Local Commentary

Senator Whipple’s Richmond Report


The General Assembly arrived this week at “Crossover Day” – the day when all Senate bills have to be acted on by the Senate and all House bills by the House of Delegates. The usual noon Session was moved up to 10:30 a.m. and was followed by hours and hours of floor debate and votes. In some cases bills were moved from 1st to 2nd to 3rd Reading all in one day.

This marathon session marks the end of Senate consideration of its own bills, so this is a good time to report on my own legislation.

A number of my bills have passed the Senate unanimously:

  • Changes in the statute concerning advanced medical directives were adopted, mostly for clarification. A more substantive change provides that, after exhausting the list of relatives who can act on behalf of a patient, a person who has demonstrated special care and concern for the patient and has reason to be familiar with the patient’s religious beliefs, may make a decision for that patient provided the hospital’s Health Care Decisions Panel agrees.
  • Revisions to the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) will mean that internet companies that book hotel rooms online will be responsible for paying the sales tax and TOT on the retail price of the hotel room charged to the customer. Currently a number of such companies have asserted that they need only pay on the reduced price they have paid to the hotel-yet the consumer is charged the full amount. This change was supported by Virginia’s hotel industry, and local governments.
  • Removing the cap on fees charged to applicants for The Land Preservation Tax Credit will produce revenue to pay the administrative costs related to accepting conservation easements, and provide some modest additional funding for acquiring open space donations or easements. Some of this funding will be available to private non-profit organizations such as the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust.
  • Other bills that passed unanimously include requiring drivers education classes to include instruction and fuel-efficient driving techniques; a special license plate for the Washington Capitals; requirements for homeowners associations to adopt a complaint process for its members; funding to insure that gas pumps are inspected and calibrated at least annually; changes in the structure of the Board of Equalization in Arlington County; and additional responsibilities for the Commission on Energy and Environment that I chair.

Of course not all my legislation fared so well. Some bills, such as a requirement for state vehicles to use 2% biodiesel, received a majority but not unanimous support. Another in this category is a bill to allow localities to make their own decisions regarding household coverage of employee health benefits to include domestic partners or family members such as a grandparent.

Other bills have failed miserably. A bill offered on behalf of the City of Falls Church and other localities to allow municipalities to ban dangerous weapons in government facilities did not get out of committee. Another bill to delete the requirement that doctors directly supervise nurse practitioners didn’t even get a motion.

Now it’s off to the House of Delegates to present bills all over again.

Senator Whipple represents the 31st District in the Virginia State Senate. She may be e-mailed at district31@sov.state.va.us