That bill, part of a package of legislation overhauling police oversight, failed last week when a couple of Democrats voted against their majority. Del. Ibraheem S. Samirah (D-Fairfax) said he voted against it to try to add language limiting local funding for police, but he dropped that effort Tuesday and asked that the bill be reconsidered. It passed 49 to 45 with two abstentions.
The House also voted to give the state attorney general authority to conduct “pattern or practice” investigations of local police departments if they are alleged to be systematically violating the rights of citizens.
All the bills will head next to the state Senate, which has already killed its own version of a qualified immunity measure.
The statues bill removes the requirement that a local government wait 30 days and hold a public hearing before voting on the removal of a memorial. It passed on a vote of 54 to 43, with all Republicans voting against it along with one Democrat.
Del. Delores L. McQuinn (D-Richmond) sponsored the bill to address what she called “the safety issue” after protesters began tearing down Confederate statues over the summer in demonstrations against racial inequity. A protester in Portsmouth was critically injured when a falling Confederate statue struck him on the head.
During the regular legislative session that ended in March, Democrats, who control both chambers of the General Assembly, established a legal mechanism for removing statues. It took effect July 1, but the measure’s lengthy review process failed to satisfy Virginia demonstrators’ urgent calls for action on Confederate memorials after the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney invoked a state of emergency to remove 11 Confederate monuments on city property on the day the law went into effect. The city council later held a public hearing and voted to make the removals permanent.
An anonymous local resident filed suit against Stoney’s action, but the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled that the plaintiff lacked legal standing in the case.
The change to the law would allow localities to adopt a lengthier review process but would not require it.
Del. Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) objected last week during a committee hearing on the bill, saying he wanted to “make sure the public has input” into such decisions.
McQuinn said the public would have input through elected officials and noted that local governments would be free to set up any process they saw fit.
“We’re giving the authority back to the localities without a lot of strings attached,” McQuinn said during the hearing.