See below for statements from Virginia House and Senate Democrats on the successful conclusion of the 2020 Special Session.
SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADERS RELEASE STATEMENT ON THE ADJOURNMENT OF THE 2020 SPECIAL SESSION
RICHMOND – Today, Senate Majority Leader, Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and Senate Democratic Caucus Chair, Mamie E. Locke (D-Hampton) released the following statement on the adjournment of the 2020 Special Session:
“The COVID -19 health pandemic forced us to live in a new world of social distancing and stay at home orders that left many Virginians struggling to make ends meet. In addition to fighting the health pandemic, we also sought to fight racial injustice in the wake of the murders of Breona Taylor, Ahmaud Arberry, and George Floyd. During the Special Session, Senate Democrats returned to Richmond to find legislative solutions to help Virginians navigate through these tough times and to improve police practices in the Commonwealth. Senate Democrats are proud that we voted to pass a budget that prioritizes Virginians, and we advanced groundbreaking criminal justice and policing reform legislation. We now look ahead to the 2021 legislative session to continue the work of making Virginia a commonwealth that is more fair and equitable for all.”
House Democrats Approve Amendments to Special Session Legislation
The Governor sent recommendations to the budget, COVID-19 relief, & police reform bills
RICHMOND, VA—Today, the House of Delegates adopted recommendations sent by Governor Ralph Northam on eight of their Special Session bills: the updated budget, several COVID-19 support measures, and long-overdue reforms to Virginia’s law enforcement and criminal justice systems. The House rejected amendments to a ninth bill, HB 5049.
“We appreciate that the Governor shares our goal of making the Commonwealth a better place to live, work and raise a family for all Virginians,” said House Majority Leader Charniele Herring. “As we try to navigate these unprecedented times, it is inspiring to see how much progress we can make when we work together to make our streets safer and provide support during the pandemic. We spent the Special Session carefully considering the best options to improve the lives of constituents on the most urgent issues, and I am proud of the steps we have taken.”
Amendments to the budget, HB 5005, include allocation of up to $1 million to fund a third-party investigation of the Virginia Military Institute after The Washington Post reported on the school’s “atmosphere of hostility and cultural insensitivity” and cadets’ experiences of “relentless racism.” Another budget amendment outlines requirements and guidelines for the composition of the Virginia Redistricting Commission, as well as processes for the Commission, the General Assembly, and (if necessary) the Virginia Supreme Court to fulfill their respective roles under the redistricting amendment recently added to the Virginia Constitution.
A clarifying amendment to HB 5058, ensures that while a single broken headlight or brake light cannot form the basis for a traffic stop, law enforcement has the authority to stop drivers for failing to turn on both headlights (or both brake lights) as required by law. This amendment was made at the request of the bill patron, Delegate Patrick Hope.
“The House Democratic Caucus’ promise to move the Commonwealth forward propelled us into the majority last year,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Rip Sullivan. “That promise was our guiding star during Regular Session and is embodied in every piece of Special Session legislation. I am proud of the dedication and commitment shown by our Caucus, including those members who carried Special Session bills, in producing meaningful and effective legislation to address the most pressing issues facing Virginians today.”
The General Assembly passed the House Democrats’ priorities by October 16, and the Governor has signed 21 bills patroned by Democratic delegates into law, including eight House police reform measures. Today’s floor session to act on bills with Governor’s recommendations marks the end of the 2020 Special Legislative Session.
Here is a summary of the amendments to the House Democrats’ legislation, which were adopted by the House today:
- Amendment 1: Calls for an update to COVID-19 Phase 3 or later guidelines for personal care or personal grooming to allow for temporary mask removal for customers receiving aesthetic services.
- Amendment 3: Amends language on priority for COVID testing.
- Amendment 5: Authorizes and funds an independent investigation at the Virginia Military Institute.
- Amendment 7: Removes appropriated funding for Accomack Regional Airport Hangar project.
- Amendment 8: Removes appropriated funding for Virginia Beach Access Improvement project.
- Amendment 9: Authorizes two DMV office relocations.
- Amendment 10: Includes enabling language for the newly-established Virginia Redistricting Commission and guidance for the Commission, the General Assembly, and (if necessary) the Virginia Supreme Court in the redistricting process as added to the Virginia Constitution by Amendment 1.
- HB 5046 (Adams) Advancing innovations in telehealth. The Governor added an emergency clause.
- HB 5064 (Price) Providing rent payment plan opportunities for tenants negatively impacted by COVID-19. The Governor added an emergency clause and conformed certain bill language to match language in the budget.
- HB 5106 (Cole) Protecting prospective tenants whose credit is negatively impacted by COVID-19. The Governor added a clarifying amendment that cross-references relevant federal law.
- HB 5115 (Price) Protecting housing security for individuals and families negatively impacted by COVID-19. The Governor added an emergency clause.
Police and Criminal Justice Reforms
- HB 5058 (Hope) Eliminating certain vehicle equipment offenses or the odor of marijuana as pretexts for a stop or search by law enforcement. The Governor’s amendment clarified that law enforcement may stop drivers if no headlights or brake lights are in use as required by law.
- HB 5109 (Hope) Standardizing and enhancing training by criminal justice academies and establishing required in-service training standards for law enforcement officers. The Governor’s amendments adjusted a language difference between the House and Senate bills, and authorized (but no longer mandate) law enforcement and corrections agencies to require psychological examinations for new hires.
- HB 5148 (Scott) Increasing earned sentence credits. The Governor’s amendments removed one incorrectly-included section of the Code of Virginia and extended the effective date to June 1, 2023.