This Weekend

The state's 140 lawmakers are packing for home after the shortest legislative session in the nation. They came to Richmond on Jan. 8 for a month and a half of work that involved reviewing more than 2,800 bills and resolutions before this weekend's wrap-up. A little more than half of the measures passed both the Senate and the House of Delegates and will go to Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) for his signature or veto.

What's Next

Before April 2, the governor will review the hundreds of bills that did pass and decide what to do about them. He can sign them, veto them or amend them. On April 2, the General Assembly returns for an annual, one-day event known as the "veto session." That's when the members review what the governor has done with their bills and decide whether to override any vetoes or approve any amendments.

Likely Results

Warner has expressed concern about some bills, including measures dealing with abortion restrictions and repeal of the estate tax. But he has not specifically threatened to veto a bill. Last year, he vetoed only one bill, a proposed ban on a procedure opponents call "partial birth" abortions. Warner is considering amendments to the estate tax bill, which has been approved by veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the Republican-controlled assembly.

What Was Done

* Budget: The assembly accomplished the session's main goal by modifying the state budget to eliminate a $1.2 billion gap between anticipated revenue and planned expenditures. The legislature's plan includes pay raises for teachers and other public employees, contingent on a healthy economy.

* Taxes: Over the governor's objections, the assembly agreed to eliminate the tax imposed on people's property when they die.

* Abortion: The assembly passed bills requiring parental consent for abortions and banning a practice the bill called "partial birth infanticide."

* Courts: Legislators voted to give felons 90 days after sentencing to present new non-biological evidence of innocence, extending the 21-day limit.

What Was Rejected

* Transportation: All the main ideas about relieving traffic congestion failed. They included bills to raise more money through bonds and a constitutional amendment guaranteeing that money in the transportation trust fund would be spent on transportation.

* Local Control: Bills that would have granted more power to jurisdictions that wanted greater taxing authority or more control over development were all rejected.

* Cigarettes: Proposals to increase the state's 2.5-cent cigarette tax -- the lowest in the nation -- were rebuffed along with requests for local authority to raise the tax.

* Two-Term governor: Virginia will remain the only state that bars its governor from serving a second consecutive term.

* Safety: The assembly rejected bills that would have toughened enforcement of the seat belt law and expanded the use of cameras in traffic law enforcement.

* Judges: The legislature refused to reappoint Verbena M. Askew, the first black woman to serve as a Virginia circuit court judge, deeming her not qualified for a second term, in part because of a sexual harassment complaint against her.

What Was Not Done

Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (R-Fairfax), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, noted Friday that the budget compromise is a "temporary fix" that "delays the inevitable problems" the state must confront in the coming year, including education funding and escalating health care costs.


William J. Howell (R-Stafford) served his first term as House speaker. While he said he could not control a single member of his Republican caucus, he won praise from delegates for his low-key diplomacy in resolving conflicts.

Warner worked for the second time with a legislature controlled by the opposition party. He got his way on much of the legislation he proposed but suffered widely noted defeats on the second gubernatorial term, seat belt and estate tax issues.

Gov. Mark R. Warner (D), working with a GOP-dominated assembly, suffered major setbacks to his legislative agenda. Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) was praised by other lawmakers for handling conflicts deftly.