|2014 Midsession VBA Legislative Update|
by Jeff Palmore, Reed Smith LLP
This week in the General Assembly marked “cross-over,” the time during the Session when the House and Senate finish working on legislation introduced by their own members and transition to the process of considering legislation passed by the other body. Over 2,500 bills and resolutions were introduced this year, and the two houses are working diligently to complete their work by March 8th, the scheduled end of this 60-day session.
The VBA has advanced a number of legislative proposals for consideration by the General Assembly, a process that began last year with proposals from the VBA sections considered at Legislative Day in September. So far, the VBA-proposed legislation is faring very well in the General Assembly with most of it still under consideration by the legislature after passage in its house of origin.
Real Estate Section
Scrivener’s Error (SB 116-Watkins) – This legislation will allow correction of an "obvious description error," as defined by statute, in a deed, deed of trust, or mortgage recorded as part of a real estate transaction by recordation of a corrective affidavit prepared by an attorney after notice to all parties. This bill passed the Senate 34-6 and is currently before the House Courts of Justice Civil Law Subcommittee.
Updating of Recording Statutes – The Real Estate Section proposed two bills to update a number of statutes dealing with the recordation process and recordation taxes. The goal was to modernize the statutes, promote uniformity across the Commonwealth, and help address modern commercial transactions.
Wills, Trusts & Estates Section
Defenses Available to Trust Directors (SB 345-Edwards) – This bill clarifies that where a trust document relieves the trustee from liability for following a trust director’s directions, the trust director is liable as a fiduciary to the same extent as a trustee and has the same defenses as a trustee. It passed the Senate unanimously and is awaiting consideration by the House Courts of Justice Civil Law Subcommittee.
Update Statutory Allowances in Title 64.2 (SB 346- Edwards) – This legislation updates for inflation certain statutory allowances and other amounts related to wills, trusts, and fiduciaries (Title 64.2). This passed the Senate unanimously from Senate Courts and is awaiting action by the House.
Affiliated Group Legislation
Virginia Family Law Coalition
Divorce Orders and Life Insurance Policies (HB 141-Minchew) – This bill provides that a court may, during a pending divorce proceeding, compel a party to maintain an existing life insurance policy on the other party or another beneficiary for the exclusive use and benefit of children. It passed the House unanimously, has passed out of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, and is on the Senate floor.
Commission on the Needs of Children
Increase the Grand Larceny Threshold (SB 379-Reeves) – This legislation would increase the threshold amount separating petit larceny and felony grand larceny from $200 to $500. After discussions with the retail groups, the primary opponents of the legislation, and after a similar House version of the bill was defeated, the retail groups agreed to meet with us over the summer to try to come up with a compromise that will address this issue for the 2015 session. Senator Reeves’s bill was continued to 2015 for this purpose.
Administrators in Personal Injury/Wrongful Death Suits (SB 245-McEachin) – This legislation clarifies who may qualify to bring lawsuits after a person is deceased to avoid confusion between appointment of administrators for all purposes and those appointed solely to bring or defend personal injury or wrongful death suits. This bill passed the Senate unanimously and is awaiting action by the House.
Recoverable Costs and Fees (HB 303-Loupassi) – This bill makes clear that attorney’s fees and costs on appeal are not pre-empted by an antiquated provision of the Code providing for de minimis atorney’s fees. It passed the House unanimously and is before the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.
Redaction of Personal Information (HB 952-Cline) – This legislation would require that any personal identification numbers (Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers) be redacted in any court filings except for the last four digits of the number. It passed the House unanimously and is awaiting action by the Senate.
Funding - The Virginia Bar Association has been consistent in its support for additional funding for judges throughout the Commonwealth. The Weighted Caseload Study, completed by the National Center for State Courts last year, provided recommendations for how judges should be allocated throughout the Commonwealth. This report recommended that some districts and circuits gain judges while others may lose a judge. The House and Senate will present their recommended budgets this weekend, and the funding of judges will no doubt be a topic of continued discussions during the budget conference committee process. The VBA will continue to advocate for additional funding for judges to help ensure the effective administration of justice.
Judicial Evaluations (HB 272–Loupassi) – Legislation is pending that would re-establish the judicial evaluation process. It passed the House and is pending before the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.
Extension of Client Protection Fund (SB 7-Stuart) – This legislation repeals sunset provision on the annual fee of $25 on Virginia State Bar dues to go to the Clients' Protection Fund. It passed the Senate unanimously and is awaiting action by the House.
DRM Coverage of Pro Bono Attorneys (SB 486- Norment/HB 712- Loupassi) – This bill provides for inclusion under the state's risk management plan attorneys providing pro bono legal services under a Virginia State Bar approved program. The Senate bill is currently before a House Subcommittee, and the House bill has been approved by both houses and is on its way to Governor McAuliffe.
Your VBA team has been working with the VBA Section Chairs and other leadership to address legislation of interest to the sections. We have been successful in supporting, amending, or opposing legislation consistent with the Section’s views on the bills. If you have specific questions about a bill important to your section, please contact Yvonne McGhee or Jeff Palmore.