• Preventing split precincts and establishing proper boundary lines advanced.
• Yet to be determined is whether or not voters will be considered “provisional” while waiting for verification of Social Security numbers.
• Improved ballot order to list candidates before the ballot questions will ensure that voters see the candidates first.
• Recount procedures for tied elections were clarified.
What didn’t pass?
• Requiring Voter Registration and information in Commonwealth high schools;
• Restoration of voting rights and voter registration information in regional jails; Extending the deadline for receipt of mail-in ballots;
• Allowing the Photo ID of a student enrolled at an out- of-state university;
• Extending the expiration time allowance for a DMV Photo ID;
• Most gun safety legislation including a “Red Flag” or Extreme Risk Protective Order bill;
• Ranked choice voting in local elections.
Environmental bills that passed included one on coal ash mitigation. Legislators prohibited any carbon dioxide cap-and-trade efforts by the Governor or a state agency. Regarding firearm safety, legislators rejected a “red flag” bill or Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) and a bill related to allowing firearms in churches. One successful opioid-related bill expanded who can possess and administer naloxone or other opioid antagonist, after completing training. Below are articles relating on the successful passage of a bipartisan commission on redistricting and inaction on the ERA. The redistricting bill, aimed at limiting gerrymandering, needs additional steps to be added as an amendment to the Constitution.