Saturday, May 14, 2016

Action Item: 9 months is TOO Long for a Virginia Attorney General Opinion to Go Unanswered, it’s Time to Reform the AG Opinion Process

VA Attorney General
Mark Herring

Three weeks ago I posted about my unanswered Virginia Attorney General Opinion from August 2015 here. 

In early April Delegate Dave LaRock filed suit against the VA A.G. to get an answer to his ignored September 2015 AG Opinion submission, approximately one month later he got his answer.

AG Herring Issues Advisory Opinion to Avoid LaRock Lawsuit, May 10, 2016
I’ve been waiting for an AG Opinion since last August. 

What is the Attorney General Opinion submitted by a Virginia Senator for me? It was to answer this simple question:

Can Registered Sex Offenders attend church if there is a daycare and/or school on the property? 

The two Virginia statutes in question in this matter are:
§ 18.2-370.5. - Sex offenses prohibiting entry onto school or other property
§ 18.2-370.2. - Sex offenses prohibiting proximity to children on School and Daycare Property 

For years the Virginia State Police who is the official manager and monitor of our RSO’s won’t give me an answer to this question including as recently as September 2015. 

Numerous Virginia Delegates and Senators have been unable or unwilling to give me an answer to this question over the last 7-8 years.  

Per Virginia law § 2.2-505 , citizens can not submit requests for an A.G. Opinion but Virginia Legislators, the Governor, a constitutional officer, or the head of a state agency can. 

My own Delegate, who offered in late-2011 to submit an AG Opinion for me, never did. Then last July I asked him both in an email and in-person and my request was ignored. 

In August 2015 I found two Senators and a Delegate who were all willing to make the AG submission, so one Senator did. 

Its 9 months later and there has been no Opinion filed by the Virginia AG’s Office in regards to this inquiry. 

The Virginia Senator that filed this Opinion in August has not answered my email’s or phone calls over the last 5 weeks. All I want to know is if the AG’s office has advised the patron if they are refusing to make a determination OR if the submission is still open and being worked on 9 months later. 
The Virginia ACLU has known about this submission since it was made back in August, they were very interested in learning what the AG’s Office decided, but they too have not taken any action on this 9 month-long unanswered submission.
 I don’t have the financial means to sue the A.G. as Delegate La Rock did so I’m left standing alone with no answers for 22,300+ Virginians and no one in authority or with the legal means is willing to help me get the answer.
Thousands of Virginia RSO's are either, attending church and committing an arbitrary felony OR they have stopped attending church because they are worried it would be a felony.  Both scenarios are unacceptable, we need to know if it’s legal or illegal to go to church!
So what can be done?  I need your help; I need you to send some emails over the next week. 

Please contact:
  1. Your one Virginia Delegate and one Senator and ask them to patron legislation (see the 2017 proposal below) at the next Virginia General Assembly session to make the Virginia AG Opinion process more accountable and transparent.
  2. The Virginia AG’s Office, ask them to address the August 18, 2015 AG Opinion submission on RSO’s worshipping in Virginia.
  3. The Virginia ACLU and ask them to step in with their resources to get the AG’s Office to address the August 18, 2015 AG Opinion submission on RSO’s worshipping in Virginia.
2017 proposal:
  1. A Virginia Delegate or Senator should not be allowed to decline to submit an AG Opinion when they can not answer a constituent’s inquiry regarding current Virginia law. As the elected-official for that citizen’s District they have an obligation to get a clear answer regarding Virginia law for their constituent.
                The Legislator should be required to submit the request within 30 days of being asked. 

If a Virginia Delegate or Senator ignores a constituents request to submit an AG Opinion there should be a process for a citizen to get the Administration involved.  

  1. All AG Opinion submissions should be posted on the AG website with the ability to track their status. 
They AG's Office should be required to post the submission online within 5 days of receiving them. 

Even if the AG declines to look into the submission, their reply/reason not to proceed should also be posted online. 

If the AG’s Office is working on a submission the online tracking should have an expected turn around time-frame and if that date passes an update by the AG’s Office would need to be posted. 

The Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commissions (JLARC) website tracks and updates all reports they are working on, the Virginia Attorney General website Opinion section should too. 

Finally the Virginia AG website should have an email sign-up to receive notification of any new submissions or decisions so there isn’t any delay for those who are waiting for an answer.

Please take a few minutes in the next week to complete these 3 actions even if you don’t care about this specific issue.  

As a supporter/follower of RSO laws and issues in Virginia even when a restriction, mandate or regulation doesn’t directly affect you or your loved one, we need to band together when an injustice, an overreach or fear-mongering is occurring against RSO’s. 

Thank you very much for your support and if you receive a reply from one of the three contacts please let me know .