Virginia bill targeting smokers advances, litterbug bills don't

| 3/5/2007

Most sensible people understand the dangers of lighting up near fuel pumps, but a bill approved by the Virginia General Assembly targets folks who are less than sensible. Meanwhile, a handful of other bills that were directed at litterbugs met resistance.

The House and Senate approved a bill that would fine people who smoke or use an open flame within 20 feet of fuel pumps or fuel tankers. Offenders would face up to $500 in fines. If a fire or explosion resulted, violators would face up to 12 months in jail and/or up to $2,500 in fines.

The bill - HB1653 - now heads to Gov. Tim Kaine's desk.

Three separate efforts in the House that called for getting tough with people who litter along highways in the state have died. Each of the bills remained in committee at the deadline to advance to the chamber floor, effectively killing them.

One bill - HB1869 - would have required people convicted of littering on roadways throughout the state do at least 30 hours of community service. Offenders performing their service would have been required to pick up litter while wearing blaze-orange vests with the phrase "I am a litterbug" printed on them.

Anyone who doesn't fulfill the obligation would have faced 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 - HB1736 - offered sought to tack on an additional $250 fine for littering - it would have included cigarette butts. The money would have been used for a public awareness campaign to educate the public about the harmful effects of litter on the environment.

One other littering bill - HB1842 - would have given courts other options for punishing offenders.

Instead of confining offenders, the bill would have allowed for a person's driving privileges to be suspended for up to 12 months. They also would have been required to clean up litter along roadways or work in recycling for up to 250 hours of community service.