Friday, February 7, 2014

General Assembly Update

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Norment News 

General Assembly Update: Week Five
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Senator Tommy Norment
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Williamsburg, VA 23188
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New Kent/King & Queen- Sen. Tommy Norment
February 7, 2014

This Week In Richmond 

After the snowstorms and below-freezing temperatures that have hit Richmond and much of the rest of Virginia, it came as a welcome relief to have some warmer weather come to the Commonwealth this week.  Of course, this relief has not tempered the frenzied pace of the General Assembly, as Senators have been tirelessly working away to get through legislation before crossover occurs on February 11, which is when all legislation from the Senate must be submitted to the House of Delegates. 


Crossover will also mark the halfway point for the legislative session.  It seems remarkable we have already been in session for a month and that so much has been accomplished in such a short period of time.  We have seen nearly 2,400 pieces of legislation filed in the General Assembly, as legislators are seeking to do all they can to help improve our great Commonwealth.  Many of these bills have understandably received substantial media attention, including the Commonwealth's biennial budget and SB 51, which would protect small family farms from overly burdensome regulations.  


However, as happens in nearly every session, there are certain bills that unexpectedly draw a substantial amount of attention.  Those bills are Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 11, which would require textbooks approved by the Virginia Board of Education to note that the Sea of Japan is also referred to as the East Sea.  These bills have drawn interest to Virginia from all the way across the Pacific, where both Japan and South Korea have been closely following the progress of this legislation.


It may seem to many of you that the attention being given to this bill is a bit disproportionate, as the effect of this legislation would only be to change the labeling of a body of water in Virginia textbooks.  However, these bills in fact address a highly sensitive and long-standing feud that has existed between Japan and South Korea.  Both countries view the issue as one of national pride, and it has been a sore point for the South Korean community in Virginia that textbooks continue to not include the East Sea as an alternative labeling for the Sea of Japan.


As these bills have drawn international attention, the Capitol has seen a multitude of reporters from East Asia come through its halls.  Even though these bills have created controversy abroad, they were both approved by wide margin in both the Senate and House.  They will soon reach the desk of Governor McAuliffe, who will have to decide whether to fulfill his campaign promise to sign the bills into law.


Although none of the bills I filed have caused reporters from foreign countries to be dispatched to Richmond, I am excited to report that several bills were passed by the Senate this week.  Many of these bills address public safety issues.   


SB 450 would increase the time that first-time DUI offenders have to use an ignition interlock on their cars.  Last year, we passed legislation to require first-time DUI offenders to have an ignition interlock on their cars for six months.  This new penalty was in addition to an existing penalty of a restricted driver's license for one year limiting where the person could drive.  SB 450 improves on last year's bill by requiring the use of the ignition interlock for a full year while removing the limitations on where the person can drive.   


Two of my bills, SB 478 and SB 489, increase penalties for contraband cigarette trafficking and remove loopholes that traffickers have used to avoid conviction.  These bills are both the result of an ongoing study by the Virginia State Crime Commission, which I chair, about cigarette trafficking.  Few Virginians realize how prevalent cigarette trafficking is in Virginia and the threats that it poses to public safety through increased violence and gang activity.  

Another bill to pass this week, SB 448, seeks to better protect college students from hazing by having higher education institutions adopt more comprehensive strategies for preventing dangerous hazing practices.  This legislation was sparked by constituents whose son died in a tragic hazing incident while away at college.

Another bill spurred by a local tragedy is SB 490.  It would require a landlord, upon the written request of a tenant, to install a carbon monoxide detector.  Last year, two people were found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in an apartment building in Williamsburg.  People rarely can detect carbon monoxide in their homes until it is too late, so these detectors truly save lives. 


These bills, and all legislation being considered during this year's session, can be tracked on the General Assembly's website:


As more bills are being considered and the budget is being crafted, we continue to see a lot of visitors representing a wide variety of different groups and organizations. Visitors this week include:

* Rev. Charles Swadley and members of the United Methodist Church
* President John Dever, students, board members, and executive staff from Thomas Nelson Community College
* Students and staff from Rappahannock Community College 
* Dr. Charles Steger, President of Virginia Tech University, and Tech students who were in town for Hokie Day
* Ken Spirito, Executive Director of the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport with additional executive staff members of the airport
L. William Kelly III, Manager of the New Kent County Airport
* Students, parents and, staff of the Governor's school

We are now in our Richmond office and will be here until the General Assembly adjourns on March 8.  My legislative assistant, Kalia Sokos, is also in Richmond.  You can visit us in our office in Room 621 of the General Assembly Building.  You can contact us by sending an e-mail to, or by sending a letter to me at Senate of Virginia, Post Office Box 396, Richmond VA 23218-0396.  You can also call us at 804.698.7503.

Very truly yours,
Senator Tommy Norment
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Senator Tommy Norment | PO Box 6205 | Williamsburg | VA | 23188

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