Police reform, pandemic among priorities for Va. special legislative session

Republican and Democratic delegates of the Virginia General Assembly will tackle coronavirus pandemic and policing-related issues in a special session starting Tuesday.

Democrats are expected to seek a requirement for businesses to provide paid sick leave for employees, and protection for tenants unable to pay their rent during the pandemic. Republicans will prioritize getting children back into public schools, and will focus on protecting businesses from some virus-era restrictions.

Both parties will delve into police reform: Democrats are looking to ban law enforcement use of chokeholds and set stricter thresholds for when an officer can resort to deadly force.

On their end, Republicans are seeking expanded use of body cameras and tighter hiring standards for new officers.

One proposal in particular is expected to spark an intense battle between parties: a push to change a law that allows police to charge people with felony assault even if the arresting officers are not seriously hurt.

The bill, put forward by Senate Democrats, would downgrade the charge of assault and battery on a law enforcement officer from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Bills can be tracked and sessions livestreamed on Virginia’s online legislative information portal.

House delegates will first meet at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond before pivoting online. The state senate is starting its own session at the Science Museum of Virginia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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