- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2004

From combined dispatches

RICHMOND — A legislative committee yesterday endorsed a bill to prohibit Virginia’s state-supported colleges and universities from enrolling illegal immigrants.

Delegate John S. “Jack” Reid, Henrico County Republican, said it isn’t right for an illegal immigrant to take a seat in college from someone who is in the country legally.

But Delegate Adam P. Ebbin, Arlington County Democrat, argued that it’s better to have educated immigrants working in good jobs than to deny them opportunities to improve themselves.

A Supreme Court ruling requires states to accept illegal immigrants in public elementary and secondary schools but makes no mention of colleges, Mr. Reid said.

The House Education Committee voted 14-7 to send Mr. Reid’s bill to the House floor, where it will be up for a vote later this week. Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican, supports the bill, but Democratic Gov. Mark Warner opposes it.

The panel also voted to table a bill sponsored by Mr. Ebbin that would have allowed illegal aliens to pay in-state tuition if they meet certain criteria, including signing a pledge to seek legal residency. Undocumented immigrants now pay out-of-state tuition.

A Senate committee yesterday approved a measure that would allow a homicide prosecution when an assault results in the death of a fetus.

The proposal, known as “Conner’s Law” after the unborn son of California slaying victim Laci Peterson, passed the Senate Courts of Justice Committee 9-6.

The same committee tabled the measure last year after it overwhelmingly passed in the House.

The bill, submitted by Republican Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle on behalf of Mr. Kilgore, prompted debate among committee members over the definition of a fetus and whether the bill is already covered by current law.

The Virginia Code makes it a Class 2 felony to deliberately cause a woman to involuntarily terminate her pregnancy. But Mr. Stolle, Virginia Beach Republican, said his bill is different, making it a Class 2 felony to kill a fetus, even if the attacker doesn’t know the woman is pregnant.

The law would be punishable by 20 years to life in prison.

The House has passed legislation allowing some state-operated liquor stores to open on Sundays.

The vote was 60-37. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Delegate David B. Albo’s bill applies only to ABC stores in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Those areas are singled out because they face competition from liquor stores that are open on Sundays in Maryland, the District and on military bases.

Mr. Albo, Fairfax County Republican, said that if only half of the liquor stores in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads opened on Sundays, the state would bring in an additional $2 million a year.

There was no debate on the bill yesterday. However, critics have argued that it doesn’t make sense to boost liquor sales at the same time the legislature is cracking down on drunken driving.

Sen. Jay O’Brien, Fairfax County Republican, is blasting the Super Bowl halftime show in which Justin Timberlake tore off part of Janet Jackson’s costume.

Mr. O’Brien wrote an angry letter to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and read it to his fellow senators yesterday.

“You gave us a burlesque show not worthy or appropriate for family viewing,” said Mr. O’Brien, who watched the game at home with his five children, ages 8 to 16. “I enjoyed the stage show ‘Cabaret,’ but I certainly would not take my children to it.”

Miss Jackson and Mr. Timberlake were performing a duet to end the halftime show when Mr. Timberlake reached across her leather costume and pulled off the covering to her right breast.

“Even before last night’s open-blouse episode, the music and dance you tried to pass off as entertainment was not for family consumption and you knew that before the game began. … After that I did not know what our country was coming to,” he said.

As Mr. O’Brien read his letter, Sen. Benjamin J. Lambert III, Charles City County Democrat, joked to his colleagues that he enjoyed the performance. “It was great,” he said.

A Senate panel yesterday approved legislation that would create some of the nation’s toughest penalties for repeat drunken driving offenders.

Several bills passed out of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, but were re-referred to the Finance Committee for funding consideration. They will then head to the House.

One bill would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor for someone convicted of drunken driving in the past five years to be caught driving with a .02 blood alcohol level, or after having about two drinks in an hour. A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in prison or a $2,500 fine. The person’s driver’s license also would be suspended for two years.

State Sen. John S. Edwards, Roanoke Democrat, equated the measure to being on extended probation, saying “for the next five years, you’d better not have anything to drink and drive.”

Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle’s bill would also increase penalties for refusing to take a breath or blood test after being pulled over. Refusal would constitute a criminal offense, punishable by up to one year in jail or a $2,500 fine.

Another measure that passed the committee seeks to allow judges to deny bail to repeat offenders if they have two previous drunken-driving convictions in the last five years.

“We’re trying to get the worst of the worst off the roads,” said Sen. William C. Mims, Loudoun County Republican. “What we’ve done in the last 10 years, [repeat offenders] haven’t given a damn about it.”

Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.

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