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Monday, April 3, 2017

One Type of Legislation Has Been Continuously Filed by Virginia Legislators EVERY Year for the last 13 General Assembly Sessions Whereas Other Categories Come and Go. Can You Guess the Category?


 
Today was the first Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission meeting of 2017; they usually hold 4 meetings per year and I always attend the first one because that’s’ where they discuss Legislation from the most recent General Assembly session. The VCSC website will post the presentations/data from today’s meeting online at some point in the next few days but right now it’s not online. 

The first VCSC meeting always includes how many Bills (legislation) were filed and in what categories they fell into. 

Now the VCSC tracks the Bills that have Fiscal Impact Statements (FIS) because their staff has to provide the statements prior to, during and after session. More on FIS requirements is below for anyone who is interested. The VCSC also captures the most popular (highest count) Bills w/ an FIS, and that’s varied from year to year sometimes they document just the Top 3 types of Bills and other years it’s the Top 9. 

Not every Bill has a financial cost which means a FIS would not be needed, so the VCSC’s annual count of Bills by Type/Category is not the grand total for each category, in fact some categories show zero but that doesn’t mean there weren’t Bills in those categories that year. Either the Bill count with FIS’s was so low they didn’t make the Top 3-10 List OR there were Bills in that category but they had NO FIS.  

Every year for the last 13 Virginia General Assembly sessions the category of “Sex Offender” has had a high enough number of Bills being filed the VCSC has included them in their GA wrap-up presentation. NO other category of Legislation in Virginia in the last 13 sessions has made the VCSC count EVERY YEAR, except "Sex Offender".  

Is this surprising? No. In fact a VCSC staffer said to me today when I held my spreadsheet (while it was missing the 2017 data) up to him, that sounds about right. I know Virginia Delegates and Senators love to target the “Sex Offenders”, it’s usually any easy vote, to sail through with little discussion or opposition. 

The problem is “Sex Offender” legislation should NOT be the most requested type of Bill in Virginia because:
·         9 out of 10 sex crimes that happened last year, that will happen this year and that will happen next year in the Commonwealth will be committed by someone known to the victim, not a stranger.
·         96-98% of sex crimes that happened last year, that will happen this year and that will happen next year in the Commonwealth will be committed by someone who is NOT a Registered Sex Offender, listed on the VSP Registry. 

Yet Virginia Delegates and Senators are filing Sex Offender Bills year-in-and-year-out while claiming to target those already convicted of a crime because they will do it again when in reality the recidivism rate for Registered Sex Offenders is the second lowest of ALL crimes. 
 

Virginia Legislators favorite Bills with Fiscal Impacts are against Sex Offenders, it’s a waste of money, time and lives. 

How about some Bills to study our current VSP Registry, the way we classify RSO’s and make most of them lifers with a petition process for a few that is too costly and usually ends with a denial and that we publicly list misdemeanor and juvenile offenders. 

Mary Devoy 

 

Code of Virginia § 30-19.1:4 (Fiscal Impact Statements): 
v      As of July 1, 2000 the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission must prepare a fiscal impact statement for any bill that would result in a net increase in the population of offenders housed in state adult correctional facilities (prisons). 

v      As of July 1, 2002, the impact statement must:
§       Include an analysis of the impact on local and regional jails as well as state and local community corrections programs; and
§       Detail any necessary adjustments to the sentencing guidelines 

v      The Commission must estimate the increase in annual operating costs for prison facilities that would result if the proposal is enacted
§       A six-year projection is required
§       The highest single-year increase in operating costs is identified
§       This amount must be printed on the face of the bill 

If the Commission does not have sufficient information to project the impact, § 30-19.1:4 states that the words "Cannot be determined" must be printed on the face of the bill. 

v      For each law enacted that results in a net increase in the prison population, a one-year appropriation must be made
§       Appropriation is equal to the highest single-year increase in operating costs during the six years following enactment 

v      Appropriations made pursuant to § 30-19.1:4 are deposited into the Corrections Special Reserve Fund 

v      The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) prepares a fiscal impact estimate for any bill that would result in a net increase in the juvenile population committed to the state

§       DJJ provides this information to the Commission and a combined statement is submitted to the General Assembly 

v      The requirement for an impact statement includes, but is not limited to, proposals that:
1)     Add new crimes for which imprisonment is authorized;
2)    Increase the periods of imprisonment authorized for existing crimes;
3)    Raise the classification of a crime from a misdemeanor to a felony;
4)    Impose mandatory terms of imprisonment; or
5)    Modify the law governing release of prisoners 

v      The necessary appropriation is calculated by:
§       Estimating the net increase in the prison population likely to result from the proposal during the six years following enactment
§       Identifying the highest single-year population increase
§       Multiplying that figure by the cost of holding a prison inmate for a year (operating costs, excluding capital costs) 

v      Additional impact analyses may be conducted at the request of:
§       House Appropriations staff
§       Senate Finance staff
§       Department of Planning and Budget staff
§       Office of the Secretary of Public Safety