News From Bill Stanley | February 2012

News From Bill Stanley | February 2012

The week before Crossover, the halfway point of the legislative calendar, is traditionally one of the most productive weeks of every General Assembly session.  This year was no exception.  As standing committees completed their work, legislation that had made it through that part of the process was sent to the full Senate for consideration.

It isn’t a frequent occurrence, but every so often an issue that is being debated and discussed at the national level coincides with one being discussed in Richmond.  The Obama Administration’s decision to mandate that faith-based institutions offer coverage in their health care packages that violate the tenets of their faith brought about a great deal of discussion about “the conscience clause”.

Conscience clauses are not new to legislation.  They are intended to protect individuals from being required by the government to act in a manner that would violate their religious beliefs.  Without them, many faith-based organizations that do important charitable and social work would not be able to function.  In the case of the Obama Administration’s new policy edict, the change they are suggesting would affect Catholic hospitals and universities.

The Senate this week passed out legislation that provided a conscience clause for organizations that deal with adoptions.  The bill would enable organizations that place children in families to do so in a manner consistent with the tenets of their faith or their beliefs.  While this may seem obvious, not every state has interpreted it as such.  In one state where the courts imposed same-sex marriage, the largest private child placement agency, a division of the Catholic Church, ceased operations because of states mandates on child placement that conflicted with their faith.

Senate Bill 349 protects these agencies, preserving an essential component of Virginia’s social service network.  The passage of legislation exempts child placement agencies from being forced to comply with provisions that are in conflict with their beliefs or mission.  The bill is headed to the House, which has already passed similar legislation.

Several of my bills are still working their way through the Senate.  Senate Bill 594 would allow counties and cities to acquire land by voluntary sale, but not by condemnation within their boundaries for economic development and job creation.  Senate Bill 652 pertains to cable television systems and electric cooperatives.  The bill requires cable television systems and cooperatives to negotiate in good faith to resolve certain issues, including the rates, terms, and conditions of contracts permitting attachments by a cable television system to a cooperative’s poles. If an issue cannot be resolved, either party may petition the State Corporation Commission to resolve the issue. In adjudicating the issue, the Commission shall ensure that the cooperative is compensated by the cable television system for certain costs.  In addition, if any cable television system attachment interferes with, obstructs, or delays the service or operations of a cooperative or creates a safety hazard, the cooperative may take immediate action to remedy the situation at the cable television system’s expense.  Hopefully, resolving this issue will bring high speed internet and cable television access to our rural areas (that currently do not have either) in the near future.  Both SB594 and SB652 have been reported out of committee and will now come before the full Senate.

Another one of my bills is the first of its kind in the nation.  Not many people know that nursing homes and assisted living facilities are not required to carry insurance that would protect their clientele if they were injured while residing at the facility.  I believe that it is critical that consumers should be made aware of this when they are making important decisions as to the homes they are considering placing their loved ones.  Senate Bill 65 requires nursing homes, certified nursing facilities, and assisted living facilities to inform patients and residents about whether they carry liability insurance (and if so, the extent of such coverage) available to pay claims of the patient or resident if they are injured at the facilities due to the negligence of others.  This is an important addition to the Patients’ Bill of Rights.

My Senate Bill 66, a variation of “Caylee’s Law” provides that any parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the care of a child under the age of 12 years who fails to report the child is missing within a reasonable time of discovery is guilty of a Class 6 felony.  This bill was reported out of the Education and Health committee and will now come before the full Senate.  This is a critical and necessary law in order to protect our children from harm, as the first 24 hours that a child is missing is a crucial time for law enforcement to recover the child safe and sound.

Senate Bill 674 would amend the Code of Virginia pertaining to death of a person by wrongful act to include an unborn child.  This bill, which passed out of the Senate Education and Health Committee, will now be considered by the full Senate.  This bill will give a legal cause of action for a mother who loses her unborn child due to the negligence of others. This is an important step in acknowledging the value of human life.

Groups of Virginians continue to descend upon Richmond, seeing the General Assembly in action and visiting their local legislators.  The building was bustling with Virginia Association of Counties, Virginia Municipal League, 4-H groups, Homeschoolers, School Choice advocates, Virginia 21 (college students), County Administrators, Supervisors, and City Managers,

It was good to see Patrick County folks, including Karen Gorham, Joyce McDowell, Nancy Rowland, Anne Smith, Myra Trent, and Autumn Burch.

Henry County visitors included Crystal Peek, Brian Hairston, John Hernandez, Hunter Stewart, Sarah Stanley, Kate Belcher, and Abby Worth-Jones.

Halifax visitors included Brian Luckett, Chloe Mayhew, Tricia Robertson and Melvin Johnson.
Reagan Dillon and his parents, Michael and Betty from Cascade in Pittsylvania County stopped by, in addition to Larry Gott, Brian & Teresa Turpin, Marshall Ecker and Jerry Hagerman, Supervisors of Pittsylvania County and Dan Sleeper, County Administrator.

From the Martinsville/Collinsville/

Stuart area visitors included Betsy Ashbrook, Jan Haas, and Stu Belongia.

Franklin County visitors included Melvin Adams, Roy Enslow, and James Ervin, Town Manager of Rocky Mount.

Danville area visitors included Roger Howard, as well as Dr. Tiffany Franks, President of Averett University and Buddy Rawley, VP for Institutional Advancement of Averett University.

Visitors from Galax, Carroll County/Grayson County area, included Suzanne Brewster, Karen Castelle, Randi Lyn Randall, Emily Reel, Keith Barker, Willie Greene, and Tom Littrell.

Feel free to contact my office during the session at 804-698-7520.  We are located in Room 313 of the General Assembly Building, across from the Capitol.  My Legislative Assistants, Brian O’Connor and Brenda Bowman, will be more than happy to assist you.  You can always check on the progress of my legislation and watch our daily sessions live at http://legis.virginia.gov/

Because “Crossover” is coming, we will have to wrap up work on all the bills filed by Senators next Tuesday.  I look forward to bringing you up-to-date on all that is happening at the General Assembly next week, and, at that time, we will discuss the economic initiatives that we are considering that will directly benefit our area in the future.

Until then, have a wonderful and prosperous week.

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