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Virginia Politics
Posted at 12:24 PM ET, 04/10/2012

McDonnell amends bills on pension reform, voter ID, education

Gov. Bob McDonnell wants the General Assembly to amend bills to make it slightly easier for those trying to vote on Election Day and allow localities to spread costs of pension changes over five years, legislators say.

McDonnell (R) had to submit amendments on hundreds of bills by
Gov. Bob McDonnell (R). (Bob Brown - AP)
midnight Monday.

By noon Tuesday, his office had not released a promised comprehensive list of bill amendments and signatures and the online system for the state had not been fully updated.

The fate of dozens of bills remain unknown including McDonnell’s transportation plan, which legislators gutted in the final hours of the session, and a bill that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to deny placements that conflict with religious or moral beliefs.

Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) said McDonnell’s office called him at 11 p.m Monday to talk about his bill that would ban state employees — including the Virginia National Guard and State Police — from assisting in the federal detention of U.S. citizens without criminal charges or court hearings. The two agreed to tweak the language to say no state employee can “knowingly” participate in the indefinite detention of a citizen.

Legislators will return to Richmond April 18 to consider McDonnell’s amendments and vetoes. As of Tuesday morning, McDonnell had vetoed seven bills, including for the second year in a row one that deals with physical education for students. .

Local governments had been complaining for weeks about the extra costs associated with the changes after lawmakers passed a bill requiring local governments to give their employees a 5 percent raise to offset their workers having to pay a 5 percent contribution into the retirement system. (Currently, governments pick up the whole tab).

State officials say all that should equal out in the end. But localities complain that they actually will have to pay thousands, and in some cases, millions of dollars to pick up the costs associated with their employees earning more (payroll taxes and higher VRS contributions).

For example, Prince William County, the second largest county in Virginia, estimates the change will cost it $5 million, Board Chairman Corey Stewart said.

McDonnell amended a pair of voter ID bills to ensure college IDs could be used for identification and to eliminate the provision that said a voter has to return with an ID if their signatures don’t match.

McDonnell wants to shorten the time — three days — to submit documentation to the electoral board, if its needed.

Virginia’s bill requires some form of ID; it would expand the types of acceptable voter identification to include such things as utility bills and bank statements.

Sen. Steve Martin (R-Chesterfield), who introduced the bill, said he will probably support the changes, though he preferred his version.

Proponents argue that the identification bill is designed to prevent voter fraud. But critics say it would make it more difficult to vote.

McDonnell made some technical amendments to a bill to give tax credits to those who donate private- and parochial-school tuition to poor, middle-class and disabled students, a move that Republicans said would change lives for the better but that Democrats warned would undermine public education.

McDonnell already had signed some bills, including those requiring that information about breast density be sent to women along with the results of their mammograms; providing insurance coverage for families with autistic children, ages 2 to 6 and requiring women to undergo ultrasounds before they have abortions.

We’ll bring you more information when we have it.

By  |  12:24 PM ET, 04/10/2012

 
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