Some of the General Assembly’s most worthwhile work goes virtually unnoticed as the hot-button issues get all the chatter.
Date published: 2/21/2012
AS the Virginia General Assembly ignites controversy with legis-lation involving the hot-button issues of the day, other bills that easily span the political divide are overshadowed. Some are designed to reflect on lessons learned from tragic events in Virginia and elsewhere.
Earlier this year, a 7-year-old Chesterfield County girl died after suffering an apparent allergic reaction to peanuts. Her mother said she had authorized the school in advance to use Benadryl, but it wasn’t used. What was needed was a device called an EpiPen, which injects a life-saving dose of epinephrine to combat the symptoms of anaphylaxis, which can cause fatal respiratory distress and killed young Amaria Johnson.
Bills introduced by Democratic Sen. Donald McEachin and Republican Del. Thomas Greason to require schools to maintain supplies of auto-injectable epinephrine have passed their respective chambers. (Some schools already do.) This is welcome legislation in an era when more children are developing life-threatening allergies to the lunchbox staple peanut butter, insect stings, and various other allergens. It’s a more efficient approach than requiring parents to supply the medication when they might not even be aware of their child’s allergic condition.
Another bill spawned by today’s headlines would enumerate those with a responsibility to report suspected child abuse or neglect to social services officials. In the wake of the Penn State story, the “Jerry Sandusky bill” would add athletic directors and coaches at public schools, private schools, and colleges to those required to report. Such legislation is designed to leave no doubt should a similar situation, heaven forbid, arise in Virginia.
“Castle doctrine” bills are sailing through both chambers and will result in a single bill that goes to the governor’s desk. The legislation makes it clear–though it’s hard to believe it was murky before–that if someone enters your house with criminal intent, you can use physical force to stop the assailant without fear of legal retribution if that person is hurt or killed.
Legislation that will reduce litter and the effects of secondhand office smoke is getting attention. One bill would ban smoking on public school grounds and in public school administration buildings. It’s already prohibited inside schools. A separate bill would outlaw smoking in buildings owned or operated by the commonwealth. Both bills passed the Senate but stalled in the House. Maybe the House will come around on the Senate versions.
Bills to elevate texting while driving to a primary offense have followed the same scenario: Passed by the Senate, left in committee in the House. Sponsorship has been bipartisan. No maybes on this one. This is legislation that must become law in Virginia.