Va. House advances repeal of HPV mandate

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The Virginia House of Delegates on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a bill repealing a mandate that young girls receive a vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is known to cause cervical cancer, before they enter the sixth grade.

The hot-button issue quickly gained increased national attention last year after Texas Gov. Rick Perry was castigated for an executive order mandating the vaccine, which was eventually overridden by the state Legislature. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who helped lead the charge against Mr. Perry, then was widely criticized when she suggested after one Republican presidential debate that the vaccine was linked to mental retardation.

“If this wasn’t an important issue to the citizens of the United States and this commonwealth, it would not have been such a focus of our presidential debate,” said Delegate Kathy J. Byron, Campbell Republican and the bill’s sponsor, who called the mandate a government intrusion into the private decision-making of parents and their children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus infects about 20 million people in the country, with 6.2 million new cases each year.

The mandate, passed in 2007, contains a clause that allows parents to opt out of having their child receive the vaccine after they review information about the virus provided by the state Board of Health. Ms. Byron’s bill would also rescind that portion of the law.

Virginia House Speaker William Howell (right) talks with Delegate Christopher Stolle (second from right) as Delegates Mark Cole (third from right), Kathy Byron (third from left), Robert Orrock (second from left) and David Toscano (left) discuss a bill that would end the state mandate for girls to receive the HPV vaccine during a House session at the Capitol in Richmond on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

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Virginia House Speaker William Howell (right) talks with Delegate Christopher Stolle (second ... more >

The measure has cleared the Republican-led House in the past, and with a different makeup of the state Senate, it could receive a more favorable reception in the General Assembly’s upper chamber this year. It advanced to a final vote in the House that will likely take place Friday.

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A bill to repeal a mandate that schools in Virginia not open their doors until after Labor Day opposed by Virginia’s tourism industry, but supported this year by Gov. Bob McDonnell failed to make it out of committee Thursday morning.

Repealing the so-called “King’s Dominion Law,” named after the theme park as a nod to the tourism lobby behind it, garnered support from educators and was part of Mr. McDonnell’s education package. The Senate Education and Health Committee voted it down, 9-6.

School systems must currently apply for a waiver from the state if they want to open before Labor Day. A House subcommittee on Thursday approved its version of the bill, which will likely now face another vote from the same Senate committee if it passes the full House.

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The Virginia Senate on Thursday passed a measure that would allow hunting on private property on Sundays in the state.

Advocates insist that lifting the ban on Sunday hunting will allow Virginians who work or are otherwise occupied during the week an additional opportunity to hunt. The measure, approved on a 29-11 vote, would prohibit Sunday hunting within 250 yards of a place of worship. Hunters would also have to own the land or receive permission from the landowner.

The measure did not go without opposition even among the General Assembly’s hunting advocates.

“I grew up in the woods,” said Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, Bath Democrat. “In Bath County, I never really thought of huntin’ and fishin’ as sport. It’s a way of life.”

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