Special session starts Tuesday!

Special session starts Tuesday!
Special Session starts this Tuesday!
Special Session begins this Tuesday!
Virginia Progressive Legislative Alert Newsletter
Saturday, August 15, 2020

The 2020 General Assembly session wrote the most progressive budget in decades. But then, the economic shock from COVID-19 caused much of that to be put on hold, as well as causing new economic policy needs. The further shock of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers spurred the legislature to fight harder for police and criminal justice reform.

The General Assembly convenes on Tuesday, August 18th for a special session to tackle these issues!

Legislative Update

Proposed policing reforms
  • SB5030 (Locke-SD02) is a big omnibus police reform bill. It bans neckholds, bans no-knock warrants, makes sex with anyone in custody a crime, cuts funding to agencies participating in federal military weapons programs, reforms program for decertifying officers, and improves data, record-sharing and transparency. 
  • SB5035 (Hashmi-SD10) gives localities the authority to create civilian police review boards that have the ability to receive complaints about police conduct, investigate (including subpoena power if needed), and make binding disciplinary determinations; also to review policy and budget.
  • SB5017 (Boysko-SD33) amends the definition of “local correctional facility” to include the Farmville Detention Center, to clarify Virginia’s authority to protect all people and communities within our borders. Over 75% of those detained there have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • HB5013 (Bourne-HD71) tackles qualified immunity by creating a civil action that can be taken if someone’s rights have been violated by a law enforcement officer, and they may be awarded compensatory and punitive damages.
  • SB5034 (Boysko-SD33 and Lucas-SD18) would give compassionate parole to geriatric and permanently disabled individuals and also establish an Earned Sentence Credit to enable those incarcerated to earn reductions in their sentence by participating in certain programs.
Criminal justice reform
  • SB5032 (Surovell-SD36) prevents cops from charging felony assault on a law enforcement officer for non-injurious assaults like spitting or throwing things, restricting assault to only those resulting in a “visible bodily injury;” and removes the mandatory minimum six month sentence–meanwhile, Republican senators Norment and Reeves fail to read the room and file bills to increase the mandatory minimum sentence for such assaults.
    • SB5029 (Lucas-SD18) eliminates pretextual stops by making violations for tinted windows, objects dangling from mirror, noisy exhaust, and marijuana possession all secondary offenses, which law enforcement can only issue citations for once stopped already for other reasons.
    • SB5033 (Surovell-SD36) makes explicit in the code that courts have authority to defer proceedings or entering a conviction on criminal cases. Also clarifies what constitutes “good cause” for a Commonwealth’s Attorney to decide not to prosecute cases, including non-deterring and resource constraints.
    • SB5007 (Morrissey-SD16) eliminates jury sentencing (unless requested by the defendant). Juries, not being experienced, often give highly unpredictable sentences, often much higher than a judge’s sentencing guidelines.

    …meanwhile the VAGOP has other priorities:
    • News of the absurd: Republican legislators are focused on making hydroxychloroquine available for COVID-19 treatment, despite the FDA warning against its use, citing studies showing it to be ineffective and potentially harmful; and on making a religious exemption to a future vaccine needed to stop the pandemic.
    • Tying Governor’s hands: The VAGOP put in several bills and resolutions that would limit the Governor’s ability to respond to a crisis such as COVID, by limiting the duration of executive orders, the ability to call a state of emergency, or requiring a special session be called. (HB5007, HB5010, HJ5001, HJ5003, SB5001, SB5008)
    • School voucher time! Rather than focusing on how to support the public school system that is struggling to balance maintaining educational standards with the need to keep communities safe from COVID-19, Republican legislators filed numerous bills to create school vouchers to take important funding away from the public system. (HB5008, HB5011, SB5020)

    If any of the above bills are important to you, now is the time to contact your legislators and tell them how this bill affects you and your family. Contact information for Delegates and Senators can be found HERE; if you aren’t sure who represents you, put your address in HERE to find out.

    Virginia Progressive Legislative Alert Network

    PO Box 2612, Merrifield
    Virginia 22116-2612 United States

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