Legislative Update #15, Feb. 21 2017 — HB2023, Maintenance Funding for Bike Lanes, Passes Senate

Final passage today on several bills that now will go to the Governor for his signature before this week is out —

After being Passed By for the Day Monday on the Senate floor for Patron Delegate Ron Villanueva & Sen. Bill DeSteph (both from VA Beach) to get some more information on what HB2023 the Maintenance Reimbursement bill does, and doesn’t, do… the bill was heard today and passed unanimously.

Similarly, HB 1514/Buddy Fowler’s bill that would exempt MD’s and other health practitioners from Civil Liability if they reported a patient to DMV who they felt had a condition that would make them an unsafe driver cleared the Senate today by a 37-3 vote.

An identical Senate bill, SB 1024, carried by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant had its second reading on the House floor today and probably will get final passage tomorrow. It’s noted as having been amended at a late stage, and I haven’t yet seen the amendmentt, but will eventually, to see if it has been appreciably changed.

Fowler’s bill, HB1504, which increases the field of horizontal (peripheral) vision a new applicant for a driver’s license must pass a test at DMV for from 100 to 110 degrees, has cleared all its hurdles and has already been signed by the Governor to take effect on 7/1, with Dunnavant’s similar SB1229 one step behind it and still awaiting the Governor’s signature. These bills all have been instigated by Dr. Edwin Wortham (Carrie Wortham’s father) in an attempt to remove drivers with poor vision (such as the one that hit and killed his daughter) from the highways of the state, and represent small steps in that direction.

HB2381/Matt Fariss’s bill that inserts language in the Dangerous Dog Registry code that states a dog “will NOT be considered dangerous if the injury inflicted consists solely of a single nip or bite that results only in a scratch, abrasion, or other minor injury.” Seems kind of unnecessary to me, but the Animal Protection Officers feel it is necessary since they have been getting some frivolous complaints for incidents that are far less serious than the original intent of the code which is to register and confine dogs which have “bitten, attacked , or inflicted injury upon a person, or companion animal”.

SB1224/Sen. Stuart’s Recreational Access over Private Property bill that he carried at the request of the State Dept. of Conservation & Recreation got final passage in the House yesterday and now goes to the Governor. The only thing it changes is to provide that “any action against the Commonwealth shall be subject to the provisions of the Virginia Tort Claims Act ” and I have no clue what that means. Having worked hard about a decade ago to get the original bill passed, which gives the landowner (including the railroads) immunity from suits when they permit recreational users to cross their property to bike, hike, hunt, put in on a river to paddle, etc. we were concerned that this bill did not dilute that immunity which is critical to getting permission to get to many activities. It does not reduce that immunity, so we have no problem with it, and maybe some lawyer can look at it and tell me what it does for the State.

Lastly, Del. Villanueva’s HB1606 restricting handheld communication device usage in a Work Zone (which was the only cell phone restricting bill still alive that Drive Smart Virginia was working for) made it all the way around to the Senate floor and looked like it was going to get final passage when some of the Senators who are lawyers realized that it contained a penalty for the infraction. Since their rules require such a bill to go through their Courts of Justice Committee before passage (and this one had not) they referred it back to Courts. The only problem was that Courts had already met for the last time this session so it will not be heard until next session. We thought at first that this might be a dirty trick way to kill the bill, but apparently just a disappointing procedural mistake that someone didn’t spot in time that they could have sent it on its proper course. Maybe next year!

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