2004 Legislative Bills
Updated April 12, 2004

  Senate Bills | House Bills | Budget Amendment | Resolutions | For Your Information
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The 45-day 2004 General Assembly session convened on January 14, 2004.  3,006 bills and resolutions were filed this year in addition to 425 carried over from last year.  January 23, 2004 was the last day to introduce bills.

The session ended on March 13, 2004.

To check the latest status of bills, resolutions, and amendments or check for your legislator’s name, etc., click Legislative website at  http://leg1.state.va.us/041/lis.htm

Normally, the governor reviews the hundreds of bills that did pass and decide what to do about them.  He signs, vetoes or amends some of them in April.  One day in April, the General Assembly returns for an annual, one-day event known as the “veto session.”  That is when the members review what the governor had done with their bills and decide whether to override any vetoes or approve any amendments.  See the statistics table at the bottom.

As of this time, the General Assembly has been deadlocked over 2005-2006 state budget preparation.


Senate Bills

SB 381 Disability Commission
Patron - Linda T. Puller

Virginia Disability Commission; established in legislative branch.  Establishes the Virginia Disability Commission ("Commission") as a legislative commission, with the purpose of identifying and recommending legislative priorities and policies that should be adopted or examined by the General Assembly in order to provide ongoing support in developing and reviewing services and funding related to Virginians with disabilities. The Commission shall consist of 12 members that include six legislative members, five nonlegislative citizen members, and the Lieutenant Governor. Of the five nonlegislative citizen members to be appointed by the Governor, two shall be consumers with disabilities, two shall be members of the medical, insurance, or rehabilitation professions, and one shall be a citizen at large. The Lieutenant Governor shall serve as chairman until January 14, 2006. There is a three-year sunset provision on this bill. This bill is identical to HB 817.

Comment: VAD Board is in favor.

Status:  Passed in House 99-Y, 3/11/04; passed in Senate 40-Y, O-N, 3/11/04.

 

SB 581 Cell phones; prohibits use while driving.
Patron - Patricia S. Ticer

Use of certain wireless communication devices by drivers while vehicle is in motion. Provides that, except in an emergency, the driver of a motor vehicle is prohibited from using any hand-held wireless communication device while his vehicle is in motion, unless the device is equipped for hands-free operation and the driver is so operating the hands-free equipment. Violations are traffic infractions punishable by a fine of $100.  This also affects our pagers.

Comment: VAD Board is not in favor.

Status:  Senate: Passed by indefinitely (failed) in Senate Transportation Commiteee, 1/22/04.

 

SB 641 Heath insurance; coverage for hearing aids for minors.
Patron - Patricia S. Ticer

Insurance; mandated coverage for hearing aids for minors. Requires the state health plan, health insurers, health maintenance organizations, corporations providing health care coverage subscription contracts, and Medicaid to provide coverage for hearing aids and related services for children from birth to age five when a licensed audiologist prescribes such hearing aids and related services. Such coverage shall include one hearing aid per hearing-impaired ear, up to a cost of $1,400, every 36 months. The insured may choose a higher priced hearing aid and pay the difference in cost above $1,400. No co-payment will apply. Hearing aids are not to be considered durable medical equipment.

Comment: VAD Board is in favor.

Status:  Continued to 2005 in Senate Commerce and Labor Committee . 2/9/04.

 

SB 665 Domestic violence or sexual assault; privileged communications between victims and advocates.
Patron - William C. Mims

Communications privilege. Provides that in both civil and criminal proceedings persons defined as domestic violence or sexual assault advocates and persons translating the communications between advocates and victims may not disclose oral or written communications between advocate and victim or be compelled to testify or provide any evidence regarding any such oral or written communications. The privilege does not extend to testimony or reporting requirements in matters relating to child or adult abuse and neglect, nor does it extend to potentially exculpatory information or materials that an attorney for the Commonwealth is required to disclose in a criminal case.  This is important to our interpreters and the deaf clients.

Comment: No action.

Status:  Passed in Senate 33-Y, 7-N, 2/10/04; failed to report (defeated) in House Court of Justice Committee 10-Y,12-N, 3/3/04.

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House Bills

 

HB 302 Translation contracts; Dept. of General Services to establish for telephonic language interpretation.
Patron - M. Kirkland Cox

Department of General Services; statewide translation contracts. Requires the Department of General Services, in coordination with the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, to establish a statewide contract for telephonic language interpretation services and other interpretation and translation services to Virginia's limited English-speaking residents, if it determines that such a contract is cost-effective.

Note: VDDHH has contracts for sign language interpreter services.

Comment: VAD Board has expressed its concerns as long as safeguards are included to protect sign language interpreter services.

Status:  Passed in House 88-Y, 10-N, 1/30/04; passed in Senate 40-Y, 0-N, 2/23/04.

Approved by Governor, 3/15/04.

 

HB 691 Musical entertainment; hotels & restaurants that contract for events may provide hearing protection.

Patron - Harvey B. Morgan

Prevention of noise-induced hearing loss. Requires any entity subject to licensure as a hotel or restaurant or other facility under Title 35.1 that contracts for events including live or recorded musical entertainment that may or will exceed the maximum noise level of 80 decibels, or such other lower noise level as the Board of Health shall determine, at which noise-induced hearing loss occurs, shall, as a condition of obtaining or renewing such licensure, offer and make available with or without charge individual hearing protection devices, such as earplugs, to patrons upon admission to events including such musical entertainment.

Comment: No action.

Status:  Tabled in House General Laws Committee 22-Y, 0-N, 1/22/04.

 

HB 798 Telephonic reading services.
Patron - J. Chapman Petersen

Telecommunications; telephonic reading services. Authorizes funding for the operation of telephonic reading services through the assessments already being received for the telecommunications relay service. "Telephonic reading services" means audio information provided by telephone to the blind and visually impaired through a nationally available, multi-state service center to registered readers in all parts of the Commonwealth, including the interstate acquisition and distribution of daily newspapers and other information. Enactment of this bill is contingent upon future general fund appropriations

Note: It was mentioned that Del Petersen was approached by the National Federation for the Blind to sponsor the bill.  It failed last year when an attempt was made for a separate tax to fund it so he tried to identify other state funding.

Comment: VAD Board expressed its concerns as long as safeguards are provided to protect our share.

Status:  Passed in Senate 36-Y,  0-N,  1-A,  3/5/04; passed in House 69-Y,  21-N, 3/12/04. This bill was amended in the Senate to remove reference to funding from the Virginia Relay fund as follows  The provisions of this act shall not become effective unless an appropriation of general funds effectuating the purposes of this act is included in the general appropriation act for the period July 1, 2004,through June 30, 2006, passed during the 2004 Session of the General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor. This would move funding from the state relay fund to General Funds.

 

HB 800 Health insurance; coverage for hearing aids for minors (identical to SB 641).
Patron - J. Chapman Petersen

Health insurance; mandated coverage for hearing aids for minors. Requires health insurers, health maintenance organizations, and corporations providing health care coverage subscription contracts to provide coverage for hearing aids and related services for children from birth to age 18 when a licensed audiologist prescribes such hearing aids and related services. Such coverage shall include one hearing aid per hearing-impaired ear, up to a cost of $1,400, every 36 months. The insured may choose a higher priced hearing aid and pay the difference in cost above $1,400, with no penalty to the insured or the hearing aid provider. No co-payment will apply. Hearing aids are not to be considered durable medical equipment.

Comment: VAD Board is in favor.

Status:  Passed by indefinitely (failed) in House Commerce and Labor Committee, 1/27/04.

 

HB 817 Disability Commission (identical to SB 381).
Patron - Marian Van Landingham

The Virginia Disability Commission. Establishes the Virginia Disability Commission ("Commission") as a legislative commission, with the purpose of identifying and recommending legislative priorities and policies that should be adopted or examined by the General Assembly in order to provide ongoing support in developing and reviewing services and funding related to Virginians with disabilities. The Commission shall consist of 12 members that include six legislative members, five nonlegislative citizen members, and the Lieutenant Governor. Of the five nonlegislative members, two shall be consumers with disabilities, two shall be members of the medical, insurance, or rehabilitation professions, and one shall be a citizen at large. The Lieutenant Governor shall continue to serve as chairman until January 14, 2006, at which time the chairmanship of the Commission shall be assumed by a legislative member. The bill provides that the Commission must seek approval from the Joint Rules Committee if it is not funded in the first year of its existence. If the Commission is not funded in the second year, the provisions of the statute creating the Commission will expire. There is a three-year sunset provision on this bill. This bill is identical to SB 381.

Comment: VAD Board is in favor.

Status:  Passed in House 100-Y, 0-N, 3/12/04; passed in Senate 39-Y 0-N, 3/12/04.

 

HB 1174 Telecommunications and video taxation.
Patron - L. Preston Bryant, Jr

Telecommunications taxation; Section 1 bill. Proposes changes in the way telecommunications are taxed that would repeal several state and local taxes and replace them with a yet-to-be-named tax and E-911 fee and tax. Following the 2004 General Assembly Session, the working group of industry and local government representatives that has been assisting the Joint Subcommittee Studying the State and Local Taxation of the Entire Telecommunications Industry and Its Customers within the Commonwealth (HJR 651, 2003; HJR 209, 2002) with its work would continue to meet and work on remaining issues. The working group would report its recommendations to the chairmen of the House and Senate Finance Committees no later than November 15, 2004. The proposal is for legislation to be introduced during the 2005 General Assembly that would actually contain the provisions necessary to carry out this intent. This method is similar to the manner used for developing the changes needed for electric utility deregulation.

Note: The Virginia Relay surcharge is one of the taxes included in the bill.

Comment: VAD Board expressed its concerns about combining money from the Virginia Relay surcharge with other funding.  NVRC’s note: there has been a history of trying to dip into the relay funds to pay for other programs during hard times or for political “pork” projects.

Status:  Passed in House 90-Y, 9-N, 2/16/04;passed in Senate 40-Y, 0-N, 3/3/04.

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Budget Amendments

Budget Bill included a proposal by Senator Wampler that $40,000 of the VDDHH budget support the Deaf Resource Center in Planning District 1.  Del. Phillips also had included a request that the $40,000 being given to Connie Reasor Deaf Resource Center in Planning District 1 be increased to $80,000. This $80,000 was later left out.

Here are several VSDB consolidation reports below for your reading:

A.  VSDB Consolidation Plan

Scott Goodman, Chair of the Task Force and member of the Board of Education, presented the Plan for Consolidating Services for Deaf and/or Blind and Multi-Disabled Students served by VSDB-S and VSDBMH-H at the House Appropriations Committee meeting on Monday, February 9th.  The Board of Education sought fiscal resources for a feasibility study to determine the location and cost of a combined school as proposed in the plan.  Any amendment to the Appropriations Act (Budget Bill) to set aside the resources for a feasibility study could require that the study look at specific sites or it could limit what sites could be looked at.   Members of the Appropriations Committee talked to several consumers and advocates who were at the meeting.  The committee members said that anyone who was interested in the next steps related to the Plan for Consolidating Services, including recommendations related to the sites to be studied, could share their thoughts with House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committee members as soon as possible

B.  State School for the Deaf and Blind Issue

Many of you already know about the Task Force Report on the Future of Schools for the Deaf and Blind in Staunton and Hampton, that is to close both schools and build a new and one school in a different location. VAD and VSDAA  sent a letter dated December 8, 2003 to the Governor to oppose the Report and ask to keep the Staunton school.  Several articles about this issue have been published in several  newspapers in Staunton, Norfolk area, Richmond and Northern Virginia.  The General Assembly was supposed to take some action on the Task Force recommendation report in this legislative session.

C.  Senate Finance Committee Report  February 24, 2004 (thanks to Fred Yates)

The Senate Finance Committee reported a budget amendment of $100,000 to conduct a capital needs assessment and feasibility study for consolidating the two schools to land at the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center in Fishersville by September 2007.  The Senate Committee reported.

"In the pre-planning phase for consolidation at a single campus, the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Resources, Administration, and Finance together with the State Board of Education, the Department of Education, the two schools for the deaf, blind, and multi-disabled, the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center, the Department of General Services, and the Department of Planning and Budget shall complete a capital needs assessment and feasibility study for consolidating the State's two existing schools for the deaf, blind, and multi-disabled on land at the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center.  The Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Resources, Administration, and Finance shall submit a joint report on the capital needs assessment and feasibility

study to the Governor and the Chairmen of the House Committees on Appropriations and Education, and the Senate Committees on Finance and Education and Health Committees by October 1, 2004. Building upon the work of the 2003 Consolidation Task Force, the report shall also include a suggested timeline of steps necessary to achieve a well-planned

consolidation of the two existing schools at the new location no later than September 1, 2007, including the closing of the existing sites and disposition of the properties as well as a mechanism to assist local school divisions with program development for those children who will not continue at the new school."]

D.  Senate Budget Amendment with remarks from Senator Emmett Hanger

To update you, I have received the following from Senator Hanger’s office. I agree with his thinking that comparative costs need to be evaluated. That’s why I had suggested that site evaluation INCLUDE the Staunton site. As this moves along, I feel that the money will be allocated for this study. Let’s ride it out. Fred Yates

“As you know, the task force studying the possibility of consolidation recommended at the end of last year a new state-of-the-art site be built and the two existing schools combine and operate at this new school. Though I did vote against the task force recommendation, I do believe it would be helpful to evaluate the projected costs associated with upgrading the Staunton campus compared to upgrading facilities at the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center. The budget language does not necessarily tie our hands from keeping the two current locations open or consolidating to the existing Staunton location but simply allows the Commonwealth to explore this other recommendation.”

As of this time, the final General Assembly action on the Task Force report for school consolidation did not take place due to continued state budget deadlock.

 

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Resolutions

 

None relating to deaf and hard of hearing issues.

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For Your Information

 

Other: TV Emergency Captioning

NVRC filed five formal complaints against local TV stations in November 2002 on behalf of Virginia, Maryland and DC residents after reports of many news programs without captions during the sniper shootings.  Those complaints have never been resolved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

In the fall of 2003, there were two meetings in Fairfax and Richmond on the issue of emergency captioning relating to the broadcasting regulations by FCC. VAD reps attended them.

The three-page letter, dated February 17, 2004, was received by NVRC from Colleen Heitkamp, Chief of the Telecommunications Consumers Division of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau.  It addressed a complaint against WJLA that NVRC filed on behalf of deaf and hard of hearing consumers in the DC, Maryland and Virginia Metro area related to the sniper shootings.

NVRC's complaint gave a list of dates and times where captions were not provided, including a "breaking news" segment on October 9, 2002 about a shooting in Manassas; on October 10, 2002 for a news report about area school lockdowns, and on October 14 for a breaking news segment about the Falls Church shooting.  NVRC also listed instances when regular closed captioning and emergency text crawls blocked each other.

The FCC's enforcement bureau announced in this letter that our complaint was denied because the sniper attacks do not appear to be an emergency event "contemplated" in 47 C.F.R. section 79.2 of the FCC rules.

As of now, the NVRC is in the process of appeal.  FCC has asked for a meeting with NVRC.  Lately, some deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened and deafblind consumers, organizations, Centers for Independent Living, Disability Commission, agency serving individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing, etc. have been sending emails of protest of the FCC decision to the FCC Commissioners

  

At the Federal level:

A.  Tax Credit for Hearing Aids

SHHH supports Rep. Ryun's "Hearing Aids Assistance Tax Credit Act." Bill H.R.3103 provides a tax credit of up to $500 per hearing aid, available once every five years towards the purchase of such hearing aid to individuals age 55 and over and to those purchasing a hearing aid for a dependent. This bipartisan initiative is supported by major organizations concerned with hearing health including Hearing Industries Association, International Hearing Society, Deafness Research Foundation, American Academy of Audiologist, and American Speech- Language Hearing Association among others.

 B. Movie Captioning

On Thursday, April 1, 2004 Judge Gladys Kessler heard testimony in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia regarding the proposed settlement agreement (PSA) between Kevin Ball, Aaron Fudenske, et al. as plaintiffs and AMC Entertainment and Loews Cineplex Entertainment as defendants.  Several deaf/hard of hearing consumers and representatives from National Association of the Deaf, Alexander Graham Bell Association, Maryland Association of the Deaf, Virginia Association of the Deaf, NVRC, WGBH-TV in Boston, Coalition for Movie Captioning (MCM), TDI, and Association of Late Deafened Adults testified. Most of them testified against the rear window captioning (RWC) and urged the judge to include other options, especially the open captioning, in the PSA. The judge interrupted presentations to ask questions or make comments at times and may make a decision before the end of April

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General Assembly Session Statistics

 

 

Bills and Resolutions introduced:

Continued

Passed

Failed

Approved by Governor

Vetoed by Governor

3,006

425

1,715

866

325

0

 

 

  (57.1%)

  (28.8%)

  (10.8%)

  (0.0%)

 

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Legislative Legend

HB
SB

HR
SR

HJR
SJR

Y
N

House Bill 

Senate Bill

House Resolution

Senate Resolution

House Joint Resolution

Senate Joint Resolution

Yes

No

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Gary wants to thank the following people for their help in up-to-date
reporting on legislative bills, budget amendments, and  resolutions:

Cheryl Heppner (at NVRC)
Maureen Hollowell
Gordon Landes
Leslie Hutchinson Prince (at VDDHH)
Arva Priola
Fred Yates, Jr.


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