- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2000

RICHMOND A House of Delegates committee yesterday approved measures that would require voters to show identification at the polls and ballots to display candidates' party affiliations.

Democrats opposed the measure, saying it's more important to know and vote for individual candidates than to vote by party.

But voters often only know one or two candidates in depth and knowing party affiliation of the other candidates at least gives voters some point of distinction, said Delegate James K. "Jay" O'Brien Jr., Fairfax Republican, an avid supporter of putting a candidate's party affiliation on the ballot.

Right now, only candidates for president have their party affiliation listed on ballots in Virginia, the only state to limit party affiliation to such an extreme degree.

The House's version of the voter ID measure was changed yesterday to match that already passed by the Senate. If the measure passes the full House, it is almost assured to become law, since Gov. James S. Gilmore III supports the change.

It would require voters to show identification, including a state ID card, voter information card or even a business-issued ID card, or failing that, would let a voter sign a sworn statement to his identity.

Voter identification passed 12-8, with one Democrat joining the committee's Republicans. Party affiliation passed on a straight party vote, 11-9. Both bills are part of Republicans' and Mr. Gilmore's push to change voting procedures.

In other action yesterday:

* A bill that would require a minute of silence for prayer, reflection or meditation in every public school classroom survived a vote of tentative approval before the full Senate.

Final approval should come today, and the bill will then head to the House.

Senators turned back an attempt to change the bill by still requiring that all classrooms hold a minute of silence but removing the provision that the teacher tell students they are to use the minute to pray, meditate or reflect.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Warren E. Barry, Fairfax Republican, told lawmakers he isn't on a crusade to return prayer to schools but had to include prayer as part of the law or else face the charge that he was discriminating against the free exercise of religion.

Opponents charged that the bill would be struck down by the courts because it mentions prayer, a possible violation of the separation between church and state.

* Northern Virginia lawmakers are struggling to agree on a transportation package so they can present a unified front to the rest of the General Assembly.

They emerged from a closed meeting yesterday still unsure if they would agree on where to find the money, how much to find and how to prioritize projects to be built once the money is appropriated.

Delegate John A. Rollison III, Prince William Republican, said he plans to go forward with the governor's package, which would provide $2.5 billion over six years.

Yet just about every part of the governor's plan has strong critics.

Many lawmakers protest bonding from federal transportation money now, leaving no money for the future. Some question Mr. Gilmore's proposal to use 40 percent of the state's tobacco settlement pool to fund transportation, arguing that more of that money should go to medical research. And a large contingent opposes using money from the state's general fund, for the first time ever, to pay for roads and transit.

Brian J. Moran, Alexandria Democrat, acknowledged there is pressure on the delegation after this fall's campaigns none of them want to return without substantial money for transportation.

But Mr. Rollison said it may be impossible for all sides to agree, which would be a shame because it lessens the region's clout.

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