We are nearing the halfway point of the 2017 session which is known as “Crossover.” Crossover this year falls on Tuesday, February 7, which means that the House must complete all of its work on House bills before the end of that day while the Senate must do the same for bills that originate in the Senate. The House and Senate have reached the busiest time of the Session with longer floor sessions and late night committee meetings as we try to meet the Crossover deadline.
I want to update you on an issue of importance to me, as an attorney and a former prosecutor, that we in the House have been addressing this week as we near the halfway mark.
One area of focus I have had for some time is combating domestic violence, and this year I have introduced HB 2473, which expands the list of offenses that may be counted as prior convictions for the purposes of enhancing the penalty for a third conviction for violating a protective order. Under my bill, a previous conviction for stalking in violation of § 18.2-60.3 could be counted as a prior conviction in order to raise the penalty for a third conviction for violating a protective order from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony. This bill is being deliberated on by the House and I am hopeful that it will be passed by the House and Senate, and sent to the Governor for his signature.
Another issue we hear from constituents on a fairly regular basis is the need for criminal justice reform. This Session, the House of Delegates is taking steps toward removing some obstacles for past offenders who are currently working to get their lives back on track.
Under current law, an offender who is unable to pay their court fees is likely to have their driver’s license suspended. Unfortunately, this punishment can create a vicious cycle, because without their licenses they are unable to find work and make the necessary money to pay off their court fees.
House Bill 2386, patroned by Delegate Manoli Loupassi (R-Chesterfield), allows courts to establish a payment plan for offenders unable to pay court-ordered fines so that they can receive a restricted license and avoid a driver’s licenses suspension. In addition, the legislation also allows offenders to earn credit for community service that can be applied to their costs. This bill passed the House on February 2nd, and it is now being considered in the Senate.
So far this year, the General Assembly has considered around 2,500 pieces of legislation. Currently, over 730 bills have passed the House and will now be considered by the Senate, and over 620 have passed the House and will be considered by the House. If you would like to follow my legislation, or that of any other member of the Virginia General Assembly, you may do so at lis.virginia.gov. In addition, you can click here to watch the live session of the House of Delegates, which typically begins at Noon each day.
As always, I look forward to hearing and seeing folks from back home in the district. If you will be in the Richmond area during session, I would love for you to come see me and visit my office. While I will frequently be in session or committee meetings, you can call or email to set an appointment to ensure that I will be available. If you would like to reach me or need assistance, please contact me at my Richmond office at 804-698-1024 or by email at DelBCline@house.virginia.gov. Additionally, written correspondence can be sent to P.O. Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23218.