As quiet as things were at the GAB on Friday, they were just the opposite on Monday, with several groups having their Lobby Days on the Martin Luther King Holiday. The building was packed, making it difficult for Champe & me to wade through the traffic and make our contacts, as we continued to try to line up Co-Patrons for the bills we are supporting.
One thing did bother me, as a person who supports the 2nd Amendment rights, but does not see the need for citizens to have Assault Rifles, was to see several of them being carried around the building, their owners proudly stating that they had a right to do so, while sporting their “Guns Save Lives” decals. While in another area, we saw a group telling their delegate that they would like to be able to prohibit guns from being brought into their church during services, which apparently is being done at present.
Beyond that we discovered an additional bill of interest to us that had been filed by Senator George Barker of Alexandria — SB 1223 making it a Class 2 Misdemeanor to ride a bicycle, SegWay, moped, or electric power assisted bicycle on a highway while intoxicated. Wondering what the motivation for this was, his aide told us he regularly speaks to a high school Civics class in his area and gives them a project of recommending legislation that they think is needed, and why, and this is what they came up with. As we were shown the reasons, we saw several we questioned, the most notable being a citation that “21% of cycling fatalities involved intoxicated cyclists”. Since I have never seen an intoxicated cyclist, and have never heard of one being involved in a fatality, we intend to stay neutral on the bill until we hear what the arguments are. Although we think the bill is unnecessary, as intoxicated cyclists would be unlikely to hurt anyone but themselves, we certainly don’t condone or endorse intoxicated cycling, and would have difficulty taking a position against the bill.
Today being not nearly as busy at the GAB, we were able to meet with Del. Rip Sullivan and discuss his HB 1633 Vulnerable User bill, which has been assigned to the House Courts of Justice Criminal Law sub-committee, which meets on Mondays & Wednesdays, 1/2 hour after adjournment (that usually means around 1:30 to 2:00). Since it wasn’t on the docket today, we will look for it on Monday. Shortly after our meeting, we ran into Del. Jim LeMunyon, who informed us that he had signed on to the bill as a co-patron, which was very good news, balancing the Democrat patron with a Republican co-patron, and making it a bi-partisan bill, which is always helpful. Shortly after that, we got some bad news, as Sen. Bill DeSteph from Va. Beach informed us that he had declined to sign on as Co-Patron on Sen. Surovell’s similar Vulnerable User bill, SB 1339.
A little later we learned that DMV, their Medical Staff, and the patrons of the two Driver Vision Testing bills, HB 1504 & SB 1229, were making some changes to the vision requirements so the bills are being passed by until they are ready. This meant that SB 1229, which was on the docket in Senate Trans would not be heard this afternoon.
With a huge crowd of Latinos (about twice as many as the Hearing Room could hold) on hand to support SB 1345 which would permit DMV to issue Driver Privilege Cards (not a full fledged driver’s license, but which would permit the holder to have ID and drive, but not vote, as long as they showed evidence of paying taxes. After extensive discussion, the bill failed 7-6, along party lines, as the R’s obviously did not want to legitimize what they felt were “illegal aliens” that are the responsibility of the Federal government even tho many of them have been in this country as long as 20 years, driving without a license when they drive, or not being able to get around if they don’t have public transportation. Since the representative of the State Police estimated that there may be as many as 300,000 of these in the state, this problem will continue to be out there.
Once that bill was dispensed with, it wasn’t long before SB 1223 Barker’s Cycling While Intoxicated, Surovell’s SB 1338 Motor Vehicle Passing in a Bike Lane, and Dunnavant’s SB1229 Vision Testing bills were all Passed By until the next meeting. That left only Surovell’s SB 860 Prohibiting Use of Personal Communication Devices While Driving of our bills to be heard. After a good presentation by Sen. Surovell and strong support by me, Drive Smart Virginia, and several other witnesses, the bill failed by a 7-6 vote, along straight party lines as we could not get a single R to vote in favor of the bill.
Now, its on to House Transportation on Thursday morning, where we look forward to seeing Chairman Villanueva’s HB 2023 Maintenance Reimbursement & HB 1606 Prohibiting Hand Held Personal Communication Devices by Drivers In Work Zones.