Manassas Journal Messenger | General Assembly round up

• The Senate of Virginia approved SB 1095 Wednesday. The bill would remove the sunset provision on photo-red light monitoring use. The current sunset provision will discontinue use in June 2005, unless legislators extend it this year.

A handful of jurisdictions in Northern Virginia and elsewhere have the authority to use this technology that takes a digital picture of the license plate if a driver runs a red light. The vehicle’s owner then receives a ticket in the mail.

Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park do not use photo-red cameras.

The Senate has already approved other bills dealing with photo-red technology. One bill allows the city of Roanoke to use it; another extends the sunset provision for two years; and another, submitted by Manassas Sen. Charles J. Colgan, D-29th District, would allow all Virginia jurisdictions to use the technology.

Woodbridge Delegate Michele B. McQuigg, R-51st District, has a bill in the House of Delegates identical to Colgan’s. McQuigg has spearheaded the effort to expand the use of photo-red cameras since she was first elected to the House in 1998.

McQuigg hopes that if the House defeats her bill, she will be able to change a few minds by the time the Senate bills reach the House later in the legislative session.

• The House of Delegates gave preliminary approval Wednesday to HB 2659, sponsored by seven delegates and one senator. The bill resulted from a yearlong study and negotiations by doctors, lawyers and other parties interested in medical malpractice lawsuits.  

The bill would require an opinion from an expert witness before filing the malpractice lawsuit; it would allow doctors to say “I’m sorry” without that constituting admission of guilt; it would allow doctors to testify on the physical and mental condition of their patients in a lawsuit against another doctor; and it would require the State Corporation Commission to collect information on these cases.

“I would say this is a start, not the end of the discussion of the tort system in Virginia,” said one of the bill’s sponsors, Virginia Beach Delegate Robert F. “Bob” McDonnell, R-84th District.

• A bill that would move up the date from Jan. 1, 2006, to Jan. 1, 2005, for the $100 increase to $900 in the personal tax exemption was preliminarily approved by the House Wednesday. Manassas Delegate Harry J. Parrish, R-50th District, submitted HB 1833.

The House also preliminarily approved Parrish’s HB 1838, which would limit referendums on imposing a county food and beverage tax to once every three years. The bill also allows the tax to be repealed if approved by referendum.

The House will take a final vote on these bills today.

• The Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would require residents to list their full legal name on a driver’s license and application. SB 965, submitted by Lake Ridge Sen. James K. “Jay” O’Brien, R-39th District, also requires that applications for identification cards issued by DMV include the applicant’s full legal name; year, month, and date of birth; sex; and address.

O’Brien’s SB 972 allows licensed drivers to exchange their driver’s license for an identification card free of charge. The bill also brings the fees charged for issuance of identification cards more into line with those charged for driver’s licenses. 

– Sari Krieger

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