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“We are absolutely baffled by the actions of the Democratic majority today,” Mr. Cuccinelli said. “By voting against adding an emergency clause to the abolition of the fees, they only perpetuate this monstrosity.”

Should the plan pass both chambers in its existing form, Mr. Kaine could in April propose another repeal date, which would require majority support from both chambers.

“I would be shocked if he didn”t,” Mr. Saslaw said. “I mean he called for the repeal in his State of the Commonwealth address, and he indicated that we made a big mistake and we need to correct it.”

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Overworked animal control officers won’t be getting any additional volunteers to help them investigate cases of neglect and cruelty.

The House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources tabled legislation yesterday that would have restored the state’s humane investigator program, which was suspended in 2003. Investigators already serving were allowed to continue, but no new ones were permitted.

Donald Morro of Virginia Voters for Animal Welfare said only about a half-dozen volunteer humane investigators remain from a force that peaked at about 40 a few years ago.

Delegate David Albo’s bill is one of many animal welfare measures that have been introduced in the aftermath of the Michael Vick dogfighting case and an investigation by the Humane Society of the United States that found nearly 1,000 “puppy mills” in Virginia.

“We have to either put more money into animal control officers or find another way,” Mr. Albo, Fairfax Republican, told the committee.

But opponents reminded legislators that the program was suspended because of abuses by some investigators. They also said the volunteers lacked adequate training and supervision.

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If Delegate Jennifer McClellan’s cat-equality bill has nine lives, it might need them all to survive the Virginia legislative process.

The Richmond Democrat’s bill would make stealing a cat a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Current law says catnapping is punishable by up to a year in jail. But stealing someone’s dog gets you slapped with a Class 5 felony and up to 10 years in prison.

Miss McClellan presented the legislation to a House of Delegates subcommittee for the second time yesterday. And again, it wasn’t easy. But she and other lawmakers scratched out a final draft acceptable to the subcommittee.

The bill applies only to “companion cats” owned, fed and cared for by an individual, animal shelter or animal-rescue organization.

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