Bill to strip qualified immunity from police clears Va. House on re-vote, heads to Senate

Bill to strip qualified immunity from police clears Va. House on re-vote, heads to Senate
Virginia Capitol. (Source: Capital News Service)

The Virginia House of Delegates narrowly passed legislation Tuesday rolling back qualified immunity as a defense against lawsuits alleging police misconduct, reviving the measure just four days after voting it down.

The bill, which now heads to the Senate, has followed a rocky path through the General Assembly and it’s the second time lawmakers in the House have resurrected the measure after initially rejecting it.

Two lawmakers changed their positions between Friday and Tuesday: Dels. Kaye Kory and Ibraheem Samirah, both Democrats from Fairfax.

Samirah chalked up his no-vote to a “miscalculation,” saying he had only voted against it because he believed it wasn’t going to pass and wanted to preserve the ability to ask for the bill to be reconsidered by voting on the prevailing side.

But his vote count was off and in fact the bill would have passed Friday with his support because a member of the GOP caucus, which unanimously opposed the legislation, was away for the day.

“Know this is the top priority for me as a progressive,” Samirah said Tuesday. “My tactic was to make sure it gets out of the House.”

Samirah faced sharp criticism from his colleagues over the long weekend. “These issues/lives are not for games, likes retweets or any foolish clown show,” tweeted the bill’s sponsor, Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond.

Kory had abstained from the initial vote, saying she was concerned about the potential impact on local sheriffs because of their status as constitutional officers.

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.