- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 9, 2009

RICHMOND | Lawmakers rejected attempts to expand unemployment benefits, the death penalty, absentee voting and places where concealed handguns can be taken Wednesday during the General Assembly's one-day session for considering vetoes.

In rebuffing Gov. Tim Kaine's attempts to expand jobless benefits to part-time workers and double the time people who have lost their jobs can receive benefits if they are in retraining programs, the Republican-controlled House rejected $125 million in federal stimulus money to cover the costs.

The 53-46 vote on mostly party lines echoed the debate raging in state capitals nationally over the federal unemployment aid and the congressional mandates tied to it.

Republicans argued that the additional costs of expanding benefits will hurt businesses for years and was an unwelcome federal intrusion into a state program.

“When are we going to say to the federal government, 'Enough'?” Delegate William Fralin, Roanoke County Republican, said in urging the House to defeat the amendments.

Mr. Kaine, who moonlights as the Democratic National Committee chairman, angrily lectured Mr. Fralin and other House Republicans afterward.

“This was not a debate about when we're going to say 'no' to Washington, except for people who are sunk in a 'party-of-no' mentality,” Mr. Kaine said.

The Senate upheld Mr. Kaine's vetoes of five bills that would have extended capital punishment to murder accomplices and to those who kill on-duty fire marshals and auxiliary police officers.

Virginia trails only Texas in the number of inmates executed since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Mr. Kaine, who has vetoed 15 bills to expand the crimes eligible for death since he became governor in 2006, said there was no need to increase the number of people who could be put to death.

“Virginia, we execute enough people. We don't need to expand it,” said Mr. Kaine, a Roman Catholic with an opposition to capital punishment rooted in church teaching. He has allowed nine executions to proceed and commuted one death sentence.

For the second year in a row, the Senate came up a few votes short of overriding Mr. Kaine's veto of a bill that would have allowed those with concealed-carry permits to take handguns into restaurants as long as they don't drink alcohol. But both houses overruled Mr. Kaine when it came to allowing retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed guns into bars.

Currently, guns can be taken into restaurants as long as they are out in the open.

Legislators also overrode Mr. Kaine's veto of a bill that allows those applying for a concealed-carry permit to complete the required firearms training online. Mr. Kaine said he was troubled by the notion that Virginia would require someone to complete a safety course but not require proof that the person was the one to have completed the program.

Mr. Kaine said he also was bothered that House Republicans continued to kill his proposal to expand absentee voting on procedural moves rather than on a vote.

Currently, those who want to vote absentee must meet one of 17 criteria, such as being out of town on Election Day, pregnant or taking care of an ill family member.

“You can only conclude one thing: the Republicans want fewer people to vote, not more,” Mr. Kaine said.

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