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State legislation changes houses
Legislature at halfway point

 State Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, listens to a question during a debate on his bill allowing guns in restaurants at the Capitol in Richmond yesterday.
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Date published: 2/17/2010


--The legislative session marked its halfway point yesterday, with legislators holding floor sessions for hours to handle hundreds of bills before a midnight "crossover" deadline by which each house was to finish its own bills.

Apart from budget, revenue and Virginia Retirement System bills, any bill not dealt with by the chamber in which it originated last night is now considered dead.

Legislators will spend the rest of the session dealing with the other house's bills, and the budget.

Of the more than 2,600 bills and resolutions filed in this session, 839 had failed by yesterday afternoon, and 1,308 were pending.

Both the House and Senate passed bills creating a pro-choice license plate, a response to a "Choose Life" pro-life plate passed last year.

But the bills are in conflict, because the House amended the bill to divert money made from the plates to a fund that has no money, instead of having the money go to Planned Parenthood of Virginia.

Planned Parenthood got more than 350 people to sign up for and pre-pay for plates that say "Trust Women/Respect Choice."

Under legislative practice, the group that initiates a specialty plate gets a portion of the money paid for the plates by people who sign up for it. After 1,000 plates are sold, Planned Parenthood would get $15 of the $25 paid for each plate.

Del. Bob Brink, D-Arlington, the bill's sponsor in the House, called the amendment "an action that discriminates against one particular group and its message" and one that "certainly would invite an expensive lawsuit."

In the Senate, a similar amendment failed.

The plate bill passed both houses, and the question of where the money goes will have to be reconciled by the end of the session.

The Senate passed a bill allowing concealed weapons permit holders to carry concealed handguns in restaurants that serve alcohol, as long as they don't drink.

Sponsor Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, said the bill would help people who want to carry their gun from the car to the restaurant for safety.

"A lot of women nowadays have concealed carry permits and carry handguns in their purse," Hanger said. "This helps those ladies out and makes them law-abiding citizens, which they hope to be."

Some senators were unconvinced.

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