Va. House speaker promises action on police reform during upcoming special session

Va. House speaker promises action on police reform during upcoming special session
Virginia State Police troopers stand outside the Capitol during the hectic final days of the 2019 General Assembly session. (Source: Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

A top Virginia Democrat is promising quick action on police reform when the General Assembly reconvenes this summer for a special legislative session.

“We have seen and we have heard aggressive change is needed now, and we see this all over the commonwealth and the country,” House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, said Thursday. “As the speaker and certainly as an elected official and leader, it’s our job to listen, but also I feel strongly it’s our job to act quickly.”

But precisely what reforms the House, Senate and Gov. Ralph Northam are prepared to advance remains to be seen.

Filler-Corn, who sets the agenda for the House and controls the flow of legislation, says she’s still working with lawmakers to develop a package of bills, which she said will be informed by listening sessions with constituents.

“We’re spending a lot of time looking at exactly the scope and what we can do,” she said. “So I’m not prepared to list that out. … The bottom line is we’re going to move quickly during the special session.”

Mass demonstrations following the death of George Floyd at the hands of officers in Minneapolis have made criminal justice reform a nationwide focus. But before Filler-Corn’s announcement, it was unclear whether lawmakers in Virginia would take up the issue in the special legislative session that is tentatively set for early August.

Gov. Ralph Northam had scheduled the summer session to address the budgetary impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, but has since said he was open to addressing police reform and planned to hold his own town hall meetings to gather public input on possible policy recommendations.

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