In memoriam at the General Assembly: meat labeling, regulating Facebook, net neutrality

The General Assembly session begins this week in Richmond.
The General Assembly session begins this week in Richmond.(Source: Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
Updated: Jan. 28, 2019 at 11:01 AM EST
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Like a school of fish in a sea of predators, many of the hundreds of bills filed during every General Assembly session fail to advance to even a floor vote, never mind the governor’s desk.

Every week, Virginia Mercury will bring you a sampling of the legislation left on the cutting room floor, either failing to report or done in by other genteel euphemisms of the legislature: “gently laid on the table” or “passed by indefinitely.”

Check out more of these bills HERE on >

‘It never squealed:’ Delegate seeks truth in meat labeling

Lab-grown meat is getting closer and closer to store shelves, and Del. Michael Webert, a cattle-farmer from Fauquier County, is not here for it.

With the support of the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association, the Farm Bureau and pretty much every other farm-group in the state, he proposed legislation that would require such products to be prominently labeled as imitations of the real thing.

But in the end, everyone seemed a little confused about what the changes would mean for the portion of state code that defines “meat food products.”

The committee voted the bill down unanimously.

Regulating Facebook like a utility

Citing concerns that conservative and religious groups are facing unfair censorship on major social media platforms like Facebook, Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, proposed regulating them like a major utility under the auspices of the State Corporation Commission.

Unsurprisingly, lobbyists representing Facebook were among those opposed and Cole seemed aware it wasn’t going anywhere. Members of the House Commerce and Labor subcommittee hearing the bill moved on without saying a word or voting, leaving the bill in General Assembly purgatory.

Net neutrality, but just for Virginia

With net neutrality repealed at the federal level, Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, proposed bringing guarantees to Virginia residents that their access to the internet wouldn’t be throttled or otherwise blocked by service providers based on content.

Cable, internet and phone companies came out of the woodwork in opposition, with Verizon’s lobbyist arguing the bill “is a hammer in search of a nail.”

Members of the House Commerce and Labor subcommittee hearing the bill agreed, saying that while there were lots of concerns about what the repeal of net neutrality might do, none had come to pass as far as they were aware.

Want a landfill in your county? You still don’t need permission from neighboring localities

A bill by Sen. Glen Sturtevant, R-Richmond, would have required that applications for permits for new or expanded landfills include “a certification from the governing body for each locality within a five-mile radius of the facility.”

“This is a good neighbor bill,” Sturtevant said. “Virginia is one of the top importers of out of state trash in the entire country. … That is something that I don’t think we should be real proud of.”

Sturtevant was unable to get anyone on the committee to support the bill.

Let nonprofit clinics dispense contraception, STD treatments

A House Health, Welfare and Institutions subcommittee tossed a bill sponsored by Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, that would have allowed nonprofit health groups to receive limited prescribing licenses at a discounted rate to dispense contraception or treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

Simon presented it as a straightforward bill that would allow nonprofit clinics to do what the state already does in its Department of Health clinics. But other groups, like the Family Foundation, saw it as a carve out for clinics that perform abortions.

Simon argued that the state creates carve outs for other areas in health care, and that making it easier for nonprofit subscribers to dispense contraception will likely reduce abortion rates. But he didn’t convince the subcommittee, and the bill was passed by indefinitely.

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.