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. 

 

Regular Session

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.

 

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New Voting & Elections Laws took effect July 1, 2020

No Excuse Absentee Voting, HB 1 (Herring), HB 207 (VanValkenburg), SB 11 (Howell)

  • Allows any voter qualified to vote in an election to vote absentee without an excuse.

Redistricting Constitutional Amendment, SJ18 (Barker), and Criteria Bill, SB717 (McClellan) / HB1255 (Price)

  • Virginia’s election maps are gerrymandered. Virginia’s Constitution allows legislators to draw boundaries that ensure they are reelected.  Legislators are able to use detailed voter data in selecting their own constituents. Last year, after extensive negotiation, Virginia’s legislature passed a constitutional amendment for a redistricting commission of 8 legislators and 8 citizens, with a citizen chair. Virginia’s legislature passed the constitutional amendment the requisite second time this session, along with criteria legislation from Senator Jennifer McClellan and Delegate Cia Price. The Senate vote was 38 – 2, and the House vote was 46 – 43. The General Assembly also passed a ballot referendum which will put the matter before voters in the November general election.

Expand Accepted IDs; Eliminating Photo ID Requirement HB19 (Lindsey), HB213 (Sullivan), SB65 (Locke)

  • HB19 and SB65 eliminate, for most qualified voters, the requirement to provide photo identification at the polls
  • HB213 adds to the list of acceptable forms of voter ID a valid student photo ID card issued by any institution of higher education in any other state or territory of the United States

Repealing Race Based Restrictions on Voting, HB1086 (Price), SB555 (Spruill)

  • Repeals laws that were still on the books relating to voting restrictions, poll taxes, and registration records separated on the basis of race

Automatic Voter Registration, HB235 (J. Cole), SB219 (Marsden)

  • Gives visitors to the Department of Motor Vehicles the choice to opt out of registering to vote instead of an opt in to filling out a voter registration application.

Election Day Holiday, HB108 (Lindsey), SB610 (Lucas)

  • Designates Election Day, the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, as a state holiday and removes Lee-Jackson Day as a state holiday.

High School Voter Registration, HB1491 (Guy)

  • Requires every public high school to give students, who are eligible to register to vote, access to registration information and applications, or access to the online registration system, and the opportunity to apply during the school day.

 

Same Day Registration & Voting, HB201 (Ayala), delayed effective date of July 1, 2022.

  • Will let qualified voters register and vote on the same day if they provide proof of residency. 
  •  
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LWV-VA Legislative Priorities for Advocacy/Action for 2020 Session

This report is from the LWV-VA Legislative Team: Carol Noggle, Mary Crutchfield, Julia Tanner, Carolyn Caywood

Planning for and predicting what will be the most vital issues for advocacy in an upcoming legislative session is very difficult. Historically, the LWV-VA Board proposes a set of priorities but those have often been adjusted and expanded when issues arise quickly and need significant advocacy and lobbying. Thus, this list is offered as a start to preparation for the 2020 General Assembly Session. Some items are more specific than others. We have a book full of LWV-VA Positions to apply to issues but more specific language for advocacy and lobbying on actual legislative proposals will need to be developed in order to be effective. We welcome your analysis and suggestions.

  • Voting Rights
    • Support 100%right to vote [Constitutional Amendment for 2021-22]
    • Assure continuation of Governors executive clemency authority to restore felonsrights
    • Election & Voter Protection

Support funding and measures for integrity and security; State and Local level

Support funding & measures for a perfect fail-proof process for online voter registration

Support measures for proper counting of and on-time receipt of mailed in absentee ballots

Increase eligible/valid photo IDs, e.g.out of state students

  • Redistricting: Support Constitutional Amendment resolution passage in 2020

  • Gun Violence Prevention/ Safety:

Support universal background checks

Support strengthening Extreme Risk Protective Orders

Support Child Access Prevention laws

[See 2019 Special Session1 list of over 40 bills to analyze for support or opposition]

  • Women’s Rights

Support ratification of the ERA

Support equal pay; [Oppose wage discrimination]

Support right to reproductive choice [ See SB1637 by Sen Boysko for sample]

  • Sexual Harassment – Support required in-person training at workplace [State/ private?]

  • Education

Support funding for school infrastructure

Oppose public funding for private schools

Oppose discriminatory and deleterious practices for discipline/behavior issues

[Apply LWV-VA Education position on Standards for School Climate” “Classrooms not Courtrooms]

  • Justice and Juvenile Justice

Oppose discrimination [support rights] re LGBTQ community and many other special groups

Eliminate cash bail; support measures to reduce confinement while awaiting trial

Collect data on present use of bail

Oppose additional mandatory minimum sentences

Oppose discriminatory and deleterious practices for juvenile issues

  • Immigration: Support immigrant protection and resources for support

  • Census: Support funding, outreach, education & personnel to ensure high participation

  • Environment: See LWV-VA Positions to support or oppose germane issues

*Note These LWV-VA legislative priorities as of Sept.13, 2019 are not ranked and are subject to change

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