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‘Tebow bill’ passes in House, awaits action in Senate

Home-schooled students in Virginia could participate in public school sports under the so-called “Tebow bill” that has passed the House of Delegates and was awaiting action by a Senate committee this week.

Delegates voted 56-43 for House Bill 1442, which was slated to be heard by the Senate Health and Education Committee on Thursday. The bill, sponsored by Del. Robert Bell (R-Dist.58) of Albemarle, would require public schools to allow home-schoolers to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities.

Many parents who home-school their children support the legislation, which is nicknamed for NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who played football for his local high school while being home-schooled in Florida.

“I should be able to choose whether my kids play sports or not,” said Brad Foster, the father of five athletic home-schooled boys in Culpeper.

Currently in Virginia, no student who is being educated at home can join a public school sports team during the regular season. Families with home-schooled athletes like Foster’s must find other ways to participate in sports or opt out of playing sports completely.

Virginia has more than 32,000 home-schoolers, including about 8,000 at the high school level, according to the Virginia Department of Education.

When the House voted on HB 1442 on Jan. 31, Republicans generally supported the legislation and Democrats mostly opposed it.

Del. Jennifer McClellan (D-Dist. 71), of Richmond, was among those who opposed the bill.

“The public school system is not an a la carte menu that you can pick and choose what you want to participate in,” McClellan said. She said the “Tebow bill” raises a “matter of fairness.”

— Paige Baxter, Capital News Service

Panel rejects consecutive terms for governor

A House subcommittee has rejected the Senate’s proposed constitutional amendment that would allow Virginia governors to serve two consecutive terms starting in 2017.

Virginia is the only state that does not allow governors to serve consecutive terms. Fourteen states have no gubernatorial term limits; 27 have a two-consecutive-term limit; and four limit governors to two consecutive or nonconsecutive terms.

While the proposal had bipartisan support in the Senate — 16 Democrats and nine Republicans voted for it — when the Senate resolution “crossed over” to the House, it ran into trouble.

The proposed amendment was assigned to the House Committee on Privileges and Elections. On Monday, that panel’s Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee recommended tabling the bill, killing it for this session.

Two identical House proposals met a similar fate in the same subcommittee.

— Shelby Mertens, Capital News Service

Panel would delay soccer goal safety act

The House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee will consider a proposal to approve, but delay implementation of, a bill seeking to prevent injury or death from falling soccer goals.

A Health, Welfare and Institutions subcommittee unanimously recommended that Senate Bill 933 be passed with a re-enactment clause. That means that even if the bill wins approval this year, the General Assembly must vote on it again in 2014 before it can take effect.

The bill, known as the Movable Soccer Goal Safety Act, would require parks, schools, youth clubs, soccer organizations and any other organization that uses a movable soccer goal to take action to ensure goal safety and prevent accidents.

SB 933 also would require that only tip-resistant movable soccer goals could be sold, made or distributed in Virginia after July 1, 2014.

Under amendments added by the subcommittee last week, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation would organize a stakeholders’ work group to study the issues of movable goals, player safety and referee responsibility. The group would help determine whether legislation should be passed to address such issues.

The subcommittee’s decision comes in response to opponents’ contention that SB 933 would impose unnecessary costs on many sports leagues and have unintended consequences.

Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Dist. 27), of Winchester, who sponsored the bill, was amenable to the recommendation by the subcommittee.

“The legislation is not really meant to impose a burden or financial burden on leagues. It is prospective. It applies going forward,” Vogel said.

The bill comes almost five years after a fatal accident involving a boy from Stephens City, a town in Frederick County, which is in Vogel’s Senate district.

On May 7, 2007, Hayden Ellias, 10, was killed during a soccer scrimmage when a soccer goal fell over on top of him.

“Ignorance to the danger [of soccer goals] is still widespread at all levels. Everyone must be educated about the dangers so that they can be empowered to take action when they encounter unsecured goals,” Hayden’s mother, Mary Ellias, said in testimony to the House subcommittee.

The Senate voted 33-6 for the bill in January.

— Blake Belden, Capital News Service

Senate OKs mammogram notification bill

The Senate on Monday unanimously joined the House of Delegates in passing a bill that requires women to be notified of dense breast tissue in mammogram results.

Senators voted 40-0 for House Bill 1778, which had been approved 98-0 by the House on Jan. 25. The legislation now goes to Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).

Springfield Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Dist. 41) introduced HB 1778, which “clarifies the conditions under which a mammography services provider must notify a patient of dense breast tissue.”

This bill also changes the current wording of the mammogram notification letter that is provided to a patient.

“I think this additional language is a commonsense step in the right direction for women’s health,” Filler-Corn said.

Under HB 1778, doctors interpreting a mammogram X-ray will have to notify the patient if they find that she has heterogeneously dense or extremely dense breast tissue. Physicians would make such a determination based on nationally recognized guidelines, including the Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System of the American College of Radiology.

Dense breast tissue is not uncommon in women and it can make it more difficult to find cancerous cells on a standard mammogram.

“Many of the procedures that women will go on to have after consultation and notification from the mammogram about the dense breast tissue can be life-saving,” Filler-Corn said.

— Kristen Smith, Capital News Service