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VACP Legislative Update: February 13, 2014

February 12, 2014 | VACP

Crossover Week Update on legislation that the VACP has been tracking during the 2014 Session of the Virginia General Assembly.

by Dana Schrad, VACP/VACLEA Executive Director

We are halfway through the legislative session, and bills that have passed their houses of origin (the House or Senate) have either been defeated or carried over, or have been communicated to the other house of the General Assembly for further consideration.  The bills that are consuming the majority of our attention for the rest of the session are SB 495 (special conservators and private police) – which we support – and the mental health reform bills that negatively impact law enforcement through extending transportation times for ECO’s and TDO’s.  The VACP is working closely with the sheriffs to reach a compromise with the General Assembly that does not further stress limited law enforcement resources by extending transportation times.

Mental Health

SB 360 - Extends the time that a person may be held pursuant to an emergency custody order to 24 hours. Currently, a person may be held for up to four hours, with an additional two-hour extension available upon a finding by a magistrate that good cause exists for an extension. Directs the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to establish an acute psychiatric bed registry that will provide information on the availability of beds in public and private psychiatric facilities and residential crisis stabilization units for individuals who meet the criteria for temporary detention. Provides that an individual for whom a temporary detention order is issued shall be detained in a state facility if an employee or designee of the community services board is unable to identify an alternative facility that is able and willing to provide temporary detention.

The bill creates additional costs in four areas: (1) Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) central office expenses associated with coordinating and monitoring the bed registry (2) additional costs to Community Services Boards (CSB), law enforcement, and Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services central office associated with a 24 hour Emergency Custody Order (ECO), (3) the fiscal impact on DBHDS mental health facilities if an appropriate facility has not been identified for the temporary detention of person in the last hour of the ECO and such an individual must be place in a state facility, and (4) the Involuntary Mental Commitment Fund (IMC).

SB 360 is patroned by Senator Creigh Deeds, for whom this issue understandably has become a personal mission.  However, the extension of the ECO to 24 hours creates an extreme financial and staffing impact on local law enforcement, and creates the potential for an individual who is not subject to a criminal warrant to be held in police custody for an egregious length of time.  The VACP and VSA supported efforts by Senator Carrico to amend the bill on the Senate floor to reduce the ECO time to 8 hours, but the amendments were defeated.  SB 360 has passed the Senate and will be considered by the House. The VACP and VSA remain opposed to SB 360 in its present form.

HB 293 - Provides that an individual for whom a temporary detention order is issued shall be detained in a state facility unless the state facility or an employee or designee of the community services board is able to identify an alternative facility that is able and willing to provide temporary detention. The Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services shall submit an annual report to the Governor and the chairmen of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees on the implementation of the provisions of the bill. This bill incorporates HB 243. This bill is supported by the VACP as it gets to the root of the problem – the location and securing of a mental health bed – instead of unnecessarily extending the ECO timeframe as SB 360 requires.

The VACP and VSA will be working together as the key mental health bills work their way through the second half of session.  Please make sure that you contact your House Delegates to oppose the 24-hour ECO language in SB 360, and contact Senate members to support HB 293.

Traffic Enforcement/Highway Safety

License Plate Readers:

HB 1269 and SB 670 - Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act; limitation on collection and use of personal information by law enforcement.  These bills limit the ability of law-enforcement and regulatory agencies to use technology to collect and maintain personal information on individuals and organizations where a warrant has not been issued and there is no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity by the individual or organization. These bills were introduced to address concerns about data retention from license plate readers, but law enforcement opposed the bills based on vague and over-reaching language.  We worked with the patrons who agreed to carry the bills over to the 2015 session for further study.

The VACP has recommended that these bills be referred to the Virginia State Crime Commission.

Photo Red Enforcement Programs:

HB 446 - requires a yellow light of no less than 3 seconds.  This bill has passed the House and has been sent to the Senate.

HB 1040E - provides that operators found in violation of ordinances created to enforce photo-monitoring systems for traffic lights have a right to appeal to the circuit court and that the appeal shall be civil in nature.  This bill has passed the House and has been communicated to the Senate.

HB 973 – bill to eliminate photo red enforcement programs.  This bill was defeated in committee due to the tremendous support and efforts of Virginia police chiefs and officers.

Mature Drivers’ Licenses:

HB 771 - Mature driver crash prevention. Provides for a course in mature driver motor vehicle crash prevention and provides that such course is an option for the court in adjudicating defendants. The bill also lowers the age at which drivers are required to appear before the DMV for renewal from 80 to 75 and requires that licenses issued to persons age 75 or older be valid for no more than five years.  This bill is supported by the VACP as a public safety bill; the VACP participated in the DMV study that produced this bill. It has passed the House and is referred to the Senate.  The Senate killed the Senate version of this bill. 

Electronic Traffic Summons:

HB 477 – Passed House, referred to Senate Finance - Allows counties and cities to assess a fee not to exceed $5 as part of the costs in each criminal or traffic case in district or circuit court to be used for the implementation and maintenance of an electronic summons system.

Police Authority

SB 495 – makes changes to the laws addressing the powers of special conservators of the peace, private police departments and private police officers.  The bill is supported by the VACP, the Virginia Sheriffs Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, and Virginia Association of Commonwealth Attorneys and the Governor’s Office.  The bill passed unanimously through the Senate and will be next heard by the House Militia & Police Committee. 

SB 254 - Law-enforcement officers; exceptions to territorial limits; sex offenses. Provides that whenever the necessity arises for the enforcement of laws related to child pornography, grooming videos, or use of a communications system to facilitate certain sexual offenses against children, police officers and other officers, agents, and employees of a locality; Capitol Police officers; and campus police may be sent beyond their territorial limits.  This bill is supported by the Virginia Sheriffs Association; the VACP has expressed concern about the impact of this bill causing problems with coordination, lack of notice, deconfliction and officer safety issues.  

HB 1256 – This bill calls for the federal government to give notice to the Commonwealth of Virginia when a Virginia resident is arrested and detained by the federal government for crimes of terrorism.  The VACP does not oppose this section of the bill; however, the sanctions section of the bill provides that if the federal agency detaining any citizen pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act fails to comply with either such request, funds appropriated for implementation or continuation of memoranda of understanding entered into by cabinet secretaries shall be contingent upon authorization by an act of the General Assembly in a subsequent year. Finally, the bill authorizes the Governor to terminate any memorandum of understanding for noncompliance.  The VACP is opposed to the second part of the bill, which would do extreme damage to the ability of our state and local law enforcement agencies to participate on joint task forces with federal agencies.  The patron has failed to amend the bill to address law enforcement concerns, so the VACP will continue to oppose HB 1256.

FOIA

HB 380 - Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); disclosure pursuant to court order or subpoena. Provides that nothing in FOIA shall have any bearing upon disclosures required to be made pursuant to any court order or subpoena, nor shall any discretionary exemption from mandatory disclosure be construed to make records covered by such discretionary exemption privileged under the rules of discovery, unless disclosure is otherwise prohibited by law.  The VACP and others have concerns about the impact of this legislation, and support efforts to have the bill carried over and referred to the FOIA Council for study.

Firearms

HB 962 - Provides that for purposes of the exception to the prohibition against carrying a concealed weapon in a secured container or compartment in a personal, private motor vehicle or vessel, the term "compartment" includes a console, glove compartment, or any other area within or on the vehicle or vessel that possesses the ability to be closed. The bill also provides that the term "secured" does not require that a container or compartment be locked, but merely closed.  HB 962 has passed the House and was narrowly reported by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.  VACP members with concerns about HB 962 should contact members of the Virginia Senate as soon as possible.

HB 878 – Requires that when certification of a chief law-enforcement officer is required by federal law for transfer of a firearm, as defined in the National Firearms Act, such certification must be provided within 30 days if the applicant is not prohibited by law from receiving the firearm. If the applicant is prohibited by law from receiving the firearm, the chief law-enforcement officer or his designee shall provide written notification to the applicant stating the reason for the prohibition. The definition of "firearm" includes machine guns, rifles and shotguns of a certain length, weapons made from certain rifles or shotguns, silencers, and destructive devices.  Amendments made in the House satisfied the concerns of the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association; the VACP currently does not have a position on the amended version of the bill, unless we hear otherwise from the police chiefs.

HB 705 - Eliminates certain requirements for an out-of-state concealed handgun permit to be recognized in Virginia and provides that such a permit authorizes the holder of the permit to carry a concealed handgun so long as the permit holder carries a valid government-issued photo identification and presents that identification to any law-enforcement officer upon request.  This bill was opposed by the VACP; it passed the House, but was defeated in the Senate Courts Committee this week.

SB 510 - Prohibits any person who is convicted of stalking, sexual battery, or assault and battery of a family member involving the use of force from possessing, transporting, or carrying a firearm or any other weapon for a period of five years following his conviction. A violation would constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor. The bill also provides for the forfeiture of any weapon possessed, transported, or carried in violation of the prohibition.  SB 510 is supported by the VACP; it has passed the Senate and has been reported to the House Courts of Justice Committee.

Comments

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions — .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or (804) 338-9512.  This has been a difficult session with the shift in power in the Senate, and with the number of complicated bills that impact law enforcement.  The VACP has been fortunate to work closely with the Virginia Sheriffs Association, the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Fraternal Order of Police, the Virginia Association of Commonwealth's Attorneys and with the Governor’s Office to voice our concerns and reach compromises or defeat legislation where needed.

Many thanks for your support.  We will continue to need the assistance of our VACP members as we work through the second half of the legislative session.