- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 25, 2003

RICHMOND (AP) The House of Delegates passed legislation yesterday that would require abortion clinics to upgrade equipment and resources to meet the same standards as outpatient surgical centers.

Voting mostly along party lines, the Republican-controlled House approved Delegate Robert G. Marshall's bill 65-31. There was no debate on the measure, which now goes to the Senate.

Mr. Marshall, Prince William Republican, has promoted his bill as an attempt to protect women from unsafe, unsanitary conditions in clinics. The bill applies to facilities that perform 25 or more abortions annually.

Abortion-rights advocates said the bill would make most of the estimated 27,000 abortions performed annually in Virginia impossible to provide because few clinics meet the tougher standards and the costs of upgrading would be prohibitive.

Mr. Marshall's bill is one of several abortion restrictions being considered by the General Assembly. Bills that would require parental consent instead of just notification for minors' abortions and banning a procedure that pro-life advocates call "partial-birth abortion" are pending in legislative committees.

•••

A House committee rejected a bill yesterday that would tighten the year-old prohibition on open containers of alcohol in the passenger compartment of cars.

The General Assembly passed a bill last year allowing police to arrest a motorist if an open booze bottle or beer can is found in the vehicle and the driver smells of alcohol or shows other signs of imbibing.

The bill was a watered-down version of a proposal to ban open containers, whether the driver was drinking or not.

Delegate Harry R. Purkey, Virginia Beach Republican, urged the Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee to endorse the legislation as proposed last year. The version that was passed does not do enough to combat drunken driving, he said.

"What's changed since last year? A growing tide of anger and indignation over drunken driving deaths," Mr. Purkey said.

He said a Virginia Commonwealth University study found that open alcohol containers, mostly beer cans, were found in vehicles in 41.5 percent of the state's drunken-driving fatalities during the past six months.

Delegate Clifford L. Athey Jr., Warren Republican, said Mr. Purkey's proposal would discourage people from offering to drive a drunken friend who refused to discard his drink. Mr. Purkey said that was a specious argument.

"What is wrong with telling someone, 'You can get in my car and I'll take you home, but you can't bring your beer?'" Mr. Purkey said.

The committee voted 14-5 to kill the bill.

•••

A proposal to amend the Virginia Constitution to automatically appropriate money to capital-improvement projects when the state has more than 8 percent growth moved through a House committee yesterday.

The amendment would bring discipline to the way the state spends its money during boom years, said its sponsor, Delegate Vincent F. Callahan Jr., Fairfax Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

"Had we had this legislation 10 years ago, we would have had $2 billion in capital-construction funds that we could have used for a whole array of things around the commonwealth," Mr. Callahan said.

The proposal met with some opposition from Democrats in the Privileges and Elections Committee, who argued that mental-health services and education would continue to be shortchanged.

"That's really the reason we had the large increase in funding [for mental health] during the so-called 'good years' in the late '90s. We were making up for the losses that we had in the early '90s," said Delegate Marian Van Landingham, Alexandria Democrat.

The House and Senate must pass a resolution two years in a row to make an amendment to the constitution. The proposal now moves to the House floor for a vote.


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