While not all bills to crack down on human trafficking in Virginia have survived the halfway point in the General Assembly, lawmakers believe they've made progress in battling what's now considered one of the fastest—if not the fastest—growing financial crime worldwide.
They have agreed that this is not a partisan issue. Lawmakers were able to work across both chambers and party lines to develop new guidelines to assist victims and law enforcement officials.
Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell and other GOP members of that chamber are characterizing the first half of the General Assembly session as a success.
Howell says many of their key initiatives have passed, and they worked well with Democrats. But when asked if the House will work with the Senate on passing Medicaid expansion, GOP leaders still say they just don't see that happening.
The Virginia Senate has approved legislation to repeal the state law passed two years ago that requires women to have an ultrasound before undergoing an abortion. The measure was initially defeated—then in a dramatic reversal, was revived.
Bill sponsor Senator Mamie Locke said ultrasounds may not be medical necessary, and those that are can be performed without this law.
A person in a mental health crisis may be kept in custody for evaluation for up to 24 hours under legislation that has cleared the Virginia Senate.
The new, 24-hour limit passed over the objections of some in the law enforcement community, who worried that such a lengthy period may divert deputy sheriffs who are detaining the patient from other public safety priorities.
But the bill passed unanimously after an impassioned plea from the Senator who was most recently impacted by flaws in the state’s mental health system.
The Virginia Senate tackled several bills addressing acts of violence. And, after lengthy debate, Senators likely killed a measure that would have allowed Virginia to use electrocution as a form of execution, if necessary.
The Senate also gave preliminary approval to a measure to penalize so-called “celebratory gunfire.”