Governor Glenn Youngkin vetoed a bill for the first time, he announced Tuesday. Delegate Patrick Hope’s (D-Arlington) HB 670 would have authorized counties operating under a county manager plan to hire an independent policing auditor to oversee its civilian review board; the bill passed out of the Senate along party lines, and out of the House of Delegates with some bipartisan support. Arlington County is the only Virginia county operating under the county manager plan.
“The best way to ensure that any bad actors within law enforcement are held accountable is to stand up for law enforcement, not tear them down or subject them to politically motivated inquiries,” Youngkin said in the press release.
The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) had a vacancy rate of 27.4 percent, or 1,680 correctional officer vacancies by September 30, 2021, according to a November 15 report from the Public Safety Compensation Work Group. That’s an increase from the average number of vacancies between fiscal years 2018 and 2020, which ranged between 650 and 682 each year.
“There was a dramatic increase since the beginning of the pandemic,” House Appropriations Committee Analyst Michael Jay told the Joint Committee of the House Health, Welfare and Institutions and Public Safety and Senate Judiciary on Tuesday.
“Since then it has gone up about 60 each month and it is now at almost 1,700 vacancies. Some individual facilities have seen higher vacancies, with one correctional facility having turnover of 54 percent in the last calendar year,” Jay said.
The House Committee on Public Safety (CPS) approved several firearms bills on Friday morning. The bills include HB 1909, which allows school boards to declare non-school zone property owned by the board as a gun free zone; HB 1992, which prohibits people convicted of assault from owning or possessing a firearm; HB 2128, which increases the firearm sale background check delay from three days to five days, HB2276 which bans plastic firearms and 80 percent receivers; and HB 2295, which bans carrying firearms or stun weapons on Capitol grounds in Richmond. HB2081, which bans carrying firearms at a polling place, passed out of the Privileges and Elections Committee on Wednesday.
House of Delegate Republicans have repeatedly begun the regular sessions this week by blasting Virginia’s government for the slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
On Monday, GOP Caucus Chairman Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Bedford) said, “Madam Speaker, as we meet today, Virginia’s government is struggling in a critical life-saving mission. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Virginia has received over 850,000 doses of the COVID vaccine, but we have administered fewer than 250,000 doses. That performance ranks us among the lowest of the fifty states.”
Two Republican state delegates released a joint statement on Tuesday calling for the Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) to work with members on finding a way to hold in-person meetings during January’s regular General Assembly session.
Delegates Christopher Head (R-Roanoke) and Joseph McNamara (R-Roanoke County) said in the statement they are preparing to be in Richmond for the start of the regular session.
A bill that aims to reduce unnecessary and targeted traffic stops by limiting what police officers are lawfully allowed to pull drivers over for recently passed the General Assembly and is now awaiting a decision from the governor.
Nevertheless, law enforcement opposes the legislation on the grounds that it would hurt public safety and lead to more dangers while driving.