- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2002

RICHMOND The House of Delegates passed legislation yesterday allowing a homicide prosecution when an assault results in the death of a fetus and giving health care professionals the right to refuse to dispense or prescribe abortion pills.
The bills passed without debate on the final day for each chamber to act on its own legislation, except for appropriation, debt, revenue and state retirement system bills. The "crossover" day for those bills is Friday.
Just past the halfway point of the 60-day session, the General Assembly has disposed of a little more than half of its bills and resolutions. Legislators have killed 565 measures and continued 463 until next year. An additional 342 have passed both houses.
That leaves 766 House bills and resolutions on the Senate's agenda and 573 Senate measures awaiting House action before the session's scheduled March 9 adjournment.
The House voted 72-28 to pass Delegate Terry G. Kilgore's feticide bill. Mr. Kilgore, Scott Republican, has said attackers are now getting away with murder when an assault on a pregnant woman destroys the fetus.
The other bill expands the state's "conscience clause," which allows doctors to refuse to perform surgical abortions, to also cover chemical abortions. The House voted 79-20 to pass the measure, sponsored by Delegate Kathy J. Byron, Lynchburg Republican.

Virginia's Senate passed legislation yesterday requiring public schools to post signs saying "In God We Trust."
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Nick Rerras, Norfolk Republican, said the national motto offers a much-needed expression of hope in an era of terrorism and weakening moral values.
Senate Democratic Leader Richard L. Saslaw of Fairfax County was the only senator who spoke against the bill. "We are, in effect, simply trivializing the word 'God,'" he said.
Mr. Saslaw proposed an amendment to make Mr. Rerras' bill effective only if Congress passes legislation requiring that the motto be posted in federal buildings.
The Senate rejected the amendment.

Delegates voted 67-32 to pass a bill to create a new misdemeanor: aggressive driving. A person convicted of driving with the intent to harass or intimidate another motorist would be fined $500 and ordered to attend a driver-improvement clinic.
The bill, sponsored by Delegate James K. "Jay" O'Brien Jr., Fairfax Republican, covers offenses that are worse than a simple traffic violation but less egregious than reckless driving.

Bills to compel police to take DNA samples from people arrested for violent crimes won overwhelming passage, alarming civil liberties groups.
Without debate, the House of Delegates voted 89-11 for final passage, while the Senate voted 40-0 for the identical bills, virtually ensuring their final passage when the House considers the Senate bill and vice versa.
"As we all know, photographs and fingerprints are taken at the time of arrest, and we have now reached the point with DNA testing where a DNA test can be done almost as easily as a fingerprint," said the Senate sponsor, Sen. Bill Mims, Loudoun Republican.
The testing would be done on a sample taken with a saliva swab. Mr. Mims' bill and its House twin sponsored by Delegate Ryan P. McDougle, Hanover Republican, both contain provisions requiring the sample to be destroyed if the accused is acquitted or the case is dismissed.
Virginia now takes samples only from people who are found guilty or from crime scenes.
Supporters of the bill say obtaining and analyzing the swabs at arrest could help police solve old cases if the DNA of the accused matches genetic evidence from earlier crimes.
The vetoproof margins by which both bills passed, however, shocked Kent Willis, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Virginia.
"I think the difference is largely the post-September 11 atmosphere. In addition, this was a campaign promise, and the new attorney general put a lot of emphasis on it. Plus, this is the kind of bill that's hard for legislators to vote against given the current atmosphere," he said.

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