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Governor Northam Takes Action on Revised State Budget, Final Special Session Bills
Governor Northam Takes Action on Revised State Budget, Final Special Session Bills

Governor Northam Takes Action on Revised State Budget, Final Special Session Bills

Newly-signed laws advance sentencing reform, establish statewide ‘Marcus’ alert system

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam took action on Virginia’s revised biennial budget today, sending ten amendments to the General Assembly. He also signed three new laws and proposed changes to one bill, which mark his final actions on legislation passed during the special session that began on August 18.

“In August, I called legislators back into session to tackle some of our Commonwealth’s most pressing challenges,” said Governor Northam. “This revised state budget will do tremendous good as we battle COVID-19 and work together to continue building a stronger, fairer Virginia. I am proud of the meaningful progress we made to enhance police accountability, advance criminal justice reform, invest in our economic recovery, and provide critical relief to Virginians amid the ongoing public health crisis. I thank the General Assembly for their ongoing partnership in delivering for the people of our Commonwealth.”

Governor Northam took action on Virginia’s revised biennial budget, which lawmakers were forced to adjust due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Among other amendments, the Governor included enabling language that will allow the Commonwealth to implement redistricting reform in the state constitution, as passed by Virginia voters on Election Day. Governor Northam also proposed an additional $1 million to fund an independent investigation into the culture at the Virginia Military Institute.

Governor Northam signed Senate Bill 5038, sponsored by Senator McPike, and House Bill 5043, sponsored by Delegate Bourne, which establish a statewide mental health awareness response and community understanding services (Marcus) alert system. This measure promotes a behavioral health response to individuals in crisis, including by limiting the role of law enforcement, and is named after Marcus-David Peters, who was killed by a police officer while experiencing a behavioral health crisis in 2018.

The Governor also signed Senate Bill 5007, sponsored by Senator Morrissey, which aligns Virginia with the vast majority of states in allowing judges to decide sentences in criminal cases, except when a defendant requests sentencing by a jury. This change is expected to result in fairer sentences and reduce over-incarceration.

Governor Northam proposed changes to House Bill 5106, sponsored by Delegate Cole, which protects certain tenants that have been impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. He added a technical amendment, which clearly defines the adverse actions that may not be taken against tenants based on payment history or an eviction for nonpayment of rent that occurred during the pandemic.

Governor Northam’s letter to the General Assembly detailing his amendments to the revised state budget is availablehere. A full list of legislation signed by the Governor from the Special Session can be found here.

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