Lawmakers tighten sex-offender restrictions

Adults convicted of sexually violent offenses would be barred from entering school buses and would have to submit a DNA sample under two bills headed toward approval in the General Assembly.

House Bill 2066 “expands the prohibition on entry onto school grounds by any adult convicted of a sexually violent offense to include any school bus.” The measure was approved unanimously by the House on Feb. 8 and by the Senate last week.

The Senate broadened the prohibition to include any public or private property being used for a school-related or school-sponsored activity. That change now must be considered by the House.

The bill’s patron, Delegate Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville, said that people convicted of a sexually violent offense present a threat to children. He said it is important to make sure students are safe on their way to school -- especially on a bus where other adults may not be present.

“Every parent of a student puts his boy or girl on the bus and takes a leap of faith that his child will get to school safely,” Bell said. “This is an effort to help keep that faith.”

He said HB 2066 is an extension of a law passed in 2007 that prohibits sexually violent offenders from entering school property.

“I patroned the original law, which was prompted by a sex offender who visited a Central Virginia elementary school dressed as Santa Claus,” Bell said.
Bell said the Virginia State Police suggested expanding the ban to school buses.

Bell also is sponsoring HB 2065. He said it would “require the collection of (deoxyribonucleic acid) DNA samples upon a conviction for additional sex offenses, including sexual battery, ‘peeping,’ and sexual abuse by an adult of a child who is 14 or 15. It would also authorize the taking of DNA samples pursuant to a plea agreement among all the parties.”

HB 2065 also cleared the House and Senate on unanimous votes. The Senate substituted its own version of the bill; on Friday, the House unanimously approved the Senate substitute.

Bell said that currently, the state can collect DNA samples for violators of some sex offenses, but not the ones he has listed in the bill. He said the new law would expand the DNA database because it is adding additional sex offenses to the list.

“DNA in the database can be used to determine if the defendant commits a sex offense in the future,” Bell said. “DNA helps ensure that the guilty person is caught.”

HB 2065 was suggested by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science as a way of improving the DNA database, Bell said.

Bell said that upon conviction, the defendant will be required to provide a DNA sample for inclusion in the database.

“Improving the DNA database will help us catch the perpetrator if he ever re-offends in the future,” Bell said. “DNA helps us catch and punish the guilty just as it helps exonerate the innocent.”

To track or comment on House Bill 2065, visit http://www.richmondsunlight.com/bill/2011/hb2065. To track or comment on HB 2066, visit http://www.richmondsunlight.com/bill/2011/hb2066.
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A safer way across


A project years in the making is beginning to make life easier for wheelchair-bound residents in Northern Henrico.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is completing a $2-million set of enhancements to the Brook Road corridor in front of St. Joseph's Villa and the Hollybrook Apartments, a community that is home to dozens of disabled residents. > Read more.

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Five years ago, members of the Friends of Bryan Park were facing the apparently inevitable development of the Shirley subdivision in Henrico, adjacent to the forested section of the park near the Nature Center and Environmental Education Area.

As part of the Shirley subdivision, the land had been divided into 14 lots in 1924, but had remained mostly undisturbed through the decades. In 2012, however, developers proposed building 40 modular houses on roughly 6.5 acres, clear-cutting the forest there and creating a highly dense neighborhood tucked into a dead end. > Read more.

Meet the men running for governor


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The governor’s position is one of great power and influence, as the current officeholder, Terry McAuliffe, has demonstrated by breaking the record for most vetoes in Virginia history.

However, during the last gubernatorial race in 2014, the voter turnout was less than 42 percent, compared with 72 percent during last year’s presidential election. > Read more.

RISC to address reading, childhood trauma, job training at assembly

On May 1, more than 1,700 community members representing Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Communities will gather at St. Paul’s Baptist Church (4247 Creighton Road) at 7 p.m. to address elementary reading, childhood trauma and job training in the greater Richmond region. Community members will speak about each issue and proposed solution.

For three years, the organization has sought implementation of a specific literacy program in Henrico County that it believes would help children who struggle with reading. > Read more.

Henrico to begin update of zoning, subdivision ordinances April 26


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Community

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


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.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


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.
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Weekend Top 10


For our Top 10 calendar events this weekend, click here! > Read more.

 

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