Gov. Northam signs new laws for Virginia's COVID-19 response, police reform; Amends 'traffic stop' police reform bill

Ralph Northam
Posted at 1:16 PM, Oct 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-21 16:07:22-04

RICHMOND, Va. - Governor Northam signed 16 new laws Wednesday and proposed changes to five bills that will support the state's COVID-19 response and criminal justice reforms.

The Virginia General Assembly wrapped up the agenda this month on Monday for the special session that began Aug. 18. Legislators introduced over 50 police and criminal justice reform bills during the session.
Among the police and criminal justice reform measures were proposals that would change policing methods, impose new disciplinary actions for law enforcement and reduce penalties of certain crimes. Both parties introduced legislation that seemed to be inspired by months of protests across Virginia.

Northam made changes to House Bill 5058 and Senate Bill 5029.

HB 5058, introduced by Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, prohibits an officer from stopping a motor vehicle for operating without a license plate, with defective equipment such as a brake light, window tinting materials, a loud exhaust system or hanging objects inside the vehicle. It also prohibits officers from searching a vehicle solely on the basis of the odor of marijuana.

Northam instead amended the bill to allow officers to still initiate a traffic stop if someone is driving at night without their headlights or brake lights on.

On Monday, Northam announced that he signed the following laws for COVID-19:

  • HB 5041 (Delegate Head) and SB 5042 (Senator Kiggans) require the Board of Health to establish protocols related to safe nursing home, hospice, and nursing facility visits.
  • HB 5048 (Delegate Sickles) and SB 5090 (Senator Dunnavant) provide additional clarity to the Virginia Department of Health regarding publication of disease outbreak data.
  • HB 5093 (Delegate Watts) and SB 5117 (Senator Deeds) allow a $500 civil penalty for violations of a Governor’s Executive Order, instead of the Class 1 misdemeanor currently dictated by Virginia Code.
  • HB 5047 (Delegate Murphy) strengthens Virginia’s anti-price gouging laws during declared states of emergency.
  • SB 5039 (Senator Marsden) establishes a formal program for the purchase and distribution of personal protective equipment during a public health threat.
  • HB 5087 (Delegate Tran) extends the date by which the Virginia Employment Commission is required to establish and implement a short-time compensation program and removes the program’s sunset clause.
  • SB 5083 (Senator McClellan) requires Virginia school boards to publicly post their plans and strategies for mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
  • Senate Bill 5017 (Senator Boysko) grants the Commonwealth the ability to establish and enforce health standards at local correctional facilities used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or other federal agencies.

Northam signed the following policing and criminal justice bills:

  • HB 5098 (Delegate Askew) increases the penalty for falsely summoning or giving false reports to law enforcement officers due to an individual’s race, religious conviction, gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, color, or national origin.
  • HB 5072 (Delegate Lopez) and SB 5024 (Senator Lucas) allow the Attorney General to open investigations related to a suspected “pattern or practice” of misconduct among law enforcement officers.
  • HB 5062 (Delegate Mullin) and SB 5033 (Senator Surovell) restore the practice of requiring judges to dismiss charges when both parties (prosecution and defense) agree.

Governor Northam proposed changes to the following bills:

  • HB 5046 (Delegate D. Adams) and SB 5080 (Senator Barker) expand Medicaid coverage of telemedicine care. Governor Northam added an emergency clause to make this legislation effective immediately upon passage.
  • HB 5115 (Delegate Price) expands eviction protections for Virginians who experienced a loss of wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Northam added an emergency clause to make this legislation effective immediately upon passage.
  • HB 5058 (Delegate Hope) and SB 5029 (Senator Lucas) prohibit law enforcement from initiating traffic stops in certain instances. Governor Northam amended this legislation to ensure law enforcement can initiate a traffic stop when an individual is driving at night without the use of both headlights and/or without the use of both break lights.