Bills in Senate Trans & House Courts Criminal Sub at the same time, so Champe stayed in Senate Trans while I went to House Courts.
House was running longer than Senate, so Senate Trans began with Committee present and no Patrons from the House, and since Courts was not convening I went back to Senate Trans. Chairman Carrico called a number of bills he must have considered non-controversial and had them voted on (all passed unanimously) without the patrons present (the first time I had ever seen this done).
The House still in session, and still no Patrons present, so he recessed the meeting for almost an hour. Resuming at 3:05, the Chair noted that both the House and Senate had to reconvene at 4:30, so bills would be heard until then.
I then went back to House Courts which convened at 3:10 (leaving Champe in Senate Trans), Chairman Rob Bell also noting that he could hear bills only until 4:30 when the Committee members would have to leave since the House was reconvening. He must have known that the first bill would be one of the most controversial, since he heard SB 1563 w/Sen. Stanley first. This bill apparently is key to the Criminal trial system in this state, where now Prosecutors do not share the evidence, and witnesses to be called, with the Defense Attorneys ahead of time, leading some to call Virginia’s system “Trial by Ambush”. A stream of about 15 witnesses from various Defense Attorneys groups, Public Safety Secretary Moran, and groups representing defendant’s rights all spoke in favor of the bill which would require “Mandatory disclosure of exculpatory information”. This was followed by the recognition of about 15 Commonwealth’s Attorneys in attendance, as well as reps from the Attorney General’s office, and State Police, all of whom were opposed, primarily fearing that such disclosure would end up on social media, and endanger both defendants and witnesses. After about 40 minutes, the billed was tabled (killed) and followed by two more, only slightly less controversial. As 4:30 was nearing, and Surovell’s SB1339 was next up, Chairman Bell noted as he called a recess that it would have to wait since both the Committee members and Patrons had to get back to their reconvening chambers. Not exactly Bike/Ped stuff, but some important bills being heard here (which we may see reported on in tomorrow’s paper) and I thought I’d share my observations with you.
Just then, Champe came in and informed me that all of Del. Villanueva’s bills had been reported, HB2023/Maintenance Reimbursement & HB2016/Electric Personal Delivery Devices may operate on sidewalks & Shared use Paths unanimously, while HB1606/Use of Handheld Communication Devices banned in Work Zones passed by 9-4.
Since he had to get his car out of its parking lot, I excused him and told him I would stick it out to try to help Sen. Surovell with his Vulnerable User bill. After killing time for about 1 1/2 hours, everyone involved trickled back into the room, less a number of the spectators who had been there before we recessed. Noting that he still had 19 bills to hear, Chairman Bell called our SB1339 at 6:15. Sen. Surovell did a nice job of presenting it and I was the only one to speak on it, with no questions from the Committee, and Waynesboro Commonwealth’s Attorney Ledbetter not present to speak against it, I could sense that Sen. Bell and the Republican side of the committee were in no mood to pass any bills tonite, as the motion to Table promptly was made and passed on a voice vote, which I believed was on party lines. Not wishing to stay for any of the 18 remaining bills, as interesting as they are to a non-lawyer like me (which I will be surprised if any pass) I thanked Scott Surovell (he still had two more bills on the docket) for an excellent effort, and headed home at 6:30.
Everyone please take this opportunity to contact YOUR Senator to urge them to support Del. Villanueva’s 3 bills (listed above) that they will be seeing very shortly on the Senate Floor. I don’t sense that they will have any trouble, but nothing is certain down here until the bills are all the way to the finish line.
Thanks to everyone that took the trouble to make your contacts! We did make a little progress this session as we do seem to be inching forward in our efforts to combat the Distracted Driving problem, while the Maintenance Reimbursement bill will be helpful to a number of jurisdictions.