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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced he has signed 49 new pieces of legislation into law, including measures to expand the definition of “hate crime” and increase protections for transgender students in public schools.
Additionally, Governor Northam signed legislation that gives localities more authority over their communities, including House Bill 1101, enabling them to adopt affordable housing dwelling ordinances and House Bill 696, enabling localities to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Governor also signed Senate Bill 50, sponsored by Senator Lionell Spruill, Sr., to ban discrimination on the basis of hair. This bill is identical to House Bill 1514, which was previously signed by Governor Northam.
School Policies for Transgender Students
Governor Northam signed House Bill 145, sponsored by Delegate Marcus Simon and Senate Bill 161, sponsored by Senator Jennifer Boysko, which will require the Department of Education to develop model policies for elementary and secondary schools on how to address common issues involving transgender students, using evidence-based information and best practices. These model policies will address how schools can ensure they treat transgender students fairly and respectfully. School boards must adopt such policies for the 2021-2022 school year.
“In Virginia, we fully expect our schools to treat all students with the dignity and respect they deserve,” said Governor Northam. “This bill represents an important step towards making Virginia more welcoming and inclusive. I’m grateful to Senator Boysko and Delegate Simon for carrying this legislation, and I’m pleased to sign it.”
“All Virginia students deserve to learn in a safe, healthy, and welcoming environment,” said Senator Boysko. “I was proud to carry this incredibly important bill, and I’m thrilled to see it signed into law.”
“It is past time we put in place comprehensive policies to protect Virginia’s transgender students,” said Delegate Simon. “This bill will ensure the safety and dignity of all students in Virginia, regardless of how they identify or where they live.”
Policies for Police Body Cameras
Governor Northam signed House Bill 246, sponsored by Delegate Mark Levine that will establish transparent policies for how police departments should use body-worn cameras and maintain and store records from those cameras.
“Body-worn cameras provide important evidence and context, especially when the facts of an interaction between an officer and a member of the public are in dispute,” said Governor Northam. “Model policies will help ensure public input across the Commonwealth and will increase needed transparency in our criminal justice process.”
“Police-worn body cameras protect both law enforcement and the citizens they interact with,” said Delegate Levine. “With transparent policies for the use of body cameras, we will help increase accountability and build stronger relationships between law enforcement and the citizens they serve in communities across Virginia.”
Reporting Hate Crimes
Governor Northam signed House Bill 276, sponsored by Delegate Rip Sullivan. Current law requires the reporting of hate crimes to the State Police and this bill expands the definition of a hate crime to include criminal acts based on ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identification, and disability. This bill incorporates House Bill 1058.
“Attacking someone because of who they are, who they love, or where they’re from is wrong,” said Governor Northam. “Those actions are intended to send a chilling message that a person is not welcome, and that is exactly the opposite of what we stand for in Virginia. Hate has no place here. I am proud to sign this bill.”
“Over the last few years, we have watched as the number of hate crimes here and across the country continues to increase,” said Delegate Sullivan. “We can—and will—rise above this hatred by enacting legislation that reflects who we are as a Commonwealth.”
Banning Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity
Governor Northam signed House Bill 696, sponsored by Delegate Danica Roem, allowing localities to ban discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, or education based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I want Virginia to be a diverse and inclusive state, where everyone feels welcome,” said Governor Northam. “No one should fear being fired, evicted, or otherwise singled out because of who they are. This bill will help ensure all Virginians are treated fairly and equitably, and I am happy to sign it.”
“No matter where in the Commonwealth you live, you should be free from discrimination,” said Delegate Roem. “Allowing localities to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies means they can make a statement of affirmation about their values at the local level while we continue to make Virginia a more inclusive Commonwealth statewide. I’m proud both localities I represent have leaders who are eager to take action based on this legislation and thank the Governor for signing this bill into law.”
Repealing Virginia’s Habitual Drunkard Law
Governor Northam signed House Bill 923, sponsored by Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, which repeals a state law that allowed police to arrest and jail an individual declared a “habitual drunkard” by a court if that person possesses alcohol or is publicly intoxicated. The law was declared unconstitutional last year in a federal appeals court ruling.
“This archaic law criminalizes people for being homeless or suffering from addiction,” said Governor Northam. “It punished people without helping them. There are far better ways to address addiction in our Commonwealth, and I’m happy to sign this bill.”
“After years of fighting for reform and fairness in our criminal justice system, I’m excited to see this important bill become law,” said Delegate Carroll Foy. “Repealing Virginia’s draconian and unconstitutional interdiction laws will help to end the arbitrary practice of imprisoning Virginians simply because they are poor, homeless, or suffering from addiction.”
Governor Northam also signed 41 additional bills:
Until the session’s final week, the Constitution of Virginia requires the Governor to act on legislation within seven days.
The General Assembly session is scheduled to adjourn on March 7, 2020.
The full list of legislation signed by the Governor can be found here.
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