Thursday, October 3, 2013

2013 Virginia General Assembly Session: From SB1182 and HB1751 and into SB1033 without a word

Updated October 9, 2013: 

Here is the article that was being worked on that alerted me to the 2013 proposal that failed as companion bills and was re-written into a completely different bill by Governor McDonnell and passed by both chambers in the one-day “veto session” in April. 
Va. toughens law on sex offenders at psych center, October 9, 2013

Original Post:

The below was just emailed to every Virginia Delegate and Senator. 


Dear Virginia Delegates and Senators, 

During the 2013 session there was a pair of bills (companion) that I opposed Senator Vogel’s SB1182 and Delegate Miller’s HB1751. The Senate version was left to die in the Finance Committee and the House version went to “conference” and failed to pass the House.  These bills would have given Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services employees ONLY at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation in Burkeville, VA the same protection as judges, law enforcement officers and fire fighters when it comes to an assault. 

As the residents of the V.C.B.R. are not inmates but patients with mental and impulse control issues according to the Virginia Attorney Generals office and that’s why they must be committed holding them responsible for an assault as if they can control themselves flies-in-the-face of their original commitment. 

A reporter is currently working on a civil commitment article and asked me about the felony charge for assault by a V.C.B.R. “resident” upon a V.C.B.R. employee being a felony. 

I advised the reporter that neither of the above bills passed during the 2013 session, the reporter responded it’s in the assault and battery statute.

So I started digging. 

After the 2013 Virginia session ended during the one day Governors veto/amendment session it appears the text that originally never left Senate Finance and that was rejected by the House after “conference” during session was inserted into Senator Reeves SB1033 on April 3, 2013 and both chambers approved it unanimously not one "nay " vote from either chamber. 

Either this plan was wheeled and dealed behind the scenes as an after-the-fact addition so it would go through unopposed and unnoticed by the public OR because of the one-day-veto-session doesn’t allow for edits or time to properly discuss the additions you all missed the new text and it just slid on through.

How can an amendment that failed as two separate bills just be slipped in after session with no public debate or notice?

As my public statement during session against the House version noted this new felony has NOTHING to do with the safety of the V.C.B.R. employees. If the safety of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Service  employees was the reason for creating a new felony, then the employees of EVERY DBHDS facility would have been included but it is only for the facility housing the SVP’s. Why? So the State can save the cost of SVP confinement which is 3-4 times that of prison, it will free up a bed at the V.C.B.R which is limited AND the state keeps control of the SVP by sending them back to prison for a new offense. A revolving door that looks legitimate to the public and can’t be questioned as unconstitutional.

Marked, registered and transferred to a space outside society but within the law.

The Virginia Attorney General’s Office claims in court these men (SVP’s) are mentally incapable of controlling themselves but with the passage of SB1033 the State is NOW claiming these men know better than to assault an employee and charge them with a felony, for doing so.
If this is the States NEW position on the residents of the V.C.B.R. then the line between mental patient and prisoner is not just blurred but it has been redefined and the Constitutionality of the entire SVP program could be challenged.

I’m used to being disappointed being the advocate for reform of the Virginia Registry and sexual statutes but today I am mad and disgusted by such a joint group effort at an underhanded, undemocratic, cloak-and-dagger maneuver to pass a law that appeared to have died during session.

Now I wonder how many other bills that large groups of citizens opposed and thought were stopped during session were later sneaked into a completely different bill, approved by you in April and signed into law for July 1st. So much for high-morals, honesty and transparency in Virginia government.


Mary Devoy