Legislative Priorities: Supporting Justice
Governor Northam is calling a Special Session of the Virginia General Assembly in order to adopt a revised budget in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and propose criminal justice and policing reforms.
The legislature will convene August 18, 2020, after the governor’s end-of-fiscal-year report to the General Assembly’s money committees. The Special Session may extend into early September.
Contact your state legislators and ask them to support legislation on matters important to you! Find contact information for your state Delegate and state Senator at whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov. You may also submit comments to .
The League of Women Voters of Virginia will evaluate bills legislators plan to file in the Special Session with League Positions from Study. See Impact on Issues and Positioned for Action for further details on League Positions. Tentative priorities are set forth below. It appears League Positions also support two bills proposed by the Virginia COVID-19 Justice Coalition, of which the League is a member.
Bills that will be filed in the Special Session by the state Senate majority are listed here. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus has listed priorities here. The state House of Delegates is convening hearings led jointly by its Public Safety and Courts of Justice Committees and reviewing public comments. As of this printing, two hearings can be viewed on archived video— here and here.
Currently, the League of Women Voters of Virginia expects to prioritize the following announced bills. As bills are filed in the coming weeks, priorities may be adjusted accordingly.
- Prohibit Hiring of Officers Fired or Resigned During Use of Force Investigations
- Ban Sex by Law Enforcement With Arrested Individuals
- Create a Decertification Procedure for Law Enforcement Officers
- Create Duty to Intervene by Fellow Law Enforcement Officers
- Require Departments to Create a Use of Force Continuum
- Require Comprehensive Reporting by Law Enforcement Agencies Including Use of Force Data
- Cancel HB599 Funding for Local Police With Disproportionate Use of Force Incidents
- Create Local Authority for a Marcus Alert System to Report Acute Mental Health Crises
- Create Local Option for Citizen Review Board to Investigate, Fire, Discipline Officers
- Enhance Courts’ Ability to Expunge Dismissed Charges, Substance Convictions & Pardoned Offenses
- Eliminate Commonwealth’s Right to Jury Trial When Jury Trials Suspended for Emergency
- Revise the System of Credits for Good Behavior by Those Incarcerated; see this bill from last session
- Discretion for Compassionate Release of Terminally Ill or Permanently Disabled Prisoners
- Sentence Reductions in Pandemics, With the Release of Vulnerable Populations.
In addition, the League continues to elevate longtime priorities such as opposing cash bail, supporting alternatives to incarceration, and attention to behavioral health. Mental health priorities include training about the nature and treatment of mental illness for justice system personnel involved in civil commitment in Virginia, support for mental health and drug courts to avoid inappropriate entry into the criminal justice system and provide needed treatment, and expansion of Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) programs.
In terms of Voting & Elections priorities for the Special Session, several are relevant to the budget, COVID-19, and Justice. In particular, the League supports measures to making voting more accessible to all populations. Topics include support for secure absentee ballot drop boxes, permitting first-time voters who registered by mail to return a copy of their ID with any first ballot they cast by mail, and provision of prepaid postage on return ballot envelopes sent to requesting absentee voters throughout the Commonwealth instead of only in certain areas.
Looking ahead to the Regular Session in Spring 2021, the League has developed the following draft priority list:
- Voting at Home
- Preclearance at the state level of practices restricted under the federal Voting Rights Act
- Redistricting process improvement via constitutional amendment and enabling legislation
- Election Integrity & Security: Replace VERIS with a system that produces a voter-verifiable paper trail and is secure, accurate, recountable, accessible and transparent.
- Campaign Finance Reform:
- Public financing of state office candidates
- Improved transparency
- An effective oversight and enforcement agency
- Limit contributions by individuals, corporations, and political parties. A summary of other states’ legislation on the latter is available here.
- Environmental Conservation:
- Money in politics— including elimination of the ability of energy providers to use captive ratepayers’ utility payments for political contributions
- Transportation: attention to renewable energy for transportation solutions
- Energy Economy: clear air & water; reduce detrimental energy policy impacts on ratepayers
- 100% Right to Vote constitutional amendment
A continuing priority is Education and Sexual Harassment Training in the Workplace. The Elections and Affordable Housing Studies are continuing and we look forward to the results of those workgroups.