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Morning Read: Bills Inspired By Penn State Scandal Advance Through VA House

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AM Read: PSU Scandal-Inspired Bills in VA

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Three bills that are a direct response to the Penn State sexual abuse scandal easily passed through the Virginia House of Delegates with preliminary approval Monday.

The bill would explicitly state who is required to report suspected child abuse, would reduce the deadline to report suspected child abuse to 24 hours, and would increase the punishment for those who fail to report the abuse.

The bill also adds coaches and workers of teams and private and public university employees to the list of people required to report child abuse.

That language in particular is important to preventing the type of communication breakdown that led to sexual abuse going unreported for so long at Penn State, JoAnn Wilson-Harfst of the Virginia League of Social Services Executives told the Virginian-Pilot.

"I think that goes back to Penn State, where the process or system for reporting fell apart," she said to the Pilot. "I think all of us out in the field have had Penn State situations."

* Newt Gingrich gave up on being added to the Virginia primary ballot Monday.

The former speaker asked the U.S. Appeals Court in Richmond to dismiss his case challenging the state’s primary rules.

Virginia law requires candidates to only use state residents to gather the required 10,000 signatures on the ballot. Gingrich failed to do this and argued that the provision requiring state residents to collect the signatures was unconstitutional.

Only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul will be on Virginia's March. 6 primary ballot.

* In a 21-20 vote that ultimately fell along party lines, the Virginia Senate voted to increase voter restrictions through legislation that Democrats compared to Jim Crow Era laws.

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling cast the tiebreaking vote, giving the Republicans the slight edge that has made them the dominant party this legislative session.

The bill requires that voters provide some sort of identification at the polls in order for their votes to be counted.

Republicans have said that the law is intended to prevent voter fraud while Democrats say the bill disenfranchises minority and elderly voters who are less likely to have identification.

But the Senate bill also increased the types of identification that are accepted at polls to include college IDs from a four-year Virginia institution, utility bills, paychecks, banks statements and government checks.

Roger Chesley, a columnist for the Virginian-Pilot wrote Tuesday that the legislation lacks facts, and while it may seem innocuous, could dissuade voters from showing up to the polls when there is not actually any evidence of voter fraud happening under the existing laws.

“Republicans, for the most part, have sponsored bills around the country clamping down on ballot access. They wouldn't do this if they believed the people most affected by such rules usually voted for the GOP.

Many eligible voters might decline to cast ballots. Those numbers are likely far greater than the statistics involving people who misuse photo IDs. Virginia has a shameful history of barring ballot access, including poll taxes and literacy tests. The current bills would be a sorry addition to that legacy.” "

The House of Delegates passed a similar bill last week. If Gov. Bob McDonnell approves the bill, it would still need to be ruled as constitutional by the U.S. Department of Justice before it goes into law under the federal Voting Rights Act.

* The Virginia Senate passed in a 21-19 vote Monday legislation that would allow residents to purchase more than one handgun a month.

* Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot is holding an informational roundtable Tuesday on Gov. O’Malley’s proposed 6 percent gasoline sales tax.

The meeting, according to The Baltimore Sun, is billed as an opportunity to lay out the technicalities of the sales tax and to answer questions.

But the Sun writes that two of the guests are big opponents of the tax: Wills Group Chief Executive Lock Wills Jr. and President of the Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors’ Association Pete Horrigan.

No one from the governor's office will be at the meeting.

* Mayor Vincent Gray will deliver his State of the District speech Tuesday night. The Washington Post reports that the Fire Chief told firefighters not to protest or misbehave at the speech. A few weeks ago 100 firefighter stood up and turned their backs toward the fire chief while he was speaking to show their dissatisfaction with how he’s running the department.

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