In memoriam at the General Assembly: Family life education; 'speculative natural gas pipelines’; housing discrimination protections

In memoriam at the General Assembly: Family life education; 'speculative natural gas pipelines’; housing discrimination protections
The General Assembly session continues in Richmond. (Source: Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

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, we’ll 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.”

Should parents have to opt in to family life education?

Under Virginia’s regulations right now, school divisions can opt out of family life education if they want, and parents can individually opt their children out of the classes if they so choose, too. But Del. David LaRock, R-Loudoun, wants the state to go even further.

He proposed legislation that would entirely prohibit an elementary or secondary school student from participating in family life education classes without a parent’s prior written consent.

The bill had squeezed through the House on a 50-48 vote.

Some senators during Thursday’s committee meeting were on board with LaRock’s idea, including Sens. Dick Black, R-Loudoun, and Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield.

But most weren’t convinced, and the bill — which had already failed to report in a Senate subcommittee — was passed by indefinitely.

LGBT housing protections and anti-NIMBY zoning fall into black hole

Two bills aimed at blocking housing discrimination failed this week when they were never given a committee hearing in the House of Delegates — a black hole many a piece of legislation get sucked into every year. Both had passed the Senate.

One aimed to make it easier for affordable housing developments to be built over NIMBY objections by explicitly prohibiting local governments from denying permits because of the expected race or income levels of the residents.

A second anti-discrimination measure was intended to provide protections to gay, lesbian and transgender residents renting or buying property. It was patroned by McClellan in the Senate and Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield in the House.

The chair of the House General Laws committee that opted against hearing the measure, Del. Chris Peace, R-Hanover, said there just wasn’t time to hear all of the bills that were referred to his committee.

But he also raised concerns with both measures.

‘Speculative natural gas pipelines’

Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan, saw his bill aimed at shielding ratepayers from the costs of “speculative natural gas pipelines,” which had passed the House, go down in the Senate’s Commerce and Labor Committee, where utility interests hold much sway.

Though Ware’s bill managed to unite a Tea Party group, the Virginia Poverty Law Center and the Virginia Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Counsel in support, it went down on a motion to pass by indefinitely.

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