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Legislators poll SW Virginia priorities

By LIZ BUTTERFIELD

Capital News Service

 

RICHMOND — Southwest Virginians asked for more coal mining jobs, hospitals and drug testing of welfare recipients, and less gun control, in an hour-long telephone town hall recently conducted by Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, and Sen. Charles Carrico, R-Galax.

Other topics discussed included same-sex marriage and lifting the ban on Sunday hunting.

More than 2,000 people participated in the district-wide conference call, according to Christy Eige, Kilgore’s legislative aide.

Carrico and Kilgore both responded to the first question of the night about bringing more coal mining jobs back to Southwest Virginia.

“We’re doing all that we can do to make sure that we keep our coal miners at work,” Kilgore said, “and keep coal as a viable energy source.”

Southwest Virginia state representatives are doing what they can to oppose a trend they call the “war on coal,” including regulation by the EPA and other federal agencies.

A second caller questioned Carrico and Kilgore’s support of “constitutional carry,” laws that would allow any person to carry a concealed gun without a permit. Carrico and Delegate Jeff Campbell, R-Saltville, also present on the call, both have offered bills to allow lifelong concealed carry permits.

“Political reality is we have a governor in office currently, who is simply going to veto any constitutional-carry bills,” Campbell said. “And recognizing that, Senator Carrico and I have both put in bills to provide for a lifetime permit, which is certainly good for citizens in which you don’t have to make reapplication every five years.”

During the call, Kilgore asked callers to indicate their support for various issues. His office reported 67 percent of respondents voted they did not want to expand Medicaid, and 89 percent were in favor of reducing the number of Standards of Learning tests for Virginia students.

Sixty percent of respondents supported lifting the statewide ban on Sunday hunting, either in public and private places or on private land only. House Bill 1237, proposed by Delegate C. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, changes the law to allow hunting on Sundays in private places only, and is expected to be voted on by the full House this week.

Carrico and Kilgore both made comments indicating that any move made by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe would be checked by Republicans in the General Assembly, including any laws changing the definition of marriage in the state.

On Thursday, Jan. 23, Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, filed a brief in federal court to change the office’s stance on Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, calling it unconstitutional.

Kilgore made it clear he disagreed with the administration’s stance.

“We’re going to keep that in check and continue to make sure that our constitutional law and our marriage amendment stays intact.”

A House courts and justice civil law subcommittee on Monday killed House Bill 939, which aimed to repeal the ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions. Subcommittee members Kilgore, Campbell and Delegate Ben Chafin, R-Lebanon, all voted against the bill.

Virginia previously passed the Marshall-Newman Amendment, or the Virginia Marriage Amendment, as a constitutional amendment in 2006. The amendment defines marriage in the state as strictly between one man and one woman, and was ratified by 57 percent of voters.

Delegates Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol, Campbell, and Ben Chafin, R-Lebanon, participated in the call.

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