- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

RICHMOND The transportation referendum for Northern Virginia passed the House of Delegates last night, giving Gov. Mark R. Warner at least one major victory during yesterday's special session of the General Assembly and setting the stage for a fierce debate this fall over whether the sales tax should be raised in the region by one-half percent to pay for transportation projects.
Delegate John Rollison, Woodbridge Republican, was clearly elated after the 67-30 vote in the House, hugging Department of Transportation employees in the hall outside the chamber.
"It was long and thrilling and that is all that matters," said Mr. Rollison, chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
"I am going to be sitting down with the business community next week to work on an outline of what they are planning in terms of the campaigning. I know a little something about campaigning," said Mr. Warner, who campaigned on the issue last fall, shortly after the House adjourned. "I am prepared to campaign on behalf of [the] campaign."
Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Prince William Republican, vocally opposed the measure on the floor during debate, and afterward questioned the constitutionality of the bill.
"They don't have the cost of the projects, they have no background on where the debt comes from. I think a lawsuit might be filed and be sustained on this because [the portion on debt is] unconstitutional," he said.
"I'll deal with that when I can," said Mr. Marshall, when asked if he was filing the lawsuit himself, or if others would.
But Mr. Rollison was confident the measure would pass in the fall and voters will understand the issues when it comes time for them to enter the voting booth.
"I think this is going to be an easy sell," he said. "People are looking for an opportunity to make a decision about their own future, and this is a great opportunity for them to make that decision."
Buck Waters, executive director of Virginians for Transportation Solutions, agreed."Come November, the people of Northern Virginia will be able to decide whether they want to continue to sit through traffic or begin taking steps to address their critical transportation needs and relieve congestion."
The Senate passed the measure earlier in the day without debate, 34-5. Under the legislation, voters in Hampton Roads also will go to the polls for a similar transportation referendum.
Analysis conducted by the Virginia Department of Transportation estimated the final cost of projects in the Northern Virginia area to be $2.7 billion. Included in that figure is $100 million for improvements to Route 28, $350 million for Dulles Corridor transit, and $300 million for improvements to Interstate 66 and extension of rail service.
The primary sponsor of the legislation was pleased both initiatives would be on the ballot.
"It was the right thing to do to give Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads the opportunity to help themselves, when quite frankly the state does not have the money to help them," said Sen. Martin Williams, Newport News Republican and chief sponsor of the legislation. "These two regions have worked together like never before toward this common goal."

The General Assembly yesterday narrowly sustained Mr. Warner's veto of a bill that would have revived Virginia's ban of a procedure that opponents call "partial-birth abortion."
The House of Delegates voted 71-28 to override the veto, but the 24-14 vote in the Senate was three votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the bill over the governor's objections. Two senators did not vote.
Virginia's 1998 law banning the seldom-used procedure was voided when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar law in Nebraska.
Mr. Marshall proposed legislation reviving the law. But his bill reclassified the procedure as "medically induced infanticide" in hopes that the court would take a different view of the law.
Mr. Warner said Mr. Marshall's bill probably would not survive a constitutional challenge because it lacked sufficient exceptions to protect women's health. The bill would allow the procedure only to save a woman's life or avoid the risk of "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."
Such an exception is too narrow because it would ban the procedure even if a doctor determined it was safer than other abortion methods, Mr. Warner said.

The Senate yesterday soundly defeated Mr. Warner's proposal to assess $5 per ton on trash dumped in Virginia landfills, then resurrected the measure only to defer it to next winter's legislative session.
Mr. Warner's amendment to a Senate bill failed on a 17-23 vote, in what legislators from both parties regarded as a pointed rebuke to the first-year Democratic governor for trying to push an ambitious initiative into law in a one-day reconvened session.
On a procedural maneuver, however, the measure was reconsidered a short while later and, on a voice vote, referred to the Senate Agriculture Committee for consideration in the 2003 General Assembly. That killed the measure for the year.
Mr. Warner and a critical ally, House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr., had lobbied legislators ardently for days to support the measure. Solid majorities appeared ready to back them until a coalition of major waste haulers, some conservation groups and local governments alarmed about possible costs began an intense publicity blitz that included radio ads.

A sharply divided House of Delegates rejected Mr. Warner's proposal to outlaw possession of an open alcoholic-beverage container in the passenger compartment of a vehicle.
The Republican-controlled House first voted 49-46 to pass the legislation, then reconsidered and voted 51-49 to kill it. Earlier in the day, the Senate had voted 33-6 to pass the measure.
The governor's proposal was an amendment to a bill that had been watered down in the House during the regular legislative session. The amendment restored the tough language of the original bill, sponsored by Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr., James City County Republican.
As passed by the assembly, the legislation allows police to arrest people who appear intoxicated behind the wheel and have an open alcoholic-drink container in the passenger area of the car with them.

The General Assembly restored legislation requiring public schools and local offices to post the national motto, "In God We Trust," and deleting a gubernatorial amendment that would have compelled the state to pay the costs of it.
Mr. Warner amended Mr. Marshall's bills to make posting the motto, adopted by Congress in 1956, optional in public schools. Mr. Marshall's legislation mandates it.
The governor's amendments required the state to provide the money, but there was nothing set aside in the $50 billion budget lawmakers adopted this year for posting the motto.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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