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Northam announces actions on special session COVID-19, police reform bills

virginia state capitol
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Gov. Ralph Northam has signed 16 new laws coming out of the ongoing special session, and proposed changes to five bills that will support the Commonwealth’s ongoing COVID-19 response and advance criminal justice reform.

“I am proud to sign new laws that strengthen our COVID-19 response efforts and make our criminal system more equitable,” Northam said in a statement. “I am grateful to legislators for their hard work this session, and look forward to signing more critically important legislation in the coming days.”

COVID-19 response and recovery efforts

  • House Bill 5041 (Del. Head) and Senate Bill 5042 (Sen. Kiggans) require the Board of Health to establish protocols related to safe nursing home, hospice, and nursing facility visits.
  • House Bill 5048 (Del. Sickles) and Senate Bill 5090 (Sen. Dunnavant) provide additional clarity to the Virginia Department of Health regarding publication of disease outbreak data.
  • House Bill 5093 (Del. Watts) and Senate Bill 5117 (Sen. Deeds) allow a $500 civil penalty for violations of a Governor’s Executive Order, instead of the Class 1 misdemeanor currently dictated by Virginia Code.
  • House Bill 5047 (Del. Murphy) strengthens Virginia’s anti-price gouging laws during declared states of emergency.
  • Senate Bill 5039 (Sen.Marsden) establishes a formal program for the purchase and distribution of personal protective equipment during a public health threat.
  • House Bill 5087 (Del. Tran) extends the date by which the Virginia Employment Commission is required to establish and implement a short-time compensation program and removes the program’s sunset clause.
  • Senate Bill 5083 (Sen. McClellan) requires Virginia school boards to publicly post their plans and strategies for mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
  • Senate Bill 5017 (Sen. Boysko) grants the Commonwealth the ability to establish and enforce health standards at local correctional facilities used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or other federal agencies.

Police reform

  • House Bill 5098 (Del. Askew) increases the penalty for falsely summoning or giving false reports to law enforcement officers due to an individual’s race, religious conviction, gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, color, or national origin.
  • House Bill 5072 (Del. Lopez) and Senate Bill 5024 (Sen. Lucas) allow the Attorney General to open investigations related to a suspected “pattern or practice” of misconduct among law enforcement officers.
  • House Bill 5062 (Del. Mullin) and Senate Bill 5033 (Sen. Surovell) restore the practice of requiring judges to dismiss charges when both parties (prosecution and defense) agree.

Northam proposed changes to the following bills

  • House Bill 5046 (Del. D. Adams) and Senate Bill 5080 (Sen. Barker) expand Medicaid coverage of telemedicine care. Northam added an emergency clause to make this legislation effective immediately upon passage.
  • House Bill 5115 (Del. Price) expands eviction protections for Virginians who experienced a loss of wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Northam added an emergency clause to make this legislation effective immediately upon passage.
  • House Bill 5058 (Del. Hope) and Senate Bill 5029 (Sen. Lucas) prohibit law enforcement from initiating traffic stops in certain instances. Northam amended this legislation to ensure law enforcement can initiate a traffic stop when an individual is driving at night without the use of both headlights and/or without the use of both break lights.

A full list of legislation signed by the governor from the Special Session can be found here.