Panel kills bills to restore felons’ voting tights
Gov. Bob McDonnell and other key Republicans, as well as Democratic legislators, say they are disappointed that a House subcommittee Jan. 14 killed proposals to automatically restore the voting rights of nonviolent felons who have served their prison sentences.
“I am very disappointed in today’s vote against these constitutional amendments. Once individuals have served their time and paid their fines, restitution and other costs, they should have the opportunity to rejoin society as fully contributing members,” McDonnell said.
The constitutional amendments subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee considered eight proposals introduced by delegates to restore the civil rights of felons who have completed their prison terms.
All of the proposed constitutional amendments were folded into one – House Joint Resolution 535, sponsored by Delegate Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria.
The subcommittee, made up of five Republicans and two Democrats, then voted 6-1 to recommend that Herring’s amendment be “passed by indefinitely.” That means those proposals probably won’t be considered again this legislative session. Only Delegate Algie T. Howell, D-Norfolk, voted against the motion.
The vote took place less than a week after McDonnell, in his State of the Commonwealth address, urged the General Assembly to support the restoration of voting rights for nonviolent felons.
“I believe strongly, as a matter of conscience, in protecting the constitutional rights of our citizens. And I believe that it is time for Virginia to join the overwhelming majority of states in eliminating our bureaucratic restoration process and creating a clear predictable constitutional and statutory process,” McDonnell said in his address last week.
Herring also expressed her frustration over the subcommittee’s decision.
“The House Republicans’ actions speak louder than words,” she said. “Instead of finding common ground on an issue like the restoration of voting rights, they are working to make it harder to vote while they think no one is watching.”
The restoration of voting rights has been on the Democrats’ agenda for years, but key Republicans now support the issue as well.
Republican Delegate Greg Habeeb of Salem sponsored one of the constitutional amendments that had been incorporated into Herring’s proposal. He still hopes that the General Assembly will approve the idea.
“I am disappointed in the outcome this morning. However, our work does not end here, and I am optimistic about the future of this legislation. In the years ahead, I will continue to push for a more efficient and less burdensome re-entry process in the commonwealth,” he said.
Habeeb’s proposal would have automatically restored rights to nonviolent felony offenders after the completion of their sentence, including the payment of any fines or restitution.
Although the House subcommittee voted down the proposals, the idea isn’t completely dead.
Four constitutional amendments to restore felons’ civil rights are pending in the Senate. If the Senate approves such a proposal, it will come back to the House for consideration.
Both McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a fellow Republican, said they will continue to push for voting rights restoration.
"Though I am disappointed with this morning's outcome, I will continue to keep up the fight on this important issue,” said Cuccinelli, who is running for governor this year.
“I would welcome the opportunity to testify before members of the Senate in an effort to underscore the importance of the restoration of civil rights to these individuals. I encourage other members of the General Assembly to join me in this important fight.”
How they voted
Here is how the constitutional amendments subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee voted today on House Joint Resolution 535, a package of constitutional amendments to automatically restore the civil rights of people convicted of nonviolent felonies.
The subcommittee voted on a motion to recommend that HJ 535 be “passed by indefinitely” – meaning postponed for this session. That motion passed, 6-1.
All five Republicans on the subcommittee voted for the motion. They are Delegates Jackson Miller of Manassas, David Ramadan of Dulles, Timothy Hugo Centreville, Israel O’Quinn of Bristol, and Mark Cole of Fredericksburg. Democratic Delegate Johnny Joannou of Portsmouth also supported the motion.
Voting against the motion to kill the resolution was Delegate Algie T. Howell, a Democrat from Norfolk.
To track or comment on HJ 535, visit the Richmond Sunlight website: http://www.richmondsunlight.com/bill/2013/hj535/
St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.
Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.
Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.
Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
For our Top 10 calendar events this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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CalendarGreater Richmond SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) will present a screening of the documentary “Resilience: The Biology of Stress, and the Science of Hope” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at St. Mary’s Hospital. “Resilience” is the companion film to “Paper Tigers,” which follows a year in the life of an alternative high school in Washington State who radically changed its approach to student discipline, with radically positive results. A short discussion will follow. Admission is free. To reserve a seat, visit http://tinyurl.com/SCANmovie. Full text