Monday, January 31, 2011
General Assembly updates: Sunday hunting defeated, Labor Day school bill advances
Lawmakers defeat bill to allow Sunday hunting
RICHMOND -- Hunters, the National Rifle Association, even the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries testified Monday in favor of Sunday hunting, but in the end, the second of two bills that would have allowed it was shot down by a Senate committee.
A companion bill in the House was rejected last week.
The Senate bill, SB850, received a thumbs-down after legislators heard from landowners, horseback riders and others who said the ban gives them one day a week when they can enjoy the outdoors in peace and safety.
Sportsmen themselves are split on the issue. While the majority argue that Sunday hunting would help control the state's mushrooming deer population, the Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance, which represents 800 hunt clubs, fears it would contribute to the erosion of the sport's image.
Supporters of the bill vowed to return to Richmond, saying the ban is based on archaic religious restrictions.
"Why is it you can do everything else on a Sunday, including buying liquor, but you can't hunt?" asked Charles Olin, a hunter from Richmond.
Challenges to the longstanding prohibition have been mounted just about every year for the past two decades.
Share your thoughts on Mark Taylor's Wildlife blog: Sunday hunting bill easily defeated in Senate committee-- Joanne Kimberlin, the (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot
Bill to open Roanoke schools before Labor Day advances
Despite opposition by lobbyists for retailers and tourism interests, a House of Delegates committee this morning endorsed legislation that would allow Roanoke to begin its school year before Labor Day.
Del. Bill Cleaveland, R-Botetourt County, persuaded committee members to add a "good cause" provision to the state's existing waiver system, which allows school systems to start before Labor Day if they rack up enough snow days over a period of years. Cleaveland's bill would allow a school system to open before Labor Day if it is surrounded by systems that already have waivers from the state.
The bill cleared the House Education Committee by a vote of 13-8. It now goes to the House floor, where it should come up for a vote later this week.
Cleaveland said the current system effectively punishes Roanoke, which makes every effort to open schools in inclement weather because about two thirds of its student population qualifies for free and reduced-price lunches.
"We want to be in a position where we can start early and be able to compete with the jurisdictions around us," Cleaveland said. "The reason why they've never processed the [waiver] application is they're protecting the students who qualify for free and reduced lunch."
More than 70 school systems already have waivers from the state Board of Education allowing for pre-Labor Day school openings. But lobbyists for the retail and tourism industries argued against tinkering with the existing system, even though Cleaveland’s bill only would affect a handful of school systems in the state.
Jim Ricketts, the director of the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, testified against Cleaveland's bill and said 27.5 percent of the city's late-August visitors come from inside the state.
But the committee chairman, Del Bob Tate, R-Virginia Beach, dismissed suggestions that adjusting Roanoke's school calendar would hurt his hometown. Tata noted that the city's popular Labor Day weekend half-marathon brings thousands of runners to the city and packs hotel rooms.
"Don't ever use that reference again, please," Tata said. "It hurts my ears."
-- Michael Sluss, The Roanoke Times