General Assembly Bill Watch

General Assembly Bill Watch

During the 60-day legislative session, members of the General Assembly will consider approximately 4,000 bills. Here are a few bills being watched by officials.

To check the status of these and other bills, visit

<cal2>Residential Overcrowding

Bill Number: HB 1438

Sponsor: Del. Mark Sickles (D-43)

What It Would Do: Authorize local governments to increase the penalty for residential overcrowding to a Class 1 misdemeanor, with a maximum punishment of $1,200 and/or one year imprisonment.

The bill seeks to address the problem in Northern Virginia of multiple unrelated individuals living under one roof. "We're seeing as many as 18 single men living in a two- or three-bedroom house, all parking their cars on the street and all sitting on the front steps drinking beer," said co-sponsor Del. Kris Amundson (D-44).

Status: Referred to House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns

Hang Up and Drive for Teens

Bill Number: SB 137

Sponsor: Sen. Jay O'Brien (R-39)

What It Would Do: Prohibit motorists under the age of 18 from using cell phones or any other wireless device while driving. The bill would make the violation a "primary offense," allowing police officers to pull over teenagers solely for talking on a cell phone.

Speaking on the Senate floor, O'Brien said the bill aims to require young motorists to focus only on learning to drive. "[Teenage drivers'] only job, when they have a provisional license, is to get mile after mile under the belt until they have gained more experience," he said.

Status: Passed by Senate, 30-7

N. Va. Transportation Funding

Bill Number: SB 701

Sponsor: Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-34)

What It Would Do: Generate an estimated $300 million-$400 million for transportation in Northern Virginia through increases in the recordation tax, taxes on hotels and rental cars and increased fines for some driving offenses.

Status: Referred to Senate Committee on Finance

Minimum Wage

Bill Number: HB 539

Sponsor: Del. Vince Callahan (R-34)

What It Would Do: Incrementally increase Virginia's minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $8.15 per hour by July 1, 2008. Following the $3 increase, the minimum wage would be increased annually based on inflation.

Status: Assigned to House Commerce and Labor Subcommittee

Recreational Fields

Bill Number: HB 1368

Sponsor: Del. Bob Hull (R-38)

What it Would Do: Prohibit the use of athletic fields on Sundays, and all other days after 6 p.m. and before 8 a.m., unless sports teams acquire the unanimous written consent of the field's residential neighbors.

Courts of Justice Committee chairman Del. David Albo (R-42), of West Springfield, nixed the bill Monday at the request of its sponsor. "If I let this bill pass, it would basically kill youth athletics in Virginia," he said.

Status: Stricken from docket by House Courts of Justice Committee

Brandishing a Machete

Bill Number: SB 183, HB 1212

Sponsors: Sen. Linda Puller (D-36), Del. Brian Moran (D-46)

What It Would Do: Make it illegal to brandish a machete in a threatening manner while committing a criminal offense, including participating in gang activity.

Status: Referred to Senate Finance Committee and House Committee for Courts of Justice

English as the Only Language

Bill Number: HB 287

Sponsor: Del. Daniel Marshall (R-14)

What It Would Do: Requires all Virginia driver's license tests be conducted exclusively in English. Interpreters would be prohibited from helping non-English speakers understand the test.

Expressing her opposition to the bill at a Legislative Committee meeting, Fairfax County Supervisor Penny Gross (D-Mason) pointed out that 119,000 people who live in Fairfax County speak little English. "My concern is that this wouldn't even let you have a translator," she said.

Status: Assigned to House Transportation Subcommittee

HOV Cheaters

Bill Number: HB 843

Sponsor: Del. Jeff Frederick (R-52)

What It Would Do: Increases the penalty for High Occupancy Vehicle lane violations by issuing motorists three demerit points for the first and subsequent offenses.

Status: Referred to House Committee for Courts of Justice

HOV for Hybrids

Bill Number: HB 1248

Sponsor: Del. Tim Hugo (R-40)

What It Would Do: Eliminate the "sunset" on the authorization for clean fuel vehicles to utilize High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, regardless of the number of occupants. The HOV exemption for clean vehicles is set to expire in June.

Status: Referred to House Committee for Courts of Justice

Hunt Anywhere

Bill Number: HB 704

Sponsor: Del. Clarke Hogan (R-60)

What It Would Do: Invalidate any local ordinance governing hunting or the discharge of firearms that was enacted prior to 1995.

In Fairfax County, this would apparently eliminate the county's authority to ban the firing of guns near schools, parks, highways or residential neighborhoods, according to the county's lobbyists.

Status: Referred to House Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety

Transferable Development Rights

Bill Number: SB 373

Sponsor: Sen. John Watkins (R-10)

What Would It Do: Grant localities transferable density rights. These allow local jurisdictions to shift density from one piece of land to another as a needed tool for managing growth.

Status: Passed by Senate, 38-0