The Senate Judiciary Committee met on Wednesday afternoon to take up the bill from Delegate Jeff Bourne (D) that would eliminate the qualified immunity legal construct that blocks civilians from suing police officers.
For background, HB 5013 was killed twice in the House of Delegates, but also revived twice eventually going on to pass on the full floor sending the bill to the Senate. “Despite strong opposition and some shenanigans that went on, I’m here!” said Del. Bourne as he presented the bill to Committee.
The outlook for the bill in the Senate however was not optimistic for Democrats. The Democrats only hold a 21-19 majority in the chamber.
Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D) said he was confident that the qualified immunity bill will not be passed in the Senate. Another Democratic Senator on the Committee, Chap Peterson, stated that he opposes the bill due to no standard being listed for unreasonable force.
As the Committee moved to kill the bill, Senator Creigh Deeds (D) said he believes this is too broad of a bill that addresses more than just police brutality. Deeds added an amendment to the kill motion to form a special Committee to study this bill over the next few months.
Speaking against killing the bill, Senator Jennifer McClellan (R) eluded to a moment a few weeks ago where her neighbor called the police on McClellan’s father who was at her house watering her flowers.
Senator Louise Lucas (D), speaking on the Committee floor said this bill is not to protect just black kids because “some of us” are afraid of police as well. Lucas said that black and brown people will continue to die on the streets if this bill is punted to a future session.
The democratic-majority on the Judiciary Committee still moved forward and voted 12-3 to kill the qualified immunity bill and send it to a special Committee in the future.
“We are outraged that HB 5013 was killed on a 12-3 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee today, without an opportunity for public input,” said the ACLU of Virginia. “It’s unfair for lawmakers to delay creating a path for Virginians harmed by police violence to have their day in court.”
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