By Delegate Rob Bloxom
Hi. This is Rob Bloxom reporting on the virtual Virginia House of Delegates Special Session. Although no rules governing our session have been adopted, it appears we have reached the halfway point. There are no more House bills docketed for House committees to consider. The House of Delegates passed thirty-eight bills that will now be sent to the Senate to hear. Twenty-five bills were heard and voted down, while another eighty-six bills were never heard. While it is not unusual for a bill to languish in a committee, the special session has had an unusually large percentage to do so. Many of the bills that did pass will not have positive results for businesses, and I fear public safety will be impacted negatively as well.
One such bill was HB 5116. This bill extends workman’s compensation coverage to COVID-19. This is the first time that workman’s compensation coverage has been extended beyond the traditional injuries that occur on the job. The fiscal report stated it could cost the state twenty-eight million dollars per year. This price tag was too large to pass in that form, so the bill was amended to exempt state workers. In other words, the state made an exemption for itself, but expects Virginia businesses to do what they will not. This is the height of hypocrisy, and a large expense on businesses at a time in which they can least afford it.
There was also HB 5148. I did not support this bill because it goes against Virginia’s “truth in sentencing” doctrine, which supports the idea that the judge, defendant and victim should understand the true length of a sentence at the time of plea bargaining or sentencing. HB 5148 allows convicted defendants to retroactively earn good time and reduce the sentence that the parties initially agreed to, even if the defendant had initially agreed to a reduced sentence in a plea deal.
HB 5051 is another proposed piece of legislation that I could not support. It automatically begins the decertification process for a police officer who has been terminated for any reason. Both political parties agreed that termination because of excessive use of force is a valid reason to begin the decertification process. My issue with the bill is that termination for any reason would trigger the beginning of this same decertification process. For example, a deputy serves at the pleasure of the sheriff and can be released from employment for any reason. Having a bad haircut, facial hair, or a family member who supported another candidate for sheriff could be reasons for termination, and those types of terminations should not automatically trigger the beginning of the decertification process for a police officer.
Many of the budget amendments that will be included will be known next week. A couple of amendments that explain the tone of our discussion in the House of Delegates are those brought forth by Delegate Lee Carter. These amendments include a cut to the State Police budget by 25% and a cut to the 599 funding that supports our local police department by 25%. Such drastic and divisive proposals are often put forth in order to catch headlines and gain partisan brownie points, and not in the good faith hope of compromising and finding solutions to the difficult issues facing our Commonwealth.
In conclusion, I was able to support HB 5041 which requires the Virginia Board of Health to amend regulations governing nursing homes, certified nursing facilities, and Hospice during a public health emergency related to COVID-19. I voted to give each of these health organizations the power to establish their own protocols, such as a protocol for allowing each patient to receive visitors.
I encourage you to take a look at the bills that have passed the House of Delegates during this special session at https://lis.virginia.gov/. As always, I welcome you to contact me with any questions or concerns at my district office at (757)824-3456 or email me at [email protected].