Prosecutors and public defenders in Virginia are paid by the state, but on average, lawyers who work for the Commonwealth’s Attorney make 25% more than lawyers who defend the poor. Now that one public defender is asking for a raise, and others may follow suit.
Some of the laws that passed during this year's General Assembly session did so with little fanfare. Others gained lots of attention initially but received little follow-up—and one lawmaker sponsored two such bills. While you may not hear much about them now, they're likely to become hot topics in the near future since that lawmaker is running for higher office.
A bill that is now under review by Governor McDonnell strengthens current state laws on stalking —although its sponsor says the law still needs to be even tougher. Delegate Jennifer McClellan hopes her bill will encourage law enforcement to take reports of stalking and domestic abuse more seriously. It would become a felony if someone convicted twice of stalking had also been convicted of committing violent acts against the same victim within five years. It would also apply if the aggressor had violated a protective order within that period.
The passage of Virginia’s transportation-funding bill was not the only change of heart that took place in the General Assembly this session. Another was tackling a growing traffic-safety hazard that did not even exist a generation ago—and making it a primary offense. It not only toughens current state penalties against texting while driving, but it targets similar communications.