UPDATE: House and Senate Democrats, governor roll out special session priorities
Paid sick leave, workers' comp among coronavirus legislation
Updated, Aug. 14
House of Delegates Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn rolled out the House Democratic Caucus’ legislative priorities for the Aug. 18 special session, a slate of coronavirus-related measures and law enforcement reforms.
Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, announced in a news release Thursday that the following COVID-19 legislation will be introduced next week:
- Requiring businesses to grant paid sick leave for workers
- Prohibiting garnishments of stimulus relief checks
- Establishing a presumption of workers’ compensation for first responders, teachers and other high-risk essential workers
- Providing immunity from civil claims related to COVID-19 for complying with health guidance
- Combating price gouging for personal protective equipment
- Prohibiting evictions during a public health emergency
- Creating a “Commonwealth Marketplace” for acquiring PPE
- Mandating transparency for congregate-care facilities during a public health emergency
On Friday, Gov. Ralph Northam released several of his priorities, and he said others will be outlined in his speech to the GA’s Joint Money Committees on Tuesday, the day of the special session.
Northam’s proposed legislation includes:
- A pause in evictions until at least April 30, 2021 and $88 million in state funding to combat housing evictions; this will include $85 million invested in the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, in addition to federal CARES Act funds.
- $85 million to the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) for expanding broadband access
- $15 million to Virginia’s public historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Norfolk State University and Virginia State University, for technology upgrades and support for underserved students
- A group of law enforcement bills that will allow the state’s Criminal Justice Services Board to initiate decertification proceedings when conduct is brought to its attention, regardless of written notice from a local law enforcement agency; mandate information sharing between agencies; allow localities to establish civilian review panels; expand the criteria for which an officer can be decertified; diversify the Criminal Justice Services Board’s Committee on Training, including representatives from civil rights and community organizations, and allowing more public input.
The House also will take up more than a dozen pieces of legislation regarding law enforcement, including a ban on chokeholds and other lethal restraints, prohibiting acquisition and use of certain military-grade weapons by law enforcement agencies, expanding the definition of hate crimes to include false 911 calls made on the basis of race, and creating a statewide “Marcus Alert” system.
The alert, which is in developmental stages in Richmond, is named for Marcus-David Peters, a teacher who was killed by a Richmond police officer in 2018 when he was experiencing a mental health crisis. His family and local activists have advocated for mental health professionals to be first on the scene if someone is having a breakdown, with police serving as backup.
The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus also has a package of justice reforms set for votes next week, including prohibition of no-knock warrants, a ban on chokeholds and strangleholds, canceling supplemental funding of local police departments if they have disproportionate use-of-force incidents, and creating a decertification procedure for officers, among others.
The House Democrats also plan to propose codifying Juneteenth as an official state holiday and allowing localities greater latitude in the process of removing Confederate monuments.
Both legislative bodies will meet away from the Virginia State Capitol due to the pandemic; the House will convene at the Stuart C. Siegel Center at Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Senate will meet at the Science Museum of Virginia.