Over the last few weeks, Governor McDonnell has been scrutinizing 812 bills sent to him by the General Assembly. Among them is a package of legislation to penalize “possession with the intent to distribute” a legal product. Its goal is to stop the traffickers of contraband cigarettes, who’ve made millions of dollars while the Commonwealth loses revenue.
The federal government’s role in the use of drones inside the U.S. may be expanding, but state lawmakers have put the brakes on deploying them within Virginia’s borders. Legislation that’s now under review by Governor McDonnell would place a moratorium on state and local use of drones. The unmanned aircraft could not be deployed for two years—while parameters and safeguards are studied.
Concerns that drones could violate rights and invade privacy prompted an alliance between the state ACLU and lawmakers to put drone deployments on hold—at least temporarily.
Some of the laws that passed during this year's General Assembly session did so with little fanfare. Others gained lots of attention initially but received little follow-up—and one lawmaker sponsored two such bills. While you may not hear much about them now, they're likely to become hot topics in the near future since that lawmaker is running for higher office.
A bill that is now under review by Governor McDonnell strengthens current state laws on stalking —although its sponsor says the law still needs to be even tougher. Delegate Jennifer McClellan hopes her bill will encourage law enforcement to take reports of stalking and domestic abuse more seriously. It would become a felony if someone convicted twice of stalking had also been convicted of committing violent acts against the same victim within five years. It would also apply if the aggressor had violated a protective order within that period.
The passage of Virginia’s transportation-funding bill was not the only change of heart that took place in the General Assembly this session. Another was tackling a growing traffic-safety hazard that did not even exist a generation ago—and making it a primary offense. It not only toughens current state penalties against texting while driving, but it targets similar communications.