Friday, April 25, 2014

Two Virginia Governors Have Pulled “Legislative Switcheroo’s” Prior to the One Day Veto Session, How is this Not a Violation of Our Legislative System in an Open Government?

Hey? Where'd the Bill that Failed During Session Go?
SB262 (Alicia’s Law) failed to pass during the 2014 General Assembly session, but Governor McAuliffe took the text from SB262 and inserted into SB14 for the one day veto session and now it will become law. 

I did not oppose SB262 at this year’s session, I have never taken a stance against Alicia’s Law and I’m still not.
BUT…………… I am questioning the “highly creative maneuver” of Governor Terry McAuliffe as PROTECT called it in yesterdays email-blast and on their Facebook page.
  • A bill that failed to pass through both chambers during the 2014 Virginia General Assembly session SB262 (Alicia’s Law) patroned by Senator Deeds officially died.
  • A separate bill SB14 (Sodomy/Crimes Against Nature) sponsored by Senator Garrett passed out of both chambers and headed to the Governor for his signature.
  • Prior to the one day Reconvened Session (aka The Veto Session) schedule for Wednesday April 23, 2014 the Governor planned an amendment for SB14. But yet the text of his amendment was NEVER posted on the LIS website for anyone to read ahead of time, to understand what the proposal would do or to oppose it if they determined it needed opposing. I checked on April 22 and it was NOT posted.
  • The veto session arrives on April 23rd, the House and Senate are given the Governors Amendment to SB14 which is the body of SB262 (having nothing to do with sodomy or crimes against nature) that the Legislature did not approve of during session and it passes. It will now become law.
See article below for more on this “highly creative maneuver”. 

Now before those of you who aren’t Terry McAuliffe fans jump to a conclusion....... know this. 

In 2013 I publicly opposed HB1751 patroned by Delegate Miller. It and its Senate companion SB1182 patroned by Senator Vogel failed to pass both chambers during session. The Senate version was left to die in the Finance Committee and the House version went to “conference” and failed to pass the House. They were both officially dead. 

But prior to the 2013 one day Reconvened Session then Governor Bob McDonnell took the text from HB1751/SB1182 and inserted it into the SB1033 (Juvenile and adult facilities; punishment for certain offenses committed within facilities) sponsored by Senator Reeves. Nothing was posted online ahead of time to read, to understand what the proposal would do or to determine if opposition was needed. The same proposal that failed to pass during the public annual session where citizens can speak for and against bills was now slipped into a different bill for a one day session and it became law and the public was none the wiser. 

I didn’t find out about the 2013 “Governor Swicharoo” until later in the autumn when a reporter was working on an article and contacted me. 

How can an amendment that failed as one bill just be slipped in as an amendment to a different bill that was already passed (without this text) after session, with no public notice, no public debate and it becomes law? 

This is how laws are passed in the Commonwealth. Wheeling and dealing behind the scenes as an after-the-fact addition so it would go through unopposed and unnoticed by the public in a one-day-veto-session that doesn’t allow for edits or time to properly discuss the additions and everyone just wants to go home. 

All the letters, email’s phone calls, public statements and long debates during session, in an open government are all thrown out the window. None of it matters because the Governor (whatever political party he/she belongs to) can cut and paste a dead bill into a bill that has made it to his/her desk.

If the 2013 bill wasn’t for harsher penalties against Sexually Violent Predators and the 2014 bill wasn’t to fund Internet Crimes Against Children would such an unethical (oh excuse me) “highly creative maneuver” have been allowed by the Legislature?  

For a moment consider the Virginia House is NOT a GOP majority. That the House and the Senate are both Democrat majorities and that the Governor’s Switcharoo was for limiting the total number of firearms citizens can own.  Text taken from a bill that died during session and now inserted into an unrelated and innocuous  firearm bill. No text is published before the veto session, no notice goes out about the changes to the bill, the public has no say during a veto session and the majority (House and Senate ) accept the Governors amendment.

Would this even be a possibility, no it wouldn’t. Because there would be protests in the streets, the media would go nuts and because passing a law that failed during session under the cover of night and after the fact is not how a democracy works.  

Except when it’s sex crimes! Then all bets are off and all rules of a democracy are suspended. If it's claimed that it will save a child or detain a sexual predator, who is going to argue against it or the manner that was used to pass it? No one!
Mary Devoy

State measure will boost funding for crime task force in Bedford County
By Alicia Petska                April 23, 2014

A proposal to boost funding for Virginia’s Internet Crimes Against Children Fund passed Wednesday after supporters launched an 11th-hour attempt to save it. 

The measure, which increases dedicated funding for ICAC task forces by 50 percent, failed during the regular General Assembly session this year after getting stalled in a House of Delegates committee. 

But it was revived this month and attached as a governor’s amendment to a bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Garrett, R-Louisa. 

The amendment unanimously was accepted by both the Senate and House on Wednesday, and will mean more money for the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Task Force spearheaded by the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office.

The amendment expands a provision created four years ago as part of what’s become known as “Alicia’s Law,” named for Alicia Kozakiewicz, who was abducted by a Virginia man in 2002 when she was 13 years old. 

In 2010, the state created a $10 court fee levied against all those convicted of felonies or misdemeanors in Virginia. The money was dedicated to the ICAC fund, which supports the state’s two internet crimes against children task forces and related programs. 

The measure adopted Wednesday raises the fee to $15. Camille Cooper, of the advocacy group PROTECT, said the increase is expected to generate an additional $900,000 in the next year. 

By state code, the task force in Bedford County receives one-third of that money. Cooper said the funding would be used to hire more investigators and enable law enforcement to track down more leads. 

“This money is the best investment Virginia has ever made in child abuse prevention, because it leads law enforcement directly to the doors of abusers,” she said. 

The task force investigates online child predators and child pornography cases. The task force in Bedford County was formed out of an initiative started by the sheriff’s office and now includes dozens of partner agencies. 

The Bedford County Sheriff’s Office could not immediately be reached for comment late Wednesday. 

Garrett, whose district includes Amherst and Appomattox counties and part of Lynchburg, said Gov. Terry McAuliffe approached him about adding the amendment to Senate Bill 14, which Garrett sponsored. 

“I told him I would be delighted at the opportunity to work across party lines to perpetuate good policy,” Garrett said. “… We often dwell on the things that separate us, but we also have some common values and goals.” 

Garrett, an assistant prosecutor in Louisa County, said the work done by the ICAC task forces is invaluable. 

“The way we make these cases is with the initiatives enabled by this policy,” he said. 

Wednesday’s amendment is slightly narrower than the previous proposals introduced earlier this year. The earlier bills, sponsored by Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, and Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, would have earmarked some money to create school programs to teach children how to avoid and escape from predators.

That initiative did not pass. But Cline, whose district includes part of Amherst County, said work on it will continue and he hopes to reintroduce it next year. 

Cline said he was pleased Wednesday’s amendment passed and more resources will be available for the ICAC task forces. 

“This is a great step forward, and will go a long way toward keeping children across Virginia safe,” he said.