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COLUMN — Mandatory minimum sentencing could be repealed

The 2021 General Assembly session began Jan. 13.

The Senate will meet in person while the House remains virtual. I have added links below for citizens to be able to watch the sessions live. All committee meetings can now be viewed online as well, and the public will need to register to speak at these meetings. Please keep up with my Facebook page, as I will share instructions and links on how to sign up for these meetings.

House viewing: https://virginiageneralassembly.gov/house/chamber/chamberstream.php

Senate viewing: https://virginia-senate.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=3

I also would like for you to take a few minutes to fill out my pre-session survey. This survey helps me know what is important to my constituents for the upcoming session. You can complete the survey here: http://survey.house.virginia.gov/Survey.aspx?s=212d846d3c6048c4b32e4fad03b5fd02

If you would like a paper copy mailed to you, please call my office, and we can send one to you. 

Last week, the Virginia Crime Commission voted 9-2 in favor of repealing Virginia’s mandatory minimum sentences. Even worse, they voted to recommend re-sentencing for a significant number of those sent to jail under those penalties.

Last week’s action by the Crime Commission represents the most extreme “soft on crime” action by Democrats since they won control in 2019. Not only does this proposal weaken sentences for those who commit crimes such as producing child pornography, child rape and violation of protective orders more than once, it opens these crimes up for re-sentencing. From manslaughter to the repeated use of a firearm in a felony, Democrats would weaken the system of criminal justice we have put in place that has made Virginia one of the safest states in the nation with the lowest level of criminal recidivism.

Last week’s events in Washington were unprecedented. Protesters stormed the Capitol, took the floor of the House and Senate and engaged in armed standoffs with law enforcement. What happened Wednesday was unacceptable. We are a nation governed by laws, not mobs. I condemn these actions in the strongest possible terms.

Many Virginians are angry over the results of the election. That’s understandable and acceptable. Questions raised about the conduct of the presidential election haven’t been answered to the satisfaction of many citizens. Getting to the bottom of those questions was the point behind the Wednesday, Jan. 6, challenges to the Electoral College vote. 

Following the law, each chamber adjourned for two hours to debate the challenges on their merits. What followed, though, was wholly inexcusable. Protesters attacked law enforcement, broke through barricades and stormed the U.S. Capitol. Four people lost their lives.

Said simply, if the actions taken by rioters during this past summer’s riots across the country were wrong, then so were the actions taken by those who stormed the U.S. Capitol.

The first shipment of vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech was received in Virginia Dec. 14. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires ultra-cold storage and was distributed to geographically diverse health care systems with ultra-cold storage capacity. They were provided for health care personnel. Health care systems and local health departments are now holding vaccination clinics, utilizing both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, for health care personnel across the state. 

Despite Virginia having vaccines for weeks now, less than 27% of those on hand have been distributed.

The central Virginia delegation has sent a letter to the governor to allow a comprehensive and coordinated whole-community approach to accelerate the distribution of the vaccine in our region.

Local health districts are developing plans to ensure opportunities for non-hospital health care personnel to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Together with health care systems, they are making plans to hold vaccination clinics for providers in their areas. Local health districts are reaching out to practices to engage them in this process.

Virginia needs vaccinators. The VDH website contains a Provider Intent Form, and related documents, for those series of health care providers who wish to serve as COVID-19 vaccinators. VDH is working as quickly as possible to process these intent forms and complete provider registration. 

Del. C. Matthew FarisS represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.