Gov. Northam signs 16 new laws to support coronavirus response, reform policing


FILE – In this Aug. 20, 2019, file photo, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam delivers his budget update before a joint meeting of the House and Senate money committees at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. Northam announced Monday, Dec. 9, that his budget proposal will include about $22 million for efforts to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies and reduce the racial disparity in the state’s maternal mortality rate. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (WFXR) — On Wednesday morning, Gov. Ralph Northam announced he signed 16 new laws and proposed changes to five bills supporting Virginia’s ongoing COVID-19 response and advancing criminal justice reform.

“I am proud to sign new laws that strengthen our COVID-19 response efforts and make our criminal system more equitable,” said Northam in a statement released Wednesday, Oct. 21. “I am grateful to legislators for their hard work this session, and look forward to signing more critically important legislation in the coming days.”

The governor’s office says Northam signed the following laws to support the Commonwealth’s 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 (VDH) with regard to the 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 rather than a 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 deadline for the Virginia Employment Commission 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 the coronavirus.
  • Senate Bill 5017 (Sen. Boysko) grants Virginia the ability to establish and enforce health standards at local correctional facilities used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or other federal agencies.

In addition, officials say Northam signed the following laws to reform criminal justice and policing in Virginia:

  • 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.

Meanwhile, the governor also proposed changes to the bills listed below, according to Wednesday’s announcement:

  • House Bill 5046 (Del. D. Adams) and Senate Bill 5080 (Sen. Barker) expand Medicaid coverage of telemedicine care, but Northam added an emergency clause to make this legislation effective immediately upon passage.
  • House Bill 5115 (Del. Price) expands eviction protections for Virginians who lost wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Northam also 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. However, 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 brake lights.

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