- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2000

RICHMOND Virginia residents are not likely to get relief from telemarketing calls this year after the House Corporations Insurance and Banking Committee Thursday refused to send to the full House of Delegates a bill to protect those who don't want to receive calls.

The bill, a perennial loser in the General Assembly, would have set up a statewide registry on which residents could place their names to request they not be called. Telemarketers doing business in the state would have had to buy the list every 90 days. The committee rejected the bill 14-9.

Members of the attorney general's office testified it would be able to defend the bill in court, but some committee members remained skeptical of its legality while others just didn't like the bill.

A wide array of businesses, including telephone services, insurance and stock vendors and the Direct Marketing Association opposed the measure, while consumer advocacy groups and residents were the main proponents.

In other legislative action Thursday, a bill allowing police officers to issue tickets to drivers for not wearing seat belts made it out of the House Transportation Committee.

The bill, which goes to the full House now, is a big change from current law, where failure to wear a seat belt is a secondary offense, allowing officers to issue a ticket only if they pulled the driver over for another violation, such as speeding.

The bill, which has failed in the past, this year gained the support of some black members of the Assembly. Last year, many black legislators were concerned the measure would give police a chance to target black drivers, but this year they said the figures on black drivers' use of seat belts convinced them action was needed.

Northern Virginians were generally supportive.

"I'm an insurance agent. I've seen the data," said Delegate Thomas M. Bolvin, Fairfax Republican and a committee member.

The bill to require every voter to show identification at the polls before voting also took another step forward Thursday, gaining tentative approval in the House by a 58-42 vote. A final vote could come as early as Friday, and the measure is expected to pass.

During the House debate, Democrats tried to poke holes in the bill's language, asking whether a delegate's House-issued identification card would be acceptable ID, whether a Social Security card qualifies or whether a simple business card qualifies as a business-issued ID card.

All 52 House Republicans and the sole independent voted for the measure, arguing it will secure integrity in the voting process.

"This is really kind of a sad day in Virginia when voter integrity becomes a partisan issue," said Delegate John S. Reid, Henrico Republican.

But Democrats, all but five of whom voted against it, said the bill just isn't needed.

"I do not think there's voting fraud in Virginia there's just never been any allegation of that," said Delegate Robert D. Hull, Fairfax Democrat.

The Senate already passed a similar version of the bill, and the governor has called for the legislation, virtually guaranteeing it will become law.

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