State Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Rocky Mount, filed three bills and a proposed budget amendment, that he said directly address Gov. Ralph Northam’s July 17 call for a Special Session of the General Assembly.
In that call, Northam ordered that the General Assembly organize “for the purpose of adopting a budget based on the revised revenue forecast and consideration of legislation related to the emergency of COVID-19 and criminal and social justice reforms.”
Noting that “we now return to Richmond to address budgetary and other issues that have arisen from the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as those potential law enforcement reform issues that need to be addressed after the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020,” Stanley said “we have an opportunity to debate and pass positive common-sense reforms that will make an event like the tragic death of George Floyd never occur in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
A joint resolution proposed limits each legislator to a maximum of three bills that could be filed during the special session that begins today, and Stanley filed three bills “that specifically address criminal justice reform, addresses the future limitation of executive power during emergency situations, and holds public officials accountable.”
Stanley’s bills include Senate Bill (SB) 5078, which would prohibit collective bargaining/unions for law enforcement.
Floyd’s death, Stanley said “demonstrated that police unions are the major stumbling block to effective police reform.”
Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis officer who was among those charged in connection with Floyd’s death, “had over 18 excessive force complaints, nearly one for every year he served in the force. And yet, only two ever resulted in discipline, resulting in him still being on the job on that fateful day,” Stanley said. “Police unions in these big cities demonstrate that police unions, through their protective collective bargaining agreements, make it difficult, if not impossible to remove or discipline bad police officers.”
Stanley added that his proposed legislation would “prevent all law enforcement agencies at both the state and local level to engage in collective bargaining, preventing police unions from taking root in Virginia law enforcement” or cause “bad police officers … to remain on the job.”
He said “the overwhelming majority of our men and women of law enforcement are wonderful and noble members of our local communities, and they put their lives on the line every day to protect both you and me, because they care. … And, yet these men and women of law enforcement are some of the most underpaid employees engaged in public service.
“That’s why I intend file an amendment to the revised biennial budget to increase all deputy sheriff’s pay by 10 percent annually,” Stanley said of the proposed budget amendment.
Another of Stanley’s bills, SB 5079, “provides that if a public official permits autonomous zones to occur in any region of the Commonwealth (similar to the “CHOP”/“CHAZ” zone seen recently in Seattle, Washington), and that damage to persons or property results because of it, then the public official that took such action to create these ‘police-free zones’ shall be civilly liable for all damages incurred by an affected person or lawful business in the immediate and affected area.
“Civil disobedience shall never be an excuse for lawlessness in a free society, and especially when such actions lead to criminal mischief and injury to our fellow citizens and small business owners that make up the very fabric of our communities,” Stanley wrote in a release.
In his third proposal, SB 50773, Stanley proposed limiting “future Governor’s abilities to act in declared state emergencies.”
The state code currently allows for the Governor “to have nearly unlimited, and unending powers. As we have seen, the recent exercise of these powers has devastated lives, businesses, and whole communities without any ‘check and balance’ oversight by the legislature when it comes to the individual rights of Virginians,” Stanley said.
“Our courts have recently opined that when the power of the governor to act in cases of declared emergencies is invoked in Virginia, that the power vested in the Governor under the Emergency statutes are only limited by the Governor’s unfettered and unchecked ‘judgment’” which, Stanley said creates an “impermissible imbalance in the separation of powers of the three branches of Virginia government.
The proposal also would protect “small businesses and categories of businesses from closure by the governor when such emergencies are declared, unless those businesses are afforded due process before the appropriate circuit court in the area affected by specific orders of isolation or quarantine,” Stanley said.