Gov. Northam signs laws advancing sentencing reform, implements ‘Marcus’ alert system

Virginia News

FILE – In this Aug. 20, 2019, file photo, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam delivers his budget update before a joint meeting of the House and Senate money committees at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. Northam announced Monday, Dec. 9, that his budget proposal will include about $22 million for efforts to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies and reduce the racial disparity in the state’s maternal mortality rate. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) —  Governor Ralph Northam signed new laws Thursday that advance sentencing reform and establish a statewide ‘Marcus’ alert system.

Northam signed Senate Bill 5038, a statewide mental health awareness response and community understanding services (Marcus) alert system. The measure promotes a behavioral health response to individuals in crisis, including by limiting the role of law enforcement, and is named after Marcus-David Peters, who was killed by a police officer while experiencing a behavioral health crisis in 2018.

Northam also signed Senate Bill 5007, which aligns Virginia with the vast majority of states in allowing judges to decide sentences in criminal cases, except when a defendant requests sentencing by a jury. This change is expected to result in fairer sentences and reduce over-incarceration.

Lastly, Northam proposed changes to House Bill 5106, which protects certain tenants that have been impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. He added a technical amendment, which clearly defines the adverse actions that may not be taken against tenants based on payment history or an eviction for nonpayment of rent that occurred during the pandemic.

“In August, I called legislators back into session to tackle some of our Commonwealth’s most pressing challenges,” said Governor Northam. “This revised state budget will do tremendous good as we battle COVID-19 and work together to continue building a stronger, fairer Virginia.”

“I thank the General Assembly for their ongoing partnership in delivering for the people of our Commonwealth.”

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