Gov. McDonnell offers amendments to bills on drones, texting while driving

March 25, 2013

The moratorium on drones that passed the Virginia General Assembly last month would not apply to research or higher-education institutions and could be used to look for missing persons under amendments proposed by Gov. Robert F. Mc Donnell on Monday.

The governor has until midnight to make changes to or to veto hundreds of bills passed during the 2013 legislative session that ended Feb. 23. More than 1,520 bills were passed this session, and 665 have already been approved.

It’s still not known what McDonnell will do on high-profile issues from the Legislature, including his transportation overhaul, voter ID legislation and language on Medicaid reform.

The General Assembly passed a two-year moratorium on the use of unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft, known as drones. Supporters of the law said that while there may be public safety benefits to the new technology, more time is needed to explore its potential impacts, including the effect on citizens’ privacy.

McDonnell’s office also announced an amendment to texting while driving legislation, calling the practice “a dangerous activity” from which motorists should refrain. McDonnell supports making texting while driving a primary offense as passed in the bill, but proposes reducing fines for convictions to make them comparable to penalties for drunken and reckless driving. His amendments would also require the Department of Criminal Justice Services to make training available to local and state law enforcement agencies for the enforcement of the new law.

The General Assembly will return to consider McDonnell’s actions on April 3.

Errin Whack covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post, including the commonwealth’s General Assembly and the 2013 gubernatorial race.
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