Public Comments for 02/22/2021 Appropriations - Transportation and Public Safety Subcommittee
SB1119 - Law-enforcement agencies; body-worn camera systems.
SB1150 - Military Spouse Liaison; position created in Department of Veterans Services, report.
HB 5002 Small Business & Women-owned & Minority-owned Business Procurement Enhancement Programs; Why is the bill only limited to all new capital outlay construction solicitations that are issued. How many Black women own construction companies? Why is it capped at 200K. I have an independent pharmacy in Norfolk Virginia and I have been waiting for this bill to come to committee. The bill has no bite. The state wasted money doing a diversity study , only to come up with this as a resolution. I have been consistently discriminated against in the state procurement process and I do not see where this bill is going to change anything. Dr. Anna Peoples
SB1261 - Court of Appeals; expands jurisdiction, increases from 11 to 17 number of judges on Court.
SB1339 - Criminal records; sealing of records, Sealing Fee Fund created, penalties, report.
SB1428 - Alcoholic beverage control; operation of government stores, sale of low alcohol beverage coolers.
Principle Advantage representing the Virginia Spirits Association submits the following comments on their behalf. Virginia Sprits Association understands that shelf space is a valued commodity in stores – especially during a time when ABC revenue is growing while other state revenue streams are on the decline. As the patron stated during the Senate Finance hearing, removing low-alcohol beverages (LABs) from the shelves of ABC stores would free up more space for the sale of spirits which are taxed at a much higher rate than LABs which are taxed at the much lower wine rate. If the intent of the SB1428 is to clear up a marketplace issue between the ABC authority and the wholesalers and retailers it regulates, then the bill MUST be amended. The current language of the bill only removes some LABs creating an inequitable carve out for others. As written, the bill removes 91% of the LABs sold in 2020 and its associated revenue to the Commonwealth and leaves behind a carve-out market for a small, select group of licensed distillers. We respectfully request that you OPPOSE SB1428 as written, and instead amend the language of the bill to remove and low alcohol beverage coolers produced by licensed distillers on lines 16-17, 112-113, and 208-209. Removing ALL LABs from ABC store shelves would establish a fair and consistent policy for all in the LAB marketplace. VSA thanks you for your consideration, and appreciates your past support of “cocktails-to-go”.
SB1442 - Public defender office; establishes an office for the County of Chesterfield.
Please support this bill.
SB1442. It's time to correct pretrial injustices and the fundamental rights of the people of Chesterfield.
I urge the House to pass Senate Bill 1442. Our pre-trial detention system is cruel and defendants deserve adequate representation as they await trial. This is an important equity issue to address the racism and classism in our criminal justice system.
People with few economic resources or whose living situation is impacted negatively for this lack of resources need an advocate to ensure fairness for all in our justice system. I have formerly incarcerated friends who now advocate for criminal justice reform and have seen first-hand the impacts of our justice system on disadvantaged citizens. Around 80% of detainees in Chesterfield County are indigent from data citizens, including me, collected from New Virginia Majority's Court Watch program which was active in Chesterfield County before the pandemic and which we hope to resume their soon.
I urge the House to pass SB 1442!
The Citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and specifically the residents of Chesterfield County, all need this bill to move forward. As a formerly incarcerated individual who has experienced years of pretrial detention and mass supervision, I know how thousands of individuals have in the past, and currently are experiencing horrendous conditions in our current system, due to the fact that they don't have a State Advocate on their behalf. This bill will provide that for thousands in Virginia. This bill will address the inequities and injustices thousands face in the current pretrial system, where 80% of detainees are indigent, where Pretrial Assessment tools are racist and bias, the lack of quality Legal Representation, and all this disproportionately affects Black folks, people of color, and the poor! I urge the House to pass SB 1442!!!
SB 1266 - Removing the presumption against bail allows for Judges to evaluate bail in a more fair and just manner which aligns with the core tenet of presumption of innocence. Judges can and should be allowed to determine bail on a case by case basis without being forced to start at a presumption against bond. Arbitrary pretrial incarceration makes it difficult for defendant's to assist in their defense and can lead to mental health and medical issues associated with the poor treatment of inmates, especially during a pandemic. SB1315 - Our justice system must include language that allows for the defendant's mental health to be addressed during the case in chief. This bill allows for our state to become more in line with the Model Penal Code. I have had dozens of cases as a criminal defense attorney over the last two decades where an individual with significant mental health issues did not meet the very rigid and narrow definition of insanity and instead were incarcerated for substantial amounts of time after a guilty verdict. These individuals should have been able to present evidence of their mental health at the time of the offense when determining guilt or innocence. It was a travesty of justice that they could not and it is time for Virginia to recognize the need to give those suffering from mental health other avenues for justice. SB1442 - As a former public defender in the City of Richmond I encourage the members of this Committee to vote in support of a Public Defender's Office in the County of Chesterfield. I practice frequently in this County and can say the level of representation by the court appointed counsel is substantially hindered by the lack of resources and low pay for these attorneys. A Public Defender's Office helps level the playing field for indigent defendants by providing those resources currently not available to court appointed counsel, as well as, not making counsel dependent upon the Judge for their source of income. A defendant represented by a Public Defender would have access to an investigator in their case, regardless of the severity. Currently, only the most serious of charges warrants the granting of funds for an investigator. This means defendant's facing misdemeanors and low level felonies, that could result in jail time, do not have access to an investigator who could help locate witnesses, canvas scenes, and provide other pretrial work the attorney cannot or should not be doing. Additionally, the Public Defender's office would have mitigation specialists on staff to help with complex cases or complex defendant's who need more help at the pretrial or sentencing phase of a case. Additionally, thanks to the substantial number of Public Defender Offices across the state attorneys would have access to brief and motions banks for trial and appellate purposes. Lastly, attorneys in this office would have supervision and daily oversight to insure they are held to the high standards put in place by the Indigent Defense Commission for representation of their clients. Real reform of our justice system must include the ability to have counsel that is both qualified and has the resources necessary to be effective in their representation. Thank you.
SB1443 - Mandatory minimum sentences; elimination, modification of sentence to mandatory minimum term.
Hello, We are asking you to please vote YES for SB1443 to Repeal ALL Mandatory Minimums. HB2331 is not broad enough and excludes many nonviolent offenses. We are asking that you include ALL Mandatory Minimums in the final bill, but if a compromise is necessary, look to the Earned Sentence Credits Bill for a source of compromise. Thank you for making HB2331 retroactive. Please amend SB1443 to also include those currently serving excessively long mandatory minimum sentences. Mandatory Minimums can no longer be a part of Virginia's criminal justice system in the future and it is intolerable to allow them to continue to unjustly affect those serving them now. Thank you. Gary and Debra Turner
My name is Santia Nance from Sistas in Prison Reform and BrillianceBehindBars and I urge you to pass SB1443, ending all mandatory minimums, instead of considering HB2331 which only covers drug charges. My loved one Quadaire Patterson is currently behind bars due to a stacked mandatory minimum sentence due to use of a firearm charges in a wrongful conviction. While we know the standard arguments about how mandatory minimums don’t work for recidivism, public safety, or fair trials, we still have vastly different bills on the table and we must push for SB1443. If you’re on the fence about this bill, ask yourself: Is it the excluded crimes you want to be harder on, or is it the people who are convicted for them? We both agree that non-violent crimes - those where no one was hurt - should NOT carry mandatory minimums. I urge you all to rethink the fact that charges used to dictate sentences, do not represent the full situation or indicate a violent crime nor a violent person. Let the judges and juries do their jobs hearing specifics cases and using the sentencing guidelines, instead of mandatory minimums, to determine the time that fits the crime. Let the system work the way it’s supposed to.Let’s do the right thing and bring fairness back to Virginia. Thank you.
It is tiring writing statements and speaking up for laws that are blatantly wrong because senators are going to come with their made up stats and lies to prevent what's right. mandatory minimums give judges you all appoint their jobs back. They also eliminate racist sentencing towards black and brown people. But that's not enough for you all. That last part should be the biggest issue and it isn't which makes Virginia the worst. It is time you all get on the RIGHT side of justice and retroactively. REPEAL ALL MANDATORY MINIMUMS
I oppose SB1443 : "Eliminates all mandatory minimum sentences of confinement from the Code of Virginia...." (CHAOTIC, SWEEPING, AND IRRESPONSIBLE) "The bill directs the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security to establish a work group (WHO WOULD COMPRISE THIS WORK GROUP?) to evaluate (WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA FOR EVALUATION?) the feasibility of resentencing persons previously convicted of a felony offense (WHY FELONIES?) that was punishable by a mandatory minimum term of confinement...." The work group would report on its findings by November 1, 2021. As introduced, this bill was a recommendation of the Virginia State Crime Commission. Sentencing for crimes, particularly felonies, is too serious of an issue to approach it so broadly. It seems political, arbitrary, and irresponsible.
Please vote NO to SB1443. This bill leaves too many citizens vulnerable and is NOT supported by victims - myself included. Within the past 2 years I was the victim in 3 jury trials due to crimes taking place in different jurisdictions. Over the course of these trials, I worked with SIX Commonwealth Attorneys. They genuinely and actively sought my input on sentence outcome - from start to finish, while considering the MM’s on the table. Removing ALL minimums is a knee-jerk, pacifying move that ignores the Crime Commission’s own findings - not all MM crimes are racially disproportionate. Example: Sexual assault statutes included in SB1443 show white men as the largest offender. In the larger scope of criminal justice reform, are we considering how each piece of new legislation fits together? If not, who is left unprotected? Sen Edwards says the sentencing guidelines will be there, but the current guidelines are impacted by the presence of a MM. Do we know what these ranges will look like once MM’s are removed? Have we considered the inevitable sentencing inconsistencies due to the wide ranges the guidelines suggest? If we take the time to thoughtfully adjust MM’s, criminal justice reform can happen in parallel. Prosecutors have the option to reduce/drop charges and progressive Prosecutors have openly moved toward this practice in the name of reform. Our laws took time and evidence-based data to create. Change should follow this same model.
Hello, We are asking you to please vote YES for SB1443 to Repeal ALL Mandatory Minimums. HB2331 is not broad enough and excludes many nonviolent offenses. We are asking that you include ALL Mandatory Minimums in the final bill, but if a compromise is necessary, look to the Earned Sentence Credits Bill. Thank you for making HB2331 retroactive. Please amend SB1443 to also include those currently serving excessively long mandatory minimum sentences. Mandatory Minimums can no longer be a part of Virginia's criminal justice system in the future and it is intolerable to allow them to continue to unjustly affect those serving them now. Thank you. Gary and Debra Turner
MADD opposes SB 1443 unless if the proposal is amended to ensure that all impaired driving offenses are subject minimum sentencing guidelines. Thank you, Frank Harris MADD Director of State Government Affairs
Please remove mandatory minimums they do nothing but harm people. No case should ever be cut and dry and the punishment should be decided by judges who can take all evidence into account before condemning to jail maybe we should focus on helping people with addiction get and stay clean,assist in getting jobs so they don't fall back into same patterns. Would you want everyone who has a medical condition to be seen ,and treated the same, without looking at the individual person and all medical history where we set a individual plan of care related to their circumstances to help them heal? Every person has individual needs even if they have the same medical diagnosis. The same should work with the law. There are many extenuating circumstances in many cases and having a set punishment for all cases is wrong . Judges are on the bench because they have shown they are held in high esteem for there decision making skills and that they are sworn to uphold the law and to render judgements and sentencing in a fair just manor. So is it not time for judges to be able to see the case and evidence and then pass sentences without being told the punishment and limiting their ability to see each case as individual with its own circumstances. Judges like doctors should have the ability to follow basic sentences for a crime as a doctor would for each disease process but should be able to also adjust punishment according to each individual case as a doctor creates a plan of care for each individual patient.
Mandatory Minimum sentences are unnecessary. Trust judges to be judges. The General Assembly put them on the bench. They know the case and the players. We already have sentencing guidelines. In addition, some prosecutors use Mandatory Minimum sentences to stack offenses and create a huge "trial penalty" - forcing individuals to plead guilty and give up their right to trial.