This week at the 2018 Virginia General Assembly-Week 6
This week in Richmond marked crossover on Feb. 13, the deadline for the House and Senate to act on their own bills. With that, the second half of the 2018 legislative session has begun.
It also marked the third annual Virginia Vespers: Evening Prayer for the Commonwealth. Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond, Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, and Bishop emeritus Paul Loverde, along with the Conference, welcomed state senators, delegates and other public officials, as well as fellow Catholics and people of all faiths and political parties to pray with and for legislators and the needs of Virginia. Bishop Burbidge served as the presider for the evening prayer liturgy and Bishop Knestout delivered the homily. Beautiful music was provided by choirs from All Saints Catholic School, Saint Gertrude High School, Benedictine College Preparatory School and the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, where the event was held. Prayers for public officials, the vulnerable and the people of Virginia were read by speakers of English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean and Tagalog.
Read the Catholic Virginian story here. See pictures of the event, held in a packed Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, on our Facebook page here.
On the same day as Vespers the Conference also welcomed several parish groups who came to Richmond to meet with their legislators as part of Catholics in the Capital. Grassroots advocates from St. Olaf, Williamsburg, St. Bernadette, Springfield, Holy Family, Dale City, and Sacred Heart, Manassas attended.
Here’s a look at how our issues fared this week:
Shielding vulnerable Virginians from usury: SB 625 (Surovell), extending the 36% APR interest rate cap to all consumer finance loans, passed the Senate in a 37-2 vote. The Conference supports this measure to protect the poor from unjust lending practices. It now moves on to the House Commerce and Labor Committee.
Promoting community policing: A measure that would involve local police in the enforcement of federal immigration law (HB 1257, Cline) passed the House of Delegates in a 51–49 vote. The Conference has long opposed bills that would blur the distinction between two fundamentally different types of law enforcement: federal immigration enforcement and local community policing, the latter of which relies on community trust to facilitate crime reporting and public safety. The bill will now be considered by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.
Criminal justice reform: Conference-supported proposals to raise the grand larceny threshold from $200 to $500 have now passed both chambers. HB 1550 (L. Adams) passed the House of Delegates this week in a 98-2 vote. This much-needed reform would make punishment for theft more proportional to the crime committed and allow offenders to move on from the mistakes of their youth.
Other business: Several Conference-supported bills were left in House committees without a hearing. HB 11 (Kory), HB 19 (Lopez) and HB 343 (Boysko) would have allowed in-state tuition for “Dreamers” in Virginia who were brought to the United States as children, whose parents pay Virginia income taxes, but who don’t have a legal status. These bills were left in the House Rules Committee. HB 580 (Bloxom) would have created temporary driving privilege cards for Virginians regardless of immigration status, but it was left in the House Transportation Committee.
A bill to exempt individuals who were severely mentally ill at the time of the crime from receiving the death penalty, HB 758 (Leftwich), stayed in the House Courts of Justice Committee. However, the chair of Senate Courts of Justice will write a letter to the Crime Commission requesting further study on the issue.
This Sunday, Conference staff will attend hearings at which the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees will announce what is included in their respective budget proposals. We will learn then whether Conference budget priorities like the Hyde Amendment, expanded access to healthcare, and assistance for the poor and the elderly are part of the proposals.