- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 26, 2012

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.

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.

• • •

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.

• • •

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.”

Mr. Deeds invoked his horse-riding daughters, saying that during hunting season, the only day they have to ride trails is Sunday.

“Those bullets don’t know property lines,” he said. “This is the proverbial ‘nose under the tent’ legislation.”

Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw said such concerns are overblown.

“This isn’t going to be the end of the world,” said Mr. Saslaw, Fairfax Democrat. “I’ve heard all this before. The commonwealth survives. Trust me, it’s not the end of our state.”

• • •

The Senate Education and Health committee on Thursday advanced a bill that would require women to first undergo ultrasound imaging before having an abortion.

The measure, which had routinely died in the previously Democrat-led committee, was approved on a party-line 8-7 vote. Pro-life advocates helped push the bill sponsored by Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, Loudoun Republican. A bill introduced by Sen. Ralph K. Smith, Botetourt Republican, was rolled into it.

The legislation would require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, but would not require them to view it. Supporters argue that it is simply a way to bolster a woman’s understanding of the medical status of their pregnancy, while detractors argue that it’s an unnecessary intrusion and a backdoor attempt to get the woman to opt against undergoing the procedure.

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