Education and safety on the agenda
Published 10:36 pm Saturday, February 18, 2012
By Chris Jones
Feb. 14 was the halfway point of the session, also known as crossover. Crossover is the day that the House of Delegates must complete its work on the nearly 1,300 House Bills introduced this session. With the exception of the budget bill, the House begins to consider all bills that have passed the state Senate on Feb. 15.
A great deal has been accomplished in the five weeks since the start of session, with over 400 bills, covering a wide range of issues, having passed the House. More than one-third of the bills the House has passed relate to my core focus of the session — helping businesses create jobs, expanding education opportunities, keeping our communities safe and making our government more efficient and effective.
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Tebow Bill passes House
On the floor this week, the House passed HB 947, which paves the way for homeschooled children to participate on high school athletics teams. The bill, nicknamed the “Tebow Bill”, requires the Virginia High School League, the organization that governs high school athletics in Virginia, to allow home school students to try out for public school teams.
Currently, 22 states allow for homeschooled children to participate on high school athletics teams, including Florida, where Tim Tebow was allowed to play on a high school football team.
Republicans unveil 2012 public safety agenda
This week, some of my Republican colleagues held a press conference to highlight a number of public safety initiatives to keep families safe from habitual drug traffickers, individuals who prey on children, drunk drivers, gang members and those who commit domestic violence.
Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albermarle) discussed two of his bills, HB 968, which will increase penalties for habitual drug traffickers, keeping our kids away from drugs and drug-related violence, and HB 973, which would impose a mandatory life sentence for raping a child under the age of 12. In the last two years, 228 children under the age of 12 have been victims of these horrific crimes, and only 10 of these cases resulted in a life sentence, with a median sentence of 13 years.
Delegate Dave Albo (R-Fairfax) has put forward two bills, HB 49 and HB 50, which respectively increase the jail time for DUI-maiming and DUI-manslaughter.
Delegate Ben Cline (R-Rockingham) introduced two bills to address strangulation and gang recruitment. HB 752 raises the penalty of assault and battery via strangulation in an attempt to curb the elevation of domestic violence.
To help combat gang violence, Cline also introduced HB 751, which would make it a felony to induce criminal activity or recruit a gang member via the Internet, a telephone or text message. With technological developments, gangs are using new methods of communication to recruit, discuss and plan criminal activities.
Protecting our families and keeping our streets safe is one of the most important responsibilities of the government. I, along with my Republican colleagues, are 100 percent committed to doing everything we can when it comes to protecting children and keeping families safe from the dangers of this world.
Making Virginia the most veteran-friendly state
The House has also passed a handful of bills aimed at accomplishing Gov. Bob McDonnell’s goal of making Virginia the most veteran- and military-friendly state in the nation.
On Feb. 6, the House passed HB 719, a bill that allows for a veteran with a permanent service-connected disability to purchase a lifetime hunting, fishing or combined hunting and fishing license at a discounted rate.
The House also passed HB 384, which would give hiring preference for state jobs to members of the Virginia National Guard. This bill builds from last year’s successful efforts to give hiring preference for state jobs to veterans.
In addition to the consideration of Senate bills, my focus, as a budget conferee, during the remaining weeks of session will be to address the budget, working with my colleagues to achieve a balanced budget in meeting the needs of our commonwealth. I welcome your comments.
Chris Jones represents Suffolk in the House of Delegates. Contact him at (804) 698-1076 or via the Internet at Delcjones@house.virginia.gov.