The Virginia Senate today killed a bill aimed at limiting involuntary human sterilizations at state-run mental hospitals after its sponsor said there were still too many loopholes in the measure.
Sen. Joseph Gartlan (D-Fairfax) said an amended version of his bill raised legal problems and failed to consider such operations that are performed outside of mental institutions.
"The law is a mess," he said. "Thats all you can say about it."
Under the current statute, sterilizations of mental patients can be performed if a state court holds the operation to be in the best interests of either society or the patient.
Although Gartlan's bill would have outlawed such operations performed in the name of "society," it would still have allowed those found to be for the good of the patient. "Mental health directors could still file petitions in the courts as a friend of the patient and gotten permission for the operations," he said.
The bill was prompted by the disclosure that between 7,300 and 8,300 Virginia mental patients were sterilized -- many without their knowledge -- during a 48-year period ending in 1972.
The revelation outraged some state officials and the Senate waived its rules to allow Gartlan to introduce the legislation during the waning days of the current session.
Separately, the House of Delegates rejected numerous floor amendments and approved a bill aimed at giving the state greater control over what college courses are taught in Virginia.
The measure was criticized by two Fairfax Republicans as unfair to out-of-state schools and trampling on the separation of church and state.
The bill requires approval by the Council of Higher Education of all degree courses taught in the state by both private and public colleges and universities.
Del. James Dillard (R-Fairfax) sought unsuccessfully to eliminate the out-of-state schools by an amendment. "This bill is just aimed at eliminating competition from many fine out-of-state schools," he said.
Del. Lawrence Pratt (R-Fairfax) offered another floor amendment which would exempt from the bill all church affiliated schools, a move rejected by the full House. Telling such schools what they can teach, is like the state telling a minister what he can include in his sermon, Pratt said.
An $11.5 billion appropriations bill to fund state government during the next two years was approved by the Senate Finance Committee today and sent to the Senate for action. The House passed the bill two weeks ago.
The Finance Committee added about $15 million ot the budget including an additional $1.1 million for community colleges and a generous $2 million for construction of a college of pharmacy building at Virginia Commonwealth University.Some of the money was found by the committee by juggling funds in the House passed version.
Nevertheless, the budget -- subject to possible amending by the full Senate -- is vitually the same bill Gov. John N. Dalton proposed to the General Assembly Jan. 10.