Local Lawmakers Have Key Bills Signed

Local Lawmakers Have Key Bills Signed

July 1 marked deadline for signing of bills in Richmond.

Virginia Governor Mark Warner signed a number of important measures into law on July 1, the Alexandria’s legislative delegation sponsored that will have a direct impact on the city and surrounding jurisdictions.

Delegate Marian Van Landingham (D-45) sponsored a bill that changed Virginia’s Democratic primary from June to February. She was with Warner when he signed the measure into law.

“Currently, the Virginia primary has very little impact on the nomination for president,” said Van Landingham. “This new law will make our primary one of the first to be held instead of one of the last. I am very pleased.”

Another piece of legislation that is important to Van Landingham was folded into a bill that was sponsored by another member.

“For many years, I have obtained additional funding for English as a Second Language in our public schools through the Appropriations Committee,” she said. “This piece of legislation makes that money part of the statute and thus, provides a bit more protection for it. The funds are very important to our public schools, particularly as our immigrant population grows.”

Van Landingham was involved in a number of other measures but focused her energies on the budget. “There was so little money this year that I spent time on the budget and didn’t carry as many bills as I have done in the past,” she said.

Delegate Brian Moran (D-46) agreed. “Most of the measures that I proposed cost little or no additional money,” he said.

ONE OF THOSE measures concerned adding foster parents and other guardians to the definition of victim under the Crime Victim Witness Act. “This will allow foster parents to be in the courtroom during cases that involve children who have been under their care and will allow them to prepare victim impact statements,” Moran said. The legislation, which was also sponsored by Sen. Patricia S. “Patsy” Ticer (D-30), came from the Katelynn Frazier case where a foster parent who had fought to adopt Katelynn was not legally considered a victim when Katelynn was murdered by her biological mother’s boyfriend.

“When a foster parent or other person has been the protector of a child, they should have this special status,” Ticer said.

ANOTHER BILL that both Moran and Ticer sponsored extends the period of time that defendants who have been found not competent to stand trial can be kept institutionalized while attempts are made to return them to competency.

“Right now, defendants such as Gregory Murphy, who is accused of murdering eight-year-old Kevin Shifflett, can only be kept in the criminal justice system for five years while these attempts are made,” Ticer said. “This new law allows those attempts to continue indefinitely.”

Moran agreed. “This bill was proposed by the Commonwealth’s Attorneys Association and will give the court system jurisdiction over such defendants as Mr. Murphy for as long as the system needs,” he said.

Moran also carried a bill that will allow public safety employees to use the HOV lanes to get to work. “Many of our public safety employees cannot afford to live in the close-in suburbs,” he said. “This will make it a bit easier for them to get to work.”

TICER WAS WITH Warner when he signed a bill that requires those who are convicted of videotaping or photographing persons, without their knowledge or consent, when those people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, be added to a registry.

“A young woman came to me because her landlord placed video cameras in her shower and in a number of other places in her apartment without her knowledge. The landlord videotaped this young woman in various stages of undress and even went so far as to put music to the pictures,” Ticer said. “The law says that, after three offenses, these convicted sex offenders must register with the Sex Offender Registry. I’m sorry that we need three offenses but that’s the best we could do.”

Ticer also sponsored a bill that requires the state’s child protective agencies to keep family assessments for three years instead of the current one year.

“These assessments are done when families are reported for suspected child abuse or neglect,” Ticer said. “If they are kept for three years, new staff can look at them and perhaps see a pattern if there are multiple contacts with a family. It just adds another protection for children.”

Van Landingham, Moran and Ticer have all announced that they are running for re-election in November. Van Landingham and Ticer have Republican opponents while Moran and Adam Ebbin, the city’s other legislator in District 49 are running unopposed.