RICHMOND, VA—Today, the Virginia House Democratic Caucus revealed its list of legislative priorities ahead of the 2020 Special Session, which builds upon Democrats’ historic achievements during this year’s regular session.
In this Special Session, House Democrats will take action to reassess and revise the biennial budget, prioritizing support for Virginia’s students, workers and healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic. House Democrats will also pass legislation to enact long overdue criminal justice and police reforms.
“The House Democratic Caucus has laid out a bold plan this Special Session to support the Commonwealth’s students, teachers, workers and health care system as we recover from COVID-19,” Virginia Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn said. “We will also pass long overdue legislation to reform our police and criminal justice systems. We look forward to a safe, efficient, and impactful Special Session.”
In the budget, House Democrats will prioritize funding for broadband access to support K-12 remote learning for all students, investment in higher education, advancements in telehealth, support for a safe and secure general election, and extended housing protections for Virginia residents during the pandemic. The updated budget will also take into account additional funding for criminal justice and police reform measures that are passed during the special session.
The introduction of police and criminal justice reforms comes after the House Courts of Justice and Public Safety Committees held three joint hearings in July and August to prepare legislation and hear from subject matter experts. The widely-viewed hearings also allowed for unprecedented live, remote public participation and input.
“We must act now to ensure that Virginia continues to become a better place for everyone to live, work, and raise a family,” Virginia House Majority Leader Charniele Herring said. “Our mission to move the Commonwealth forward requires us to tackle racial inequities. Reforming systems that perpetuate those inequities, including police procedures and many aspects of criminal justice, is a top priority for House Democrats.”
In addition to their budget priorities, House Democrats will be introducing legislation on the following items in the Special Session:
- Requiring businesses to grant paid sick leave for Virginia workers.
- Prohibiting garnishments of stimulus relief checks. (Office of Attorney General bill)
- Establishing a presumption of workers’ compensation for first responders, teachers and other high-risk essential workers.
- Providing immunity from civil claims related to COVID-19 for complying with health guidance.
- Combating price gouging for Personal Protective Equipment. (Office of Attorney General bill)
- Protecting Virginians from eviction during a public health emergency.
- Creating a Commonwealth Marketplace for PPE Acquisition.
- Mandating transparency requirements for congregate-care facilities during a public health emergency.
Criminal Justice and Police Reform:
- Reforming Virginia’s laws related to expungement of police and court records.
- Increasing good behavior sentence credits.
- Strengthening prosecutorial ability to dismiss charges.
- Eliminating qualified immunity for law enforcement officers.
- Prohibiting no-knock warrants.
- Banning the use of chokeholds and other lethal restraints used by law enforcement.
- Creating a statewide Marcus Alert system.
- Strengthening laws related to Citizen Review Panels.
- Eliminating certain pretextual police stops.
- Demilitarizing police departments by prohibiting the acquisition and use of certain weapons by law enforcement agencies.
- Banning sexual relations between officers and arrestees.
- Empowering the Attorney General to conduct “pattern or practice” investigations of police forces that appear to be violating constitutional rights, including unlawful discrimination. (Office of Attorney General bill)
- Expanding the definition of hate crimes to include false 911 calls made on the basis of race.
- Standardizing and enhancing training for all police academies.
- Mandating the duty of one officer to report and intervene during the misconduct of another officer.
- Requiring decertification of law enforcement officers who fail to properly perform their duties.
- Strengthening the assessments and vetting required before hiring law enforcement officers.
- Diversify the Department of Criminal Justice Services’ Committee on Training.
Making Virginia More Equitable:
- Codifying Juneteenth as an official holiday of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
- Allowing localities or local governments and communities greater latitude in the process of removing Confederate statues and other war monuments.