- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2004

RICHMOND (AP) — The House Rules Committee yesterday passed a resolution asking Gov. Mark Warner to resubmit his budget without tax increases.

Mr. Warner’s two-year, $59 billion budget calls for raising $1 billion in new revenues by increasing the sales tax from 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent and the cigarette tax from 2.5 cents per pack to 25 cents. It also would raise the state income tax on households that earn more than $100,000 a year.

The resolution was submitted by Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Manassas Republican, and was approved by all 10 Republicans on the panel, which includes four Democrats and two independents.

Two Democrats voted against the resolution. Delegate Lionel Spruill Sr., Chesapeake Democrat, said it was just another way to hamper the governor’s efforts.

The House Rules Committee yesterday unanimously passed a resolution urging Congress to propose a constitutional amendment against same-sex “marriages.”

The resolution, sponsored by Delegate Robert G. McDonnell, seeks an amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. It also would render civil unions between couples of the same sex invalid in the United States.

Mr. McDonnell, Virginia Beach Republican, said the constitutional amendment is needed to stop homosexual-rights activists from changing marriage laws through the courts.

He said recent homosexual-rights victories in the U.S. Supreme Court and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court place Virginia’s law banning homosexual “marriages” in jeopardy.

“We have married people and we have single people,” Mr. McDonnell said. “Marriage for 6,000 years has been defined a certain way.”

The Rules Committee passed the resolution without debate. It now moves to the House floor for passage.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act already defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. President Bush said in his State of the Union address Tuesday he would support a constitutional amendment if courts struck down the law.

The General Assembly has dismissed a Virginia Beach Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judge who had been reprimanded for his handling of a child-custody case.

Judge Woodrow Lewis Jr. was censured by the state Supreme Court in 2002 for defying a higher court’s order. That action was the deciding factor in Tuesday’s decision, said Delegate Robert F. McDonnell, Virginia Beach Republican.

In the case, Judge Lewis ordered a father to return his children to their mother. But the man successfully appealed the decision in Circuit Court.

The next day, Judge Lewis found the father in contempt of court. The father was held in custody for several hours before being released by another Circuit Court order.

Judge Lewis told lawmakers he made a legal mistake — not an ethical lapse.

Delegate Kenneth R. Melvin, a Chesapeake Democrat and member of the black caucus, said he and others are concerned about the election and treatment of black judges such as Judge Lewis. Mr. McDonnell said race was “absolutely not” a factor in firing Judge Lewis.

In a surprising victory for gun-control advocates, a Senate committee yesterday narrowly advanced a bill that would require background checks on people who buy guns from unlicensed dealers at gun shows.

Current law requires federally licensed dealers to conduct background checks on buyers at gun shows. But the law does not apply to unlicensed dealers, such as gun collectors, private sellers and others “dealing on the edge of the law,” said Robert Ricker, a former National Rifle Association lawyer who now advocates stricter gun-control laws.

The Senate Courts of Justice Committee passed Sen. Henry L. Marsh’s bill, 8-7, after several Republicans who previously voted against the bill switched their votes. The bill died 11-3 last year in the same committee.

“The arguments against the bill were really sort of weak,” said Mr. Marsh, Richmond Democrat.

Opponents argued that only 2 percent of crimes are committed by guns purchased at gun shows, according to NRA statistics, and an NRA spokesman testified that the bill would do nothing to prevent crime.

But Mr. Marsh produced statistics to the contrary. He said 10 percent of guns used in crimes by juveniles were sold either at a gun show or a flea market, according to the U.S. Justice and Treasury departments.

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