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Senate Panel Revises Gun-Range Noise Bill

By Chris L. Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 22, 2005; Page B04

Efforts to establish a statewide noise standard for gun ranges failed in a Senate committee yesterday.

House Bill 2282, sponsored by Del. William R. Janis (R-Goochland), was amended by the Senate Committee on Local Government as lawmakers took out provisions that would have set a statewide level of 64 decibels for noise from outdoor gun ranges. The bill would have prevented local governments from using their own noise standards when evaluating gun range applications.

The bill now says that local governments must use their current noise standards and may not deny a permit to a gun range based on a new standard.

Senators said they were concerned that the bill would have taken away a community's ability to make its own decisions based on community standards.

Janis said the bill was intended to prevent localities from denying gun ranges the right to open up or expand simply because they might be a sound nuisance. He said that 46 other states have similar provisions and that Virginia's would have been one of the toughest in the nation.

Immigrant Benefits

The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee passed legislation yesterday that would exclude illegal immigrants from most benefits under the workers' compensation program.

House Bill 2056, sponsored by Del. Kathy J. Byron (R-Lynchburg), would exclude illegal immigrants from vocational rehabilitation aid under the state workers' compensation act. Under Byron's bill, the only assistance available to such workers would be payment of medical benefits associated with a job-related injury.

The bill was amended, however, so that immigrants could receive some benefits if they could prove that employers knew that the workers were in the country illegally. The bill now heads for a vote on the Senate floor.

Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) opposes the general idea of scaling back workers' compensation benefits for illegal immigrants, said his press secretary, Ellen Qualls. She said he would need to review the specific changes in the bill if it reaches his desk.

Autonomy for Colleges

The House of Delegates passed a bill yesterday that would allow public colleges and universities more autonomy from state oversight in exchange for less government funding.

Senate Bill 1327 passed the House by a vote of 76 to 22. A similar House bill is likely to pass today in the Senate.

The bills would not change much about the college operations immediately but would open the door for some independence in the future.

Some universities could negotiate new agreements between their boards of visitors and state government, giving boards full authority to manage their finances. The deals would require gubernatorial and legislative approval through a mechanism that differs somewhat in the House and Senate versions.

Opponents said the state was moving too quickly on a potentially big change in the higher education system.

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