RICHMOND, Virginia – Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears cast her first tie-breaking vote in the Senate on Thursday. Senator Jeremy McPike (D-Prince William) voted with Republicans against SB 137, a bill that would allow defendants in most felony cases to appeal a judge’s discretionary sentence if the judge does not provide a “written explanation that adequately explains the sentence imposed[.]” When the 20-20 vote result was clear, Earle-Sears asked bill patron Senator John Edwards (D-Roanoke) and opponent Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) to come to the dais, where they discussed the bill. Then, Earle-Sears voted against the bill.
“What I wanted to do was to give the patron an opportunity to talk to me about the bill in a way that I may not have, you know, heard before. And then I also wanted to hear the opposing view. I always want to give people the opportunity so that they can make their case. And as I was listening to all sides, what appeared to me was that the bill unfortunately is poorly written,”she told The Virginia Star.
The House of Delegates passed a bill to repeal the 2020 law authorizing localities to ban firearms on locality property. Delegates debated the bill on Wednesday before the vote Thursday.
“House Bill 827 returns our code back to its prior position,” Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Rockingham) said on Wednesday. “Other portions of the bill: it eliminates the requirement to destroy firearms that are confiscated and rather allows them to be offered for sale through a licensed dealer. And it also limits the ability of localities to sue firearm manufacturers.”
Virginia’s Court of Appeals is expanding by six seats and filling a seventh seat left vacant. 46 people have applied for the positions, triggering delays to meet a July 1 deadline. Still, the General Assembly is expected to fill the seats this summer at a yet-to-be-scheduled special session.
In the first 2021 General Assembly special session, legislators passed SB 1261, adding the six seats to the court.
A bill to add six judges to the Virginia Court of Appeals passed the Senate 21 to 18 on Friday. The bill would also create a right to appeal, something that every other state already has, but that advocates say is currently impossible due to the court’s manpower shortage. The court has just 11 judges, while states with similar populations often have more. However, Republicans oppose the bill because judges would be elected in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.
SB 1261 sponsor State Senator John Edwards (D-Roanoke) said in committee on January 25 that Virginia’s current system gives no automatic right of appeal in any Virginia court.
Legislation to remove most mandatory minimum sentences in Virginia advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday through a 9-6 party-line vote.
Senate Bill 1443 would end the mandatory minimum prison time for more than 200 crimes in the Commonwealth that carry the specific punishments, including assault and battery, rape and other sexual crimes, drug distribution and possession, child pornography as well as driving under the influence (DUI).