Sen. McClellan Introduces 3 Bills for Special Session

McClellan introduces legislation for a statewide Marcus Alert, debt repayment for utility bills, and transparency on school Coronavirus safety plans

RICHMOND – This week, Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) introduced three bills for consideration during the Virginia General Assembly’s special session, addressing criminal justice reform, safety and transparency for schools during the Coronavirus pandemic, and utility debt repayment. McClellan has also co-patroned a number of other bills from her colleagues this special session.

“This special session comes at a critical time, as Virginians face multiple crises: a health crisis, an economic crisis, and a crisis of racial inequity,” Sen. McClellan said. “These bills would take significant steps forward to inform parents and teachers about school health protocols, ensure that customers don’t face utility disconnection, and ensure that mental health professionals are the first responders when a person experiences a mental health crisis.  I look forward to working with my colleagues to take substantial action during this key special session.”

Today, McClellan introduced the Marcus Alert Act, SB 5084, in honor of the late Marcus-David Peters, who was killed during an interaction with Richmond Police while he was experiencing a mental health crisis. McClellan’s bill would require Virginia to develop a statewide mental health and first responder alert system including a community care team of mental health professionals. Under this new system, mental health calls to 911 would get rerouted to crisis stabilization teams, and mental health professionals would conduct first interactions with people in crisis. Similar programs in other localities have shown this approach reduces the likelihood of physical confrontation, use of force by law enforcement officers, and arrests of individuals who needed help, services and diversion from the criminal justice system. 

McClellan also introduced  SB 5083, to ensure that parents and teachers have full transparency about the health and safety measures being taken by their schools during the Coronavirus emergency. McClellan’s bill would require Virginia school boards publicly post online their plans for mitigating the spread and public health risk of Coronavirus. Currently, Virginia school boards are required to create school health and safety plans; McClellan’s bill would require that they be publicly posted.

Also, McClellan introduced a bill, to create an Emergency Moratorium Extended Repayment Program for Virginians who have fallen behind on their utility bills during the Coronavirus crisis. In March the State Corporation Commission imposed a moratorium on disconnection for nonpayment of electric, gas, and water bills, which is due to expire on August 31. Governor Northam has proposed extending this moratorium through 60 days after the state of emergency ends.

During five months of utility disconnect moratorium, many Virginians have accrued significant debt.  McClellan’s bill ensures that the debt accrued during the moratorium is extended in a way that eases the burden on residential customers. It would create a 24-month repayment period, with payments not exceeding 4% of a customer’s monthly income. This would extend the utility disconnect moratorium, as long as a customer’s debt repayment plan is in good standing.