A quick death

Delegate Michele McQuigg should be recognized for her persistence. The Woodbridge Republican is serving in her sixth General Assembly session and has worked to pass Photo-Red legislation each time. This effort has met with disappointment every year but she will try again next year.

McQuigg’s persistence has faced stubborn resistance from Photo-Red opponents in the House of Delegates including fellow Woodbridge Republican Jack Rollison. Opponents of the bill seem to come up with new and creative ways of defeating Photo-Red each year.

Photo-Red would allow localities to ticket red light runners using cameras at dangerous intersections. The only cars being photographed are those which are breaking the law. The bill has met defeat many different ways, including:

Killed in the House Transportation Committee.

Killed in the House Militia and Police Committee.

Killed on the House floor.

Vetoed by then-Gov. James S. Gilmore III.

The defeat of McQuigg’s bill this year was even more shameful than most previous attempts. When the bill found enough sympathy to emerge from Rollison’s Transportation Committee in recent years, former Speaker Vance Wilkins shifted tactics a few years ago sending the legislation to the ultra-conservative Militia and Police Committee where it met with stern opposition in 2001 and 2002.

McQuigg was able to get the bill through both committees this year (a feat within itself) and onto the House floor for debate following a close committee vote last week. That’s when politics took over.

Before the bill could be debated during its scheduled second reading on the House floor this week, House members unceremoniously voted (51-46) to send the bill back to the Militia and Police Committee where some members have apparently had a change of heart. The bill is not expected to reemerge from that committee.

“It’s dead,” McQuigg said following this latest political ambush. “And they didn’t even bother to listen to the merits of the bill.”

Aside from the pros and cons of Photo-Red, the way this legislation has been treated by the House leadership over the past few years is disgraceful. Wilkins used the speakership to send the bill to an unfriendly committee the past two years and things weren’t that much different this year following Wilkins’ departure. We could have at least hoped that first-year Speaker William Howell, R-Stafford, would have allowed fair debate and an up or down vote on the bill this year. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

We can only wonder if Rollison and Howell will use this type of muscle to defeat a bill allowing “primary enforcement” of seat belt laws.

It will be interesting to see what hurdles House leaders require McQuigg to clear next year. Regardless, she’ll be back with a new bill and even more resolve.

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