Most of the Virginia Catholic Conference’s (VCC) top legislative priorities during this year’s 60-day Virginia General Assembly session were decided by lawmakers in committees – not by votes on the floors of the Senate or House.
The information on these pages details key committee decisions and how committee members, identified by party and district, voted. In reading the descriptions of a smaller number of key Senate and House floor votes, refer to the chart for each body.
The charts of floor votes have been prepared for Diocese of Richmond residents and therefore include only those General Assembly members whose districts are within that diocese.
Senate floor votes
Religious liberty in housing. VCC-opposed legislation would have created causes of action against faith-based providers for following their beliefs about marriage and sexuality. The bill would have added “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to existing anti-discrimination criteria for housing. After passing the Senate 29-10, the bill was defeated in a House subcommittee 5-2.
Banning weapons in churches. Virginia law restricts guns and other weapons at places of worship during religious gatherings, unless the carrier has a “good and sufficient reason.” VCC-opposed legislation would have shifted the burden to places of worship to keep weapons off their property by express communication. The legislation passed the Senate 21-18, but ultimately failed when the House did not act on it.
Helping at-risk students. Thousands of low-income Virginia students receive financial assistance to attend Catholic and other nonpublic K-12 schools through the state Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits Program. VCC-supported legislation to expand the program to include low-income pre-K children passed the Senate 28-12, but was defeated in a House committee 11-11.
Protections against usury. VCC-supported legislation would have cut down on unjust lending practices by regulating internet lenders and capping consumer finance loans at 36 percent APR. It passed the Senate 37-2, before failing in a House subcommittee without a recorded vote.
House of Delegates floor votes
Defunding abortion of children with disabilities. By a 51-49 vote, the House adopted a VCC-supported budget amendment to bring Virginia into line with the majority of other states that limit taxpayer funding of abortion to the three Hyde Amendment exceptions, i.e., life of the mother, rape and incest. Virginia exceeds federal Hyde policy by also funding abortions of children who may be born with certain disabilities. The Senate budget, however, does not include this budget amendment. Final budget is still being negotiated.*
In-state tuition for Dreamers. The VCC supported a budget amendment proposed on the House floor to clarify that Dreamers brought to Virginia as children and raised here are eligible for in-state tuition, regardless of whether the DACA program continues. The proposed amendment failed 51-49.
Floor votes on legislation considered by Senate and House of Delegates
Expanding Medicaid coverage. The VCC supports expanding Medicaid to provide health insurance for Virginians whose incomes are up to 138 percent of the poverty level and who do not qualify for Medicaid. A budget amendment proposed on the Senate floor sought to provide this coverage, but it failed 21-19. The House voted 69-31 to include federal funds in its budget to provide private health insurance for these low-income Virginians. A final budget is being negotiated.*
Promoting safe immigrant communities. VCC-opposed legislation purporting to crack down on “sanctuary cities” would jeopardize trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement and threaten the willingness of crime victims and witnesses to come forward. It passed the House 51-49 and Senate 21-18, and awaits Gov. Northam’s action.*
Improving suspension policies. This session saw a breakthrough in the movement to mitigate the school-to-prison pipeline after years of advocacy by the VCC, which supported a public school suspension policy reform that banned out-of-school suspensions of K-3 students lasting longer than three days. It passed the House 87-11 and Senate 34-6, and Gov. Northam signed the bill.
*as of April 5, 2018
The Virginia Catholic Conference is the public-policy agency representing Virginia’s Catholic bishops and their dioceses. Further information on VCC advocacy is available at www.vacatholic.org.