House Republican Leaders Highlight Priorities in Advance of Special Session

House Republican Leaders Highlight Priorities in Advance of Special Session
Speaking at a virtual press conference earlier today, House Republican Leaders announced their priorities for tomorrow’s Special Session of the General Assembly.  Find highlights of speakers’ remarks below, along with a broad overview of the topics and legislation Republicans will champion during the session.

Republicans have yet to be told when or even if there is a filing deadline for legislation, or if there will be a limit placed on the number of bills that can be filed. The House convenes tomorrow at 1 p.m. in the Siegel Center at Virginia Commonwealth University.

House Republican Leader C. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah:

“It’s evident from social media and what we see in the press that Democrats are going to push a number of items that will make it tougher for public safety professionals to do their job, create less safe communities, and add additional burdens to small businesses on top of what they did during the regular session.

“While there are a few items that will garner bipartisan support — such as working to remove bad cops — we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that a lot of what we’ve seen proposed are going to have a negative impact on Virginia. Threats to defund police, making it easier to assault public safety professionals, releasing violent felons early, and adding more burdens to already struggling businesses are non-starters with our caucus.

“On top of that, Democrats don’t seem to care too much about what happens to students across Virginia who’ve been locked out of the classroom this fall. Republicans will work to change that. Our students must come first.”

House GOP Caucus Chair Kathy Byron, R-Bedford:

“We’re not hearing anything from them on how we are going to balance our budget and pay our bills with taxpayers’ money — when taxpayers are out of work. We’re also hearing nothing about protecting our senior citizens or helping businesses boost the economy. Republicans have plans to deal with all of these issues. In short, Republicans have plans to lead. Democrats don’t.”

Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle:

“We need to give good public safety professionals the tools and the training they need to keep Virginians safe. There’s been a lot of talk about ‘defunding the police’ and without using that slogan, Democrats have proposals that will do just that. The rhetoric we’re seeing generalizing all public safety professionals for the actions of a few is troubling.

“We’re in agreement with law enforcement professionals that we need to make it easier for departments to remove bad cops. We also need to make sure that those who are fired or resign from one department for bad actions aren’t able to relocate to neighboring jurisdictions. Additionally, if criminal activity is committed by an officer, it should be prosecuted as such.

“Lastly, we have heard of numerous proposals that would allow for the early release of violent offenders. The recent scandal at the Parole Board shows what happens when the justice system pushes away those who speak for crime victims. Virginia has the 4th lowest violent crime rate in the country, and we support truth-in-sentencing as a way to protect Virginians from these offenses.”

Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights:
“Education must be a focus of this special session. We’ve really seen a lack of leadership from Governor Northam, and Democrats, in trying to get our students back in the classroom. Schools have been shuttered and parents are scrambling to find creative ways to educate their children. One alternative that’s popped up is “education pods” where parents are banding together to hire tutors/teachers to come in and teach during this unprecedented time.

 

“We’re looking at using CARES Act money to create the Reimbursement for Educational Alternative Decisions (READ) Fund. This would allow localities to create a program to provide reimbursements to parents to help them pay for alternative education options during this pandemic. 

 

“If established by a locality, the program would provide a 50% match to localities who establish such programs.This doesn’t use existing education dollars, but instead CARES Act funds. The money could be used for a number of things, such as equipment, tutoring, ‘pods,’ etc.”

 

Background

Republicans will file a number of bills in the coming hours and days, including the following legislative concepts:

Education

  • A budget amendment setting aside $100 million to reimburse and incentivize local governments to help parents find education alternatives for students who can’t receive in-person education.
  • Multiple bills that will allow parents of students in schools who don’t provide in-person education to to find education alternatives.

Executive Authority

  • Several bills and a Constitutional amendment that limit the duration of a Governor’s emergency powers and require the involvement of the General Assembly after that time elapses.

Law Enforcement/ Criminal Justice Reform

  • Bills that will make it easier to decertify the few “bad apples” in our law enforcement community.
  • Improved data collection regarding arrests.
  • Legislation creating a “duty to intervene” when officers see a colleague abuse a suspect.
  • Legislation expanding the use of body cameras.
  • Legislation tightening hiring standards for new officers.
  • Significant changes to how we respond to mental health crises.
  • Legislation removing discipline issues from collective bargaining powers.
  • Legislation requiring the creation of training standards for de-escalation.
  • Increasing penalties for blocking use of streets.
  • Increasing penalties for the use of dangerous weapons during a riot.
  • Increasing penalties for blocking emergency medical workers performing their duties.
  • Increasing penalties for crossing police barricades, perimeters or barricades.

COVID-19

  • Legislation asking the Office of State Inspector General to investigate the Administration’s response to COVID-19 in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
  • Legal protections for businesses that need the ever-changing safety guidelines set down by the CDC, but not the set in stone regulations introduced by Department of Labor and Industry.
  • Legislation securing the rights of family members to be with loved ones in end of life situations, i.e. a “No One Should Die Alone” bill.

Parole Board

  • Legislation removing sovereign immunity from members of the Parole Board for their decisions.
  • Expansion of the Freedom of Information Act to cover Parole Board vote.