The Virginia Senate today invoked its traditional hardline stance against his government to kill a measure that would have placed the state's support behind a subject dear to most politicans: the family.
By a vote of 26 to 11 the Senate killed a measure sponsored by a Northern Virginia legislator that would have proclaimed that the family is to be "protected and preserved as a primary resource to enhance the quality of life for all Virginians."
"This legislation is designed solely for one purpose -- to make it easier for the Virginia assembly and state government to zero in on the family and meddle," argued Sen. Howard P. Anderson (D-Halifax), attacking what his colleagues referred to as a "George Orwell 1984" bill. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan (D-Fairfax) was defeated after a floor debate that left many senators yawning, chatting and reading their newspapers.
The Senate's antimeddling mood also caused the death of a bill that would have allowed the state to establish selection criteria for local law enforcement officials.
"Local people don't want the state telling them who they can hire and who they can't hire," said Sen. Wiley F. Mitchell (R-Alexandria), who led the fight that defeated the measure by a vote of 25-15.
Both of the measures were considered in an unusual weekend session of the Virginia Senate, as legislators plodded through stacks of legislation which they must address before Monday's deadline on reporting bills to the House of Delegates. On the other side of the State Capitol, their colleagues in the House did the same.
The Gartlan proposal would have provided state recognition that the family is the "basic unit of society," and would have required that all state employes work to perpetuate the family. The measure also would have required that all state laws be interpreted to aid families, and that annual reports be prepared on the efforts to preserve the family.
In the floor debate on the measure, Gartlan urged senators to recognize their "moral responsibility" to the family structure. But his colleagues balked at suggestions the state might be required to formally assess the impact of every state law on families. "He was going to stick up with the family equivalent of an environmental impact statement," grumbled one.
"The government in Virginia should not be concerned with helping or hurting the family but merely leaving it alone," said Sen. Dudley J. Emick (D-Botetourt). Gartlan's proposal had run into problems earlier in a subcommittee when panel members couldn't agree on what a family is, but that controversy was temporarily halted when they decided not to define it at all.
The law enforcement measure, sponsored by Sen. Stanley C. Walker (D-Norfolk), had been narrowly defeated on the Senate floor Friday and was briefly revived when proponents thought they had enough votes to squeeze it through. But the intervening time allowed opponents to marshall their forces, and the resulting 25-15 defeat was much more decisive than the previous day's one-vote margin.
Opponents argued that the bill, which would have allowed the state to set minimum hiring requirements for law enforcement officials, would needlessly infringe on the rights of localities. State officials had asked that they be allowed to require a high school education, U.S. citizenship and a valid driver's license as a condition for employment. The requirements would have applied to sheriffs, police officers, parking meter attendants and all other law enforcement personnel.
"This is just further bureaucracy and further meedling," said Sen. L. Douglas Wilder (D-Richmond), who said localities need hiring flexibility if they are to fill jobs that have starting salaries of $8,400 a year. "I would submit that our crime rate is not soaring because we have uneducated police people. I would submit that we must find another way to solve that problem."
Democratic Sen. Virgil Goode, of rural Franklin County, maintained in yesterday's debate that his county's sheriff "may not have a BA degree or a BS degree of a PhD, but he can find any road in Franklin County."
In other action today, the Senate approved 23-17 a measure that would create public commissions to aid the legislature in selecting state judges. A similar bill was approved by the Senate last year and killed in the House Courts of Justice Committee.