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Unusual bills to watch during the General Assembly session

January 9, 2018

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Hundreds of bills have already been filed as lawmakers return to Richmond for the General Assembly session convening Wednesday.

This year’s biggest agenda item will be passing the biennial state budget, but lawmakers also will discuss all manner of other issues during the 60-day session. Here’s a look at some of the more unusual bills already filed:

CURSING

Republican Del. Michael Webert has filed a bill that would eliminate the crime of profanely swearing or cursing in public, currently punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor.

This will be Webert’s third try at getting the legislation passed. In the past two years, his bill has died in committee.

FORNICATING

One measure already filed aims to repeal “the crime of fornication, i.e., voluntary sexual intercourse by an unmarried person.”

The bill is being sponsored by Del. Mark Levine, a Democrat from Alexandria. Levine told The Virginian-Pilot that the fornication law is “obviously outdated, it’s silly, and it’s unconstitutional.” It’s important to clean up the state code and get archaic rules off the books, he said.

RACCOON HUNTING

A bill from Del. Terry Kilgore, the GOP leader of the House Commerce and Labor Committee, would remove several Sunday-specific limitations on hunting -- among them, a ban on hunting raccoons.

Current law permits the hunting or killing of raccoons on Sunday only until 2 a.m.

The measure also removes the prohibition on hunting deer or bear with a gun, firearm, or other weapon with the assistance of dogs on Sunday, with certain exceptions.

DISTRACTED DRIVING

A measure from Republican Del. Richard “Dickie” Bell would crack down on distracted driving by prohibiting motorists from having an animal on their lap while driving.

While current law already prohibits checking emails or texting while operating a moving vehicle, the bill would go further by more broadly banning people from “using their hands to use a handheld personal communications device” while driving.

Democratic Sen. David Marsden has also introduced a bill prohibiting drivers from having animals on their laps.

STATE SALAMANDER

A measure from Del. Eileen Filler-Corn would officially designate the red salamander as the state salamander of Virginia.

If the bill passes, the salamander would join other animals such as the dog, fish, bat, bird and snake with official state designations.

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