Many Issues: Taking an Oath, Preserving a Cemetery, Hunting and Farming
Every member of the General Assembly, along with the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor and the Attorney General of Virginia raised their right hands and took an oath of office to uphold the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions. It is serious business and a promise that elected officials usually work hard to uphold.
I must say that I was completely surprised when the new Attorney General, only a few days after taking the oath, stated that he will not defend all of the Virginia Constitution. Voters went to the polls in 2006 and more than 57% approved a marriage amendment to recognize marriage in Virginia being between one man and one woman. Voters, citizens of Virginia, added that amendment to the State Constitution.
How can an Attorney General decide to pick and choose which parts of the Virginia Constitution to uphold? I never heard him on the campaign trail say that he could not defend the entire Virginia Constitution. And to go a step further, it has been suggested that he is actually working against it. When a Virginia Attorney General takes office, he needs to uphold the office duties, without personal views overriding responsibility. The job is bigger than one person’s opinion. He is expected to defend the Virginia laws and the Constitution as written.
To deal with this situation, there is actually emergency legislation introduced in the House of Delegates “to provide that a member of the General Assembly has standing to represent the interests of the Commonwealth in a proceeding in which the constitutionality, legality, or application of a law established under legislative authority is at issue and the Governor and Attorney General choose not to defend the law.” HB 706 comes to the House Floor this week.
One bill that directly affects our area has been debated strongly in Committee and on the House Floor. It is the “Hunting on Sunday” bill. Similar bills have been introduced year after year and have been defeated in subcommittee. This year the bill was allowed, by a new chairman, to go straight to the full Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee.
I serve on that Committee and it was obvious that this bill was not a partisan bill, but a geographic one. It seems that interests in mostly northern Virginia and eastern Virginia and a couple in Southwest were pushing the bill. Most Southern and Central Virginia representatives voted no. It appears that most of those who were in favor do not actually host hunting, but have groups that hunt on lands in the more rural areas, sometimes paying rent to the landowners. The measure squeaked out of committee with a 12-10 vote.
I voted against hunting on Sunday at the committee level and on the House Floor. My constituents have overwhelmingly let me know that they do not want hunting on Sunday. Only a few have expressed that they favor the measure.
More than 14 counties passed resolutions or communicated stances, including Pittsylvania, against hunting on Sunday. There was even an amendment offered on the House Floor to let localities opt out of hunting on Sundays. That amendment did not pass. So with the vote taken on Tuesday in the House, the hunting bill passed. It still needs to go to the Senate and there is a Senate bill coming to us. At least one of the bills must pass both bodies to become law. There is still time to weigh in, but it will have to be fairly quickly. HB 1237 will go to the Senate and could be defeated there.
One of the bills that I introduced, with Les Adams as Chief-Co-Patron is HB 1171 which will give oversight of 83 graves of Confederate veterans in Chatham Burial Park to the Pittsylvania Historical Society. Previously the Rawley Martin Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, had received the money from the state to help maintain the cemetery, but this chapter disbanded August of 2013. My bill helps to smoothly transfer oversight and keep the funds available to our locality. This bill passed the House and a similar bill put in by Senator Ruff passed the Senate, so it appears that the Pittsylvania Historical Society will receive the funds and be able to take care of those graves.
Finally, one of the bills that also received a great deal of attention and that affects our farm communities is HB 268, introduced by Delegate Bobby Orrock (Caroline and Spotsylvania). This bill deals with farm rights and local government. A similar bill came up last year and was amended before it passed. Neither farmers nor localities were totally happy with that bill, so during the interim many groups met and crafted a bill to expand farm rights. The bill “Protects customary agritourism activities at agricultural operations from local bans in the absence of substantial impacts on the public welfare and requires localities to take certain factors into account when regulating agritourism activities.”
This bill came before the Agriculture Subcommittee that I chair and I voted for it. HB 268 then passed full committee and the House of Delegates. It is meant to give more freedom to Virginia farmers to sell products and have events at their farms.
If you want to read or keep up with this and other Virginia legislation, you may go on line to: http://legis.virginia.gov/ As always, I hope that my 14th District constituents will let us know how you feel about the state issues that are before us.
We are in our offices in Richmond, Room 702 of the General Assembly Building. You can contact us by sending an e-mail to DelDMarshall@house.virginia.gov or by sending a letter to me at PO Box 406, Richmond, VA 23218-0406, or by calling 804-698-1014. Visit www.dannymarshall.com