Bill Giving AG Increased Authority to Investigate Patterns of Misconduct by Police Signed into Law

Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill into law on Wednesday that gives the state attorney general additional powers to investigate unlawful patterns or practices by law enforcement officers and file civil action to stop the misconduct.

Introduced by Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), Senate Bill 5024 was one of several bills approved by the governor this week.

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Virginia Senate Gives Governor Power to Oust Police Officers

The Criminal Justice Services Board (CJSB) will have the responsibility of decertifying officers engaged in misconduct or criminally charged and implementing statewide conduct standards for law enforcement, if the Senate’s omnibus policing and reform legislation is signed into law.

Last Friday, the president of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Delegates both signed the legislation, and on Wednesday the bill was communicated to Governor Ralph Northam for final approval.

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Virginia Lawmakers Pass Bill Allowing Jury Trials With Judge Sentencing

Virginia lawmakers passed legislation Friday that allows those accused of a crime to receive a jury trial and a judge’s sentence, which proponents believe will reduce sentence lengths.

Under current law, a defendant must opt for a jury sentence if he or she requests a jury trial, which can often result in longer sentences than guidance normally would suggest. The law allows a judge to reduce the sentence, but this happens in only about 8.1% of cases.

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Virginia Vote Counters: No Winners on Election Night

As November 3rd draws closer, general registrars and their staff in central Virginia are working extremely hard to get as many ballots counted as possible on election night, even though the results will not be official until Friday of that week.

On Monday, The Virginia Star spoke with registrars from Henrico, Hanover, New Kent and Goochland counties, and discussed the timing of ballot counts.

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Senate Lawmakers Pass Conference Report for Criminal Justice Reform Legislation

During potentially the final day of the lengthy 2020 special session, Senate legislators adopted and passed the conference committee report on a bill that allows judges in certain criminal cases to issue the sentences instead of the jury. 

The conference report that was unanimously agreed upon by the six conferees, two Republicans and two Democrats, passed the Senate by an almost exact party line vote of (Y-22 N-16). 

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Legislation Allowing Localities to Establish Law Enforcement Civilian Review Boards Heads to Governor’s Desk

Compromised legislation that gives localities the authority to establish law enforcement civilian review boards (CRB) successfully passed final votes in the Senate and House of Delegates Wednesday afternoon, and now goes to the governor’s desk for final approval.

Joint conference committee reports for Senate Bill 5035 passed the Senate (21-Y 17-N) and for House Bill 5055 passed the House (53-Y 35-N), mostly along the party lines of both chambers.

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Senate and House Advance Budget Legislation to Conference Committee

Lawmakers in the Senate and House of Delegates advanced their biennial budget to a formal conference committee on Wednesday and assigned conferees to represent the bodies, but much of the work on compromising has already been conducted.

Before the two legislative bodies agreed to send the budget to a joint conference committee, however, the Senate first had to adopt a batch of seven committee amendments to the budget legislation. 

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Newly Proposed Law to Reduce Traffic Stops Relating to Marijuana and Other Traffic Offenses, Law Enforcement in Opposition

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. 

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Senate Lawmakers Send Numerous Bills to Joint Conference Committees with House

The Senate sent a number of bills to be considered by joint conference committees, and appointed conferees to join their colleagues in the House of Delegates to consider legislation on Wednesday.

Three or four Senators and Delegates are assigned to different conference committees and must try to agree on compromised language for similar bills from each body or the legislation will die. If compromised versions are agreed upon, those bills will go back to the House and Senate for a final passage vote.

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Gov. Northam Fights to Keep Virginia in Perpetual Shutdown

Only 22 percent of ventilators in Virginia hospitals were in use as of Wednesday. Fifty-two percent of ICU beds were available, according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. Only 1,003 potential COVID-19 patients were currently hospitalized. However, Governor Ralph Northam’s executive orders surrounding social distancing and mask wearing remain in effect.

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Former House Speaker Kirk Cox Is Serious About Bid for Virginia Governor

Longtime state Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) is very serious about running for Virginia governor in the 2021 gubernatorial elections, but he is steadfast on waiting until the rapidly-approaching general elections have concluded to officially announce his campaign. 

Despite recently filing paperwork with the state of Virginia to establish a campaign committee, Cox feels the November election, specifically securing another term for President Trump and congressional seats for Republicans, take priority at the moment. 

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Senate Passes $134B Budget Bill Allocating Funds for Local COVID-19 Relief, Criminal Justice and Policing Reforms and Law Enforcement Bonuses

The Senate passed its $134 billion budget on Friday with funding for criminal justice and police reforms, bonuses for law enforcement, coronavirus relief payments for local school divisions and language eviction and utility disconnect moratoriums. 

Senate Bill (SB) 5015 passed the Senate by a vote of (Y-24 N-15) with three Republican members voting alongside their Democratic colleagues on the prevailing side. 

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SCC Denies Northam’s Request to Extend Utility Shutoff Moratorium

The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) denied Governor Ralph Northam’s Thursday request to again extend a moratorium on utilities shutoffs until December. The moratorium will end October 5. The SCC had previously warned that they would not consider any further extensions.

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Senate Dems Kick GOP Colleagues to the Curb

The Democratic-controlled Virginia Senate rejected almost all budget amendment proposals from Republican members during a lengthy session Thursday afternoon. 

As the Senate moves closer to a passage vote on its comprehensive budget, Thursday’s session made it clear that Senate Democrats are ultimately running the show. 

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Virginia House Passes $134B Budget with Rental and Utility Assistance, Justice and Police Reform Funding

The Virginia House of Delegates passed its two-year $134 billion budget on Tuesday with specific funding for rental and utility assistance, public education, internet access, affordable housing, criminal justice and police reform.

The revised budget from the House does not perfectly lineup with the proposed budget Governor Ralph Northam presented to the General Assembly at the beginning of the 2020 special session.

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Virginia Society of Human Life Fights Potential Right-To-Abortion Amendment

Delegate Kathy Byron (R-Lynchburg) gave an insider’s view of Virginia right-to-life politics at a Zoom fundraiser for the Virginia Society of Human Life (VSHL) on Saturday evening. 100 people tuned in to the event, filling it to capacity. The fundraiser is part of a broader effort within the VSHL to motivate voters for the November election and raise awareness of a likely proposed amendment to Virginia’s constitution coming in 2021.

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Senate Bill on Budget Includes Details on the Proposed Virginia Redistricting Commission

As part of the Senate’s bill for the biennial budget, one amendment offers details and more specifics on the proposed Virginia Redistricting Commission. 

Included in the budget amendment item 4-14 is eligibility criteria for citizen commission members, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and public participation in the redistricting process. 

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Virginia Senate Committee Advances a Bevy of House Bills to Floor

Democrats in the state Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee on Thursday advanced numerous House bills relating to policing and justice reform and COVID-19. 

All together the Committee considered 20 bills during the meeting and hastily reported 19 to be considered on the Senate Floor on Friday or sometime next week. 

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Virginia House Caves on Anti Police Bill

Democratic and Republican legislators on the House Courts of Justice Committee killed legislation on Tuesday that would have eliminated the six month mandatory minimum sentence for assaulting a law enforcement officer. 

Senate Bill 5032, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) was passed by indefinitely by a vote of 18-Y 1-N 1-A, ending any chance of being signed into law during the 2020 special session. 

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Virginia House: We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ History

The Virginia state Senate Committee on Local Government passed by for the day a House bill that would authorize localities to remove, relocate or alter memorials for war veterans, including the Civil War. 

Through a voice vote, House Bill (HB) 5030 was passed by for the day with the understanding that the committee chair will write a letter to the Department of Historic Resources and the Attorney General’s office for a better understanding on the memorials and of any potential legal ramifications from the bill. 

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Chesapeake Passes Second Amendment Sanctuary Resolution

The Chesapeake City Council voted 6-1 with one “present” vote to approve a Second Amendment sanctuary city resolution on Tuesday evening. The council also voted to add a clause to the resolution asking “the Governor of Virginia and the General Assembly to preserve the authority of local governing bodies to make legislative decisions to the best interest of the citizens.”

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Dangerous Police Reform Bills Keep Moving In VA House

The House Committee on Public Safety conformed multiple bills from the Senate relating to police reform on Monday as the 2020 special session enters its fifth week.

Legislation is conformed when there are two similar bills that have both come out of the House and Senate, and are being considered by committees of the other legislative body.

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Virginia Election Ballots to Feature Proposed Constitutional Amendment on a New Redistricting Commission

When Virginians submit their ballots for the November elections they will not just be voting for the president or members of Congress, they will also be deciding how the state’s redistricting system will work going forward.

Redistricting is constitutionally mandated to occur every ten years after the completion of the most recent U.S. Census. 

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Virginia House Committee Kills Senate Bill to Limit Public Health Emergency Orders

The Virginia House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions tabled a Senate bill on Thursday, which called for the limitation of public health emergency orders by the Virginia Health Commissioner.

Sponsored by Sen. Steve Newman (R-Bedford), Senate Bill 5025 was tabled by a vote of 13-Y 9-N along party lines. 

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Senate Committee Squashes Paid Quarantine Leave Bill

The Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor killed a bill on Wednesday that would have required employers to provide paid quarantine leave during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

House Bill 5116, sponsored by Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-Prince William), was passed by indefinitely by a vote of 14-Y 1-N. 

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SCC Extends Moratorium on Utility Shutoffs but Warns Bills Are Piling Up

Responding to a request from Governor Ralph Northam, Virginia’s State Corporation Comission (SCC) has agreed to extend a moratorium on utility shutoffs until October 5. The SCC warns that they will not extend the moratorium again. The moratorium has been in place since March 16, 2020.

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Senate Passes Bill to Establish Mental Health Response and Alert System

The Senate passed a bill Wednesday to establish a mental health awareness response and community understanding services alert system in areas throughout Virginia. 

The legislation was passed by the Democratic-controlled body by a vote (21-Y 15-N) along party lines with four Republican senators not at session. 

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Bill to Allow Law Enforcement Civilian Review Boards Passes Senate

The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation that allows localities to establish law enforcement civilian review boards with outlined oversight duties. 

Sponsored by Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D-Chesterfield County), the bill passed by a vote of 20-Y 15-N along party lines of the present senators. 

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House Passes Bill to Make Police Investigation Records Public

The House on Thursday passed legislation that would allow the public to view past police investigative records.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Chris Hurst (D-Montgomery County), passed the Democratic-majority body by a vote of 59-Y 37-N, and three not voting, mostly along party lines except for five Republican delegates voting on the prevailing side.

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Virginia House Passes Mental Health, Earned Sentence Credit Reforms

The Virginia House passed four more pieces of criminal justice reform legislation that will be sent to the Senate, including mandatory local mental health teams, more restrictions on police acquiring military surplus weapons and an expansion of the earned sentence credit program.

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Virginia Senate Dems to House on Stripping Qualified Immunity: Not So Fast

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted to pass by indefinitely and create a joint House-Senate sub-Committee to further discuss a bill to end the qualified immunity defense for law enforcement. 

The motion to pass by indefinitely was agreed to by a vote of 12-Y 3-N with six Democratic Senators voting alongside their Republican peers on the prevailing side. 

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Nightmare on Zoom St: Virginia Dems Pass Woke Bills, Freeze Out GOP

The General Assembly has been in Special Session since August 18. Governor Ralph Northam’s announcement said the session was meant to pass a new budget in light of of COVID-19 and consider criminal and social reform laws. In the past three weeks, the Assembly has considered bills ending qualified immunity, eliminating minimum sentences for assaults on police officers, and allowing early release of violent offenders.

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Senate Passes Omnibus Police Reform Legislation

The Senate passed its omnibus policing reform bill on Thursday, which encompasses other already introduced legislation and covers many hotbed issues relating to law enforcement. 

After over an hour of debate and Republicans voicing concerns, the Democratic majority passed the bill by a vote of 21-Y 19-N, right along party lines. 

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Senate Passes Two Parole Board Bills, Advances More Policing Reforms

The Senate on Wednesday passed two bills relating to the parole board and continued to advance more policing legislation. 

The first bill on the Virginia Parole Board, introduced by Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham County), aims to provide the public with more transparency on the decisions made by requiring monthly reports on the inmates released and providing the felonies the prisoner was serving time for, among others.  

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Virginia Supreme Court Rejects Northam’s Eviction Moratorium Extension Request as CDC Implements New Order

The Virginia Supreme Court on Friday said it will not extend Governor Northam’s order barring eviction notices and proceedings as a newly implemented federal eviction moratorium takes effect. 

Northam asked the court for an extension of the temporary eviction order in a letter on Thursday, saying more time is needed to better understand the federal order and for the General Assembly to pass legislation to further protect Virginians. 

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House Revives and Passes Bill Ending Qualified Immunity for Virginia Law Enforcement Officers

The House on Tuesday reconsidered and passed House Bill 5013, a controversial measure that allows law enforcement officers to be held liable in court for actions taken while on duty without qualified immunity as a defense.

The bill was originally defeated by the House on Friday (47-Y 48-N 3-A) with several Democrats opposing their party to vote in opposition. The bill was also defeated last Monday in the Appropriations Committee before being reconsidered and advanced.

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House Passes Eight Police Reform Bills, Republicans Feel Unheard

House Democrats passed eight different policing reform bills during its Friday session, leaving Republicans lawmakers feeling ignored and unheard by the majority. 

The policing bills spanned from banning no-knock search warrants and the use of neck restraints by law enforcement to requiring that officers report any wrongdoings by their colleagues or be subject to discipline.

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House Committee Advances Bill Allowing for Early Release of Violent Offenders Through Earned Sentence Credits

The House Committee on Courts of Justice advanced a bill Wednesday that would allow for the early release of violent offenders by implementing a new earned sentence credit program.

The bill bars prisoners convicted of capital murder and most acts of violence involving minors from earning credits, but, conversely, includes first-time offenders convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping, carjacking, rape and child pornography, among others.

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Senate Advances Bipartisan Bill to Establish Commission on Civil Rights and Policing, Among Others

RICHMOND, Virginia – In the first fully in-person session of the week, the Senate advanced a bill that would establish a civil rights and policing commission on Wednesday.

The commission’s purpose is to review civil liberties, civil justice and policing in Virginia, and to make policy recommendations to the General Assembly.

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Democratic Delegate Calls Republican Opposition Comments Racist as Bill to End Qualified Immunity Advances

Before a bill to end qualified immunity was advanced out of the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday, Delegate Jeffrey Bourne (D-Richmond City) called the language used by Republican opposition to the legislation examples of systemic and institutionalized racism.

“I hope everyone on this committee has listened to the type of language that has been used, the types of language that has been used to talk about why we should oppose this bill is exactly the types of systemic and institutionalized racism we are trying to dismantle,” Bourne said during the committee meeting.

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The Senate Continues to Pass New Legislation During the Special Session as Timing of Crossover with House Unclear

As the Senate wraps up its second week of the 2020 special session and continues to pass new legislation, the timing of crossover with the House of Delegates, a requirement for a bill to become law, remains unknown.

Since the Senate began considering bills in Committee and advancing legislation during sessions almost a week before the House, the two bodies are currently not in sync with their lawmaking procedures.

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Senate Advances Bill on Election Voting Provisions after Nearly Two Hours of Debate on Amendments

The Senate advanced House Bill (HB) 5120, sponsored by Sen. Howell (D-Fairfax County), to its third and final reading after spending more than half of the three hour session debating Thursday morning. 

The topic which garnered the most discussion during the session was not the bill itself, however, rather one of the multiple amendments within Howell’s legislation. 

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Senate Passes Bill Eliminating Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Assaulting Law Enforcement Officers, Others

The Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would eliminate the mandatory minimum sentence of six months jail time for assaulting a law enforcement officer or other public servants. 

The bill passed by a vote of 21-Y 15-N after over an hour of back and forth between Senators.

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Virginia State Corporation Commission Extends Moratorium on Utility Service Shut-offs for Two Weeks

The State Corporation Commission (SCC) is extending its general moratorium on service shut-offs until September 16 to help customers struggling to pay their utility bills during the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic fallout. 

In an news release Monday, the SCC said it is continuing its emergency measure to give the Virginia General Assembly, currently meeting in a special session, more time to pass legislation addressing the impact of COVID-19 on utility customers over the last six months. 

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COVID-19 Vaccine Will Be Mandated in Virginia, State Health Commissioner Says

Virginia State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver said on Friday that he would mandate a COVID-19 vaccine if publicly available, according to 8News, but a bill under consideration in the Virginia General Assembly would provide a religious exemption.

Under Virginia state law, the commissioner of health has the authority to mandate immediate immunizations during a public health crisis like COVID-19 if a vaccine is available to the public.

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Virginia General Assembly 2020 Special Session Day 3: House Remains Stalled, Senate Advances More Bills

While the House continued its quick, procedural sessions, the Senate and the Senate Judiciary Committee continued to advance bills centered around criminal justice reform and policing.

Before the Senate convened in-person in its new home for the 2020 special session at the Science Museum of Virginia, the Judiciary Committee held a meeting where it reported and referred more bills.

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Richmond City Council Delays Gun Ordinance Vote

The Richmond City Council chose to delay a vote on an amendment to its firearms ordinance. The council heard over an hour of public comments and discussion in the virtual meeting on Thursday afternoon. Eventually, the council members concluded they needed more time to clarify questions about vague wording in the amendment.

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Virginia General Assembly 2020 Special Session Day Two

It was relatively quiet during day two of the Virginia General Assembly special session as the House adjourned after less than an hour of meeting, while the Senate was more lively during member’s points of personal privilege.

Wednesday marked the first day the House held session electronically, with Speaker Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County) and the House Clerk in the actual chamber of the Capitol building. The Senate, just like on Tuesday, held its session at the Science Museum of Virginia.

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Virginia Senator Bill Stanley Disturbed by the Duplicity of the Special Session

Tuesday morning on The John Fredericks Show, host Fredericks welcomed Virginia state Senator Bill Stanley to the show to discuss the Virginia General Assembly’s special session and the destruction of downtown Richmond.

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