Assembly debates wages and smoking

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February 16, 2007

2:19 PM

Several pieces of legislation — including a bill to raise the minimum wage — are currently under scrutiny in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly. Senate Bill 1327 raises the commonwealth’s minimum wage from $5.15/hour to $6.50/hour—the first increase since the 1990s.

p. The bill successfully passed the Senate Feb. 5 and as of print time, confirmation was not available concerning the bill’s passage in the House of Delegates.

p. Some economists believe that this increase could negatively affect the job market and employment opportunities, others argue
that significant results — positive or negative — are unlikely.

p. “The federal minimum wage rate has lagged far behind adjustments of average hourly earnings in U.S. labor markets and inflation,” Professor of Economics at the College David Finifter said in an e-mail to The Flat Hat. “The changes proposed by the legislation should not have strong effects on employment of most workers.”

p. As of printing time, reports have the bill in the House Sub-committee on Utilities and Employment, a division of Labor and Commerce.

p. In another story, Sen. Brandon Bell (R-Roanoke County), and Del. Morgan Griffi th have each passed bills in their respective chambers that concern smoking in public places.

p. While Sen. Bell’s proposal outlaws smoking in most work places, restaurants and bars, his colleague in the House seeks simply to require restaurants to inform the public if smoking is allowed.

p. “This is not the issue of someone’s right to smoke. They still have the right,” Bell said in a Feb. 6 article in The Roanoke Times. “His right, though, ends when someone else is being exposed against their wishes.”The two bills are still being reviewed in the General Assembly.

p. A resolution expressing “profound regret” for the state of Virginia’s role in slavery has unanimously passed the House of Delegates. The original text was amended so that “atoning” was replaced with the phrase, “acknowledging with contrition,” becuase some senators felt that it evoked a potential claim to reparations.

p. The original resolution presented before the House called for an apology rather than acknowledgement—an idea that some delegates did not support. Del. Frank Hargrove (R-Hanover County) suggested that affected members of the commonwealth “should get over” slavery.

p. A similar resolution is presently in the Senate. The two resolutions will likely be sent to conference committee, where members of both houses will negotiate language and probably agree on identical text for both pieces of legislation.

p. The House also passed a bill to create a nonprofi t, nonstock corporation to raise funds and receive apportionments to fund research at state-sponsored institutions of higher education.

p. Many are excited about this step forward for university research. However, others showed concern about an amendment from the Committee on Education, which restricted funds from being spent on stem cell research. This proposal has moved on to a Senate committee.

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