Delegate Mark Keam - Virginia's 35th House District

General Assembly Roundup: Week Two

Oakton Patch

General Assembly Roundup: Week Two

Oakton's senators see legislation pass through the state Senate

By Nicole Trifone Email the author

Saturday, January 21, 2012

House Gallery

The General Assembly saw few pieces of legislation reach the floors of each chamber, as most bills are still being considered by committees.

Both state senators representing Oakton residents saw victories this week, as the General Assembly begins to consider legislation for the 2012 legislative session.

None of Oakton's three delegates had a bill reach the House floor this week.

Sen. Janet Howell

The Senate unanimously passed two of Sen. Janet Howell's (D-32nd District) bills, one of which she sponsored on behalf of a recommendation from the Committee on District Courts.

The committee sought to correct legislation regarding garnishment exemptions, which now prohibits the use of homestead exemptions for payment of spousal or child support thanks to the bill from Howell (SB 89).

Howell's second passed bill allows out-of-state private security businesses to contract with Virginia-licensed private security businesses for a specific investigation (SB 90).

Both bills must also be passed by the House of Delegates and signed by the governor before they become law.

Despite her success on two fronts, Howell did have one piece of legislation fail in committee. The Privileges and Elections Committee voted 8-7 against her annual attempt to keep qualified in-person absentee voters from having to state a reason for voting absentee (SB 12).

Howell told Patch before the session began she was not hopeful it would pass, but will continue to introduce the legislation because she is convinced it's right.

Her bill that called for the Department of Motor Vehicles to send initial notice of license suspension or revocation by certified mail (SB 88) has been postponed to the 2013 session.

While most of Howell's proposed bills still sit in their respective committees, she has three pieces of legislation that have passed committee and await a floor vote:

  • SB 93: Authorizes special license plates for Reston bearing the word: "RESTON!" and the legend: "LIVE WORK PLAY."
  • SB 301: Requires each commonwealth attorney to invite any chiefs of campus police located within the jurisdiction to the annual Sexual Assault Response Team meeting.
  • SJ 5: A constitutional amendment regarding the Virginia Retirement System, which would require Virginia to pay into the system what the VRS board says it needs. If the state can't, the Senate can overrule their amount, but only with a supermajority.
  • Sen. Chap Petersen

    One bill from Sen. Chap Petersen (D-34th District) passed this week with little opposition. His legislation prevents criminals from hiding their assets from law enforcement and creditors.

    "This bill closes a major loophole in the law, which currently permits creditors to delay execution on their assets by merely giving it to a family member or co-conspirator," Petersen said in a statement.

    Petersen, an 18-year veteran lawyer with a practice in Fairfax City, was inspired to introduce the bill after his law firm obtained a judgment for $9.85 million for fraud. Creditors found valuable property had been assigned to the convicted person's brother post-judgment to keep the assets from being seized.

    The bill moves to the House of Delegates for approval.

    Two of Petersen's bills have passed their respective committees and will soon face a floor vote.

    One bill – SB 173, which rolled into SB 464 from Sen. Ralph Northam (D-6th District) – would permit hunting on private property on Sundays.

    The other would require state buildings to follow Virginia Energy Conservation and Environmental Standards (SB 160).

    Petersen told Patch before the session he had introduced a similar bill last year, but would re-introduce it using the term "cost-effective" rather than "green" to avoid partisan push back. The General Laws and Technology Committee sent the bill to the floor with an amendment that would change "cost-effective" to "high performance."

    In a newsletter sent to constituents, Petersen wrote he is noticing a trend of legislation that he said looks to limit voter access, which he opposes.

    He listed three bills in particular: one that would require each voter to show identification (SB 1), one that would have voters to declare a party when they register (SB 62), and one that would criminalize the solicitation of absentee ballot applications in nursing homes (SB 63).

    "Selling Ocean City time shares at a nursing home? Legal. Handing out absentee ballot applications? Illegal. That makes no sense," he wrote. "We've fought hard to establish an open system in Virginia, from our primaries to our local races. People worked together to make that happen. Let's not change it for a brief partisan advantage in 2012."

    All three have yet to be voted on in the Privileges and Elections Committee.

    House of Delegates

    The House of Delegates has seen few bills move through committees yet. All three of Oakton's delegates – Mark Keam (D-35th District), Jim LeMunyon (R-67th District) and Ken Plum (D-32nd District) – have not seen any of their bills pass or fail.

    However, LeMunyon did have one of his bills tabled in the Counties, Cities and Towns Committee, on which he serves, on an 11-10 vote. The legislation would allow any locality to require property owners to cut their grass (HB 617). A law on the books currently only specifies certain localities, including Fairfax County, may allow the requirement.

    LeMunyon did notch one majority victory this week when he was named chairman of the Teachers and Administrative Action Subcommittee. A second term delegate in his third session on the Education Committee, LeMunyon scored a rare feat.

    "It is uncommon that a second term member be given the responsibility of chairing a subcommittee in the House of Delegates," House Speaker William Howell said. "Jim's appointment to this important subcommittee reflects the confidence Members of the House of Delegates have in his ability."

    To see how each delegate has voted so far, click here.

    Petersen and Keam will hold a town hall meeting at 9 a.m. today at Vienna's American Legion, 330 Center Street N. Coffee and light refreshments will be provided

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