Representing Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax

Newsletter - September 9, 2020

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Richmond Office:
Pocahontas Building
900 East Main Street, Suite E208
Richmond, VA 23219

Alexandria Office:
301 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314

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I hope you had a wonderful, safe, socially-distanced Labor Day. 

Special Session

Last week, I told you about the Good Apples Act, HB5112, my bill that requires law enforcement (the "Good Apples") to report the wrongdoing of their fellow officers (the "Bad Apples"). I'm happy to report it passed on Friday, by a vote of 54-43, on a party-line vote. It now must pass through the Senate and be signed by the Governor before it becomes law.

Here's what the bill does in depth:

  1. It makes it a duty for officers to report acts of wrongdoing by their fellow officers. The bill defines wrongdoing as "a violation, which is not of a merely technical or minimal nature, of federal or state law or regulation, local ordinance, or rule of an officer's law-enforcement agency designed to protect the interests of the public and includes bias-based profiling."
  2. It amends the definition of "bias-based profiling" to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
  3. It requires law enforcement officers on duty to aid people suffering from serious bodily injury or life-threatening conditions.

As it now must pass through the Senate, I have two asks of you:

  1. Can you contact your Senator and ask them to support HB5112? If you're not sure who your Senator is, you can find out here. Unlike many of the bills that have passed the House, mine doesn't have a Senate counterpart, so they haven't seen this legislation yet. 
  2. Can you donate to my campaign to make sure we keep the House Democratic majority that passed this bill? It might be hard to believe, but not a single Republican voted for this common-sense legislation. See the vote count below. 

While I am disappointed that not a single House Republican voted for the bill, I appreciate all of my colleagues who did vote for this common-sense legislation, especially the bill's 27 co-patrons, and I am incredibly thankful to everyone who helped elect the House Democratic majority. It is the voters, volunteers, and donors who helped elect our majority who made all the reforms we're making possible.

We need to protect the House Democratic majority to protect these pro-justice reforms.

Can you donate today to make sure the House Democratic majority is re-elected?

The House Passed a Slew of Other COVID-19 Relief Measures
and Police and Justice Reforms

In addition to my Good Apples Act, we in the House of Delegates passed all the following bills this week. I proudly copatroned and voted for every one of them.

COVID-19 Relief:
  • Combating price gouging for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Granting flexibility in enforcing executive orders through civil penalty. Under current law, the only penalty for such a violation is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Now they can be enforced through fines.
  • Protecting the credit of tenants negatively impacted by COVID-19.
  • Protecting our teachers and first responders in the workplace from COVID-19 under Workers’ Compensation.
  • Protecting COVID-19 relief benefits from being garnished.
    (I was Chief Co-Patron for this bill carried by Delegate Hala Ayala.)

Making Virginia More Equitable:

  • Mandating Citizen Review Panels for local law enforcement.
  • Diversifying the Department of Criminal Justice Services’ Committee on Training.
  • Strengthening prosecutorial ability to dismiss charges. Commonwealth's Attorneys are elected by the people. Judges are not. If a Commonwealth's Attorney decides to drop a charge, a judge shouldn't be able to simply overturn it. Arlington judges in particular have been on the wrong side of the law here, and I've been extremely disappointed in their conduct.
  • Prohibiting no-knock warrants. This would prevent what happened to Breonna Taylor from happening in Virginia.
  • Banning the use of chokeholds by law enforcement.
  • Eliminating certain pretextual police stops - like the smell of marijuana, or a hanging air freshener - which disproportionately harm Virginians of color.
  • Demilitarizing police departments by prohibiting the acquisition and use of certain weapons by law enforcement agencies, including using rubber bullets or tear gas for crowd control.
  • Banning sexual relations between officers and arrestees.
  • Expanding the definition of hate crimes to include false 911 calls made on the basis of race or ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Police are not personal-convenience enforcers or a tool to use to threaten others.
  • Standardizing and enhancing training for all Virginia police academies.
  • Requiring an officer intervene to stop an illegal use of force by another officer.
  • Strengthening the ability to decertify renegade law enforcement officers and the assessments and vetting required before hiring law enforcement officers to make sure bad cops don't get rehired elsewhere.

We also did good work in the Courts of Justice Committee this week by passing:

  • Automatic expungement legislation to help folks who've been previously incarcerated gain employment and move on with their lives after they've served their time and shown good behavior. Folks with certain convictions will have their records expunged once they've served their time and not been in trouble for eight years upon getting out of prison.
  • Higher Earned Sentence Credits for certain prisoners' good behavior if they show efforts to reform themselves and have not committed the most serious of crimes.

Again, thank you to the many advocates across Virginia who met with me in the lead up to this session.

One Big Disappointment:
The Bill to End Qualified Immunity Failed to Pass House
But we try again this afternoon!

HB5013, to end qualified immunity for law enforcement officers, failed to pass the House on Friday. As a co-patron of the bill, I was very disappointed that it failed to pass on a vote of by just one vote. Law enforcement officers must know that they can be held civilly liable if they violate someone's Constitutional rights, just as doctors, lawyers, or anyone else can be held liable if they commit malpractice.

A revote is likely today. I'm optimistic that this time, we may well have the votes we need.

Calling All Young and Healthy Virginians: Protect Democracy by Becoming a Poll Worker

An Officer of Election (poll worker) is part of a team that conducts elections at a polling place on Election Day. Their job is to conduct the election fairly and lawfully and to assist voters in a courteous and respectful manner.

In the past, more often than not, these roles were filled by retirees and senior citizens. Unfortunately, COVID-19 would leave many of the folks who typically serve democracy at our polling locations susceptible to severe illness. We are at risk of having a shortage of poll workers this year. That's why - as Tom Ortiz mentioned at last week's Mark's Monthly Meetup - we need young, healthy people with no co-morbidities to sign up as poll workers this year.

You all know how essential fairly and competently-run elections are to our democracy. And it's perfectly ok if you've never done this before. It's a good time to learn! It is one long and tiring day. But you will be an essential link in the chain of our republic. You will be essential to making sure our elections are fair and just to all Americans casting a ballot.

Do your patriotic duty!
Become an Election Officer!

You can learn more about what poll workers do by clicking here.

You can apply online here.

Other important election related links:

Absentee and early voting. (Apply now! I have.)

Access your Virginia voter record to update your registration, apply to vote absentee, and view your polling place, election district, absentee ballot status, and voting history.

Complete the Census. It's your constitutional duty and helps make sure that Virginia gets all the federal funding and Congressional representation we deserve!

In the Community

Thank you to the 40+ folks who joined the August edition of
Mark's Monthly Meetup last Sunday. It was a great discussion!

Talking redistricting with the Shenandoah County Democratic Committee.
They agreed unanimously to put VOTE NO ON 1 on their sample ballot.

Talking redistricting with Democrats from Greene, Madison, and Powhatan Counties.

Remember:  Vote NO on Amendment 1

You'll find the question on your Presidential Election Ballot this fall.

If you want to know more about Amendment 1, a deceptive scheme to permanently enshrine gerrymandering in the Virginia Constitution, and why I oppose having the lines drawn either by a committee consisting of the the four party leaders and their designees or by the partisan Republican Virginia Supreme Court (as the Amendment gives any two legislators the unilateral right to do), please do not hesitate to write me. I'd be happy to speak to your community as well.

The other side has millions of dollars. According to the YES Campaign's most recent filing, more than 96% of it was from outside Virginia (and mostly from Texas billionaires). All we on the NO side have is persuasion. We are simply asking people to read the amendment in full and understand it. And, unless you're 100% sure it's what you want, vote NO to avoid enshrining Republican-favored gerrymandering in the Virginia Constitution.

So far, despite being vastly outspent, we have been successful in getting 80%+ of Virginia Democrats to see through the deception and commit to voting NO.

If you want to help our campaign, please click here to learn more or to donate.

The Virginia General Assembly banned gerrymandering this July.
Don't let this flawed Amendment bring it back!

Virginia needs an independent, non-partisan commission to draw the districts.
Not a solely Republican panel that can gerrymander to its hearts' delight.

Voters should choose their elected representatives.
Not the other way around.

I thank you again for the honor and privilege of serving you.

Delegate Mark Levine
Proudly serving Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax
in the Virginia House of Delegates