Virginia legislators nix social media restrictions, cruise ship gaming, and other notable bills

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RICHMOND — It’s not crossover day yet but some legislation already is biting the dust.

One ill-fated bill from Del. Shelly Simonds, D-Newport News, would have allowed those with a permit from the Virginia Lottery to conduct cruise ship casino gaming in the offshore waters of Virginia.

“Normally cruise ships have to travel four or five hours out to international waters before they can open their casinos,” Simonds told a House subcommittee on gaming. “This bill would allow them to open casinos one mile from their place of mooring or anchoring in Virginia, giving them additional hours of gaming time.”

The delegate said it would bring in revenue for the state.

“Any excess funds after administration of the licensing fee would go to the school construction fund to help modernize and rebuild our crumbling school infrastructure,” she said.

Others felt the bill, which died Tuesday by a 5-3 vote, was unnecessary.

“I don’t understand why it’s such an important thing for the cruise industry to have that couple of hours head start on gambling,” said Paul Krizek, D-Alexandria. “I would think while you are on a boat in the rivers you would be looking out and looking at beautiful Virginia.”

Gambling has become a hot-button issue in recent years in Virginia, with clashes over skill games and casinos throughout the state. The issue of gaming has supporters from both sides of the aisle.

Meanwhile, two measures intended to restrict minors from social media died this week after failing to garner any support from Democrats.

One bill from Del. Scott Wyatt, R-Mechanicsville, would have required social media platforms to obtain parental consent prior to creating an account for a minor. Another from Del. Keith Hodges, R-Urbanna, would have prohibited social media platforms from using certain practices or features on minors’ accounts intended to entice users to remain online, such as push notifications or auto-playing videos.

A subcommittee within the House Communications Technology and Innovation Committee laid both bills on the table Monday in votes of 6-4 after Democrats shared concerns the language was too broad.

During a December news conference, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin called on legislators to implement social media restrictions and argued it would help improve mental health.

“Pew Research reports that 80% of high school students use social media daily and another recent study suggests that more than a few hours per day on social media doubles the risk of poor mental health for adolescents,” he said. “Our children are losing the chance to cultivate essential social skills and encountering cyber bullying and isolation.”

An attempt to reinstate the death penalty also failed to gain traction this year.

The bill, introduced by Republican Del. Tim Griffin, died earlier this month in a House subcommittee by a vote of 6-2. Virginia abolished capital punishment in 2021.

Another bill, from Republican Del. R. Lee Ware, that would have directed the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to conduct a study on fishery impacts to menhaden — a small silver fish that’s high in Omega-3 fatty acids — has been delayed to 2025.

In a Tuesday news release, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation slammed the decision.

“Menhaden serve as a nutrient-rich food for a variety of creatures including osprey, striped bass, and whales,” the release states. “Anglers, conservationists and scientists have long been concerned that the scale of the fishery concentrated in the Chesapeake Bay could lead to a lack of sufficient menhaden, causing ripple effects throughout the food chain.”

Katie King, katie.king@virginiamedia.com