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Senate bill passes quietly, allowing drunken driving on private property

Leaders in the fight against drunken driving were appalled after a Senate bill flew under the radar and quietly passed with a 37-3 vote, allowing Virginians to lawfully drive while intoxicated on their own property.

Capital News Service

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By Jessica Wetzler

Leaders in the fight against drunken driving were appalled after a Senate bill flew under the radar and quietly passed with a 37-3 vote, allowing Virginians to lawfully drive while intoxicated on their own property.

Sen. Richard Stuart, R-King George, originally introduced SB 308 to clarify that the state law against driving under the influence applies only to public roadways and that people can’t be charged for drinking in a vehicle on their property. Existing law simply says you can’t operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated and does not distinguish between public and private property.

During the Senate Courts of Justice Committee meeting on Jan. 31, the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys and advocacy organizations spoke against the bill.

“Is a driver with a .14 BAC (blood alcohol content) operating a motor vehicle across Kings Dominion’s parking lot any less of a threat than if he or she were similarly doing so on a neighboring roadway?” asked Kurt Erickson, president and CEO of the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program.

SB 308 was then essentially killed, or passed by indefinitely, on a 7-5 vote.

Although thought to be dead, the legislation was abruptly brought up for reconsideration by Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, halfway through a committee meeting on Monday. Peake had voted to kill the bill at the previous meeting.

After speaking with members of the committee and Waynesboro Commonwealth’s Attorney David Ledbetter, Stuart said he wanted to change the language of the bill.

“The bill had to do with a DUI on your private property or current property. And by trying to define where you could actually be charged with it, I think my bill went a little too broad,” Stuart said.

By narrowly defining the bill to exempt getting charged with DWI at home or other private property, it would eliminate cases of those found drinking in a parked car in their driveway, Stuart said.

Ledbetter said he made the suggestion to Stuart about changing the language, but remained unsure it would be successful.

“I’m afraid we are going to exempt someone that we should not,” Ledbetter said.

The legislation was approved 14-1 by the committee, with only Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, voting against it. The legislation had been changed to add: “This section shall not apply to any person driving or operating a motor vehicle on his own residential property or the curtilage thereof,” essentially allowing people to lawfully drive drunk on their own property.

“Inasmuch, the bill throws Virginia down the slippery slope of bifurcating the state’s DUI laws, effectively communicating that it’s OK to drive drunk here but not there – a dangerous precedent,” Erickson said. “The Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys and Washington Regional Alcohol Program remain opposed to this legislation.”

The bill flew through its second and third reading and passed the Senate three days after it was resurrected.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Plow Through Your Holiday Shopping at Holiday Villages a Virtual Market

Let’s spread some holiday cheer and support Richmond’s small business and artist community at a new VIRTUAL Holiday Villages!

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Saturday, December 5th and Sunday, December 6th from 4pm-8pm you’ll be able to shop a bunch of local vendors. Everything from ice cream to tee shirts. Head over to Facebook to see all the vendors profiled. Normally the Richmond Night Market welcomes you in person but these are not normal times.  You can register to check it out online here. It’s a great way to support local businesses and stay safe.
  • Live Music
  • Artisans
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  • And MORE!
Grab your family, friends, loved ones, and curl up on the sofa to shop and hang with us!
Finish all your holiday shopping the first weekend of December!
You don’t want to miss this!
Presented by the Richmond Night Market, in partnership with The City of Richmond, Brok Productions, and The Economic Development Authority of Richmond.
Let’s spread some holiday cheer and support Richmond’s small business and artist community at our new VIRTUAL Holiday Villages!
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Community

RVA Illuminates and Holiday Lights on the Riverfront Throw the Switch on Friday

It’s about to get a lot brighter downtown.

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In the past when downtown lit up for the holidays it was a big event downtown. Due to Covid-19 that big event is not happening. The main event RVA Illuminates is going virtual and can be seen on ABC 8 News this Friday with performances and music.

Venture Richmond is hosting its own event, Holiday Lights on the Riverfront on Brown’s Island and along the Canal Walk to Brown’s Island from 6-8 PM on Friday.

​When downtown RVA lights up for the holiday season, Brown’s Island and the Turning Basin on the Canal Walk will join in the cheer and help the City of Richmond kick off the season with Holiday Lights on the Riverfront, a display of decorative lights that is open and FREE to the public! Enjoy vendors Espresso-A-Go-Go and Curbside Creations and family entertainer Jonathan the Juggler on Brown’s Island or take a festive stroll along the Canal Walk to the Turning Basin. Presented by Venture Richmond. Please practice safe social distancing. Parking is available at the American Civil War Museum ($), Belle Isle parking lot, and on-street parking along 2nd and 5th Streets.

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Community

Virginia Opera Cancels Main Stage Performances for the 2020-2021 Season

VO General Director and CEO Peggy Kriha Dye: “Taking into consideration the serious circumstances surrounding the pandemic, we regrettably acknowledge the impossibility of producing our 2020-2021 Season.”

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Today, Virginia Opera, The Official Opera Company of the Commonwealth of Virginia, announces cancellation of all scheduled 2020–2021 Season productions due to the public safety concerns caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The determination follows a complete VO staff and Board review affecting statewide presentations in the Hampton Roads, Central Virginia, and Northern Virginia markets scheduled to begin February 2021.

VO General Director and CEO Peggy Kriha Dye: “Taking into consideration the serious circumstances surrounding the pandemic, we regrettably acknowledge the impossibility of producing our 2020-2021 Season. Our dedication to following the necessary guidelines to ensure the safety of our patrons and artists overwhelms our immense desire to perform. In the coming months we will chart our path for the 2021-2022 Season and beyond, while doing all we can to stay connected to the communities we serve; digitally in the schools, virtually for everyone, and in safe environments.“

Virginia Opera Artistic Director, Adam Turner: “The performing arts have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic. In the short-term we have compensated those artists affected by the season cancellation to the best of our ability. We now turn to providing new opportunities for much-needed work in our industry. This includes building on the success of our fall artist “Stayin’ Alive” residency, with a second initiative geared towards providing more outdoor performances and digital content beginning in spring 2021. We were able to reach a whole new audience this fall by taking opera out of the Opera House and to the streets, opening a door to this incredible art form for so many new faces, and we look forward to serving our communities again as soon as possible.”

Season ticketholders are already being contacted to address the disposition of their tickets with options that include early renewal for the 2021-2022 Season, the conversion of the fair value of the tickets to a donation in support of the VO, and a full-value refund of Season ticket purchases.

“Stayin’ Alive” – Virginia Opera’s Alternate Fall artist residency included multiple digital performance and artist-driven content to be shared by the VO throughout the coming winter months. Additional online programs will also be forthcoming and information and schedules on all will be updated at Virginia Opera’s website – vaopera.org, as well as on the company’s Social Media channels.

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