(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) A bill by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) banning so-called “bump stocks” in Virginia has made progress in the early days of the 2018 Virginia General Assembly legislative session.
Ebbin’s bill — S.B. 1 — passed the Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee on Monday, January 15 and then was referred to the Finance Committee.
The legislation was filed after investigators found that Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock had modified some of the semi-automatic rifles in his hotel room with “bump stocks,” an attachment that allows the guns to fire faster.
Companion legislation by in the House of Delegates by local Del. Mark Levine (D-45) is still awaiting a hearing at the committee level.
Ebbin was a co-patron on S.B. 252, a bill to “ban the box” that passed the state Senate on Friday by a 23-16 vote.
It would prevent state and local governments from asking about potential employees’ criminal histories during an initial application. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) signed an executive order banning the box for state government in 2015.
“This bill is important simply because it gives everyone a fair chance at employment,” Ebbin said in a statement. “Those people who have paid their debts to society should be given a second chance. Providing every Virginian the chance to work builds our workforce and puts us on a great path towards economic security. The only way to ensure that we build stronger communities is if we have a strong workforce and banning the box is a step in the right direction of achieving that goal.”
But other gun safety bills by state Sen. Barbara Favola were defeated in the state Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee earlier this week. A bill allowing local governments to prohibit the open carry of firearms in protests or demonstrations was among those killed.
Favola introduced it after the armed white supremacist protests in Charlottesville last year.
“Regarding [the bill], it was my hope that lawmakers would better understand the need for people to feel safe and be safe when they assemble,” Favola said in a statement.
And while other legislation introduced by Levine, including a bill allowing localities to set their own minimum wage and another to repeal “the crime of fornication, i.e., voluntary sexual intercourse by an unmarried person,” is still awaiting debate, he celebrated a win early in the session for his Virginia Transparency Caucus.
The caucus, co-created by Levine as a first-term Delegate alongside state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-11) in 2016, pushed for recorded votes in General Assembly committees and subcommittees and received them in the legislature’s new rules. All committee hearings will now also be live streamed and archived online for the first time.
“This is a big victory for transparency in Virginia,” Levine wrote in an email to supporters. “For four hundred years, Virginia legislators killed bills in secret behind closed doors. Not anymore. Now residents will be able to know exactly who deep-sixed a bill and who wanted to move it forward.”
But Del. Patrick Hope has run into opposition from the ACLU’s Virginia chapter for sponsoring a bill that would expand the use of “strip searches” to those under arrest for traffic crimes and suspected of carrying drugs. Currently, searches are only permitted for those carrying weapons. The bill was discussed by a subcommittee of the House of Delegates’ Courts of Justice committee on Friday.
“We really oppose any expansion of a strip search,” Charlie Schmidt, public policy counsel for ACLU Virginia, said in a video. “It’s invasive; it should only be used in situations where we’re dealing with serious crimes, not petty traffic stops.”
The ACLU of Virginia has offered support for another of Hope’s bills, which would end conversion therapy for children under 18.