Virginia bills target smokers, litterbugs

| 1/18/2007

Most sensible people understand the dangers of lighting up near fuel pumps, but a bill in the Virginia House is targeting folks who are less than sensible. A handful of other bills that could draw consideration during the new session are directed at litterbugs.

Delegate Ward Armstrong, D-Collinsville, is pursuing passage of a law that would fine people who smoke or use an open flame within 25 feet of fuel pumps. Offenders would face up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000 per violation.

Three separate efforts in the House would get tough with people who litter along highways in the state. The problem is so bad in Newport News, VA, that a hotline has been set up to report litterbugs.

Delegate Rob Wittman, R-Westmoreland, has introduced a bill that would require people convicted of littering on Virginia roadways to do at least 30 hours of community service. Offenders performing their service would be required to pick up litter while wearing orange vests with the phrase "I am a litterbug."

Anyone who doesn't fulfill the obligation would face up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

In addition to the existing fine and possible jail time, a separate effort offered by Delegate William Fralin Jr. R-Roanoke, would tack on an additional $250 fine for littering - and it would include cigarette butts. The money would be used for a public awareness campaign to educate the public about the harmful effects of litter on the environment.

One other littering bill would give courts other options for punishing offenders.

Instead of confining offenders, the bill introduced by Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, would allow for a person's driving privileges to be suspended for up to 12 months. They also would be required to clean up litter along roadways or work in recycling for up to 250 hours of community service.

Armstrong's bill - HB1653 - Wittman's bill - HB1869 - and Kilgore's bill - HB1842 - are in the House Courts of Justice Committee. Fralin's bill - HB1736 - is in the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee.