Ratification of Equal Rights Amendment Is Among Bills Introduced in General Assembly


By Linda Cicoira
Nearly 47 years after the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was passed by Congress in 1972, advocates are hoping Virginia will finally approve it and it will become ratified.
Two Virginia bills have been proposed in favor of the amendment. Last year Nevada approved it. In May, Illinois became the 37th state to do so. If Virginia approves, it will be the final state needed but the deadline and extension for ratification have long passed so a legal battle is expected.
Supervisor Reneta Major brought up the ERA during the Accomack Board of Supervisors’ final meeting of 2018 last week. “Equal rights is long overdue,” she said. “Some localities are sending letters of resolutions.”
Supervisor Paul Muhly also said he favors the bill. “I think all are in favor,” Major said Sunday. “Hopefully a resolution will be on the January agenda.” County Attorney Cela Burge said she will continue to follow the bills.
“If the ERA is ratified it would codify into law equal protection from discrimination for all people, regardless of sex,” the website www.equalrightsamendment.org stated. It will also provide “a clear federal judicial standard for deciding cases of sex discrimination, a strong legal defense against a roll-back of women’s rights, (and) improve the United States’ standing in the world community. … The first and still the only right that the constitution specifically affirms equally for women and men is the right to vote. That amendment passed in 1920, almost 100 years ago.
A long list of other proposed bills and commendations has been introduced. The General Assembly session will begin Jan. 9 and continue for 45 days.
Included in the proposals are bills:
• Requiring anyone who lawfully possesses a firearm to report its theft or loss to local or state police within 24 hours of discovering it is missing. Violation would be punishable by a civil penalty of $50 for a first offense and between $100 and $250 for any subsequent offense.
• Raising the grand larceny threshold from $500 to $750.
Allowing local school boards to set the opening day of the school year thereby eliminating the post-Labor Day opening requirement.
• Requiring the court to consider domestic and child abuse, in addition to family and sexual abuse, when determining the best interests of the child for custodial visits.
• Allowing private or religious schools to employ a school security officer and to authorize the officer to carry a firearm.
• Requiring the Department of Elections to develop a pilot program for conducting elections by mail.
• Directing the State Corporation Commission to allow for association health plans that are consistent with regulations of the U.S. Department of Labor. The proposed regulation broadens criteria of the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERI-SA) to allow employers to form an association for the sole purpose of sponsoring a group health plan for its employer members.
• Exempting emergency medical services agency vehicles, fire company vehicles, fire department vehicles, and law enforcement agency vehicles from the requirement of securing a child in a safety belt, restraint device, or with a safety belt.
• Requiring those who have offended drug laws in other states to petition the general district court of the county or city in which he resides for a restricted driver’s license.
• Requiring the court to provide the option of community service instead of fine payment.
• Imposing a tax of five cents per bag on disposable paper and plastic bags provided to customers. Proceeds would go to localities for mitigation of pollution and litter.
• Establishing a tax credit, for tax years 2019 to 2023, of 35 percent of an employer’s expenses when providing paid leave to an employee making an organ donation.
• Allowing absentee voting without an excuse.
• Requiring the Department of Corrections to submit an annual report to the General Assembly and the governor regarding the use of solitary confinement. Another proposed bill requires the department to submit an annual report regarding the restrictive housing.
• Requiring the board of education to provide licensure of teachers with an endorsement in the Montessori method of education.
• Directing the Virginia Lottery to regulate sports betting. An entity would be required to apply for a three year permit and pay a$250,000 application fee. Renewal would be $200,000.
• Making it a Class 1 misdemeanor to knowingly and intentionally cause a drone to enter airspace within a mile of a military airfield or military helicopter landing zone.
• Allowing a pharmacist to include information regarding the proper disposal of medicine when giving counsel to a person who presents a new prescription.
• Making it illegal to smoke in a vehicle in the presence of anyone under 18. Currently, it is when someone eight or under is in the vehicle.
• Requiring a school board to have a memorandum of understanding with a police department that supplies resource officers to establish officer’s powers and duties. The agreement would be reviewed once every five years.
• Allowing a lottery winner’s name to be withheld for a year.
• Requiring the Department of Elections to provide mail voter registration application forms to colleges that are eligible to participate in the Tuition Assistance Grant Program.
• Permitting a governor, elected in 2021 and thereafter, to succeed himself in office. The amendment allows two four-year terms and prohibits a third. Service for more than two years of a partial term counts as service for one term.
• Making a person civilly liable for a wrongful death resulting from the use of a firearm that came into the possession of the criminal because the gun was not secured against theft or unauthorized possession.
• Allowing a student who possesses a valid certificate to use cannabi-diol oil or THC-A oil to possess it on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored activity.
• Making it illegal to prohibit or discriminate an employee who also serves as a member of a local electoral board, an assistant registrar, or an officer of election because he descriptions of sexual acts, to be used as evidence.
• Requiring “adequate shelter” of an animal to mean “provisions that protect an animal from exposure to heat or cold” rather than the adverse effects of heat and cold.
• Allowing “an animal control officer to presume that fowl have been, are, or are intended to be used in animal fighting” if one or more of the fowl are tethered.
• Entitling a person who will be 65 or older on election day to vote by absentee ballot.
• Giving a substitute judge the power to enter a final order in any case taken under advisement for seven days after the date of a hearing of such a case.
• Allowing retired officers to be employed as school security officers.
• Putting a moratorium on new major fossil fuel projects beginning Jan. 1, 2020.
• Clarifying for the purposes of the informed consent exemption to abuse and neglect of incapacitated adults, that the informed consent of the incapacitated person must have been given when such person was not incapacitated.
• Renaming the Special Day of Appreciation for American Indians Living in the Commonwealth as Indigenous Peoples Day.
• Allowing the electric cooperatives to increase or decrease their rates for any services without the approval of the State Corporation Commission.
• Stating “a student at any elementary or secondary school shall not be guilty of disorderly conduct in public places if the disorderly conduct occurred on school property or a school bus.”
• Making it a Class 5 felony to manufacture, import, sale, transfer or possess a firearm that after removal of all parts other than a major component is not detectable as a firearm in detection devices used for security screening.
• Requiring the high school family life education curriculum to be offered at least four times during grades 11 and 12, for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities on a variety of topics, including social skills, self-esteem, sexuality, and rights and responsibilities.
• Increasing the civil penalty for passing a stopped school bus from $250 to $500.
• Authorizing the killing of nuisance species from a vehicle.
• Replacing the terms “husband” and “wife” (as well as related terms) with gender-neutral terms throughout the Code to comport a U.S. Supreme Court decision. The bill makes the relevant law regarding children born as a result of assisted conception applicable to both same-sex and opposite-sex married couples. The bill also repeals the statutory prohibitions on same-sex marriages and civil unions or other arrangements between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges and obligations of marriage and makes conforming changes to various laws involving married individuals and their rights stemming from marriage. Further, the bill makes applicable to all persons, regardless of the gender of the victim, the crimes of assisting or aiding in the abduction of or threatening to abduct a female under 16 years of age for the purpose of concubinage or prostitution, placing or leaving one’s wife in a bawdy place, and defaming the chaste character of a female. The bill provides that a defendant placed on probation may be ordered to provide support for the defendant’s spouse; currently, the law only provides for support of a defendant’s wife. The bill also amends various criminal and criminal procedure laws to make them applicable to both same-sex and opposite-sex married couples. The bill also repeals the crime of adultery.
• Authorizing the issuance of special revenue-sharing license plates for supporters of addiction recovery, state parks, and the Virginia Aquarium.
• Requiring new school buses to be equipped with seat belts consisting of a lap belt and shoulder strap in every seat, no later than July 1, 2037.
• Requiring school counselors to spend at least 80 percent of work time counseling individual students or groups of students.
• Requesting the Secretary of Commerce and Trade study the state’s observance of day-light savings time and the potential consequences of using either that or standard time year-round.
• Asking the Department of Environmental Quality to study the economic impact of litter on fishing, farming, water quality, and other components of Virginia’s economy and to propose strategies, campaigns, and necessary state actions to protect the state’s economy from harm caused by litter and promote Virginia’s economic welfare.
• Allowing a taxpayer to itemize for state income tax purposes regardless of how federal returns were made from tax years 2018 to 2025.
• Giving the General Assembly authority to make technical adjustments to legislative electoral district boundaries following the enactment of any decennial reapportionment law.
• Establishing the sole qualifications to vote as being a U.S. citizen, 18 years old, residing in Virginia, and registered in accordance with the constitution of the state. It removes the disqualification of those convicted of a felony or being judged as mentally incompetent.

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