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/
Henrico's Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is one of only 20 gardens in North America nominated for USA Today’s “10Best Reader’s Choice” contest for Best Public Garden.
The 20 public gardens nominated are:
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• Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, New York
• Buthcart Gardens, Victoria, B.C.
• Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Ga. > Read more.
Photo by Patty Kruszewski/Henrico Citizen 02/24/2014
The Fifth Annual Henrico Police Athletic League (PAL) Award Banquet, held Feb. 6 at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, honored HPAL’s top volunteers and employees, including Morgan Lewis, Youth of the Year; Dale Alexander, Volunteer of the Year; Lowell Thomas, Employee of the Year, and Victor Williams, Board Member of the Year. Also honored for their support were Jim and Christi Dowd of Richmond BMW and Josh Davis of Henrico County Public Schools Pupil Transportation.
Keynote speaker for the banquet was Tim Hightower, a University of Richmond alumnus and former NFL running back. Hightower was introduced by Billy McMullen, former NFL player and a Henrico PAL board member. > Read more.
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The National Society Daughters of American Colonists is a women’s genealogical and patriotic society whose members are descended from a man or woman who rendered civil or military service in any of the American colonies prior to July 4, 1776. > Read more.
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But animated South African film has its moments
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But when Khumba starts up, it looks nothing like you’d expect. The camera gazes across the savannah and the soundtrack swells with triumphant South African vocals. > Read more.
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