Virginia's bi-cameral legislature is currently working during its first session of the year in Richmond. The republican-controlled House of Delegates and the tied Senate are considering a variety of legislation on different topics, many pushed by Republican Governor Bob McDonnell.
The state senate approved a bill that would allow Virginians above 65 to vote by absentee ballot without providing an excuse, ensuring greater access to voting for the elderly. However, another bill that was backed by the Governor would have restored voting rights to nonviolent felons failed in committee in the House and passed panel in the Senate.
Governor McDonnell has made education a priority for this year's legislative sessions. Bills currently under consideration would make it easier to fire teachers that consistently do poorly in evaluations as well as lengthen a teacher's probation period. Other legislation that has been approved by a House committee would bring Teach for America to the state.
Governor McDonnell's other big priority is a plan meant to fix transportation funding in the state. The plan depends on some major shifts in taxation. The proposal would eliminate the gas tax, making Virginia the first state to do so, and replace it with an increase in sales tax that would be funneled specifically to transportation funding.
Most attempts to further restrict gun ownership in the state were immediately scrapped by the republican-controlled legislature, including legislation that would have banned assault-style weapons and increased requirements for background checks. Republican delegate Bob Marshall has been vocal about proposing legislation that would require public schools to have one staff member trained in the use of firearms in order to carry a concealed weapon on school property.
One of the biggest hot-button discussions in the state is the issue of whether to lift the 30-year ban on uranium mining for energy use. If passed, the bill would allow the mining of uranium known to exist in Chatham, Va,, a town in southwest Virginia. Supporters of the bill say mining would bring economic benefits to the region. The ban was initially put in place because of health concerns associated with water contamination.