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/
For the third consecutive year, the Canterbury Recreation Association in Short Pump donated the most meals to the fourth-annual "Dunk Hunger" campaign, which raises money and food donations for FeedMore's Central Virginia Food Bank. Swim teams and community pools throughout the region combined to raise the equivalent of 77,404 meals this year, with the Canterbury group earning the Gold Medal, with 17,454 meals contributed.
CRA will earn a winners’ bash Aug. 24 from 3 to 5 p.m. at its pool on Pump Road.
“Our pool has adopted Dunk Hunger into its culture with fun ways to raise food and funds," said Canterbury’s Dunk Hunger chairman Jack McSorley, a Freeman High School junior. > Read more.
The last Rock ‘n’ Roll Summer outdoor concert at West Broad Village, scheduled Saturday, Aug. 22 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in Short Pump, will feature a salute to the upcoming UCI Road World Cycling Championships, coming to the Richmond region next month. As an all-girl band entertains the public with an AC/DC and Foreigner tribute, representatives from West Broad Village will accept donations of children’s new and lightly used bicycles for redistribution to youngsters at the Virginia Homes for Boys and Girls. > Read more.
CAT Theatre is hosting the Red Eye 10s Coast-to-Coast Play Festival Sept. 18-19. Hosts of the festival across the country cast, rehearse and perform six, contest-winning ten-minute plays from MFA students at Hollins University in the same twenty-four hour period.
On Sept. 18, CAT will host a kick-off meeting at which the plays will be randomly cast and actors will meet with their directors and read the play for the first time. From 9 p.m. until 5 p.m. the following day, casts will rehearse in different venues in the region, convening at CAT in the late afternoon for technical rehearsals. > Read more.
- More News
Aug. 20, 2015Click here to read the print edition.
- More Entertainment
- More Obituaries
- More Community
- More Opinions
- More Sports
ClassifiedsHighspeed Internet EVERYWHERE By Satellite! Speeds up to 12mbps! (200x faster than dial-up.) Starting at $49.95/mo. CALL NOW & GO FAST! 1-888-685-2016
CalendarShort Pump Town Center’s kid’s club for ages six and under, Short Pump Pals, meets at 11 a.m. in the food court on the second Tuesday of every month. Membership… Full text