RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed three new laws, sent 10 amendments to the state’s biennial budget to the General Assembly, and proposed changes to another bill.
These actions are Northam’s final moves on legislation resulting from the General Assembly’s special session, which began Aug. 18 and focused on the budget; measures to advance equity, reform policing; and the safety, health, and welfare of Virginians during the coronavirus pandemic.
The biennial budget was revised to mitigate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Budget amendments also include language that allows the state to begin redistricting reform in the state constitution, which was passed by voters Tuesday.
Northam also proposed an additional $1 million for an independent investigation into the culture at the Virginia Military Institute.
“In August, I called legislators back into session to tackle some of our Commonwealth’s most pressing challenges,” said Northam in a prepared statement. “This revised state budget will do tremendous good as we battle COVID-19 and work together to continue building a stronger, fairer Virginia. I am proud of the meaningful progress we made to enhance police accountability, advance criminal justice reform, invest in our economic recovery, and provide critical relief to Virginians amid the ongoing public health crisis. I thank the General Assembly for their ongoing partnership in delivering for the people of our Commonwealth.”
Here are details on the bills Northam signed into law and a proposed amendment to another:
- Senate Bill 5038 and House Bill 5043 establish a statewide mental health awareness response and community understanding services (Marcus) alert system. This measure promotes a “behavioral health response” for those in crisis, and limits the role of law enforcement. The Marcus Alert is named after Marcus-David Peters, who was killed by a police officer while experiencing a behavioral health crisis in 2018.
- Senate Bill 5007 aligns Virginia with a majority of other states in allowing judges to decide sentences in criminal cases, except in sentences by juries. This change aims to make fairer sentences and reduce over-incarceration.
- Northam proposed changes to House Bill 5106 which protects certain tenants that have been impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. Northam added a technical amendment to clearly define the “adverse actions that may not be taken against tenants based on payment history or an eviction for nonpayment of rent that occurred during the pandemic.”
To read Northam’s full letter on his recommended amendments to the revised state budget, click here.
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