Del. Les Adams (R-16) — whose district includes the northern parts of Pittsylvania County to Blairs and Keeling and extends east to Martinsville and Henry in Henry County — has filed a number of bills across a variety of issues, including protests at the homes of judges and unemployment fraud.
HB 2015: Protesting at the homes of court officials
If passed, HB 2015 would charge anyone who protests at the home of a court official with “the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing or intimidating in the discharge of his duty any judge, juror, witness, court officer, or court employee” with a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable with up to 12 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
Adams’ language is almost identical to 18 U.S. Code § 1507, a federal law that was brought up in May 2022 after a leaked opinion suggested the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade. Abortion rights activists protested outside the Virginia and Maryland homes of Supreme Court justices in opposition to the opinion.
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and then-Maryland Governor Larry Hogan both held that the responsibility for controlling the protests lay with U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. When the marshal of the Supreme Court asked officials in Virginia and Maryland to enforce their own local laws, a spokesperson for Youngkin called on Garland to, “do his job by enforcing the much more robust federal law."
Youngkin did propose a budget amendment in June 2022 using almost the exact same language as Adams’ HB 2015, though that amendment made the crime a Class 6 felony — punishable by one to five years in prison, or by up to 12 months in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. Republicans in the House of Delegates passed on that amendment when it came up for a vote.
Adams’ HB 2015 has been referred to Subcommittee #1 of the House Committee for Courts of Justice. Adams currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Committee for Courts, and Chair of Subcommittee #1.
No other legislators are signed on as co-patrons of the bill.
HB 2009 & HB 2010: VEC fraud investigations
Adams has also filed a pair of bills relating to the Virginia Employment Commission. The first, HB 2009, adjusts the law so that criminal cases relating to false unemployment claims can be prosecuted either in the jurisdiction where the statements originated, or the jurisdiction where the VEC received the statements. Current law requires false statements to be prosecuted in the locality that the statements were received by the VEC.
HB 2010 grants the VEC Commissioner the authority to take depositions, issue subpoenas, and order the production of records and witnesses to investigate or adjudicate disputed employment claims.
In a June interview with Richmond-area news station WRIC, VEC Commissioner Carrie Roth estimated that the state has paid out $1.6 billion in known or potentially fraudulent claims since the pandemic forced many Virginians out of work in March 2020. At the time, Roth said that the commission was examining 280,000 claims, just under 100,000 of which were unpaid and around 180,000 that had already been paid.
A report from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, dated Dec. 12, 2022, stated that the backlog in claims awaiting fraud investigation had dropped to around 30,000. In that report, VEC leadership also said that the fraud investigation backlog should be eliminated by January 2023.
The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Commerce and Energy.
While there are no co-patrons on HB 2010, an identical bill — SB 1120 — has been filed in the State Senate by state Senator William Stanley (R-20).
Other bills from Del. Adams:
HB 2008: Directs the Department of Health to study and make recommendations on the impact of tick-borne diseases in Virginia, with a report due Nov. 1.
HB 2012: Retired Virginia Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges may be designated by the Virginia Chief Justice to sit in recall.
HB 2013: Adjusts probation/revocation of suspended sentences after technical violations.
HB 2014: Clarifies some laws relating to the use of personal communicators while driving.
HB 2016: If a defendant is charged with a Class 1 felony or a felony that includes a mandatory life sentence, the state will appoint for them two attorneys, one of whom is the public defender.
HB 2017: Adds “entering a house with intent to murder, rape, rob or burn” to the list of charges that the juvenile court has to conduct a preliminary hearing for defendants 16 years of age and older.
HB 2018: Allows certain social services teams to share information about children with law enforcement or school officials if the child is a threat to others or themselves. That information is currently completely confidential.
HB 2019: Requires the court to review/consider guidelines before a deferred disposition in cases other than Class 1 felonies and forward the worksheets with the court order to the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission
HB 2302: Adds appropriation of up to $200 million ($100 million/year) to fund the Transportation Partnership Opportunity Fund. Repeals requirements for the governor to supply legislators with the criteria for awarding grants and allows projects to be maintained solely for economic development purposes.