Virginia Lawmakers Push Plethora of Bills at Session’s Halfway Point

February 12, 2014

Virginia’s General Assembly plowed through hundreds of bills Tuesday, reaching broad consensus on ethics, school testing and mental health reforms while also picking new partisan fights and bracing for a Medicaid battle that will test Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s ability to work across the aisle.

Racing against a deadline to get bills out of one chamber and into the other, legislators put the final touches on measures aimed at limiting gifts to public officials, reducing standardized tests in public schools and improving the handling of psychiatric emergencies — all priorities that enjoy bipartisan support.

The Senate and House also found time to push through partisan zingers, passed with the hope of creating political fodder but little expectation that they will clear the other chamber.

Senate Democrats voted to repeal a 2012 law requiring women to get an ultrasound, and be offered a view of the fetus, before an abortion. They also passed a bill to raise the state’s $7.25-an-hour minimum wage to $8.25 this year and $9.25 next. Neither measure is expected to succeed in the Republican-controlled House.

House Republicans, for their part, sent the Senate a bill that would give the legislature the power to defend state laws if the attorney general will not, a measure aimed at protecting the state’s ban on same-sex mar­riages. And they approved a bill, inspired by a scarcity of lethal-injection drugs, that would change the state’s default method of execution to the electric chair.

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