Which Bills Passed and Failed in the First Half of Virginia's 2016 General Assembly Session 

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Bill Tiernan

A compromise on gun legislation, reforms to hospital and clinic regulations, efforts to combat domestic violence and disagreement over charter schools have highlighted the first half of the 2016 General Assembly session.

Tuesday marked its midpoint and the deadline for bills to pass the House of Delegates or the Senate.

Each chamber will spend the remaining weeks working on bills that passed the other chamber. Lawmakers also will outline two-year budget proposals Sunday and work to merge them before sending a spending plan to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for approval.

House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford County, called the session productive. His party controls both chambers of the legislature.

“House Republicans, I think, are leading the way on most issues that are most important to Virginia families,” he said. “We have passed legislation to promote a pro-business climate.”

Here’s a look at some of the bills that have passed or failed so far. Most summaries come from the Virginia Legislative Information System. The names of local lawmakers who sponsored bills are noted.



End the requirement that a woman undergo a fetal transabdominal ultrasound before an abortion. (HB43/SB53, Mamie Locke, D-Hampton)

Remove the prohibition on coverage for abortions in any qualified health insurance plan that is sold or offered for sale through a health benefits exchange. (SB183)

Generally prohibit an abortion after 20 weeks. (HB963)



Increase from 101 to 151 the proof of neutral grain spirits that is without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color that may be sold at government stores. (HB143, Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, passed both chambers)


Reduce from 45 to 25 percent the required ratio for mixed-beverage restaurant licensees for combined gross receipts from the sale of food and nonalcoholic beverages on the premises and the combined gross receipts from the sale of those plus mixed beverages. (HB219, Scott Taylor, R-Virginia Beach)



Create a casino gambling commission allowing a casino in Portsmouth. (SB32/SB33/SB34, Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth)

Civil Rights


Prohibit discrimination in public employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. (SB12)

Prohibit a government entity from discriminating against a person on the basis that the person believes, speaks or acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman. (HB773)


Prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. (HB429, Ron Villanueva, R-Virginia Beach)

Economic Development


Establish a statewide board empowered to award grants for regional economic development projects (HB834, HB846/SB449, SB459)



Require at least 20 minutes of physical activity per day or an average of 100 minutes per week for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. (HB357/SB211, John Miller, D-Newport News)

Provide state grants for disabled students to attend a sectarian or nonsectarian private school. The grants would be equivalent to 90 percent of the per-pupil state money allocated to the public school division for that student. (HB389)

Designate the Eastern garter snake as Virginia’s state reptile. (HB335)


Require that public school restrooms, locker rooms and shower rooms be restricted to males or females on the basis of their anatomical features at birth. (HB781)

Require new school construction plans to include an active-shooter detection system. (HB187, Scott Taylor, R-Virginia Beach)

Make local school boards responsible for setting the school calendar and determining the opening day of the school year and eliminate the post-Labor Day opening requirementand “good cause” scenarios for which the Board of Education may grant waivers of this requirement. (HB93)

Require that the Battle of Great Bridge be included in the state’s Standards of Learning curriculum. (HB633, Lionell Spruill, D-Chesapeake/SB554, John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake)

Passed House, Failed Senate

Establish referendum to provide the Board of Education authority, subject to criteria and conditions prescribed by the General Assembly, to establish charter schools within school divisions. (HJ1, SJ93)



Prohibit a political party holding a presidential primary from requiring voters to sign a pledge when offering to vote in that primary. (SB686)

Passed Senate, Failed House

Allow those 65 and older to vote absentee or vote early. (HB100/SB188, Miller)

Allow qualified voters to be able to vote absentee in person without providing an excuse for not being able to vote on Election Day. (SB603/HB430, Villanueva)

Establish criteria for the Assembly to observe in drawing legislative districts, including respect for political boundaries, equal population, racial and ethnic fairness, contiguity, compactness and communities of interest. Use of political data or election results would be prohibited in most cases. (HB26, HB555, SB59)


Require political parties to reimburse in full each county and city conducting a primary election. (HB13)

End the option of May elections for local offices so council and school board elections would be held in November. (HB161, Lionell Spruill, D-Chesapeake)

Revise the process by which Virginia electoral votes are allocated among the slates of presidential electors from winner-take-all to a proportional allocation. (SB62)

Automatic restoration of voting rights to people convicted of nonviolent felonies (except drug and election fraud crimes) upon completion of sentence, including terms of probation or parole, and the payment of all restitution, fines, costs and fees. (HB107)



Require the Department of Environmental Quality to receive approval from the General Assembly for a state plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants before submitting the plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval. (HB2)

Establish the Virginia Shoreline Resiliency Fund for the purpose of creating a low-interest loan program to help residents and businesses subject to recurrent flooding. (SB282, Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomac)

Allow employees of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and federal agencies having responsibility for fisheries and wildlife management to hunt or kill, from aircraft and with the permission of the landowner, feral hogs in False Cape State Park and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, except during waterfowl season. (HB137, Knight)


Give localities power to prohibit the distribution, sale or offer of disposable plastic shopping bags to consumers. (SB55, Locke)

Add a member to the Marine Resources Commission who is a recreational user of water and owns property that abuts the waters in Virginia Beach. (HB204, Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach/SB102, Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach)

Require Virginia to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or other carbon-trading program with an open auction of carbon allowances. The revenues from the sale of carbon allowances are to be deposited in a revolving fund to assist localities with efforts to combat sea-level rise and recurrent flooding. (SB571/HB351, Villanueva)



Exempt food and beverages from lobbyists from the definition of a gift for purposes of the $100 gift cap and disclosure. (SB692, Tommy Norment, R-Williamsburg)


Allow the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council to investigate alleged violations of the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act and the General Assembly Conflicts of Interests Act. (HB152)

Freedom of Information Act


Prohibit the personnel, working papers and correspondence record exemptions from authorizing the withholding of resumes or applications submitted by the governor’s appointees. (HB220, Taylor)

End public access to records of the salaries of public employees who earn less than approximately $30,000 a year. The current cutoff is $10,000. Publicly available databases of public employees’ salaries shall not include employee names. (SB202)

Withhold names of all police officers, deputies and state police officers from public disclosure (SB552, John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake)


Make a FOIA violation a Class 1 misdemeanor. (HB61, Rick Morris, R-Isle of Wight)

Require that any person elected, re-elected, appointed or reappointed to any public body not excepted from FOIA must use only government-provided email accounts to conduct public business. (HB308, Morris)

Require closed police files to be subject to mandatory public disclosure, if requested. (HB432, Villanueva)

Governor’s Term


Allow future Virginia governors to run for re-election. (SJ4)



Democratic Gov. McAuliffe and Republican lawmakers reached a compromise on certain gun legislation. They’re supporting bills to give state police authority to perform background checks on behalf of private citizens at gun shows, if requested (HB1386); prohibit a person subject to a permanent protective order from possessing a firearm (HB1391); and recognize concealed handgun permits for all states with a concealed carry permitting process. (SB610)

Override the governor’s executive order banning guns in state buildings. (HB1096)

Health Care


Remove hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, medical imaging services and similar facilities from the “certificate of public need” process, which requires state approval before new facilities can be built. (HB193)



Allow production of cannabidiol oil and THC-A oil. (SB701)


Decriminalize simple marijuana possession and create a civil penalty of no more than $100 for a first violation. (SB104, HB997, HB1074, Steve Heretick, D-Portsmouth)

Minimum Wage


Increase the minimum wage from its current federally mandated level of $7.25 per hour to $8 per hour effective July 1, to $9 per hour effective July 1, 2017, and to $10.10 per hour effective July 1, 2018. (SB129)



Provide that if the director of the Department of Corrections certifies that lethal injection is not possible as a means of execution, electrocution can be used instead. (HB815)

Require the state police to include justifiable homicides involving a law-enforcement officer in the annual Crime in Virginia report. (HB301)

Expand the definition of stalking to include if a woman feels fear. (HB752)

Increase the penalty for repeat protective order violations, domestic violence and stalking from a misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony. (HB754)


Codify an opinion of the attorney general by limiting the ability of law-enforcement and regulatory agencies to use license plate readers to collect and maintain personal information on individuals where a warrant has not been issued and there is no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity by the individuals. (HB141)

Include within the definition of “hate crime” a criminal act committed against a person because of sexual orientation or gender identification and require the reporting of the commission of such crime to the state police. (HB35/SB82)

Study consolidation of all state law-enforcement agencies under the Department of State Police. (SJ59)



Clarify that “killed in action” includes a service member who dies of wounds received in action after reaching a medical treatment center, for purposes of the real property tax exemption on the residence of the surviving spouse. (HB127, Knight/SB99, Cosgrove)


Increase from $10 to $20 the maximum amount a local governing body may assess against a convicted defendant as part of the costs in a criminal or traffic case in district or Circuit Court to fund courthouse and courtroom security. (HB223, Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach)

Modify the income deduction for seniors by increasing the amount from $12,000 to $13,000 and indexing the income restrictions to inflation. (HB163)



Prohibit tolling a highway, bridge or tunnel without approval of the General Assembly except in limited circumstances. (HB1069, Chris Jones, R-Suffolk)

Change the regional gas tax in Hampton Roads to a cents-per-gallon tax that decreases as the price of gas increases. (SB742, Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach)


Place a floor on the 2.1 percent tax imposed on motor vehicle fuels sold in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads by ensuring that the tax is not imposed on a sales price less than the statewide average on Feb. 20, 2013. (SB477, Wagner)

Require prior approval by the General Assembly before tolls may be imposed or collected for the use of a component of the interstate system. (HB224)

Direct the state to study reduction or elimination of tolls on the Midtown and Downtown tunnels in Hampton Roads. (HJ73, Steve Heretick, D-Portsmouth/HJ77, Matthew James, D-Portsmouth)

Lower the administrative fee paid after 30 days of nonpayment of an unpaid toll from $100 to $50. (HB414, James/SB295, Lucas)

This story originally appeared on PilotOnline.com


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