|Thursday, July 08, 2004
Warner may call session on rest law
|A special session may be called as early as Tuesday to scrap the "day of rest" law.
By Michael Sluss
RICHMOND - Gov. Mark Warner may decide today to call lawmakers into a special session to fix legislation that inadvertently revived a "day of rest" entitlement for workers in the state.
A Warner spokeswoman said Wednesday that the governor "is inclined to call a special session" to correct legislation that effectively entitles workers to choose Saturday or Sunday as a day of rest.
A Richmond judge last week suspended enforcement of the law for 90 days, but business executives and legislative leaders have urged Warner to call a special session to permanently scrap the law.
The session could occur as early as Tuesday, Warner spokeswoman Ellen Qualls said.
"We need to make sure that we're just restoring the status quo and not taking on a whole host of new labor issues," Qualls said, adding that administration officials have conferred with senior lawmakers and business groups about the situation.
Lawmakers and the governor inadvertently revived the "day of rest" requirement by approving legislation (SB 659) that scrapped unconstitutional provisions of Sunday "blue laws." In the process, they repealed exemptions to an obsolete "day of rest" law that once entitled nonmanagement workers a day off on the Sabbath. The Department of Labor and Industry discovered the mistake, which alarmed business owners throughout the state.
If enforced, the law could require businesses to pay fines for forcing employees to work on their day of rest. It also would entitle affected workers to receive three times their regular wage for working on their chosen day of rest.
Several Virginia corporations last week asked a Richmond circuit judge to suspend enforcement of the law, which was supposed to take effect July 1. Judge T.J. Markow granted a 90-day injunction, but he also expressed misgivings about encroaching on the General Assembly's legislative prerogative.
House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell and Senate President Pro Tempore John Chichester, both Stafford County Republicans, issued a statement Wednesday saying they will forgo expense stipends and mileage reimbursements for the one-day session and urge their colleagues to do the same. The state could save more than $25,000 if lawmakers forfeited per diems and travel reimbursements, Howell and Chichester said.
In their statement, Howell and Chichester said the special session "should be very short - several hours at most."