by Brandon Jarvis

The General Assembly’s legislative session begins on January 13th and legislators from across the Commonwealth have filed bills that they hope to pass. Republicans have already vowed to limit the session to just 30-days by not agreeing to vote to extend it, but that has not stopped them from filing several bills ahead of the short session.


Criminal Justice

Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) has filed a bill that will create a special fund called the “Body-Worn Camera System Fund.” The purpose would be to assist state or local law enforcement agencies with the costs of purchasing, operating, and maintaining body-worn camera systems.

Senator Reeves also filed a bill that would limit the immunity of legislators while they are in session.

Delegate John McGuire (R-Goochland) has filed a bill that would specify who a victim is when the notification is taking place ahead of an individual being granted parole. The bill provides that the term “victim” includes a spouse, parent, sibling, or legal guardian of a person who was the victim of a homicide.

McGuire also filed a bill that would require that the monthly report issued by the Virginia Parole Board regarding actions taken on the parole of prisoners includes the offenses of which prisoners considered for parole were convicted, the jurisdictions in which such offenses were committed, and the age ranges of the victims.

Delegate Ronnie Campbell (R-Rockbridge) filed a bill that would allow a personal appearance that is required or permitted at or after a trial before a judge to be made using two-way electronic video and audio communication if the defendant voluntarily waived their right to be present at trial.

Senator David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke) is trying again to pass a bill that failed during the special session this summer. It would require that individual votes of the members of the Virginia Parole Board become public records and subject to the provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) filed a bill that would require the Department of Corrections to wait 21 business days after the date of notification by the Virginia Parole Board to the appropriate attorney for the Commonwealth of the decision to grant parole. The bill would require that the monthly reports issued by the Board regarding actions taken on the parole of prisoners be published on the last day of the month and include the offenses of which prisoners considered for parole were convicted, the jurisdictions in which such offenses were committed, and the amount of time served by such prisoners.

Marijuana

Senator Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg) has filed a bill that would increase the maximum level of THC allowed to exist in industrial hemp to 1%. The bill would also expand the definition of “hemp product” to include raw materials of any part of the plant Cannabis sativa and omits from such definition the requirement that the product be otherwise lawful.

Pandemic

Senator Peake also filed a bill giving parents the power to object to a mandatory vaccine for their children. The bill would allow a parent or guardian to object to the vaccination or immunization of a child on the grounds that the administration of immunizing agents conflicts with their religious tenets or practices, even if an emergency or epidemic of disease has been declared by the State Board of Health, which is not allowed under current law.

Guns

Delegate McGuire filed a bill that would waive sovereign immunity for the Commonwealth or any locality in the case that an individual is injured in a gun-free zone.

Money

Senator Reeves also filed a bill that would allow localities to carry over unspent funds for multiyear capital projects and outstanding grants without having to reappropriate the funds.

Delegate Tony Wilt (R-Harrisonburg) filed a bill that will provide a tax credit to individuals that implement certain agricultural best management practices by the taxpayer that are required as part of a certified resource management plan. The Virginia Resource Management Planning program provides a voluntary way to promote the use of conservation practices that improve farming operations and water quality. The bill retains a tax credit for 25 percent of expenses made for all other agricultural best management practices that are not eligible for the enhanced credit rate, but increases the maximum amount of expenses to which one can apply the 25 percent credit from $70,000 to $100,000. 

Senator Bill Stanley (R-Franklin County) filed a bill that would provide for a statewide referendum on the question of whether the General Assembly can issue state general obligation bonds in the amount of $3 billion for the purpose of K-12 school building construction, repair, or other capital projects related to the modernization of school facilities. The results would be advisory only and are intended only to demonstrate the preference of the citizens of the Commonwealth on the issuance of such bonds. The bill provides that the referendum be held at the November 2021 general election.

Senator Stanley also filed a bill that would create the Public School Assistance Fund and Program. The program would be administered by the Department of Education, for the purpose of providing grants to school boards to be used solely for the purpose of repairing or replacing the roofs of public elementary and secondary school buildings in the local school division. The bill permits any school board in the Commonwealth to apply for Program grants but requires the Department of Education to give priority in the award of grants to school boards that demonstrate the greatest need based on the condition of existing school building roofs and the ability to pay for the repair or replacement of such roofs.

Voting

Senator Peake filed a bill that would require the general registrars to verify that the name, date of birth, and social security number provided by an applicant on the voter registration application match the information on file in the Social Security Administration database or other database approved by the State Board of Elections before registering such applicant to become an eligible voter. If this bill becomes law, applicants would be notified if their information does not match and of the steps that they would need to take to fix the issue. The bill also requires the general registrars to verify annually no later than August 1 that the name, date of birth, and social security number in the registration record of each registered voter in the registrar’s jurisdiction match the information on file with the Social Security Administration or other database approved by the State Board and, in accordance with current law, to initiate the cancellation of the registration of any voter whose registration record information does not match the database information.

Delegate Campbell also introduced a bill that would require the State Registrar of Vital Records to transmit to the Department of Elections a weekly list of voters that passed away the previous week. The current requirement is that the list be transmitted monthly.

Delegate Mark Cole (R-Spotsylvania) introduced a bill that would require a live video recording to take place while absentee votes are being cast, counted, and returned. The general registrars would be required to ensure the video coverage is recorded and retained until the deadline to request a recount has passed

The legislative session begins on January 13th.


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