The General Assembly meets Wednesday to act on bills that Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) vetoed or amended after the legislature's winter session ended Feb. 22. These are among the key bills.
Estate Tax Repeal: The House and Senate bills would repeal the estate tax beginning in July 2004. Virginia imposes a 16 percent tax on the estates of millionaires. "Under these bills," Warner said in his veto message, "an estimated $211 million in tax benefits would be awarded in the next biennium to fewer than 1,000 families in the Commonwealth." He said the estate tax should be reconsidered as part of a larger review of Virginia's tax code.
"Choose Life" Plates: The bill would authorize the issuance of special license plates bearing the legend "CHOOSE LIFE." A portion of the fees collected on registrations for the plates would go to provide services to expectant mothers committed to placing their children up for adoption. "I do not support political or ideological slogans on license plates, regardless of their expressed viewpoint," Warner said.
Parental Consent for Abortions: The bills require a physician to obtain parental consent before performing an abortion on a minor. Under current law, parents must be notified of the abortion but do not have to give consent. Warner's amendments would remove the requirement for a notarized statement of consent and simplify the procedure by which a judge could bypass the notification requirement.
Banning an Abortion Procedure: The bills make it a felony to perform an act defined as "partial birth infanticide," in which a living infant is delivered for the purpose of killing it. "I have sent down an amendment to these bills providing for a narrowly tailored exception to protect the physical health of the mother," Warner said.
Execution Ban: The bills set procedures for determining whether defendants in capital cases are mentally retarded and therefore, in compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, may not be sentenced to death. Warner said the bill's definition of mental retardation "could permit the execution of some people with lifelong, bona fide status as persons with mental retardation," so he proposed amendments to conform with language proposed by the state Crime Commission.
Extending the 21-Day Rule: The bill would extend from 21 days to 90 days the time during which felons can present new evidence of innocence following their convictions. "I do not believe it goes far enough," Warner said. The governor's amendment would delay the bill's effective date to July 1, 2004, while the state Crime Commission and the courts work on a proposal the General Assembly could consider next winter.