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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING NOTES PASSAGE OF IMPORTANT PUBLIC SAFETY AND CONSUMER PROTECTION LEGISLATION
~ Legislation will give law enforcement more tools to help keep Virginians safe ~
Richmond--Attorney General Mark R. Herring today marked the adjournment of the 2014 regular session of the General Assembly by highlighting a number of public safety and consumer protection bills that were introduced on behalf of the Attorney General or which the Office of the Attorney General helped craft and pass. In addition to these bills, which were sponsored and passed in a bipartisan fashion, the Attorney General's office was extremely active throughout the legislative process, working as requested with legislators in both houses to provide legal advice on dozens more bills.
"I offer my sincere thanks to the bipartisan group of legislators who carried these important bills and the staff and attorneys in my office who did great work on these and other bills throughout the session," said Attorney General Herring. "I know from my time in the Senate that public safety and consumer protection are bipartisan concerns and I hope this session is the start of a productive working relationship between my office and the legislature. In the years ahead, I look forward to working with my friends in the Capitol to continue to advance our priorities and promote a safer Commonwealth."
Attorney General's bills included:
SB640, Witness Confidentiality (Howell)
This bill will make witnesses of drug-related crimes and violent felonies eligible for important protections, including the ability to keep identifying and contact information confidential during court proceedings. The Office of the Attorney General's Division of Public Safety and Enforcement drafted the bill and brought it to the General Assembly based on feedback from Commonwealth's Attorneys who have had difficulty getting witness to testify because of fear of reprisal. This bill was supported by a broad coalition of public safety advocates including the Virginia Association of Commonwealth's Attorneys, Fraternal Order of Police, Chiefs of Police Association, Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, Virginia Network for Victims & Witnesses of Crime, and PROTECT.
HB 1233, Address Confidentiality (Toscano)
This bill, drafted by Attorney General's staff and introduced on his behalf, extends the Address Confidentiality Program to victims of stalking. As with victims of domestic violence, protecting residential address information can be critical for the safety of victims of stalking who move to addresses unknown to their perpetrators. This legislation allows victims to protect their residential address from public disclosure when applying for services from state and local agencies.
SB150 (Stuart)/HB 375 (O'Quinn) Patent trolling
These identical bills are compromise legislation crafted by the Office of Attorney General Herring to protect Virginia businesses from "patent trolling." These bad faith claims of patent infringement force businesses, including many small businesses, to choose between paying exorbitant and unjustified license fees or fighting the claim through costly litigation. The bills enjoy the support of a broad, bipartisan coalition including the Northern Virginia Technology Council, Virginia Chamber, Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Bankers Association, Virginia Retail Association, and Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association. The bills establish criteria for determining that a patent infringement claim is being made in bad faith, a practice that costs the United States' economy as much as $29 billion per year, according to a recent study. Those criteria include issuing a letter claiming infringement which includes false statements, does not identify the patent holder, or fails to specify how the target is infringing, demanding an unreasonable license fee, or reasserting infringement claims that have previously been declared baseless by a court.
SB42, Elimination of Fox Penning (Marsden)
This bill was a compromise brokered by the office of Attorney General Mark R. Herring which will limit and eventually phase out fox-penning in Virginia, a practice in which wild foxes are trapped, confined, and hunted by dogs for purposes of training, or in some cases, sport, competition, and gambling. After years of legislative stalemate on the issue, the Office of the Attorney General, working on behalf of its client agencies, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Secretary of Natural Resources, developed amendments to SB42, sponsored by Senator Dave Marsden, which will address questions regarding the legality of current operations and enact a moratorium on any new facilities. The bill establishes an annual statewide cap of 900 animals that can be confined in the state's 36 operating pens. Facilities will be allowed a limited number of animals according to their size, but as facilities close, their allotment will be removed from the statewide cap. No new facilities will be permitted and facilities currently in operation can operate for a maximum of 40 more years.
HB 1112, Synthetic/Analog Drugs (Garrett)
Attorney General Herring carried the original synthetic/analog drug bill as a state senator. This bill was developed with assistance from the Attorney General's office to give prosecutors and law enforcement officials more tools to keep dangerous synthetic drugs off the streets and away from young people. The bill updates some definitions based on the latest chemistry, makes selling or distributing these substances a class 5 rather than class 6 felony, and establishes a faster process for the Board of Pharmacy to add designer drugs to the controlled substances schedule so that they can respond more quickly to emerging threats.
SB503(Ebbin)/HB492 (Albo) Regulating notaries
The Attorney General's office worked with patrons on this legislation which will prohibit a notary public from offering or providing legal advice to any person in immigration matters, or representing any person in immigration proceedings unless such notary public is an attorney or a federally accredited representative. The legislation also provides for civil penalties and revocation of the notary commission for failing to comply with the law.
HB403, Admissibility of prior offenses during prosecution of child sex crimes (Bell)
Attorney General Herring has previously introduced this legislation as a state senator. This bill, which was developed with and advocated for by the Office of the Attorney General, provides that in a criminal case in which the defendant is accused of a felony sexual offense involving a child victim, evidence of the defendant's conviction of another sexual offense or offenses is admissible and may be considered for its bearing on any matter to which it is relevant. This rule of evidence is to be applied in conjunction with the Virginia Rules of Evidence.
HB1248, Self authentication of 911 phone calls (Surovell)
This bill, introduced at the request of Attorney General Herring's public safety staff, will make it easier to admit 911 calls in criminal proceedings. As long as the recording is authenticated by the custodian of the record, such as an emergency communications center manager, it will be considered admissible in court, similar to the way a toxicology or autopsy report is handled. The bill has support from the Fraternal Order of Police and the Virginia Association of Commonwealth's Attorneys.
HB439, Updates to the Fraud and Abuse Whistle Blower Protection Act (LeMunyon)
In an example of bipartisan cooperation, attorneys from the Office of the Attorney General offered amendments to this bill which conform Virginia law with federal law. These amendments ensure that the Commonwealth recovers and retains as much money as possible through actions brought under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act."