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Social issues dominate first half of Va. General Assembly

Sunday - 2/12/2012, 4:22pm  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - It's about half way through Virginia's legislative session and it appears many bills on social issues that have died in the past will make it through this year, and that could have an impact for years to come.

The General Assembly has already eliminated the one-gun-a-month law, which had been in effect for 15 years, made abortion more expensive by adding a required ultrasound, voted to allow home-schoolers to participate in interscholastic sports and require official ID in order to vote.

Mary Washington University Professor Steven Farnsworth says the concentration on social issues may backfire for some lawmakers.

"The emphasis of this legislative session might strike some people as not being focused on what really matters," says Farnsworth.

"Getting more jobs into Virginia, and also coming up with a system where people can get around, particularly in Northern Virginia."

Farnsworth says the General Assembly has concentrated so far on "divisive social issues," but seems incapable of dealing with issues like transportation funding.

Some lawmakers are not following that pattern.

There is a bipartisan effort underway to raise the gas tax in line with inflation as a way to fund transportation.

Virginia's Senate, which now has 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling to break a tie, had blocked many of the social issues when the Democrats were in control in past years.

Virginia voters changed that scenario last November giving the Republicans control of both the State Senate and the House of Delegates. Virginia also has a Republican Governor.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)