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Bills of note that passed Va. General Assembly

RICHMOND —Notable legislation that passed the Virginia General Assembly during the 2014 legislative session:

MENTAL HEALTH

The General Assembly passed a series of measures aimed at improving the state’s treatment of the mentally ill in the wake of an assault on Sen. R. Creigh Deeds by his son. The Bath County Democrat was attacked in November by Gus Deeds after the younger Deeds was released from an emergency custody order hours earlier. A local community services board said it was unable to locate an available psychiatric bed in the area within the six hours allotted by law. After attacking his father, Gus Deeds committed suicide.

Under the bills passed by lawmakers, the time allotted for finding a bed was extended to 12 hours. And after eight hours of searching, if no private beds can be found, a state hospital will now be required to admit those under an emergency custody order.

EDUCATION

Students in elementary and middle schools will have to take fewer standardized tests. The General Assembly reduced the number of exams, called Standards of Learning tests, from 22 to 17. Legislators also voted to delay by two years implementation of a new A–F school grading system.

ETHICS REFORM

Following a gift scandal that led to federal corruption charges against former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, lawmakers passed a bill Saturday that would set a $250 cap on tangible gifts from lobbyists and require enhanced personal financial reporting requirements for lawmakers and their families.

Critics have said the legislation is filled with loopholes that won’t stop lobbyists from showering lawmakers with expensive trips and meals.

ELECTRIC RATES

The General Assembly passed a bill that might affect how much Dominion Virginia Power customers pay. The legislation allows the Richmond utility to deduct about $400 million in spending on nuclear energy research from its profits. The move will allow Dominion to probably avoid a refund to consumers the next time the State Corporation Commission reviews its financials. Dominion could avoid a possible refund in 2015 and a rate cut in 2017.

Dominion is a major donor to state campaigns and was the largest gift-giver to lawmakers last year.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has not yet indicated whether he supports or opposes the bill.

SUNDAY HUNTING

People can now hunt on Sundays, which Virginia law had previously deemed a day of rest for wild birds and animals. McAuliffe has already signed one of the Sunday hunting bills.

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