Final Endorsement of Road Funding, Albeit With Tepid Praise and Regret
The final outcome was hardly a surprise: The General Assembly approved yesterday Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's amendments to a plan to pump the largest infusion of money into the state's aging transportation system in 21 years. But on the way to the vote, supporters and detractors entered into a last round of spirited debate.
Kaine (D) amended the GOP bill to reflect concerns by local government officials and a bipartisan group of lawmakers who were concerned that the plan took too much money from the state's general fund, which pays for schools, health care and public safety.
Even so, in the Senate, where the plan passed 29 to 9, those who voted for it said they did so with a heavy heart. "I'm voting with my eyes wide open but pinching my nose," said Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath). He and others were concerned that the final plan still relied too heavily on the general fund and were worried about issuing $3 billion in bonds.
In the House, where the bill passed 85 to 15, there was a lot of talk about the plan being a good start. "Overall, it represents significant progress," said Del. Brian J. Moran (Alexandria), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "The sum of the plan is greater than the parts."
But those who were involved in the initial stages of crafting the legislation remained steadfast in saying that in an election year, the plan was the best lawmakers could do.
"I have characterized [the bill] . . . as being one of the ugliest bastard stepchildren that this General Assembly's ever reported out," said Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City). "But I do have the expectation that this infantile effort will continue to mature."
-- Chris L. Jenkins
HPV Vaccinations Will Be Voluntary
The General Assembly agreed yesterday with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine that sixth-grade girls shouldn't have to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus unless their parents want them to be.
This year, the assembly became the first legislative body in the nation to require that girls receive the HPV vaccine before they enter middle school. The bill included a provision that allowed parents to sign a form to have their child opt out.
But Kaine amended the bill so parents won't have to submit their decision in writing. Instead, parents will receive information about the vaccine and can then decide whether they want their child to be vaccinated. Parents won't have to tell school officials their decision.