The Virginia General Assembly opened its 2021 regular session on Jan. 13 remembering Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Russell, who died Jan. 1 from complications of COVID-19.
Due to the pandemic, the session is different than years’ past. The senate is meeting in person at the Science Museum of Virginia, while the House of Delegates is conducting business virtually. This year’s session is scheduled for 30 days, scheduled to end Feb. 11.
Two major issues expected to be taken up this year is ending the death penalty and legalizing marijuana.
Both House Bill 1779, introduced by Delegate Lee J. Carter, D-50th, and Senate Bill 1165, introduced by Sen. Scott A. Surovell, D-36th, to abolish the death penalty were in committee at press time.
HB 1815, introduced by Del. Steve Heretick, D-79th, would legalize marijuana for personal use by adults and the tax structure. At this time it has not been assigned to any committee. SB 1243, introduced by Sen. Joseph Morrissey, D-16th, that would legalize marijuana has been referred to the Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services.
Regional legislators’ bills include:
Del. Rob Bell, R-58th
Bell is a co-patron of SB 1273, introduced by Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-25, which creates the Behavioral Health Commission in the legislative branch of state government. The purpose is to study and make recommendation for the improvement of behavioral health services in the state and provide ongoing oversight of behavioral health services in Virginia. The bill was referred to the Committee on Rules last week.
Sen. Emmett Hanger Jr., R-24th
Hanger has introduced two agricultural-related tax credit bills in the 2021 session. SB 1162 creates an income tax credit for the implementation of certain agricultural best management practices by the taxpayer required as part of a certified resource management plan beginning in taxable year 2021. The enhanced tax credit is equal to 75% of the first $100,000. SB 1163 establishes a refundable income tax credit for 25% of expenditures, up to a maximum of $17,500, for the purchase of conservation tillage and precision agricultural equipment certified by the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board as reducing soil compaction or improving precision of pesticide and fertilizer application or injection, beginning with taxable year 2021.
Del. Nick Freitas, R-30th
Freitas has introduced HB 1773 that would allow any person eligible to obtained a concealed handgun permit to carry a concealed handgun without a permit anywhere he or she may lawfully carry a handgun openly within the commonwealth. The bill has been referred to the House Public Safety Subcommittee: Firearms. Freitas’s HB 1770 failed to get out of committee by 6-2 last Friday that would have established a program to create savings accounts for students to be used for alternative educational programs.
Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-17
Reeves’ SB 1119 would create a fund to assist state and local law-enforcement agencies with the cost of purchasing, operating and maintaining body-worn camera systems. It has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. SB 1331 requires Department of Elections to make available to all localities a tool to allow voters with a visual impairment or print disability to electronically and accessibly receive and mark an absentee ballot using screen reader assistive technology. It has been referred to the Committee on Privileges and Elections. SB 1332 eliminates the requirements that a law-enforcement officer shall not use deadly force against a person unless he or she has provided a warning to the subject of the deadly force. It was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. SB 1361 requires anyone appointed to a law-enforcement civilian oversight body to be a U.S. citizen, live in the jurisdiction appointed to serve, shall have no criminal record and shall be required to complete a citizen’s law enforcement or police academy with a basic firearms instruction course and one daytime and one nighttime ride-along with each agency that serves under the authority of the locality. It has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. SB 1388 was incorporated last Friday into SB 1299 by Sen. John Bell, D-13, and reported out of Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services. SB 1299 allows for the sale and delivery of mixed beverages and pre-mixed wine for off-premises consumption.