Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) signed into law 13 pieces of legislation Tuesday geared toward enhancing campus safety, protecting and supporting victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and other violent crimes, at the Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community College. The visit was part of his "Virginia: Growing Strong" statewide tour.
The audience at the Ernst Cultural Center all stood as the governor was introduced by NOVA Community College President Dr. Robert Templin, Jr. before he addressed the audience.
“As a father of five, human trafficking and crimes of sexual abuse are a parent’s worst nightmare,” McDonnell said to a crowd comprised of 150 local elected officials, NOVA students and faculty, the Governor's Domestic Violence Prevention and Response Advisory Board, NOVA campus police, residents, victims of crime and their families.
“Criminal acts put victims and their families through debilitating emotional, physical, psychological, and financial harm," McDonnell said.
"This year, with the assistance of the Domestic Violence Advisory Board, my administration developed effective measures to improve responses to domestic violence, provide more comprehensive services to victims, and more effectively prevent crime. The legislation signed today is a bipartisan accomplishment that will make a difference in assisting victims, holding offenders accountable, and preventing future criminal activity."
During his remarks, McDonnell said that Virginia ranks 10th in the nation in the number of calls placed to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and that the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia handled 16 human trafficking cases last year, including five cases that involved gang members trafficking high school students. He also recognized a woman named Holly, a victim of sexual abuse and human trafficking, for her courage to work with legislators on moving the bills forward.
Del. Dave Albo (R-42nd District) told the audience that the bills aren’t about protecting women because women are weak, but because “women can be subjected to situations that put them in vulnerable situations that don’t happen to men.”
Following McDonnell’s remarks, Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd) said the bills were just the first and “easy” step in the process of working to protect victims the laws are intended to protect.
“Those of us who’ve been in the General Assembly for a while recognize that passing bills is actually the easy part," said Howell. "Much harder is providing services to the victims of violent crimes. Preventing and punishing violence is extremely important, but equally important is helping to repair the damage done to the victims.”
“We need to provide reliable and adequate funding for the programs dedicated to helping the victims with their recovery from the violence done to them,” she said.
The following bills, signed on Tuesday, go into effect July 1:
- HB1188 / SB259, a human-trafficking bill from Del. Vivian Watts (D-39th District) and Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th), respectively, that would require the Board of Education and the Department of Social Services to give awareness and training materials about human trafficking and preventing the trafficking of children to all local school staff.
- HB1200 from Del. David Bulova (D-37th) which would require businesses "that provide entertainment commonly called stripteasing or topless entertaining or entertainment that has employees who are not clad above or below the waist" to post a notice with the telephone number of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline in a visible place.
- HB546 from Del. Barbara Comstock (R-34th), a bill that expands the definition of a "predicate criminal act" to include prostitution.
- SB300 from Howell, which changes the provisions governing protective orders issued by a Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in Virginia.
- HB969 / SB301 from Del. Robert Bell (R-58th) and Howell, respectively, which would require each Virginia attorney to invite chiefs of campus police to attend the the annual Sexual Assault Response Team meeting.
- HB965 / SB302 from Bell and Howell, respectively, which would require campus police to work in conjunction with local law enforcement to assist in the investigation of deaths and alleged rapes occurring on college campuses.
- HB1033 / SB445 from Del. Jennifer McClellan (D-71st) and Sen. Jill Holtman Vogel (R-27th), respectively, a bill that would require Circuit Court Clerks to electronically enter protective order information into the Virginia State Police’s Criminal Information Network (VCIN) by the end of the business day in order to protect victims of domestic violence without delay.
- HB752 / SB459 from Del. Benjamin Clin (R-24th) and Sen. Mark Herring (D-33rd), respectively, which would make strangulation offenses punishable as a Class 6 Felony.