- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 17, 2002

RICHMOND The Virginia General Assembly resoundingly passed a measure banning partial-birth abortions, but observers say it's too close to call whether there are enough votes to overturn Gov. Mark R. Warner's veto when lawmakers reconvene today for a one-day special session.
"I'm not going to make predictions because the votes are going to be close," said Ben Ginsburg, director of government relations for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, which lobbied extensively against the bill.
Mr. Warner vetoed the legislation his only veto this year because he said it was unconstitutional. He said he would sign legislation prohibiting the rare procedure if it included certain safety provisions for the mother, which he said this bill did not.
In the procedure, a fetus is delivered partly into the birth canal and its skull is collapsed to enable its passage.
Under the so-called "medically induced infanticide" bill sponsored by Delegate Robert G. Marshall, a doctor who violates the ban would face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
The measure had an exception to protect a pregnant woman's life or to prevent "substantial or irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."
Both the House of Delegates and Senate need a two-thirds majority to override a veto. The Marshall bill handily passed in the 100-member House 75-25. In the Senate, it was approved 27-13 on one vote, 26-12 on another.
In order for the veto to be overridden, the Senate would need to keep all the original votes, something observers note would be difficult because it is one thing to vote for a bill, but entirely another to vote to override a veto.
"We really don't know how that is going to go," said Brenda Fastabend, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life, which supports the measure.
One key lawmaker is Sen. W. Henry Maxwell. The Newport News Democrat initially voted in favor of the bill but abstained on the second procedural vote.
Mr. Maxwell did not return calls seeking comment.
Sen. Warren E. Barry said he has not decided how he will vote. He supported the Marshall bill when it passed last month but said he still has some unanswered questions.
"It has not been ascertained if we have ever even had this procedure performed in Virginia, so I am reluctant to vote to override the veto. But I also am opposed to that type of procedure, so I may well vote to override," said Mr. Barry, Fairfax Republican.
Mr. Marshall said he was hopeful he will retain all the votes in the Senate.
"We are working and we are saying our prayers I don't need anyone to switch, I just need them to hold," said Mr. Marshall, Manassas Republican.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly will face several other big issues in today's session. Mr. Warner, a Democrat, amended 77 bills passed by the legislature this winter, and unlike the override lawmakers need only a simple majority to pass or reject an amendment.
The most notable amendments are Mr. Warner's additions to the transportation referendum bill, which now includes Northern Virginia, and the "trash-tax" bill, which would charge a $5 per ton garbage-disposal fee at landfills in hopes of generating more than $70 million a year for conservation projects.
Opponents of the referendum conceded on Monday the legislation will likely pass, but vowed to campaign vigorously against it. The trash-tax bill, which Mr. Warner proposed last week, has been criticized by private trash companies as well as local governments around the state that own and operate their own landfills. They claim it is too expensive and that the money should not be used for conservation efforts.
"I would call it a user fee," Mr. Warner said yesterday, defending his proposal.
He said the amendment gives communities flexibility to deal with conservation and land preservation. Several Republicans, including House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr., Amherst Republican, support the measure.

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