Monday, December 2, 2013

Virginia Crime Commission Voted on Proposals to Become Legislation…… But The Proposed Options Weren’t Made Public! Huh?

The third and final Virginia State Crime Commission meeting for 2013 was held today. 

I previously posted the agenda for the VSCC December 2, 2013 meeting. 

There were no presentations or public comments at today’s meeting as there had been in September and November.  

Today’s meeting was for the options and draft legislation to be offered to the VSCC members to select from and vote on, if they deemed a need for legislation to be presented at the upcoming 2014 Virginia General Assembly session to “fix” the issue(s) they studied.

This year the VSCC stopped printing the PowerPoint presentations for visitors in the audience to review during the meeting. To save on the costs of printing the presentations are loaded onto the VSCC website immediately before the meeting for folks who have mobile devices to follow along and the presentations are projected onto a screen to follow along during the meeting. I personally do not have a mobile device that connects to the Internet so even though I attend the meetings to get the whole picture of the debate and who stands where on the discussion I must wait to fully review the presentations from the VSCC website when I return home. 

But today’s meeting was different. 

The proposals/options presented to the VSCC members to select from and vote upon were NOT projected onto the screen for the audience to see. The open discussion was limited to very brief summaries of what the options included and the members were directed to reference the folders in front of them with all the details every time a member asked the staff for more detail.  

It seemed very cloak and dagger. It was as if the details of the proposed options were a “secret” but VSCC meetings are public and the year-end votes are public so it resulted in a public meeting that was very difficult to follow along with because the audience wasn't permitted to know the options or the details of the proposals but watched the votes go on. 

When I returned home I really expected to find all the options listed on the VSCC website so that I could finally understand if they chose wisely or politically, but there wasn’t anything posted on the VSCC website.

So I sent an email to the VSCC asking if they’d email me the list or let me know when they’d be posted on-line.

I was advised that “the policy options would be available once finalized”, which means the options that were not voted on to move forward as legislation aren’t going to be made public. Why not? They were considered important or relevant enough to offer them up to possibly become a new law.

Today’s events have me extremely perplexed.  

The VSCC is FOIA exempt but to hold a public meeting where options that have come from earlier public meetings are now being voted on in public but no one can follow along with the options is madness!

So I am very limited in my ability to give you the details of today’s meeting with a knowledgeable summary because I have no place to read what was actually voted on. 

1. Prior Sex Offenses Admissible in Evidence (HB 1766- Del. Rob Bell Criminal and Civil/SB 1114- Sen. Mark Herring Criminal) Both Bill versions were amended during 2013 G.A. session from ALL sex offenses to only crimes against minors.
·        Supposedly there were 3 options before the committee members to choose from today.
They verbally tagged them as:  1. Lustful Disposition, 2.Federal Rule of Evidence and 3. What Alaska did.
·        Delegate Rob Bell liked #2 best but everyone else likes#1. #1 would only apply to convictions (not unfounded investigations) and based on past cases it would be the one to best survive a future a Constitutional challenge.
·        They voted unanimously to proceed with Option #1 as legislation for the upcoming 2014 General Assembly.
·        Delegate Rob Bell volunteered to patron the bill.
·        I will be opposing this bill and any “companion” bill(s) that may be submitted for January 2014. 

On a side note:
There had been a prior suggestion amongst the members as an alternative to admitting prior sex offenses into evidence to create a new “Recidivist” Child Sex Offense Statute (Mandatory Minimum Sentences). As they voted to proceed with admitting prior sex offenses into evidence they left this suggestion “on the table” but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it being proposed at this years G.A. or a future G.A., by someone not on the VSCC, it would make for great campaign material in a re-election year. If such a bill is submitted I will oppose it! 

2. Child Sexual Abuse (HJ 595 Del. Manoli Loupassi)
·        There were 8 parts / proposals before the committee members to vote on today
·        All 8 passed unanimously except one proposal that had 3 “nay” votes. For extending the time from 1 year to 3 years for the State to retain the paper trail, witnesses and evidence in all child sexual abuse “unfounded investigations” the vote was 7-3. I’m not going to say who the three were that disagreed with this because I don’t know if I’m allowed to record their votes after finding out today that the public is not allowed issue with the public not being able to read the options being voted on today. It still passed 7-3.
·        Numerous members volunteered to patron these bills
·        I will NOT be opposing any of the proposals from this list in January 2014

3. Sexual Relationships Between School Personnel and Adult Students (HJ 595 Del. Manoli Loupassi)
·        Two VSCC members publically opposed making this a crime.
One member actually went into detail on why and it was exactly the reasons I had given back in November to the members. Then when polled ALL VSCC members refused to vote to proceed with legislation at the upcoming 2014 General Assembly session.
·        This does not mean some non-VSCC Legislator doesn’t propose a bill in January 2014 to make this a crime and if someone does, I will oppose it! 

4. Illegal Cigarette Trafficking
·        There were 7 or 8 parts/ proposals before the committee members to vote on today I could go back to the audio file I have but since this is not a “sexual” issue it doesn’t really matter here. 

5. Expungement of Forced Prostitution Convictions (HB 1541Del. Vivian Watts / SB 1273 Sen. Adam     Ebbin)
·        All VSCC members refused to vote to proceed with legislation at the upcoming 2014 General Assembly session 

6. Child Prostitution (HB 1991 Del. Jennifer McClellan)
·         All VSCC members refused to vote to proceed with legislation at the upcoming 2014 General Assembly session

7. Writs of Actual Innocence (HB 1919- Del. Charneile Herring)
·        This passed unanimously as legislation for the upcoming 2014 General Assembly. It was mentioned that a current sticking point by the Virginia Court of Appeals for the Jonathan Montgomery case (separation of powers) would not be an issue if this proposal had been implemented before November 2012. 

All these proposals that will become bills (with new bill numbers for 2014) at the upcoming legislative session must make it through the process of a bill becoming a law . But a recommendation from the VSCC does usually mean the bill(s) makes it through the process smoother than a standard bill. They aren’t guaranteed to become law, they could still fail. 

Just follow the 2014 Virginia General Assembly session to learn their outcome and all the other bills that we don’t even know about yet! 


Mary Devoy 

Crime Commission backs laws to fight illegal cigarette trafficking
Commission also wants legislation on wrongful convictions

Va. crime panel to study cigarette smuggling 

State Crime Commission Finalizes Legislative Wish List