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Republican lawmakers, Attorney General-elect share insight into future plans

Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 5:47 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Plans for change are already in the works at the Attorney General’s level and for state lawmakers after the 2021 election results.

On Thursday, both Jason Miyares and current House Minority Leader Delegate Todd Gilbert shared insight on what changes lie ahead.

Legislators are already drafting various bills to introduce, with pre-filing starting Nov. 15. Some Republicans are looking to undo some things passed while Democrats had their trifecta of control.

“We would hope to send some of those things back over to the Senate to right some wrongs,” Gilbert said.

One thing on the top of many Republicans minds is what is unfolding in Loudoun County concerning sexual assaults in schools. Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares promising to conduct his own investigation into the matter.

Other legislation in the works would also allow Miyares to take a more prominent role in some cases.

“A bill that would essentially say if the chief law enforcement officer in a jurisdiction, either the Chief of Police or Sheriff, makes a request because the Commonwealth’s Attorney is not doing their job then I’m going to do their job for them,” he said.

Lawmakers already looking to reverse the school crime reporting bill.

“Saying you couldn’t report certain crimes or that you had the discretion to report different crimes,” Gilbert said. “If they happened on the sidewalk then everyone would call police, but if they happen in the school, things like stalking, violating a protective order, sexual battery, all of a sudden we’re at the discretion of the school administration, which would have every reason not to do that in some cases.”

Gilbert said education is the top issue to tackle adding the GOP is focused on the issues Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin campaigned on.

“I think we would like to keep nurturing this issue and making sure that we move forward in a way that makes life better for the kids and easier for our parents,” Gilbert said. “Just so that they know the schools are doing what they’re meant to do, teach them the basics, teach them how to get the tools they need to live their life and not be social experiments.”

When it comes to marijuana legislation, it does not appear Republicans will do a ton of backtracking. However, the GOP feels there were holes in the Democrats plans to quickly legalize it.

“All these did was essentially create a black market for marijuana, or enhance the black market, that already existed by legalizing the possession and growing of marijuana,” Gilbert said. “There’s all kinds of mess they created there because they didn’t do anything to get around it, any regulatory, taxes, whatever it may be – they didn’t do it the right way, if there is a right way.”

Gilbert added Republicans will have to work with the Democratic Senate to “fix it”.

“I imagine the roadmap that they laid out as to how that would occur if they did it in the future, is going to change dramatically,” he said. “Obviously, we’ve been left with live grenade rolling around and have to fix it or else all we have is a black market.”

When it comes to the Attorney General’s office, Miyares said there will be a noticeable change in focus.

“Attorney General Herring was very vocal about how he turned the office into a progressive powerhouse, his words, not mine,” Miyares said. “I campaigned and went to the voters of Virginia asking them to hire me, and one of that was to get it shifted back to more public safety and a law enforcement focus precisely at a time when the murder rate is at the highest it’s been in over two decades in Virginia.”

To help with that focus, Miyares announced who would be helping him during the transition period.

Those individuals include help on the statewide level from former Attorneys General and Governors including Mark Earley, Jim Gilmore, and Bob McDonnell. There will also be help from the local level, including Chesterfield County’s Sheriff, Karl Leonard, and Commonwealth’s Attorney, Stacie Davenport.

The Attorney General-elect also focused on protecting the victims of a crime.

“Those are the individuals that you remember, are the victims; you don’t remember the defendants so much,” he said. “That’s been a little bit of my frustration that I’ve seen is I think the victims have been forgotten. When prosecutors are making plea deals on child rape cases over the objection of the families, I have a serious problem with that. So, there’s going to be a legislative fix.”

The former Virginia Beach prosecutor also said he plans to ensure the rape kit backlog does not happen again under his watch. In July 2020, Attorney General Mark Herring announced the backlog had been eliminated.

“I think that was one of the great accomplishments of Attorney General Herring’s office, and I applaud him for that,” Miyares said.

Human trafficking is also a focus for his office, looking into whether there is a joint task force set up with federal authorities.

“We have a huge problem in Virginia,” he said. “It’s a transient with I-81 and I-95; which has a large amount of human trafficking in both of those corridors.”

The Attorney General-elect also plans to set up a fraud and consumer division, with a focus on the older population.

“Just focusing on seniors… it’s going to be focused on particularly the time when we have an aging population – a lot of seniors are being taken advantage of,” he said.

Miyares said he spoke with Herring Wednesday evening to begin the transition of power.

Meanwhile, Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin also began his transition of power Thursday with a meeting with Gov. Ralph Northam.

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