|Del. Kory and Sen. Marsden speak at a Town Hall Meeting.|
Marsden said he will re-introduced a bill to restrict air-fired guns, which are now considered “toys.” Legislation to close the gun show loophole also is likely to be re-introduced, he said. Under current law, people walking around a gun show can sell firearms without background checks because it’s considered a private sale.
In addition, Marsden said he plans to draft legislation on “gun ownership accountability” that would make a person criminally and civilly liable if someone uses his or her gun to commit a crime. The wording has not been finalized, but he would like to address the situation like that where the mother of the Newtown shooter knew her son was mentally ill and still kept lots of firearms in their home.
The big issue for the legislature this session will be transportation funding. “We’ve reached the crisis point” after “maxing out the state’s credit card on bonds,” Marsden said, and it will be close to 2020 before the state can issue any more debt. Meanwhile, the governor paid for transportation by shifting funds from other areas, including $60 million from Fairfax County schools.
According to Marsden, the governor is expected to propose indexing the gas tax for inflation. Legislation to do that passed the Senate last year but died in the House of Delegates. If it passes this year, it will help but won’t go far enough, he said. Kory noted that the lack of funding has led to deterioration of the state’s infrastructure, which has resulted in Virginia dropping from no. 1 to no. 3 on the list of best states for business.
Both Kory and Marsden support a complicated bill proposed by Sen. John Watkins, a Republican who represents suburban Richmond. The bill would impose a 5 percent wholesale tax on gasoline with the proceeds used to support transportation projects. It’s estimated that about a third of the tax would be paid by tourists and truckers passing through Virginia.
The bill would offset the higher gas tax by reducing the income tax burden for lower and middle-income people, so most people wouldn’t see their taxes rise significantly. To offset the lower tax rate, several tax exemptions and tax credits would be eliminated. The Watkins bill isn’t expected to pass this year because of the strong opposition in the legislature to impose any tax increases, particularly among the 30 lawmakers who signed Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge. Marsden, however, indicated the solid line against any tax increase may be beginning to crack.
Kory asked the audience for input on a series of bills she is considering proposing in the upcoming legislative session. Delegates cannot introduce more than 15 bills, so Kory is considering which proposals have the best chance of passage, have broad support across the state, and wouldn’t cost too much.
Kory has already filed one bill—to allow local government employees, such as clinic aides in K-12 schools, to administer epi-pens to students in case of severe allergic reactions. The law already allows school employees to do this. She is already a co-patron on two other bills—to require people seeking a concealed handgun permit to take a gun safety course and to allow K-12 school boards to start school before Labor Day.
Some of the bills Kory is considering proposing would:
- Allow all Virginia high school graduates to pay in-state tuition at community colleges.
- Permit community colleges to let high schools know how many of their graduates had to take remedial courses.
- Repeal the requirement for compulsory trans-abdominal ultrasound exams for women seeking abortions.
- Expand the hours for absentee voting in emergency situations.
- Prohibit schools from starting before 8 a.m.
- Make texting while driving a stoppable offense. Now you can be fined for texting if you’re pulled over for something else like reckless driving.
Marsden plans to introduce bills to:
- Ban “fox penning,” an inhumane practice of training hunting dogs using foxes enclosed in pens.
- Give judges more leeway in sentencing with the goal of fewer youths sentenced to life in prison without a chance for parole.
- Limit the number of contact practices for high school football players to reduce the opportunity for concussions.
- Allow court-appointed special advocates to work with youths past the age of 18.