- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2007

RICHMOND — Gov. Timothy M. Kaine yesterday vetoed five bills that would have expanded the crimes punishable by death in Virginia.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat who personally opposes the death penalty, vetoed bills that would have automatically made capital crimes of killing judges or witnesses to influence a judicial outcome, and arranging for a murder-for-hire.

The governor said Virginia is second only to Texas in the number of executions it carries out.

“While the nature of the offenses targeted by this legislation are very serious, I do not believe that further expansion of the death penalty is necessary to protect human life or provide for public-safety needs,” Mr. Kaine said.

The Republican-dominated General Assembly passed all five of the measures with sufficient votes to override the vetoes, and will have the chance to do it during the legislature’s one-day reconvened session April 4.

Mr. Kaine was elected in November 2005 acknowledging his objection to the death penalty, but pledging to carry out Virginia’s existing death-penalty laws. Mr. Kaine, the state’s first Roman Catholic governor, represented death-row inmates as a lawyer in private practice and based his objection on his religious teachings.

Two of the bills prescribe the death penalty for the premeditated killing of judges or justices to interfere with their official duties. Likewise, two of them extend capital punishment for the premeditated killing of witnesses under subpoena, also to influence the outcome of a case.

One bill redefines the so-called “triggerman rule,” which now makes only the person who commits a homicide eligible for capital punishment, and extends it to those who plan or arrange for others to carry out a killing.

Mr. Kaine also made changes to two other bills passed by the General Assembly this year.

He amended the bill by House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, Salem Republican, that would have required restaurants that allow smoking to post signs stating “Smoking Permitted.”

Mr. Kaine changed the bill to ban smoking in all Virginia restaurants, saying he’s opposed to a general ban on smoking in public. But he says he supports banning smoking in restaurants to “protect the health of both patrons and employees.”

The governor also changed a bill by Delegate Phillip A. Hamilton, Newport News Republican, requiring the HPV vaccine for girls entering the sixth grade. Mr. Kaine’s amendment cites the sexual nature of HPV transmission as justification for a broader opt-out clause than offered for other mandatory vaccinations.

With the governor’s amendment, parents would not be required to submit their opt-out decision in writing, but would have an opportunity to review materials prepared by health experts on the link between HPV and cervical cancer.

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