Bell’s public-safety bills pass committees

General Assembly Report by Rob Bell

rob-bell.jpgAs we near the midpoint of session, the committees are deciding which bills to endorse and send on to the entire House. Last week, three of my bills passed important hurdles.

No Bond After Conviction for Violent Felons
Earlier this year, a jury convicted a Culpeper defendant of abduction and malicious wounding. The jury recommended a sentence of five years. A date was set for the final sentencing by the judge, and the defendant was re-released on bond. He then went to Fairfax County, where he shot and killed an 80-year-old woman in a public park.

I believe that once he was convicted, the defendant should have been held without bond until sentencing. The Criminal Laws Subcommittee approved my new law to help ensure that violent criminals will not be released on bond while they await their final sentence.

Informing Parents of Mental Health Issues
One issue that arose after the Virginia Tech shooting was that parents are not able to review mental-health records of their children once they turn 18. This is because the student is a legal adult, and privacy laws typically protect such records.

Many parents told us they would like to be informed if their dependent child was having severe mental-health difficulties. Conversely, mental-health providers would like to ensure that students feel comfortable in voluntarily seeking mental-health care. The Higher Education Subcommittee approved a compromise that would maintain the general privacy of student mental-health records, yet allow a university to contact parents when a student is having so much mental-health difficulty that there is substantial likelihood that he would in the near future cause serious bodily harm to himself or others. This same standard is used for involuntary commitment, which means that parents would be called at roughly the same time health-care officials are notifying police.

  

Unlawful Filming Female Students
Last year, a criminal used a digital camera to take pictures up the skirts of female students at the University of Virginia. After his arrest and conviction, he promptly committed the same crime again. These digital pictures are easily shared on the Internet and can be posted on websites for anyone in the world to see. There are also concerns that anyone who repeatedly commits a crime like this may move on to even more serious offenses like abduction.

I believe we need stronger penalties for those who are repeat offenders for sexual offenses like this one. University of Virginia police detective Christopher Easton brought this issue to me and testified before the Criminal Laws Subcommittee about the problem. After his testimony, the subcommittee unanimously approved my new increased punishment bill.

  

If you are interested in these or any other bills, I can be reached at the General Assembly Building, Post Office Box 406, Richmond, VA 23218 – 804.698.1058 – delrbell@house.state.va.us.

    

Rob Bell represents the 58th House District in the Virginia General Assembly.


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