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Senate approves raising felony theft threshold

(AP) A bill designed to soften penalties in Virginia for stealing smaller-dollar items has passed the state Senate.

The Senate voted nearly unanimously Thursday to raise the felony theft threshold from $200 to $500. Virginia has kept its felony bar at $200 since 1980 and is tied with New Jersey for the lowest in the country. Most other states have raised the dollar minimum for felony charges to keep pace with inflation.

A Senate committee rejected a push earlier this week by newly sworn-in Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam to raise the limit to $1,000. Northam has made raising the threshold one of his top legislative priorities. Sen. Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, backed the change.

“Not only is our current threshold archaic, but it is unethical. No Virginian should be marked as a felon for stealing a pair of sunglasses,” Saslaw said, according to a Democratic Party news release.

The bill’s highest hurdle is yet to come in the state House, which has repeatedly blocked efforts to raise the threshold.

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