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VA House Democrats Celebrate Special Session Priorities Signed Into Law

"Democratic Majority advances COVID-19 relief, criminal justice & police reform"

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From the Virginia House Democratic Caucus:

House Democrats Celebrate Special Session Priorities Signed Into Law

Democratic Majority advances COVID-19 relief, criminal justice & police reform

RICHMOND, VA—With Governor Ralph Northam’s approval of the revised biennial budget and House Bill 5049 yesterday, the Virginia House Democratic Caucus finishes the 2020 Special Session with 30 bills becoming law in the Commonwealth. 

“We entered the Special Session with Virginians counting on us during difficult financial times to pass a balanced budget that addresses the most pressing challenges caused by this pandemic. Working together, we have now passed into law a fiscally responsible budget and legislation that provides relief for Virginians, especially those struggling to get by,” said Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn. “I thank Governor Northam for signing the budget and these bills, as well as for working with the legislature to prioritize the health and safety of Virginians, strengthen our economy and maintain an education system that is among the best in the nation.”

The new laws cover the House Democrats’ agenda which was laid out before the Special Session, prioritizing support for Virginians during the COVID-19 pandemic and making the Commonwealth more equitable, with a focus on police and criminal justice reform. Specific pieces of legislation included limiting law enforcement’s use of no-knock warrants and neck restraints, providing additional housing security for families negatively impacted by the pandemic, prohibiting price gouging during a state of emergency, creating a statewide Marcus Alert system, and codifying Juneteenth as an official holiday in the Commonwealth. 

“House Democrats saw the Special Session as an opportunity to make substantial changes on the most urgent issues affecting Virginians this year,” said House Democratic Majority Leader Charniele Herring, the patron for HB 5055 which allows localities with police forces to establish civilian review boards and set their CRB’s policies and procedures. “The House Democratic majority promised to stand up for the most vulnerable in our society and listen to pleas that have been ignored for far too long. I am inspired by our measures introduced during Special Session, which continue to make Virginia a better place to live, work, and raise a family — even in our ever changing world in 2020.”

On Wednesday, Governor Ralph Northam signed HB 5005, the revised FY2021-2022 budget, which takes into account the $2.8 billion revenue shortfall caused by the COVID-19-driven economic shock. The updated budget addresses reinvestment in early childhood education, provides advancements in telehealth, and sets aside $85 million from the General Fund for broadband infrastructure projects in response to Virginians’ need for Internet access due to COVID-19. The budget now includes funding for an independent third-party investigation of the Virginia Military Institute, called after The Washington Post reported on the institution’s continued atmosphere of “relentless racism.”

These Special Session accomplishments built on the historic legislative achievements made by the new Democratic majority in the House of Delegates. During the 2020 Regular Session, House Democrats brought sweeping progressive change to the Commonwealth by passing common-sense gun safety measures, advancing women’s reproductive freedom, expanding voting rights, combatting racial inequities, setting progressive environmental standards and priorities, providing new protections for the LGBTQ+ community, enhancing rights for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and repealing racially discriminatory Acts of Assembly. Under Democratic leadership in both chambers of the General Assembly, Virginia completed the ratification process for the Equal Rights Amendment in January, affirming gender equality in the United States Constitution. 

“The progress we made during the Special Session was made possible by the 2.9 million voters in the Commonwealth who were fed up with the status quo last year,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Rip Sullivan. “Our laws are beginning to better reflect the world we live in, addressing the hardships and obstacles facing Virginians today. These successes show us the ballot box’s power to shape our communities for generations to come.”

Here is a summary of the House Democrats’ non-budget bills from the 2020 Special Legislative Session. Unless otherwise noted, new laws become effective on March 1, 2021:

COVID-19 Relief

  • HB 5046 (Adams) Advances innovations in telehealth. (effective November 9, 2020) 
  • HB 5047 (Murphy) Prohibits manufacturers or distributors from selling necessary goods or services at an unconscionable price during a declared state of emergency.
  • HB 5048 (Sickles) Mandates transparency requirements for congregate-care facilities during a public health emergency. (effective October 21, 2020)
  • HB 5059 (Willett) Provides certain liability protection for assisted living facilities in relation to COVID-19. (effective October 13, 2020)
  • HB 5050 (Helmer) Authorizes the Governor, during a declared state of emergency due to a communicable disease of public health threat, to purchase and distribute PPE to private, nongovernmental entities.
  • HB 5064 (Price) Provides rent payment plan opportunities for tenants negatively impacted by COVID-19. (effective November 9, 2020) 
  • HB 5068 (Ayala) Prohibits garnishment of stimulus relief checks. (effective October 28, 2020)
  • HB 5087 (Tran) Removes the sunset clause on Virginia’s short-term compensation program (work-sharing) to facilitate eligibility for CARES Act funds. (effective October 21, 2020)
  • HB 5093 (Watts) Grants flexibility in enforcing executive orders through civil penalty. Under current law, the only penalty for such a violation is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
  • HB 5106 (Cole) Protects prospective tenants whose credit is negatively impacted by COVID-19. 
  • HB 5113 (Roem) Ensures local school board participation in the federal Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) no-cost breakfast and lunch program.
  • HB 5115 (Price) Protects housing security for individuals and families negatively impacted by COVID-19. (effective November 9, 2020) 

Policing and Criminal Justice Reform

  • HB 5029 (McQuinn) Mandates the duty of one officer to intervene to stop use of excessive force by another officer.
  • HB 5043 (Bourne) Creates a statewide Marcus Alert system.
  • HB 5045 (Delaney) Bans sexual relations between officers and arrestees.
  • HB 5049 (Helmer) Prohibits the acquisition and use of certain weapons and military equipment by law enforcement agencies.
  • HB 5051 (Simon) Requires decertification of a law enforcement officer who is terminated or resigns for violation of law, serious misconduct in violation of statewide standards of conduct, or during an internal investigation.
  • HB 5055 (Herring) Strengthens laws related to Citizen Review Panels. (effective July 1, 2021)
  • HB 5058 (Hope) Eliminates certain vehicle equipment offenses or the odor of marijuana as pretexts for a stop or search by law enforcement. 
  • HB 5062 (Mullin) Codifies prosecutorial ability to dismiss charges.
  • HB 5069 (Carroll Foy) Bans the use of neck restraints by law enforcement except if immediately necessary to protect the officer or another person.
  • HB 5072 (Lopez) Empowers the Attorney General to conduct “pattern or practice” investigations of police forces that appear to be violating constitutional rights, including unlawful discrimination.
  • HB 5098 (Askew) Expands the definition of hate crimes to include false 911 calls or reports to law enforcement against another person made on the basis of race, religious conviction, gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, color, or national origin. 
  • HB 5099 (Aird) Prohibits no-knock search warrants.
  • HB 5104 (Price) Strengthens the assessments and review of prior law-enforcement employment records required before hiring law enforcement officers.
  • HB 5108 (Guzman) Diversifies the Department of Criminal Justice Services’ Committee on Training.
  • HB 5109 (Hope) Standardizes and enhances training by criminal justice academies and establishes required in-service training standards for law enforcement officers. 
  • HB 5148 (Scott) Increases earned sentence credits. (effective date July 1, 2022) 

Making Virginia a more Equitable Place

  • HB 5052 (Bagby) Codifies Juneteenth as an official holiday in the Commonwealth of Virginia.