Ken Plum: What else was done in the 2015 Virginia General Assembly?

kenplum2Previous columns have focused on major legislation passed in the 2015 General Assembly session, but this column will describe other legislation that passed. Implications for these bills may be more limited in the number of persons affected, but you can be sure that for those persons these bills may be the most important. For example, Governor McAuliffe has already signed legislation to decriminalize the use of oils derived from the marijuana plant to treat persons with severe epilepsy. I had introduced one of the bills to accomplish this purpose. A bill was also passed that allows terminally ill patients under physician’s supervision to take investigational drugs that have been cleared for the first phase of clinical trials before getting final FDA approval.

Legislation already signed by the Governor allows transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in Virginia when they have met licensing requirements including appropriate insurance and background checks for drivers. The threshold for expanded state licensing and regulation of day care providers was reduced from the current six to five or more children unrelated to the owner in a home. A national background check with fingerprinting will be required, and unlicensed providers must advise parents in writing. This crack-down comes amidst problems in some homes that resulted in the death of a child.

Another measure requires health insurance providers to include coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders in children aged two through ten. Current law only requires coverage through age six. In response to concerns about heroin and prescription drug abuse, legislation was passed to encourage persons to report another person’s overdose and remain on the scene without fear of prosecution for minor possession or intoxication. Under a pilot program, use of the prescription drug naloxone to counteract the effects of heroin or opioid overdose was expanded.

All commonsense gun safety measures were defeated in a subcommittee of five in the House of Delegates, but a bill that would require Virginia to recognize the right to possess firearms of out-of-state felons whose gun rights have been restored in their home state passed without my vote. Hopefully the Governor will veto the bill. A bill that would have allowed state government the ability to keep secret information about drugs used in executions and the drugs’ manufacturers was defeated in the House of Delegates.

Legislation to limit the warrantless collection of personal information by law enforcement when there is no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity passed as did legislation to restrict to seven days the retention of information gathered by license plate readers that is unrelated to an ongoing criminal investigation. A bill passed that requires law enforcement and regulatory agencies to get search warrants before flying drones except in emergencies or training activities.

A bill to repeal the King’s Dominion law that requires school systems to start school after Labor Day failed with my voting again to repeal it. School calendars should be set by school boards, not the legislature. An ethics bill passed but with I believe glaring deficiencies that I will address in a future column.

Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

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