GOP control of House sparks bills to overturn Democrats’ legislation

BY NATASHA SOKOLOFF

CNS – As the Virginia General Assembly convenes for the 2022 session with Republican control in the House of Delegates, local Republican lawmakers are pushing legislation to repeal provisions passed while Democrats held the majority in the chamber.

House Bill 181, which was prefiled by Del. Margaret Ransone, R-Westmoreland,  on Jan. 10, would repeal legislation introduced in 2021 allowing for the automatic and petition-based sealing of police and court records.

Last year’s legislation, House Bill 2113 and Senate Bill 1339, was introduced by Democrats and reflects a compromise between Del. Charniele Herring and Sen. Scott Surovell intended to seal criminal records for certain convictions, deferred dispositions, and for offenses that have been otherwise dismissed.

The provisions would also allow a person to petition for the sealing of records relating to certain convictions, including traffic infractions, misdemeanor offenses, or Class 5 or 6 felonies provided that they have never been convicted of a Class 1 or 2 felony, a Class 3 or 4 felony within 20 years, or convicted of any felony within 10 years of the petition.

Ransone’s bill amends and repeals these several enactments of Chapter 524 and 542 of the Act of Assembly of 2021, which are not yet effective.

Ransone also introduced a bill to repeal House Bill 201, a provision passed in 2020 that would allow any person qualified to register to vote to register in person up to and including Election Day.

Democrat Hala Ayala, who introduced House Bill 201, represented the 51st District for the past two terms and lost the 2021 race for lieutenant governor to Republican Winsome Sears. Ayala’s proposed legislation has a delayed effective date of Oct. 1 and Ransone’s bill to repeal it will be offered on Jan. 12.

Del. Michael Webert, R-Rappahannock, sponsored a bill to repeal legislation signed last year that permits every registered voter to an absentee ballot for all elections they are registered to vote in and remain on the permanent absentee voter list. Webert prefiled the bill on Jan. 10.

Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg,  cosponsored Senate Bill 127 with Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Fredericksburg, which would also reverse voting legislation that was passed last year.

SB 127, which was prefiled on Jan. 7, would require a photo ID in order to vote in state and federal elections. While the previous provisions passed would require a voter to sign a statement of identification, subject to felony penalties for false statements, the bill set to be offered on Jan. 12 would only entitle a voter without a photo ID to a provisional ballot.

Obenshain proposed another bill to declare the killing of another person’s fetus in the heat of passion punishable as voluntary manslaughter, and any misconduct in ending the life of a fetus punishable as involuntary manslaughter. Both voluntary and involuntary manslaughter are classified as Class 5 felonies in Virginia.

Obenshain also sponsored legislation that would have criminal juries conduct sentencing for criminal cases, as opposed to the judge of the case assigning sentencing after a jury determines a person guilty, as it currently states in the law.

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