Session won’t be all that serious

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RICHMOND (AP) — Legislators in the 2008 General Assembly session will ponder bills that have life-and-death implications. They will decide how much money the government will demand in taxes, fees and fines. They will determine where that money will be spent.

Then there’s the lighter side of the Assembly. The cat-snatching bill. And the bill to legalize driving a golf cart around Claremont.

Although these bills are not intricate or heavy, they’re what people gab about around water coolers.

None has attracted more national attention than the proposed ban on facsimile male genitalia that serve as automobile ornaments.

“I think it’s going to pass,” said Delegate Lionell Spruill, Chesapeake Democrat, who last week introduced the bill, which became grist for guffaws on talk shows.

Mr. Spruill says it’s a safety issue: Drivers looking at latex testicles swaying from a trailer hitch are not watching the road.

In Independence, it’s 100-pound outdoor toilets that go zipping down the streets of the town once every year in the Grand Privy Race. A resolution by Delegate Charles W. “Bill” Carrico Sr., Grayson Republican, honors the town as the official home of the race.

Among the first bills introduced by Delegate G. Manoli Loupassi, Richmond Republican, is one to issue state license plates honoring the Shag Dance Clubs of Virginia.

Delegate Jennifer L. McClellan, Richmond Democrat, wants to make stealing a cat a felony, just as it is for the theft of a dog. Or a pony. Or a mule or a steer or a calf.

She gets ribbing by people who clearly are not cat fanciers. How, she is asked, does one steal a cat that doesn’t wish to be stolen? Better yet, why would anyone want to?

“Well, because somebody did,” Miss McClellan said.

A man grabbed a kitten at the Richmond chapter of Society for the Prevention of the Cruelty of Animals, tucked it beneath his coat and left. Police caught him and got back the cat. When it was time to press charges, prosecutors overwhelmed with murder, robbery, assaults and other crimes noted that catnapping was only a misdemeanor, something they had no time to pursue.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people who love cats and think cats and dogs should be treated equally by the law,” Miss McClellan said.

Such bills often are at the request of constituents.

Delegate Annie B. Crockett-Stark, Wythe County Republican, heard from a group of fiftysomethings who wanted a state song to sing at their high school reunion. So they rehabilitated the 130-year-old former state song, “Carry Me Back to Old Virginia,” and replaced its original racially inflammatory lyrics with kinder, gentler ones. They asked Mrs. Crockett-Stark to submit a resolution to restore the song as the official state melody, and she agreed.

“Whatever my people feel is important, then I’m their liaison in Richmond,” she said.

Delegate William K. Barlow, Isle of Wight Democrat, heard from retirees in the out-of-the-way town of Claremont after they were told that it was illegal to putter about in golf carts.

“Some local officers …had been giving tickets to people who live down there by the James River where there’s very little traffic,” he said. “Some of these people don’t have cars and they get around on golf carts.”

So his bill would make Claremont only the second village in the state specifically exempt from a law that bans golf carts from public roads. The other is Saxis, population 350, a Chesapeake Bay town on the Eastern Shore.

“This is home cooking,” Mr. Barlow said. “Somebody from back home asks you to do something, and this is what that is.”

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