Opinion: Editorial: Pay Attention, State Legislature Not Gridlocked

Thousands of bills considered over 45 days could have a big impact on your life, for better or for worse.

A week is already completed in the short (45-day) session of the Virginia General Assembly, and so many important things are in the works, in danger of happening or not happening, that no one can have a clear view of it all.

An example: The Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted for a bill 8-6 that would bar the execution of people with serious mental illnesses. Possibly you didn’t realize that it is legal to execute someone with serious mental illness, because it makes no sense. But this bill failed last year.

Another success for the moment: increasing the minimum wage to $15 over several years also cleared Senate committee.

Do you know who your Virginia delegate and senator are? Every resident of Virginia gets one of each. Enter your address here: https://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov/ to find out all of your representatives, plus contact information. Call and tell them, or leave a message, about what matters to you. Send an email. Connect to them on Facebook and watch for live Q&A sessions.

Here you can search legislation by bill number or keyword, find video and streaming: https://virginiageneralassembly.gov/

Last week’s editorial, a long legislative wish list, http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/news/2019/jan/08/opinion-editorial-wish-list-things-session-general/ still omitted many important actions, despite its length. One in particular made it into some editions and not others: To establish equal rights for LGBT Virginians, especially in housing and public employment.

Here are a few more important items:

The Virginia State Conference NAACP Criminal Justice Committee supports the passage of the following bills that are up for debate in this legislative session:

  • HB 1651 - Raises grand larceny limit from $500 to $750 (Del Hayes)

  • HB 1642 - Increases data collection on use of solitary confinement (Del Hope)

  • SB 1013 - Repeals suspension of drivers licences for not paying fines (Sen Stanley; Del Kory)

  • SB 1053 and HB 1745 - Makes juvenile offenders sentenced to life automatically eligible for parole after serving 25 years. (Sen Marsden; Del Lindsey)

  • HB 2616 - Raises the minimum age a child can be tried as an adult from 14 to 16 (Del Guzman) (And this is still far too low.)

  • SB 1551, HB 1685, HB 1873 and HB 1688 - Limits the scope of what School Resource Officers can get involved, prohibits students from being charged with disorderly conduct, and mandates data collection of use of force against students. (Sen Surovell, Del Schuyler T. VanValkenburg, Del Bourne; Del Mullin)

  • SB 997 - Decriminalizes simple marijuana possession. (Sen Ebbin)

  • SB 1008 - Bans mechanical devices designed to increase rate of bullets firing. (Sen Ebbin)

  • SB 1013 - Repeals the requirement that the driver's license of a person convicted of any violation of the law who fails or refuses to provide payment of fines be suspended. (Sen Stanley)

  • SB 1034 - Prohibits any person who is not a licensed firearms dealer from purchasing more than one handgun in a 30-day period. (Sen Locke)

  • HB 1991 - Labels violent hate groups as domestic terrorists (Del Price)

  • HB 2472 - Adds gender, disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation to the categories of victims whose intentional selection for a hate crime results in a higher criminal penalty for the offense. (Del. Kenneth R. Plum)

Contact House Courts of Justice members: Robert B. Bell (chairman), Leftwich (vice chair), Kilgore, Gilbert, L.R. Adams, J.L. Campbell, Collins, Miyares, Ransone, R.R. Campbell, Watts, Toscano, Herring, Hope, Mullin, Bourne, Simon, Carroll Foy.

Senate Courts of Justice members: Obenshain (chairman), Saslaw, Norment, Howell, Lucas, Edwards, McDougle, Stuart, Stanley, Reeves, Chafin, Deeds, Sturtevant, Petersen, and Peake.

Find contact information https://virginiageneralassembly.gov/

See our website www.ConnectionNewspapers.com for many stories from the General Assembly from the Capital News Service, written by journalism students from VCU.

— Mary Kimm

mkimm@connectionnewspapers.com

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