RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed a pause on evictions in the state until the end of April 2021 and several other priorities for state legislators to consider during the upcoming special session.
Earlier this month, the state’s highest court granted Northam’s request for a statewide eviction moratorium through Sept. 7. On Friday, one day after Virginia House Democrats shared their legislative agenda, Northam unveiled his own for next week’s Virginia General Assembly special session.
“Virginians are hurting, and the Commonwealth is stepping up,” Northam said in a statement. “Our country is battling both a health crisis and an economic crisis at once, so Virginia is advancing new programs to help people stay in their homes, care for the ones they love, and feel safe in the community.”
State lawmakers will reconvene on Tuesday at VCU’s Siegel Center, a move made to ensure physical distancing, to adjust the state’s budget in the wake of the economic fallout brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The governor, who will officially announce his priorities on the first day of the session, has also called on legislation for police reform and advancing equity in the state.
The governor’s office provided a list of priorities that Northam’s administration hopes will be approved during the special session, including finding ways to provide safe and affordable housing, access to broadband, funding Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the state and reforming Virginia’s criminal justice system and policing.
Northam’s priorities include measures to:
- Expand the criteria for which a law enforcement officer can be decertified, to include officers who are terminated due to law or policy violations or resign during an ongoing investigation;
- Empower Virginia’s Criminal Justice Services Board to initiate decertification proceedings when de-certifiable conduct is brought to the Board’s attention, regardless of written notice from a local law enforcement department;
- Require law enforcement officers to intervene when they see a colleague engaging in or attempting to engage in unlawful use of force;
- Standardize law-enforcement training across Virginia through development of statewide minimum training standards, curriculum, and lesson plans, to include use of force tactics;
- Mandate information-sharing between hiring agencies and previous employers and strengthen the vetting process of newly-hired officers;
- Create best practices for Civilian Review Panels and empower localities to establish review panels;
- Diversify the Criminal Justice Services Board’s Committee on Training to include representatives from civil rights and community organizations, and require opportunities for public input into the development of training standards.
“This starts with sound fiscal management and smart investments in our future,” the governor said Friday. “Careful planning has kept us from having to gut critical services or lay off state workers, like other states have done. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly to advance long overdue police reform and pass record investments in affordable housing and broadband, so we can continue to support Virginians during this unprecedented time.”