Now that weary legislators have packed up their papers and dirty laundry and left Richmond, the voters they represent can pause to examine some of the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] resolutions passed during the 60-day General Assembly session that ended tranquilly March 11.
The session ground rather disharmoniously to a halt, with last minute disputes over the gross receipts tax, child-proof bottle caps on drugs and bingo among the measures delaying adjournment. But, in contrast to some of the passion that was exhausted earlier in arguments over such issues as pari-mutuel betting, abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment, the last hours were filled with minor irritations rather than bloody battles, and tedious nit-picking rather than insurgency.
Of the 2,062 bills and resolutions offered by Senate and House members, the passage of the one allowing the establishment of race tracks in Virginia is perhaps the most sensational. After about 10 years of being snubbed by the House, the measured ally passed with the stipulation that final approval will be reserved for the voters in a referendum next fall.
There were causes large and small that were won and lost. Martin Luther King Jr. will be honored on New Year's Day, for example, but Pocahantas will not be officially remembered on Thanksgiving.
The governor's office helpfully provides a summary of legislation and its status for legislators and the press at the end of the session. Mixed among the head-line-grabbers that most are familiar with are a few previously ignored measures. For example:
"Passing both houses was a bill removing the Nov. 1 to May 1 restriction on the seizing or taking of oysters by shaft tongs or by hand on the seaside of the Eastern Shore and granting the Marine Resources Commission authority to close or open any area or part of the Rappahannock area where patent tonging is permitted and the moving and prohibition against patent tongs in water less than 21 feet deep . . ."
There were more than 10 measures introduced relating to dog laws. One of the successful ones makes it a misdemeanor to let a female dog in season stray from the owner's home. Another allows dog wardens to kill a dog "known as a confirmed poultry or livestock killer on the third offense."
In another animal matter, the legislature voted to study the "dangerous conflicts" between hunters of migratory water fowl and recreational fishermen.
Another successful measure established an Art and Architectural Review Council to "assist the governor in judging works of art to be placed in state buildings."
Here is a synopsis of some of the more significant pieces of legislation that came before the General Assembly: Human Resources
Most of the attention in this field focused on the effort to approve public funding of abortions for women receiving Medicaid assistance. The measure passed the House, but failed narrowly in the Senate. Two measures supporting a constitutional bannon all abortions also failed.
The legislature voted to have the state pick up administrative costs of local welfare departments not funded with federal money, starting in 1980. The source of the money was not determined, however.
Anthony approved measure prohibits people under 18 from selling their blood to blood banks. They may still donate it, however.
A bill setting up a Human Services Information and Referral Council was also passed. The council is charged with developing a statewide referral and information system in the field, with the assistance of the Department of Welfare. Equal Rights Amendment
For the sixth year, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution failed to win approval in Virginia legislature. As predicted, the ERA was killed by a House committee (on a 12 to 8 vote). Efforts to get it onto the House floor via parliamentary maneuvers were dropped. But the ERA will come up again next year. Liquor
A decade after liquor-by-the-drink was legalized by the General Assembly, and two years after a measure permitting a customer to carry a drink from one place to another in a restaurant or abr, the legislature approved a bill allowing a drink to be sold to a person who is standing up. Public Employes
Teachers, police officers and other public employes were granted separate legislation allowing them to pursue complaints about promotions, dismissals or disciplinary actions. A bill allowing local governments to decide to permit a limited form of collective bargaining with their employes was carried over to next year. A floor amendment sponsored by Del Mary Marshall (D-Arlington) allows state employes to file grievances based on discrimination because of race, creed, color or sex. Children
A bill prohibiting juveniles in custody from being kept in adult facilities for the criminally insane was passed.
A bill allowing the Department of Welfare to provide liability insurance for foster parents was passed.
A bill that would allow a judge to suspend a high school student's driver's license for discipline problems in school was killed. Elections
While identifying political candidates by party on election ballots may seem routine to voters in other states, in Virginia the passage this year of legislation requiring it is a major cange. The change has been in the works for about 10 years, and, if the governor signs the legislation, voters will see the identifying labels "Republican," "Democrat" or "Independent" above the name of each candidate on the ballot next November.
A toll-free number for voter registration information will be set up by the Board of Elections under another piece of legislation that passed. Legislation setting up a commission to study reapportionment of congressional districts was deferred until next year. Education
Starting in 1981, high school students will have to pass a test designed to measure competency in academic skills before receiving a high school diploma. The issue that delayed approval of this aspect of the "Standards of Quality" act, which defines legislative policy on public education, was the question of whether the test should be a single statewid test o one adopted by each school division individually. The Senate-proposed statewide test won out, with localities having the option to make the test more difficult if they choose.
A proposal to eliminate "social promotion" by requiring students to take a test before being promoted from grade to grade was turned down in favor of a substitute stating that "progress" should be based on "achievement."
Education was allotted more money in the blennial budget - about an 18 percent increase in the general fund increase - for a grand total of about $3.6 billion over the next two years. This includes increases for state supported colleges as well as for public elementary and secondary schools.
School districts also will be required to develop codes of conduct aimed at improving student discipline4, according to the Standards of Quality, and must conduct a survey of attendance.
A provision allowing for enforcement of all aspects of the Standards of Quality passed, giving more teeth to the basically general Standards.
A bill allowing school boards to charge students for bus transportation on field trips or extracurricular activities also was passed. Another bill to provide free textbooks to all public school students failed. Taxes
A one-cent increase in the current 4 percent sales tax in Northern Virginia was defeated after lengthy debate. Proceeds from the tax, estimated a $35 million a year, would have been used to pay for Metro-rail operating expenses. Defeat of the sales tax proposal leaves unsolved the problem of financing Metro, which local officials say is becoming an incresingly difficult and complex burden. A back-stop measure, a 4 percent gasoline sales tax, was also killed.
The inheritance tax was repealed in another measur, relieving some 23,000 heirs from having to file tax returns on estates of less than $175,000, if left by a single person, and $425,000, if left by a couple.
Also people with inomes of less than $3,000 a year no longer have to file state income taxes, a measure said by its supporters to offset at least as mch in administrative processing costs as will be lost in tax revenue.
The accelerated sales tax, enacted last year as a budget balancing device, was repealed in response to a flurry of legislation requesting the repeal. "Sometimes we can admit we made a mistake," one legislator commented. About $13 million already paid by merchants this year will be refunded.
The legislature refused to increase the cigarette tax by 2 1/2 cents.
A measure, sponsored by Sen. Wiley F. Mitchell Jr. (R-Alexandria), would have permitted localities to establish a separate tax category for homeowners, whose tax rate could be up to 25 percent lower than that on other properties. The bill passed the Senate but was held over in House committee.
The assembly approved a major change in local gross receipts taxes, taxes levied by cities and counties on the gross income of businesses and professionals without regard to their profits.
A bill, passed the las night of the session, puts a ceiling on these taxes by business category and requires anu locality that increases tax rates below the ceiling to lower rates in categories above the ceiling. Beginning in 1983, any rates still above the ceiling must gradually be reduced by an amount equal to two-thirds of the annual revenue increase from the gross receipts tax. Annexation
For seven years, the General Assembly had grappled, unsuccessfully, with how to end the decades-old feuding between the state's cities and counties over annexation. Despite this dismal record, prospects for success were especially bright this session because the chief lobbying organizations on bothe sides announced agreement on all major points. In essence, the cities agreed to give up the right to annex land in adjoining counties in exchange for a higher proportion of state aid. The annexation bill passed handily in the House, as did a bill to give cities more financial help on road maintenance. But the main aid measure failed to get out of the House Appropriations Committee when some members expressed apprehensions about the costs of additional aid to cities (more than $100 million by 1982), and other members, representing rural areas, found nothing in the bill that would benefit their districts.
In the end, the entire annexation package was held over until next session. But one local-aid bill - not part of the package put together chiefly by Del. Thomas J. Michie Jr. (D-Charlottesville) - did pass. Starting in 1980, the state will pick up the entire cost to localities of administering welfare programs, assuming there are the additional revenues available to do so. The cost, over two years, was estimated at $34 million. Transportation
With the failure of the annexation package, cities won't get additional funds for road maintenance. Metrorail will get an additional $4 million - for a total of $10 - over the two-year budget period. The assembly held over until next year a bill that would have set aside $25 million for secondary road construction before other funds are allocated. But it passed a bill permitting counties in Southwest Virginia to impose a tax on coal production to raise revenues for repair of roads damaged by coal-hauling trucks.
There was an assortment of minor transportation bills that passed. Among other things, they would:
Prohibit confiscation by police of radar detectors ("fuzz busters") and reduce penalties for their use (but not if the devices are not connected).
Require motorcycle riders to keep on their rear lights during the day as a safety measure.
Reduce most traffic violations (not including drunken driving) from misdemeanors to infractions so that offenders don't acquire criminal records.
Allow use of studded tires from Oct. 15 to April 15.
Permit counties to spend local funds for public roads not in the state highway system. Many subdivision roads will now be eligible for such county spending. Consumers
It was not the year of the consumer at the General Assembly. Killed or carried over were bills that would have licensed auto-repair shops, created a Department of Consumer Counsel, required covers on trucks hauling gravel and other materials, given tenants additional rights in disputes with landlords and strengthened regulations prohibiting sale of short-weighted products.
Barbara Bitters, executive director of the Virginia Consumer Congress, said only four significant bills survived the demolition of consumer legislation. Those measures place new restrictions on utilities activating the fuel adjustment clause, require licensing of employment agencies, require an insurance company to infrom an applicant why he or she was rejected and put limits on telephone solicitations.
The assembly passed a bill, sponsored by Del. Vincent J. Callahan (R-Fairfax), aimed at eliminating fraudulent practices in the sale of vacation homesites. The bill puts tight restrictions on much-criticized contract sales and requires amenities, such as swimming pools and tennis courts, to be turned over to homesite owners when 75 percent of the project is sold.
Why so many failures for the consumer cause?
"Too many legislators waited until the last minute before they filed consumer bills," Bitters said. "It's hard, then, to do anything about it (in the way of effective lobbying)."
Acknowledging widespread apathy, she said: "There needs to be more organization in local areas, but people don't want to get off their behinds and do anything." Freedom of Information
There were major extensions of the state Freedom of Information Act, according to Common Cause of Virginia. The public now has access to most materials prepared, owned or in the possession of a public body, to public meetings held out of state and records of salaries of public officials making $10,000 or more. But one of Common Cause's high-priority bills - opening up the meetings of college boards of visitors - was not reported from committee. Mining
Although Virginia last month sued the federal government to halt enforcement of the federal stripmining reclamation act, the General Assembly did adopt interim regulations to comply with the law, and even added some tougher language sought by environmental groups. But the assembly also passed a Dalton-proposed refolution asking President Carter to suspend enforcement of the federal act for at least a year because of the coal strike and the recent harsh winter. Branch Banking
After past legislative failures, the rules limiting branch banking have been significantly relaxed. Banks headquartered in one county will now be able to put branches up to 15 miles across its boundary with another county (there is an outright prohibition now). Banks centered in a city will be able to go into an adjoining county 15 miles, instead of the present five miles. At present, the giant holding companies partially circumvent limitations, but smaller institutions do not have such opportunities. Now they will. Environment and Land Use
One of the highest priorities of environmentalists was creation a new cabinet-level office - Secretary of Natural Resources. But that bill, after passing the Senate, failed on the House side. Environmentalists have argued that the present Secretary of Commerce and Resources has sometimes conflicting constituencies - business, agriculture and the environment. They have also argued that the lower-echelon Council on the Environment doesn't have the authority that a cabinet-level office would. But the assembly left the present arrangement intact.
On land use, the assembly strengthened the hand of local officials by making rezonings contingent on their following comprehensive plans. But the Senate killed a bill that would have given the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors power to appoint members to the Board of Zoning Appeals, the panel which can grant exceptions to zoning restrictions (variances). The chief judge of the Circuit Court appoints the BZA board, which sometimes gets involved in controversial cases. Criminal and Juvenile Justice
Perhaps the most significant bill in this area to be taken up by the legislature was a measure that would have put sentencing entirely in the hands of judges. But the proposal died in House committee. At present, a defendant can waive sentencing by jury in favor of the judge.
The assembly refined last years's major overhaul of the juvenile justive code by passing a bill permitting police to hold a juvenile up to six hours if the youth is suspected of having run away from home or if there is reason to believe he is in danger because of the acts of other juveniles or is about to commit an unlawful act himself.
Also approved was a bill permitting authorities to amintain fingerprint records of juveniles as young as 13 who have been convicted of violent crimes. The present limitation is age 15.
A major revision of the state's sexual assault laws was deferred to next year because many legislators questioned provisions in the proposed changes that would reduce the corroboration necessary for testimony that an assault had occurred, and limit the conditions under which a victim's sexual history was admissible testimony.
The entire package of changes will be developed further over the year and discussed again at the nest session. Container Deposits
While advocates of a statewide deposit law covering beer and soft drink containers picked up some additional supporters, the legislation failed, as it has in the past, to get out of committee. Opponents of deposits won a major victory when the assembly approved a bill that prohibits local jurisdictions from passing ordinances requiring deposits on containers. The soft drink deposit laws in Fairfax and Loudoun counties, which already are in force, were exempted in the bill.
In a related area, the state will conduct a survey of the effectiveness of the strictly educational Litter Control Act in reducing roadside and other litter. Some legislators have indicated that if the survey, to be taken in 1979, shows the educational program isn't working, they will support a statewdie container deposit law. Reorganization
How to organize the burgeoning state government so that it is more efficient and responsive has been one of the major issues before the General Assembly in the past few years. The reorganization commission, chaired by Sen. William B. Hopkins (D-Roanoke), has seen a number of its proposals enacted in other sessions, but this year some key recommendations failed. Among the bills that were killed or held over until next session were measures that would have:
Divided the office of the secretary of commerce and resources into separate divisions - one for natural resources and the other for agriculture and economic resources.
Subordinated citizen-staffed boards to agencies of the government.
Created a department of public utilities to represent the consumer before the utility-regulating State Corporation Commission (SCC).
Shifted utility's taxing authority from the SCC a new banking department.
Created a department of recreation and historic preservation to assume functions of three present commissions.
Transferred responsibility for enforcement of laws covering alcohol and motor vehicles to the state police department.
One of the few significant regorganization bills that passed was one strengthening the office of the secretay of transportation - at least on paper. The commissioner of highways lost his "plenary" powers, but it is not clear how much less powerful he will be in transportation planning. Furthermore the newly created division of public transportation will not report to the secretary of transportation - as proposed by Sen. Hopkins in his bill - but to the highway commissioner. Governor's Powers
The Senate passed, but a House committee failed to report, a bill that would have taken away the governor's authority to appoint members to the Electoral Board and given it to the General Assembly. It was no coincidence that the bill was sponsored by a Democrat, Senate Majority Leade Adelard L. Brault (Fairfax), during the administratiiton of a Republican governor, John N. Dalton.
The assembly passed and sent on to a November referendum a proposed constitutional amendment thatawould curb the governor's veto power. Under the amendment, the legislators would come back for a brief period after adjournment to consider gubernatorial vetoes. At present, the Generrarl Assembly cannot address post-session vetoes. Budget
For the two-year period starting July 1, the General Assembly adopted a $9.2 billion budget, about 19 percent more than the 1976-1978 spending plan. With sizable increases in reevenues anticipated, and assuming economic recovery continues, the budget-making atmosphere this session had little of the desperate urgency that marked the last session. Even Northern Virginian legislators were comparatively content with what their region received when the money was spread around. Utilities
The most significant piece of utility legislation enacted in recent years, a bill imposing restrictions on the pass through of fuel costs by electric companies to their customers, passed both houses by wide margins.
Consumer organizations have contended that existing fuel pass-through devices, called "fuel adjustment clauses" in utility rate schedules, permit such electric companies as Virginia Electric and Power Co. to pass on the higher costs of using oil when coal and nuclear powered units are not operating up to expectations.
The new legislation, proposed by Gov. John N. Dalton, will require the State Corporation Commission, the agency that regulates utilitieses, to set fuel costs in advance on the basis of company estimates of reasonable generating plant perforrance. The SCC can adjust the fuel charge quarterly.
The assembly also gave the SCC new powers to monitor utility construction programs and set guidelines for use of competitive bidding by utilities in construction and purchasing.
Another bill will give churches the opportunity to buy electricity under lower residential rates rather in commercial rates. Miscellany
Optometrists will be able to administer anesthesizing eyedrops - a procedure now limited to ophthamologists, who are medical doctors - in examining patients.
Legislation to limit the number of weekly bingo games that tan organization can sponsor died in conference committee on the last day of the session.
A bill that ostensibly defined the profession of law, but which apparently wouldddhave given lawyers a monopoly on title searching, passed the House but failed in Senate committee.
If Fairfax County decides it would like to build the proposed new court-house at another location, residents of Fairfax City will be able to vote in the required referendum, along with Falls Church residents. Some county officials were delighted.
Legislators will be able to legally use the state scal on their official - but not campaign - stationery. They do so now, but apparently illegally, according to bill sponsor Del. Richard R. G. Hobson (D-Alexandria).
There will be a nine-month moratorium on petroleum companies operating additional service stations in the state. The moratorium bill, supported by independent dealers, will not affect current operations. The nine-month period was specified because the Supreme Court is expected to act on such legislation during its present term.
A health services cost revieww commission, which will be able to investigate and publicize what it considers "excessive or inadequate" charges, was established under a bill that was approved. The commission, though, will not have the power to halt such charges.
Declared an 11-mile stretch of the Staunton River near the North Carolina border to be a scenic river. As a result of the designation, no dam may be built on the Staunton without approval of the Assembly.
Enacted a Beer Franchise Act that gives beer distributors broad protecttion against cancellation of franchises by breweries.