Advocacy Update #5

Bright & early (actually rainy, with snow flakes lightly falling & still dark) on Tuesday, 1/30 in House Trans Sub 1, Del. Vivian Watts from Fairfax did her usual nice job of presenting. This time it was HB308 which would make it illegal for a motor vehicle to pass another motor vehicle by crossing over a solid line designating a bike lane. Since she is a D, her bill met the fate we have regularly been seeing, being passed by indefinitely (PBI’d) by a 6-4 vote along party lines.

Since this 7 a.m. SubCom meeting is immediately followed by the full House Trans meeting at 8:30, we then were slated to hear HB428 carried by Del. Danny Marshall of Danville which would establish a minimum speed limit of 45 mph on all limited access highways in the state. Since the patron was not present, the bill was carried over to the next meeting of the Committee which is on Thursday, 2/1 at 8:30. Since this bill, if it were to pass, carries many unintended consequences with it, barring farm vehicles and other slow moving vehicles (in addition to bicycles, mopeds, and some slow moving delivery vehicles) from a number of highway sections where they are now permitted, we would like to see it defeated and will be there to oppose it when it next is heard.

At the request of the Patron, the bill was pulled from the docket, thereby killing it and saving Champe the trouble of having to speak against it in the Committee on Thursday, 2/1.

On Wednesday, 1/31, Senate Trans full committee & House Courts Sub Comm 1 were both scheduled at 1/2 hour after adjournment (but after the House & Senate, which did adjourn at different times). Senate Trans convened first and Sen. Adam Ebbins’ SB919 which provides that a motor vehicle driver whose carelessness causes serious bodily injury to a vulnerable road user would be guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor was heard late in the docket. Despite a good presentation, the bill met the fate of so many others in that committee that had been patroned by D’s as it was PBI’d 7-6 on a straight party line vote.

Due to the House adjourning later than the Senate, House Courts Sub 1 started later and eventually began discussing the group of 7 Distracted Driving bills that had been assigned to this Sub Comm. Since this committee was chaired by Del. Rob Bell of Albemarle, and contains Todd Gilbert & Ben Cline, three of the House’s heaviest hitters (all R’s) it is well known that if you can clear this committee, you have an excellent chance of getting the bill passed. It was extremely encouraging to hear Del. Bell state that in the years that he had been hearing bills like these he had come around to supporting them as he has recognized that Distracted Driving is a serious problem and that perhaps the time has come to prohibit cell phone usage by drivers, except when hands free, in Virginia.

Noting that the seven bills filed all differed, and that additional work was needed to “get the legislation right” before sending it forward. He was designating Del.Chris Collins’ (a Republican from Winchester, who has previously been a law enforcement officer and now is an attorney) bills HB180 & HB181 as the core bills to go forward from this sub comm after being improved. He then asked anyone in the audience which of the bills they favored or would like to see improved and the committee heard from all who testified. Then significant time was spent with the patrons of all the bills, several law enforcement officers present, the Commonwealth Attorneys rep., Committee members, and the Committee’s staff attorneys all fielding questions and debating back and forth as the surviving bills were then scheduled to be heard at this committee’s next meeting on Friday, 2/2, 1/2 hour after adjournment of the House. I look forward to attending that meeting, not to testify, but to observe the most thorough treatment of a bill I have been interested in I have ever experienced and to see what the final product of all this work looks like. I am really optimistic that whatever is reported out on Friday will be a bi-partisan bill that has a great chance of passage by the House, and then hopefully, also by the Senate.

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