Lawmakers back safety, privacy bills

Mark Berg

RICHMOND – Protecting privacy, controlling state spending, expanding gun ownership rights and safer soccer goals are among the issues on the minds of two area legislators in the 2015 General Assembly session.

The bills they are introducing will be swallowed up quickly in the legislature’s various committees that will provide the first test of political survival. Legislation, passed or rejected, and voter reaction to the outcome could play a role in the fall when all 100 members of the House of Delegates and 40 members of the Senate face election.

Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Upperville

Vogel’s membership on the Finance Committee and several of its subcommittees puts her in the middle of debates about how much to spend and where.

“Every single conceivable issue somehow has a fiscal component,” Vogel said. “So you put in a bill, and the next thing you know, you get a paper back saying ‘this is the fiscal impact, $50,000,'” Vogel said.

Jill Holtzman Vogel

The state’s recent budget troubles have come with what Vogel calls a “silver lining.” Lawmakers have been forced to think harder about their spending priorities since the flow of money into the state treasury hasn’t kept up with expenditures, she said.

“We’ve had to aggressively tackle some of the issues that waste money,” Vogel said.

Vogel’s legislative agenda includes sponsorship of several bills focused on child safety. One bill would make it a class I misdemeanor for a parent or caretaker to leave a child, 4-years-old or younger, unattended in a car unless a person 12 or older remains with the younger child in the vehicle.

Vogel is also sponsoring the Moveable Soccer Goal Safety Act, which would require the state Board of Health to create standards for the anchoring, securing, and counter-weighting of moveable soccer goals. The legislation also bans the sale of goals deemed to be not tip-resistant.

Vogel’s proposal is part of a crusade by the parents of a 10-year-old Frederick County boy who died in 2007 when a soccer goal toppled over on him. They have been seeking soccer goal regulations in the years since his death.

Del. Mark Berg, R-Winchester

Berg’s legislative agenda includes a bill designed to curb the power of law enforcement and other government agencies to use technology in collecting personal information without a warrant and without suspicions of criminal activity by an individual or organization.

Berg has also authored two bills that would remove restrictions on the carrying of guns on public college campuses and on the property of state agencies, except for correctional facilities and the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services.

College students carrying a gun on campus would have to hold the required permit and be at least 21 years old, the legal age for carrying a concealed handgun in the state. The legislation does not apply to gun restrictions at private colleges.

Republicans, who generally favor fewer restrictions on guns, control both houses of the General Assembly, but Berg admitted that Gov. Terry McAuliffe poses a formidable obstacle to his proposals.

“It’s going to be a bit of an uphill battle because Gov. McAuliffe has made it a priority to restrict gun rights as much as he can,” Berg said.

Berg is also sponsoring legislation that would require the Virginia State Police to wear body cameras. The legislation calls for video recordings to be stored in a database maintained by the attorney general for no more than 30 days unless they are deemed important to a criminal investigation.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com