March 4, 2016 – Legislative Highlights

2016 Virginia General Assembly
March 4, 2016

Most committees have completed their work for the 2016 session.  Bills that have been approved by committee must then be “read” in that house on three different days.  Where there is a disagreement between the house and the senate, a committee of conference is established to resolve the differences.  The conference compromise must then be agreed to by both houses.

One interesting bill that is working its way to final passage is Delegate Albo’s HB 1213, which allows a court to consider evidence of an IEP where a child is prosecuted for a crime that may be related to his disability.   The child’s attorney must give notice of the intent to introduce the IEP 10 days prior to trial.  The bill has been approved by both the House and the Senate.

This week, we saw developments in two controversial bills:

Mental Health

HB 811 (Bell) would have required that notice of a commitment hearing be given to a family member, even over the objection of the person subject to the order.  The amended bill narrowed the group who must be given notice to an immediate family member who is involved in the care of the person subject to hearing.  The Administration opposed the bill.  Senate Courts of Justice defeated it by a vote of 14 to 1.  The Senate equivalent, SB 568 (Barker) did not pass the Senate.

Service Animals

SB 363 (Reeves) makes it a misdemeanor crime to claim to have a service animal that is not really a service animal.  The senate version of the bill included protections found in the Americans with Disabilities Act, that no business can ask for proof of a service animal, but can ask what task the animal performs.  The bill was approved by the Senate, and was originally tabled by the House Courts of Justice criminal subcommittee, but the subcommittee revived the bill.  The subcommittee then removed all ADA-related protections and passed the bill.

Here are some of the other bills we have been watching:

Service animals

SJ  27 (Reeves) designates the first week in August as International Assistance Dog week.  The resolution passed the Senate and the House.

Mental Health

HB 616 (Bell) requires that an individual must be told about the possibility of creating an advance directive prior to being released from an involuntary commitment.  The measure was approved by the House and the Senate.

HB 675 (Peace) would allow the use of Auxiliary Grants in Supportive Housing.  House Appropriations amended it to say that the grants will be available for supportive housing only when someone has lived in an ALF for a year.  The House approved it as amended, as did the Senate.

HB 1110 (Bell)  and SB 567 (Barker) require that when an evaluator in a TDO process concludes that the individual does not meet commitment criteria, a magistrate must still hear and consider information from the person who asked for the emergency custody order.  Both bills limit the right to be heard to only those persons present.  The proposals do not allow the additional testimony to be a reason to extend the period of emergency custody. Both bills have been approved by both houses

Visitation during guardianship

HB 342 (Pogge) establishes a duty for a guardian to allow visitors without limitation.  It was approved by both the House and the Senate, as has its equivalent bill, SB 466.

SB 466 (Wagner) establishes a right to visitors for persons under guardianship.  It passed the Senate.  The House Committee on Courts of Justice approved the bill after “conforming” it to match Delegate Pogge’s HB 342.   The full House has approved the bill.


On Thursday of last week, both the Senate and the House passed sets of amendments to the Governor’s proposed budget.  Each house’s set of proposed amendments were then reviewed by the money committees of the opposing house for consideration.  Those committees proposed changes to the other house’s amendments, essentially rejecting the amendments of the other House.  The House and the Senate both insisted on their proposals, so the budget will go into conference for resolution.

The conference proposal for a budget must be approved by the end of business on Saturday, March 12, 2016.


The mission of the disAbility Law Center of Virginia is to protect and advance the legal, human and civil rights of people with disabilities, to combat and prevent abuse, neglect and discrimination, and to promote independence, choice and self-determination by persons with disabilities.