- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2000

The amendment to the Virginia Constitution that would protect residents' right to "hunt, fish or harvest game" survived several attempts to amend it in the state Senate yesterday before passing, unaltered 24-16.

Any amendments to the bill would have been a setback for supporters, who want the measure on this November's ballot. In order for an amendment to be put to the voters, it must pass in the exact same version two years in a row.

The bill had already survived many efforts to change it, including an attempt by Sen. Janet D. Howell, Fairfax Democrat, to add the rights to shop and golf to the list of protected activities. The bill also was referred back to committee earlier this week, but the panel took quick action to send it right back to the Senate floor.

The measure's supporters argue that the bill would incorporate what has been tradition in Virginia, and is needed to head off future attempts to limit those rights.

But opponents wondered about the implications of putting such language in the Constitution.

Mrs. Howell questioned whether the right to hunt would trump laws that prohibit stalkers or those under court order for acts of domestic violence from obtaining guns.

Sen. William C. Mims, Loudoun Republican, said the amendment would invalidate every city and town charter prohibiting hunting within the jurisdiction's limits.

"Do you really want hunting in your incorporated cities and towns? That's what it boils down to," he said.

The measure will appear on November's ballot.

Gov. James S. Gilmore III's revised $2.5 billion transportation plan won approval yesterday in the House of Delegates.

The Senate has passed its own $2.1 billion road-building initiative. The two chambers will try to work out a compromise before the 60-day session adjourns March 11.

Mr. Gilmore's plan would use 30 percent of Virginia's share of the national tobacco settlement for transportation projects. Other money would come from a tax on insurance premiums, a change in the way fuel taxes are collected, and bonds that would be repaid with future federal transportation dollars.

Opponents of the Gilmore plan complained that it did not earmark specific dollar amounts for the approximately 140 projects listed in the bill. Mr. Gilmore's point man for the legislation, Delegate John H. "Jack" Rust Jr., Fairfax Republican, amended the bill to list dollar amounts for the bond projects, but not the others.

Delegate John A. "Jack" Rollison III, Prince William Republican, tried to substitute his own transportation plan, which designated specific expenditures for all projects. His bill also would have been funded in part by the corporate income tax. The House passed his bill earlier in the session, but it was killed in the Senate.

After intense lobbying by the Gilmore administration, the House voted 62-34 yesterday to work with the Gilmore-Rust bill instead of the Rollison proposal. After rejecting all but one proposed floor amendment to add various projects, the House voted 97-2 to pass the bill.

State Sen. Richard Holland, Isle of Wight Democrat, returned yesterday to the Senate after an absence of several weeks for an infected bile duct.

"For the last six weeks or so, I've been looking forward to getting back here. But it has been suggested that I do better with my legislation when I'm not here," Mr. Holland joked.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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