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General Assembly wraps 2018 regular session

general-assembly_mainThe 2018 Virginia General Assembly regular session ended March 10 with two major issues still unresolved.

No compromise was reached on Medicaid expansion and, as a result, no state budget was passed.

Now, the GA will reconvene at the governor’s urging April 11 for a special session to further debate expanding Medicaid and a related hospital tax which the Senate opposes and the House supports.

If no budget passes, the state government will shut down on July 1.

Assuming that doesn’t happen, lots of legislation came and went this year concerning a whole host of issues.

Here are the bills that Virginia Lawyers Weekly covered this year that have passed or are still alive as of March 14.

Signed into law by the governor

So far, only two bills that VLW covered this legislative session have been signed into law: House Bills 780 and 1024.

One of these deals with making online court records more available and the other is a Boyd-Graves Conference recommendation regarding attorney fees.

  • HB780 makes it the responsibility of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia to create an online database of public information on criminal cases by July 1, 2019. The Senate equivalent, Senate Bill 564, is still waiting on a signature from the governor.
  • HB1024, which was signed into law back in February, deletes a statute on attorneys’ fees that the Boyd-Graves Conference felt was misleading. The provision being repealed says that only one attorney can be “taxed” by the court, even if the prevailing party had more than one attorney.

Passed the GA, but not signed yet

The following bills were all passed by both the House and Senate, but have either not made it to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk, or were not signed by March 14, at press time.

A notable compromise from the 2018 session was the decision to raise the grand larceny threshold in exchange for creating a system to enforce defendant’s restitution payments. Additionally, bills were also passed to make sure that the restitution that was paid actually made it to the victims who were owed.

  • HB 484 and Senate Bill 994 create a system to monitor defendant’s restitution payments, and requires probation officers to tell the court if he or she doesn’t pay. The bill also establishes consequences for not paying.
  • HB 1550 and SB 105 increase the amount a person must steal to be found guilty of grand larceny from $200 to $500. These bills are culminations of at least 10 other proposed bills, many of which were incorporated into SB105.
  • HB 483 and SB 562 also deal with restitution and focus on making sure that the money gets to the people who are owed once it is paid to the government. The bills create new positions to work to track down those who don’t receive payments because they have moved.

SB 772 and HB 1249/SB 565 represent notable criminal prosecution bills relating to large news stories from the recent past.

  • SB772 compensates the men who have come to be known as the Norfolk Four: Men who were wrongfully convicted of a rape and murder which they did not commit based on false confessions
  • HB1249 and SB565 add to the number of misdemeanor violations which require a DNA sample upon conviction for the state’s database. Delegates say had this law existed previously, it may have led to the conviction of Jesse Matthew for rape prior to his committing two murders.

SB 545 and SB 926, both sponsored by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, seek to regulate officers of the court from out of state who do business in Virginia.

  • SB 545 is a bill which limits the ability of court reporters to make multi-case contracts with anyone other than a lawyer. This is an attempt to keep national court reporter firms from making long-term deals with insurance companies and shifting the cost to attorneys.
  • SB 926 limits the contingency fee that a special counsel employed by the state can charge, depending on the amount recovered. So, the maximum under this law would be 27 percent for recoveries of $10 million or less. The percentage decreases as recoveries increase.

Two more Boyd-Graves Conference bills awaiting signatures are HB 128 and HB 1023.

  • HB128 requires that a party in civil court who requests a rule to show cause for violation of a court order must provide a statement of facts.
  • HB1023 clarifies that subpoenas for out-of-state depositions must only be issued by the circuit court clerk from the area in which discovery is sought, in accordance with the Uniform Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act.

And finally, SB 939 requires that the retired judges who fill in on occasion must be qualified by the General Assembly every three years. This changes the previous policy which said they must be authorized by the Chief Justice. In addition, a judge may only be recalled with the consent of a majority of the members of the court they are being recalled to. The bill doesn’t take effect until 2019.