The General Assembly has been in Special Session since August 18. Governor Ralph Northam’s announcement said the session was meant to pass a new budget in light of COVID-19 and consider criminal and social reform laws. In the past three weeks, the Assembly has considered bills ending qualified immunity, eliminating minimum sentences for assaults on police officers, and allowing early release of violent offenders.
“This is the Democrat show the entire time,” Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpepper) told The Virginia Star. “As soon as they said that social justice was one of the categories, that’s when you knew that this was an empty bucket that they could put anything they wanted into it.”
“Hopefully, we’ll get around to talking about the budget a little bit before they end the session,” Delegate Ronnie Campbell, (R-Lexington) told The Star. He’s concerned that the Democratic caucus is using the session to force through police reform without listening to Republican concerns. “We have tried to talk to them about the bills that they are submitting, especially the ones dealing with law enforcement. We have tried to amend these bills. Some of these bills will actually cost police officers their lives. They refuse to amend them.”
Campbell served as a state police officer for 25 years. He’s concerned that the measures Democrats are pushing for will harm the quality of law enforcement. “I see staffing shortages coming… And I see crime increasing in Virginia right down to the bottom line.” He added, “It’s horrible what the Democrats are doing to us in the name of fixing the police.”
Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Rich Anderson told The Star, “This is simply another step in an anti-cop agenda by a group of cop haters…they’re cop haters. They’ll put law enforcement last and put felons and criminals first. That’s what it all boils down to.”
Freitas said, “They have the votes to ram it through. The one thing you can say about the Democratic party is that as soon as they are in power they will try to do everything they possibly can and go as far to the left as they possibly can because they know they’ve got the votes, and they know they’ve got a rubber stamp with Governor Northam.”
Freitas said the Democrats aren’t interested in bipartisanship or hearing Republican amendments.
“I had three bills before the General Assembly that actually fall in the categories we’re discussing. None of them have been heard in committee.” Freitas added, “The problem is that they are ramming through an incredibly left-wing agenda. There was all kinds of police and criminal justice reform where we could find some common ground on these things, but Republicans are not going to vote to let child pornographers off early, and they will. And they feel like they can get away with it more if it’s in a remote session.”
“Bills that their people bring up, if they get voted down, they’ll bring them back, and I’ve seen them bring them back as many as three times before they get enough people to switch votes, ” Campbell said. “I’m starting in my third year. I was down there [at the General Assembly] for one year when Republicans were in charge. I didn’t see anybody get treated like I’ve seen the Republicans treated.”
Anderson served eight years in the House of Delegates. He said that in the Virginia Constitution, the regular session has a very limited amount of time. However, a special session does not have that limitation, although it is normally scheduled with a finite ending. “That gives them license to have this open-ended session for never-ending discussions and never-ending passage of legislation,” Anderson said.
“This is absolutely counter to how we operated the House…. We always did our best to accommodate the minority, to provide them a voice in the deliberation, to never try to curtail their debate, to be respectful to them,… and establish good order and discipline in the body.” Anderson added, “The bottom line is: Just like the Governor and these Democratic mayors around the Commonwealth of Virginia have demonstrated that they are authoritarian, imposing unconstitutional executive orders and decisions on the citizenry, the Democratic majority in the House of Delegates is exercising authoritarian rule over the House.”
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