Three interesting bills of the week: declawing cats, antidepressants and the UDC

A session-time ramble through the General Assembly docket

By: - January 13, 2023 12:03 am

The Virginia General Assembly convened for its 2023 session in Richmond Jan. 11, 2023. (Sarah Vogelsong / Virginia Mercury)

Hundreds of bills are filed for General Assembly consideration each year. In this occasional series, the Mercury will take a look at a few of the proposals that might not otherwise make headlines during the whirlwind legislative session.

House Bill 2162: Eliminating tax exemptions for the United Daughters of the Confederacy

This legislation, from House of Delegates Minority Leader Don Scott, D-Portsmouth, would eliminate various state tax exemptions for the Virginia Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the General Organization of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. 

The United Daughters of the Confederacy currently has the same tax exemption status held by churches, state and federal properties and non-profit colleges. The association owns more than a dozen Confederate statues in Virginia along with its national headquarters, which is located roughly three miles away from the state Capitol in Richmond.

Founded in 1894 by female descendents of Confederate veterans to protect and memorialize the Confederate legacy after the Civil War, the association is known for creating and promoting the “Lost Cause” interpretation that emphasized states’ rights rather than slavery as the primary cause of the war while also arguing that most slaves were happy and most slave-owners virtuous.

House Bill 1382:  Prohibiting declawing cats 

HB 1382 from Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke, would outlaw the practice of declawing cats in Virginia and create a civil penalty of $500 for the first violation, $1,000 for the second and $2,500 for the third or subsequent violation. 

Dels. Karrie Delaney, D-Fairfax, Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax, and Danica Roem, D-Manassas, are also co-patrons of the bill. 

Animal control officers, humane investigators or state or local law enforcement officers would be entitled to bring a civil action against anyone who violated the law, and penalties collected would be used for the costs of local animal control.

Declawing a cat when deemed necessary for therapeutic purposes, such as the animal’s own medical necessity, would still remain legal.

House Joint Resolution 484: Study on the effect of antidepressant use on mass casualty events

This joint resolution, from Del. Timothy Anderson, R-Virginia Beach, would establish a joint subcommittee to study the effect of the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which are widely prescribed antidepressants, on mass casualty events. 

If it determined SSRIs are linked to crimes or violent behavior, the subcommittee would be directed to develop recommendations for how to prevent them.

“Studies have shown that there may be a connection between the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and violent behavior, especially in persons between the ages of 18 and 24,” the resolution reads.

A potential connection between SSRIs and mass shootings has been amplified by statements from U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, and FOX News host Tucker Carlson, despite psychiatrists saying there is little evidence for these claims.

The subcommittee would meet four times a year until the end of 2024 and consist of eight members, with the cost of the study capped at $11,800 per year.

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Meghan McIntyre

Mercury intern Meghan McIntyre is a recent graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in digital journalism. She has stories covering Virginia government and politics published in various outlets across the state through Capital News Service, a course in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at VCU. She was also a previous news intern at VPM and briefly freelanced for The Farmville Herald and The Suffolk News-Herald. She can be reached at [email protected]

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