The Appomattox County Board of Supervisors declined to vote on a First Amendment Sanctuary resolution at a Monday night meeting. Multiple members of the board said that they share concerns over Governor Ralph Northam’s executive orders, but they said the board does not have the authority to enforce the resolution or to protect Appomattox County citizens from state-level enforcement of the executive orders. With no one willing to second Supervisor John Hinkle’s motion to vote on the resolution, the motion died.
Hinkle introduced the resolution, which is a clone of the resolution passed earlier this month by Campbell County. Hinkle said that COVID-19 deaths are low, and that lockdowns are hurting businesses and people’s health. “Mental health problems are increasing. Alcohol, drug abuse, opioid use, which we had curtailed and was going down, is now skyrocketing because of the lockdown.”
“This is about the freedom to move, the freedom of not being locked down, the freedom to have more than ten people with our families. And we’ve had an 11.7 percent increase in poverty because of the lockdown,” Hinkle said. “We’re basically in the top 12 states of the most restrictions on the people.”
Chairman Samuel Carter said, “I don’t think there’s a person in the Commonwealth who would agree with what our Governor has done, but there’s ramifications I do know, to a certain extent, if we pass this. And I really do not know what the extent of the ramifications are.”
County Attorney Thomas Lacheney said the majority of the resolution as adopted in Campbell County was toothless. “The biggest negativity, if you will, is we don’t have a way to make any of this happen. We can adopt this but we can’t put any teeth on it.”
Lacheney said, “That’s sort of like saying we’re going to uphold the right to breathe.”
One clause of the resolution says county funds can’t be used to enforce Northam’s executive orders. Lacheney said, “You would have to decide whether you’re willing to cut the sheriff’s budget if he somehow cooperates with the state police, if he somehow cooperates with federal law enforcement.”
Virginia is a Dillon’s Rule state, meaning that local authority is derived from the General Assembly. Lacheney warned that state authorities could retaliate against the county. Carter noted that a few days after Campbell County passed its resolution, Northam called the county out in a press conference. Carter said, “That right there went zinging through my head.”
Supervisor Trevor Hipps said that he would support a similar resolution with different wording, but he was afraid the resolution as written would encourage Appomattox residents to violate the executive orders, exposing themselves to punishment from the state. Hipps said he had seen comments on social media using the Campbell County resolution as justification for violating the orders.
“As this is written, we lack authority on this to protect our citizens,” Hipps said. “I would consider a re-written resolution.”
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