Mastriano Announces Measure Toughening Penalties for Fentanyl Pushers in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg) on Thursday announced he will soon introduce legislation to strengthen penalties for fentanyl pushers whose sales result in deadly overdoses. 

The senator is naming his measure “Tyler’s Law” after Tyler Shanafelter, an 18-year-old constituent who bought what he believed was Percocet but turned out to have acquired a fentanyl-laced product. The young man fatally overdosed. 

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Virginia Sens. Saslaw, Howell Help Republicans Kill Sen. Morrissey’s Parole Expansion Bill

Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and Senator Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) helped Republicans kill Senator Joe Morrissey’s (D-Richmond) SB 109, which would have expanded parole eligibility from people who were juveniles when sentenced to people under 21. Parole has been a key target of Virginia Republicans and tough-on-crime policy is a priority for them as they try to roll back criminal justice reforms passed by Democrats in previous years. Saslaw’s Thursday vote came the day after a committee meeting where he appeared flexible on instituting some mandatory minimums, also a Republican goal.

“Senate Bill 109 expands juvenile parole. During the 2020 General Assembly session, you all recall Senator Marsden’s bill that was Senate Bill 103 that allowed individuals who were sentenced as juveniles, and who have served 20 or more years, to be eligible for parole. That’s now the law. Senate Bill 109 expands  the definition of juvenile and it changes it to youthful offender, which allows individuals who were 20 years of age or younger and who have served twenty years to become parole eligible,” Morrissey explained to the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 17.

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Effective in July, Virginia Legalizes Small Amounts of Marijuana

RICHMOND, Virginia Simple possession of up to one ounce of marijuana will be legal in Virginia, effective July 1. On Wednesday, the Virginia General Assembly approved Governor Ralph Northam’s proposal to expedite legalization from 2024 to later this year. But legislators warned that doesn’t mean there will be a marijuana free-for-all.

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Virginia House Caves on Anti Police Bill

Democratic and Republican legislators on the House Courts of Justice Committee killed legislation on Tuesday that would have eliminated the six month mandatory minimum sentence for assaulting a law enforcement officer. 

Senate Bill 5032, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) was passed by indefinitely by a vote of 18-Y 1-N 1-A, ending any chance of being signed into law during the 2020 special session. 

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Bill to End Mandatory Minimum Sentences Blocked by Virginia Senate Committee

Legislation that would have banned the enforcement of mandatory minimum sentencing in Virginia was killed in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday after some Democrats joined Republicans in their opposition.

Senate Bill 5046, sponsored by Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, effectively would have ended all mandatory minimums in Virginia by halting their enforcement for offenses committed on or after Jan. 1, 2021. Although reforming mandatory minimum laws has bipartisan support, SB 5046 did not provide exemptions for violent crimes, such as murder or rape, which led to it ultimately failing.

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