The Virginia Senate approved a measure yesterday that would require hospitals to let patients, not their relatives, choose who may visit them.

The bill has passed the House of Delegates and now heads to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D). Its sponsor, Del. David L. Englin (D-Alexandria), said the purpose is to protect patients who have been denied access to loved ones.

In particular, the measure would protect the elderly and domestic partners, who are often caught in disputes in which relatives deny close friends or domestic partners the right to visit.

-- Amy GardnerHouse Backs 'Hybrid' EffortVirginia's largest and most politically influential power company scored a legislative victory yesterday when the House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved a measure to establish a "hybrid" form of utility regulation. The House voted 82 to 16 to pass the Dominion Resources-backed legislation, which critics say gives the State Corporation Commission too little authority and allows Dominion to reap huge profits. Identical legislation is pending in the Senate.

Supporters say that it provides substantial consumer protections while positioning the state's dominant utility to attract the capital it needs to build the power plants that will be needed to meet Virginians' growing demand for electricity.

The General Assembly deregulated the electric utility industry in 1999, but the expected competition never developed, prompting this year's move to a new form of regulation.

-- Associated PressCockfighting Measure StallsA measure that would have increased the penalty for participating in cockfighting has been left in a House committee this week, rendering it unlikely that the bill will pass this year. The bill, which originally proposed to increase the infraction to a Class 6 penalty, was intended to crack down on a burgeoning industry that attracts gambling and drug use and has raised concerns about the inhumane treatment of fighting cocks.

Rural law enforcement officers say that the practice is increasing, particularly on the border with North Carolina, where cockfighting was made a felony in 2005.

-- Amy GardnerAge at Issue in Medical Bill Lawmakers must decide if 14 or 16 is the appropriate age for a teenager with a life-threatening condition to help make medical decisions. A Senate version of a bill to give parents and children more say in how children are medically treated passed the House 89 to 9 yesterday after it was changed to require that the child be at least 14. A House version had set the minimum age at 16.

The House version already has been sent into negotiations between conferees appointed from the House and Senate. If the Senate rejects the age limit placed on its version in the House, conferees would determine the limit.

Both versions, dubbed Abraham's Law, were inspired by a sick teen from Virginia's Eastern Shore who won a court battle to treat his cancer with alternative medicine.

-- Associated Press