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Injunction OK'd blocking Va. weekend day-off law

RICHMOND -- A judge temporarily suspended yesterday enforcement of a mistakenly revived Virginia law that allows employees to demand a ''day of rest" on weekends, but representatives of the state's largest businesses urged lawmakers to return to the Capitol to permanently fix their error.

Circuit Court Judge Theodore D. Markow said he was putting the law on hold for 90 days ''with great reluctance" pending a review of whether the law violates the US and Virginia constitutions. He hinted that that review could come much sooner than 90 days.

''My reluctance is, this is really treading on the legislative prerogative," Markow said. ''Just because someone says 'we really didn't mean to do that' . . . We have a process. The legislative process is sacred."

Moments after Markow's comments, a spokesman for Attorney General Jerry Kilgore urged Governor Mark Warner to call a special session of the General Assembly to revoke the day-of-rest law.

''Absolutely, the governor should come back and call a special session," Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh said. ''This bought us some time, but we're not sure how much."

The law requires employers to grant nonmanagerial workers a weekend day off or pay fines and triple the worker's salary. The General Assembly resurrected the law from decades of obscurity during the 2004 session by accidentally removing exemptions for most of the state's businesses.

Lawyers for Smithfield Foods, Dominion Virginia Power, International Paper, and other large businesses had filed a lawsuit seeking to stop enforcement of the day-of-rest provision. They praised Markow's decision but said the state must go further.

''The gun has sort of been removed from the head and put back in the holster," said Hugh Keogh, president and CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. ''There's no panic. To affect the level of confidence, we may still need a special session."

Walter Stosch, Republican of Henrico, the Senate majority leader, and House Speaker William Howell, Republican of Stafford, said they believe it is necessary to bring all 140 lawmakers back for a one-day session limited to fixing the day-of-rest law.

''I'd like to have a 20-minute session. Get in there and get out," Howell said.

Warner, who is vacationing in Idaho, declined to join in the call for a special session.

In a statement, he left his options open.

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