Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Three Interesting Bills of the Week: Pound Charter, Stillborn Child Tax Credit and Private Police

The Virginia General Assembly convened for its 2023 session in Richmond Jan. 11, 2023. (Sarah Vogelsong / Virginia Mercury)

RICHMOND — Hundreds of bills are filed for General Assembly consideration each year. In this occasional series, the Virginia Mercury takes a look at a few of the proposals that might not otherwise make headlines during the whirlwind legislative session.

Senate Bill 1537: Restoring the town of Pound’s charter

This bill from Sen. Todd Pillion, R-Abingdon, would repeal legislation passed in 2022 to revoke the charter for the town of Pound in Wise County.

Revoking the charter means Pound would legally cease to exist as a municipality, and the roughly 900 residents would therefore live in an unincorporated part of Wise County.

The original bill to revoke the charter came from House Majority Leader Terry Kilgore, R-Scott, despite objections from residents. Pound made headlines in fall 2021 after business owners in the former coal town stopped paying taxes, every town employee either quit or was fired and the police department was disbanded.

“Wise County is now providing water, sewer, and public safety for the citizens of Pound,” said Kilgore in a statement to WJHL last January. “My genuine hope is that this serves as a wake-up call.”

Kilgore’s bill had a provision delaying the repeal of the charter until Nov. 1, 2023. Last spring, he told The Washington Post that if he felt Pound was getting back on track, he would be willing to ask the General Assembly to restore the charter.

If Pillion’s legislation fails, Pound will join the four other towns in Virginia to have their charter terminated. Most faced similar financial difficulties and population decline before their demise.

House Bill 1915: Stillborn child tax credit

HB 1915 from Del. Angelia Williams Graves, D-Norfolk, would establish a refundable income tax credit of $2,000 for individuals or married persons filing jointly after the delivery of a stillborn child.

The tax credit would be available starting this year until the end of 2027 and could only be claimed in the year in which the stillbirth occurred and if the child would have become a dependent of the taxpayer.

The bill defines a “stillborn child” as a child who suffered a spontaneous death, was at least 20 weeks, weighed at least 350 grams and whose death was not the result of an induced termination.

If the amount of credit exceeded the taxpayer’s tax liability for the year, the excess would be refunded to them.

House Bill 2448: Allowing private police to make arrests without a warrant

This legislation from Del. John Avoli, R-Staunton, would add private police officers employed by a private police department to the list of officers who can make arrests without a warrant in certain cases.

Virginia recognizes eight private police departments, which are primarily employed by homeowners associations, hospitals, amusement parks and resorts, Avoli said Wednesday. Language added to the bill defines a “private police officer” as someone exercising the powers and duties of the law on property controlled by their employer and on any contiguous property upon approval by the local chief of police or sheriff. These officers would be required to meet all training requirements for law enforcement officers but wouldn’t be considered state or local employees.

Private police officers would be able to make arrests without a warrant for a multitude of reasons under Avoli’s bill, including if the officer has probable cause to suspect a person of having committed a felony or a misdemeanor like shoplifting or destruction of property.

Individuals employed as law enforcement officers by private corporations or entities used to be defined as special conservators of the peace with the authority to make arrests without a warrant. But legislation in 2015 redefined those employees as law enforcement officers while withholding that authority.

Lawmakers voted 4-3 along party lines to recommend approval of the bill during the House Subcommittee for Courts of Justice on Wednesday.

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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