HARRISONBURG — While much of the legislative session has focused on Medicaid expansion and infrastructure improvements, six Valley lawmakers introduced more than 100 other bills.
Feb. 13 marked the session’s halfway point, when bills had to advance into the other chamber to remain viable.
Here’s a look at seven that are still in play but have not received much attention this session.
Alcohol In Cigar Shops
Retail cigar shops may soon be eligible for a new limited mixed beverage license that would allow them to serve beer, wine and mixed beverages on-site.
If the Senate passes Del. Steve Landes’ House Bill 1541, cigar shops could provide complimentary alcohol at up to 18 events a year. To qualify, the business must generate at least 60 percent of its revenue from tobacco products.
Brian Thomas, owner of B&B Tobacco Co. on Neff Avenue, said being able to provide a drink at the six events or so he has a year would be a “plus.” At those events, cigar company representatives may come to his shop and offer specials.
While nail and hair salons can provide their customers with a complimentary beverage, he said, cigar shops cannot.
In other states, tobacco shops and vendors pair certain alcohols with specific cigars for their customers, he said.
“I’m sure the industry would definitely encourage that if they could do it in Virginia because they could make that part of their event,” Thomas said. “It just draws more attention to the shop.”
FFA License Plates
Landes, R-Weyers Cave, also filed a bill that would establish FFA license plates to generate money for the youth organization that supports agriculture education. It passed both the Senate and House of Delegates and was sent to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk Thursday.
The bill, HB 761, would allow members and supporters of Virginia FFA to buy a special license plate that says “We are the birthplace of the FFA.”
The plates would cost $25 annually in addition to regular license plate fees, according to the bill. Once more than 1,000 people register for a plate, $15 from each $25 fee collected will be put into the Virginia FFA Foundation Fund.
That money would be paid annually to the Virginia FFA Foundation to support its programs and operation. The remaining portion of the fee would be set aside for the Department of Motor Vehicles’ expenses.
Dogs To Aid Witnesses
Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, introduced legislation that would allow witnesses to use a “certified facility dog” in any criminal proceeding.
The bill, HB 482, defines a certified facility dog as one that has been trained and is certified by a program accredited by Assistance Dogs International, according to the legislation. The dog must also be accompanied by a trained handler, help witnesses with their testimony and not interfere with the court’s proceedings.
Bell’s bill passed both chambers, but was amended by the Senate and sent back to the House on Friday.
Broadway Mayoral Terms
Del. Tony Wilt, R-Broadway, and Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, both introduced bills that would amend the mayor of Broadway’s term from two years to four beginning after the November 2019 election. Both bills passed their respective chambers unanimously and will be heard in the other.
Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, introduced Senate Joint Resolution 60 commending public school bus drivers, which was agreed to by both the House and Senate.
William Howell Portrait
House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Mount Jackson, filed House Resolution 15 to have a portrait painted of former Speaker of the House William J. Howell to hang in the chamber. Howell was a delegate for 30 years, including 15 as speaker, before retiring this year.
The bill would also allocate money to cover the portrait’s cost, but an estimate was not included in the bill.
House Speaker Kirk Cox would appoint three delegates and the chamber’s clerk to choose an artist and supervise the project.
The House unanimously adopted the bill on Jan. 24.
Wilt also filed a bill, HJ 128 — which was cosponsored by Landes, Bell, Gilbert, Hanger and Obenshain — to celebrate the life of John Robert Brady.
Brady, who lived in Criders, was “a hardworking farmer, avid outdoorsman, and respected member of the Rockingham County community,” according to the legislation. He died on Sept. 7.
The Fulks Run native worked with the National Fruit Product Co. for 27 years. He also was “a fixture” at the Bergton Community Fair, where he volunteered as a parking supervisor each year, according to the bill.
On Jan. 25, the Senate agreed to it.