Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General
202 North Ninth Street
For media inquiries only, contact:
Charlotte Gomer, Press Secretary
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM AND COVID RESPONSE BILLS SIGNED INTO LAW
~ This afternoon, two of Herring's special session bills were signed into law by Gov. Northam – one gives the OAG the ability to conduct "pattern and practice” investigations and the other strengthens Virginia's anti-price gouging statute ~
RICHMOND – This afternoon, two of Attorney General Herring's special session bills were signed into law by Governor Northam – one bill gives the Office of the Attorney General the ability to conduct "pattern and practice” investigations and the other strengthens Virginia's anti-price gouging statute.
"Enabling the Office of the Attorney general to conduct ‘pattern and practice' investigations will give my office the ability to help identify and put a stop to police misconduct and other unconstitutional policing practices,” said Attorney General Herring. "We used to be able to count on the federal government to be a reliable partner in these kinds of investigations, but under the Trump Administration they have all but ceased, which is why it's so important that my office can do these kinds of investigations at the state level.
"It's unfortunate that a business or an individual will take advantage of a public health crisis or a state of emergency and make more money by raising prices on necessary goods like cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, or even PPE. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many shortcomings in our laws and I'm glad that we were able to fix one of those by strengthening Virginia's price gouging statute.
"I want to thank my partners in both the House and the Senate, as well as the many advocacy groups, including the Center for American Progress, for all their hard work and dedication to helping get my bills passed and onto the Governor's desk during this productive special session.”
House Bill 5072 (Delegate Alfonso Lopez) and Senate Bill 5024 (Senator Louise Lucas) enable the Attorney General of Virginia to conduct "pattern and practice” investigations of law enforcement agencies to identify and put a stop to unconstitutional practices, such as patterns of excessive force, illegal searches, biased policing, or other unconstitutional practices. For decades the U.S. Department of Justice was a reliable partner in identifying and ending unconstitutional policing practices, often through negotiated agreements for reforms, called "consent decrees,” in cities such as Chicago, Baltimore, and Ferguson, MO. Under the Trump Administration the DOJ has explicitly walked away from this responsibility, making it more important for state attorneys general to have this important tool.
Virginia is one of the first states in the country to give this investigative power to their Office of the Attorney General and the first state to include a provision that says any police department that fails to comply with the findings of a "pattern and practice” investigation could be deprived of funding.
In June, Attorney General Herring asked Congress to expand federal law to give him and other state attorneys general clear statutory authority to conduct patterns and practice investigations. The U.S House of Representatives included this authority in the "George Floyd Justice in Policing Act” which passed the House on June 25, 2020.
This legislation was part of Attorney General Herring's larger package of criminal justice and police reform legislative priorities that he announced ahead of the special session.
"The federal government has failed to provide this kind of oversight when a police department may be violating citizens' rights and it's important for the state to have a backstop that can conduct these kinds of investigations,” said Senator Louise Lucas. "Now that the bill enabling the Attorney General of Virginia to conduct ‘patterns and practice' investigations of local police departments has passed, communities around Virginia will finally get the due process that they deserve.”
"After years of the Trump Administration refusing to be a reliable partner in identifying and ending policing practices where there was a history of misconduct, my legislation (HB 5702) will finally enable the Attorney General of Virginia to conduct ‘pattern or practice' investigations of law enforcement agencies to investigate, identify, and put a stop to unconstitutional practices, such as patterns of excessive force, illegal searches, or racially biased policing,” stated Delegate Alfonso Lopez. "I'm so happy that this important criminal justice reform that will help ensure compliance with constitutional policing standards has been signed into law by the Governor.”
House Bill 5047 (Delegate Kathleen Murphy) expands protections against price gouging for PPE and other necessary items during an emergency. This bill will ensure that existing price gouging prohibitions also apply to manufacturers and distributors that charge unconscionable prices for necessary goods or services during a state of emergency declared by the Governor or President.
Attorney General Herring's Consumer Protection Section has received more than 500 consumer complaints and inquiries regarding suspected price gouging by businesses during the COIVD-19 state of emergency and sent out more than 150 letters to businesses demanding that they cease any illegal price gouging.
Investigation of these complaints has revealed that many retail businesses claim that price increases occurred further up the supply chain with manufacturers or distributors, making it more difficult to address the problem at the retail level.
The legislation will amend the Virginia Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act ("Anti-Price Gouging Act”), Va. Code §§ 59.1-525 through 59.1-529.1, to also apply to manufacturers and distributors that charge unconscionable prices for necessary goods or services during a state of emergency declared by the Governor or President.
In April, Attorney General Herring led a national effort to address price gouging in the PPE supply chain, urging 3M as one of the largest manufacturers of PPE, particularly masks, to do more to address price gouging within its supply and distribution chains that was causing hospitals and healthcare providers to pay exorbitant prices for PPE.
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