Most bills approved by the 2010 General Assembly will become law on July 1

Richmond, VA -- The ACLU of Virginia today released its annual review of the Virginia legislative session.  Civil Liberties Review: Virginia General Assembly 2010 describes more than 100 bills pertaining to civil liberties and civil rights in Virginia.
The bills are divided into 10 categories: Free Expression, Religious Liberty, Privacy, Equal Rights, Immigrants’ Rights, Reproductive Rights, Death Penalty, Open Government, Voting Rights, and Criminal Justice.   Nearly all of the bills that passed and were signed by the Governor will become law on July 1.
The 18-page Review is available online at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/civillibertiesreview2010.pdf.  A summary of the most important bills addressed during the session can be found online at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/2010CivilLibertiesReviewSummary.pdf.
“The 2010 legislative record is mixed, as it almost always is,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis, “but civil liberties remained largely intact this year and even made a few advances.”
“On the plus side, legislators rejected attempts to dramatically expand the death penalty and passed bills protecting free speech on the Internet, patients’ privacy rights, and religious liberty in public schools,” added Willis.
“And even though it took a lot of wrangling and produced some last minute dramatics, legislators put aside their personal views on abortion and let the First Amendment be their guide when they passed a bill authorizing DMV to create a pro-choice specialty license plate.”
“Legislators also passed a bill to make it clear that public meetings must take place in buildings that allow cameras and video equipment, and that such equipment must always be allowed in public meetings.  This knocks out some ambiguities in the open meetings law that have been used on occasion to prevent the public from recording government meetings.”
“Oddly, most of the damage took place at the hands of the Governor, not at those of legislators. All the bills restricting reproductive rights failed, but the Governor made last minute changes to the budget that will prohibit Medicaid-assisted abortions for some low-income women whose health may be jeopardized by pregnancy.  In addition, legislators rejected a bill to permit police chaplains to offer unconstitutional prayers at police events, only to watch the Governor put in place an equivalent of the bill through executive fiat.”
“We are also concerned about the bill requiring government agencies to use the E-Verify program for immigration checks on employees,” said Willis.  “E-Verify is notoriously inaccurate and could lead to a lot of immigrants losing their jobs or not being hired in the first place.”

Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, 804-644-8022

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