By Richmond Digest
Friday, January 30, 2009

Autism Grant Defeated

A Senate committee effectively defeated a measure yesterday that would have given a $20,000 tuition-assistance grant to parents who wished to place their autistic children in private schools.

The Virginia Education Association and the Virginia School Boards Association opposed the bill as a drain on the resources available to public schools already coping with shrinking budgets.

Sen. Walter A. Stosch (R-Henrico) said the proposal made financial sense and would give parents more flexibility in finding educational programs for their children. The state spends about $32,000 a year educating 7,000 autistic students. The Education and Health Committee voted 10 to 5 to table the bill indefinitely. A companion bill is pending in the House of Delegates.

-- Fredrick Kunkle

Smoking Bans Advance

A Senate committee yesterday voted in favor of two bills to ban smoking in public places: One would apply to restaurants and bars, and the other would extend the ban to additional settings. But even supporters said the measures, approved by the Education and Health Committee, appeared likely to be defeated in the House.

A bill sponsored by Sens. Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and Ralph S. Northam (D-Norfolk) would target restaurants and bars, with fines of $25. The other bill, sponsored by Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (D-Arlington), would extend the ban beyond restaurants and bars to other venues, with fines of as much as $100.

-- Fredrick Kunkle

Police Driving Bill Stalls

A bill requiring police vehicles to slow down and use emergency lights and sirens before running a red light has been referred to the Virginia State Crime Commission from the Senate Transportation Committee.

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