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General Assembly to Consider Further Changes to Mental Health System

The General Assembly will consider additional reforms to the state’s mental health system this year, changes the legislature hopes will empower families with loved ones struggling with the commitment process.

One bill would require treatment centers to make greater efforts to reach out to families once a loved one is involuntarily committed.

Other legislation would allow families to appeal a clinicians decision not to commit a family member.

Virginia Senate Approves Eliminating Employer Names from Sex Offender Registry

The General Assembly was back in session today (1/25) after taking a snow day on Friday.

The Virginia Senate passed a bill 22 to 17 that would remove a requirement that businesses who employ sex offenders have their name included in the sex offender registry. Democratic Senator Janet Howell of Northern Fairfax, the bill’s patron, says the current requirement serves as a barrier to hiring those who have served their time, and making it harder for them to get on with their lives.

Senator Tom Garrett of Buckinham says you can’t go too far to protect children.

House Committee Reviews Private Drone Use

Last year the General Assembly discussed when law enforcement can use drones for surveillance purposes. This year they’re looking at how drones should be operated by hobbyists.

Republican Delegate Rob Bell of Albemarle, Chair Of the House Courts of Justice Sub Committee on Criminal Laws, says using drones to spy in people’s windows or peep in someone’s backyard is already banned by other statutes but they want to specifically ban hovering over someone’s property.

Hospitals at Odds With Republican Lawmakers on Healthcare Agenda

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association had their first lobby day at the Capitol Wednesday (1/20), finding themselves at odds with Republican lawmakers agenda for healthcare.

Hospitals, who’ve long supported Medicaid expansion, say they’re willing to cover the state’s part of the cost through a self-imposed provider fee.

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Introduce Bills to Combat Student Debt

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is introducing legislation to help Virginians refinance their student debt and give new borrowers better information about the terms of their loans.

There’s over $1.3 trillion dollars in outstanding student loan debt nationally and Democratic Delegate Marcus Simon of Fairfax, says it’s starting to cripple the economy as people in their 20’s and 30’s wait longer to form households.

Efforts to Decriminalize Adultery Fail Again In General Assembly Committee

Efforts to decriminalize adultery in Virginia have failed again. Legislation that would have changed adultery from a criminal to a civil offense was killed after minimal debate in a Senate committee yesterday (1/18).

The law is hardly ever enforced, but complicates divorce proceedings because spouses can invoke their Fifth Amendment shield against self-incrimination in a criminal case, and without an admission, adultery can be hard to prove.

Hundreds Rally at the State Capitol on Both Sides of the Gun Debate

Hundreds off from work today (1/18) came to Capitol Square to lobby their lawmakers and protest, some for expanded gun rights, others for more gun control.

Speaking at a rally organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, Republican Delegate Rob Bell of Albemarle attacked Attorney General Mark Herring’s administrative action banning concealed handgun reciprocity.

Speaking to a rally later in the day for gun violence prevention, Attorney General Herring said Virginia is not doing nearly enough to prevent gun violence.

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