Facing an adjournament deadline of Friday the Virginia General Assembly today put off action on many significant measures and vigorously debated "high powered beer" and whether stores should be allowed to display the cover of Playboy magazine.
Nevertheless, the major task of the session - the budget - was resolved peacefully after several days of behind-the-scenes dickering.
But action was postponed on such controversial bills as forcing more state officials to file conflict of interest statements, ending the moratorium on annexations, allowing a gasoline sales tax in Northern Virginia, amending the state lobbying laws and reducing various traffic violations to less serious infractions.
Both the House and the Senate met most of the day instead of the customary two hours to dispose of as much legislation as possible.
In the Senate, the rush apparently caused some confusion because senators frequently took the floor to ask time to read the bill at hand, complain that the wrong version of a bill had been given them or ask for a second vote because they hadn't understood what they were voting on the first time. In the House, the session was delayed for half an hour as pages scurried around putting bills in notebooks used by legislators.
The Senate did approve a bill giving police officers the right to hire an attorney to represent them in disciplinary proceedings and a bill that allows Reston to hold a referendum on the question of incorporating as a town.
The bill does not, however, allow Reston to incorporate as a town, whatever the outcome of the referendum, unless enabling legislation is enacted in 1979.
The Senate also approved a bill introduced by the fledgling a women's caucus in the House that allows a judge to consider a housewife's contribution to a marriage in making a divorce settlement. Although written to refer only to "spouses," the bill is aimed at giving a non-working wife new rights in divorce decisions. A provision to allow a judge to award a "lump sum payment" - which had been cut from the bill in earlier action - was restored.
In the House, measures were passed to give Metrorail security officers arrest powers in Virginia subways as they have in Maryland and the District, to allow farmers to hunt on their land without a license and to allow Farifax City to impose a 4 per cent motel tax.
But some of the most impassioned speeches were made about beer and bosoms. In the House, conservative Republican Del. Clinton Miller led the fight against requiring storeowners to cover magazine covers that show "sexually explicit nudity," saying that doing so would only make the magazines more "titillating" to children.
In the Senate, Sen. John C. Buchanan (D-Wise) rose to decry House Bill 1984, which will, in effect, legalize sale of regular beer all over Virginia.
Currently, "near beer," also known as 3.2 beer for its alcohol content, can be sold anywhere, but under a 1934 act localities must hold referendums to allow the sale of regular beer.
According to one senator who spoke for the bill, about a dozen counties in Virginia have voted to forbid the sale of regular beer. The bill, which passed, would eliminate such referendums.
"This looks like a sweet little housekeeping bill," said the physician from Wise, 'But if you've read George Orwell's book you will find this bill is appropriately named.
"This bill proposes to sweep away a fundamental right the citizens of Virginia have had since 1934 . . . on other occasions we've heard pious platitudes aplenty about the right to vote. Well, I say send your regrets to your favorite lobbyist, say a prayer and vote it red (no)."
A supporter of the bill, Sen. Omer Hirst (D-Fairfax), argued that "the theme of '1984' is pervasive government control, which is what this bill will diminish . . . The point is nine cans of regular beer versus 10 cans of 3.2 beer, and why have elections on such a relatively meaningless subject?" Regular beer is 3.6 per cent alcohol.
After some additional debate the measure passed, 23 to 13.
In the House, a bill that would prohibit merchants from displaying the covers of magazines like Playboy and Hustler on their newsstands was killed by House members who sent it to observe committee on interstate compacts. Because the deadline for committee action has passed, the vote killed the bill, sponsored by Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D-Prince WIlliam).
Del. Clinton Miller (R-Shenandoah), a former court prosecutor, led the assault on the bill claiming "various prosecutors across the state who get stars in their eyes" might launch raids on newstands in an effort to win publicity by enforcing such laws. Court decisions have made definitions of obscenity vague and uncertain and "this bill will complicate matters further," he argued.
Miller charged that the Colgan bill was "ridiculous" and that all the state's obscenity laws were unworkable because they were vague. At that Del. David G. Brickley (D-Prince William), who was attempting to win passage of the bill, jumped to his feet to say, "I just hope he (Miller) will go back and make the same remarks to the voters."
That brought an audible moan from the House members. Moments after the vote Brickley rose to make a public apology for his comments about Miller. "I never say anything on the floor of the House I don't say back home," Miller told the House.
Later Miller said he decided to kill the bill by sending it to the little-known compacts committee "as may way of saying good morning to (Del.) Ted Morrison (D-Newport News)," the committee chairman. "Actually they are supposed to review legislation of other states and I thought they would want to study this bill and compare it to measures passed by other states," Miller said.
The House today approved and sent back to the Senate a bill that weakens the tough provisions of the bingo-regulation bill the Senate approved earlier in the session. Without debate, the House passed the measure by an 83-to-7 margin.
Unlike the Senate version of the bill which let localities set the time, place and frequency of bingo games the House version would let any approved organization hold up to three bingo games a week without specific approval of the local governing board.
Five-night-a-week bingo games in Northern Virginia prompted the bill, which is now likely to go to a House-Senate conference committee in an effort to resolve difference between the versions passed by the two Houses.
A bill that would designate Jan. 1 as "Martin Luther King Day" also passed the House by 67-to-12 margin. Although King's birthday is actually Jan. 15, a House committee set the holiday in New Year's Day to avoid having to give state workers another paid holiday.
Although the House today deferred action on a controversial proposal to create a seventh secretary in the governor's cabinet, it did agree to a conference committee with the Senate over another measure proposed by a Commission on The Organization of State Government.
The conference committee will be asked to resolve differences between a Senate bill which allows the governor to reorganize state government subject to a legislative veto of his plans and a House version of the bill which requires that he first obtain legislative approval of the plans.
In other action, The Senate approved a measure forcing members of the General Assembly to file more detailed reports on what clients they or their business associates represent beforestate agencies. The bill lowers the fee ceiling for reportable services" from $5,000 to $1,000