McClellan focuses on stalking, gun shows
Democratic Delegate Jennifer McClellan of Richmond again is proposing increased penalties for stalking and closing the state’s gun show loophole along with new legislation to reexamine how money is allocated to schools statewide. Craig Carper reports.
For the fourth year, Delegate McClellan will introduce a bill increasing the penalty for stalking.
McClellan: You probably remember when Denora Hill was murdered at the University of Richmond by her ex-boyfriend, who had been stalking her. After that happened, her friends called me wanting to do something in her memory to help fight stalking. Right now, it’s not a felony to stalk someone until you’ve been convicted three times. They wanted to change that to be two, 'cause the problem with stalking is that it usually does escalate up to murder. They also wanted to make it a felony to stalk someone in violation of a protective order and I've carried it every year.
Unfortunately, what had happened is, it will pass out of the courts committee, but any bill that creates a new felony has a fiscal impact and so all of those bills go to the appropriations committee, and then based on how much money they have for public safety criminal justice issues, they will prioritize those bills and budget for the ones that are their priority, and unfortunately, stalking has never been part of that priority. My hope is that this year will be different because we’ve had yet another murder with Yeardly Love and I think there’s been a lot more attention on the problems associated with stalking and protective orders and domestic violence, and my hope it that this is the year and if not, I'll keep doin' it because Denora Hill's mother comes out and testifies every year and I made a promise to her that I would continue to put this bill in until it passes.
McClellan will also introduce legislation that would close the gun show loophole, which currently allows people to purchase guns at a gun show without a background check.
McClellan: It’s another one of those bills where if you give up, it’ll never happen. Polls show that a majority of Virginians believe that someone who buys a gun at a gun show should have to have a criminal background check, and I think if it ever got to the floor, it would pass; the problem is getting it out of subcommittee.
Finally, McClellan intends to ask legislators to call for a study to re-evaluate the state’s local composite index, the formula used to distribute state funds to local school districts.
McClellan: That formula was developed in the seventies; it’s never been changed and it’s supposed to identify a locality’s ability to pay. Over time the formula has come up with some pretty unusual results and in the last budget cycle, according to the formula, the city of Richmond was a richer locality than Henrico and Chesterfield counties, which is just not true. Based on the formula, there was going to be a huge shift of money among the localities that would create some really huge burdens for some of our more urban school divisions. In his outgoing budget, Governor Kaine had included a hold-harmless provision, so that those localities that would lose money, wouldn’t. In the final budget we passed, there was 100 percent hold-harmless the first year, but only fifty percent for the second year. Because the composite index is updated every two years, this is an ongoing problem. Until the formula is revisited, we’re always going to be facing this problem. So one of the bills that I have would ask JLARC to study the formula, to figure out, are the indicators of wealth in that formula still indicators of wealth today? How can it be changed to come up with more realistic results?
It’s a formula that by necessity creates winners and losers. And when the losers lose big, then we’re trying to figure out a way, how can we keep them from losing too big? I asked the question last year, has anybody ever looked at the formula? And the answer was no. I think rather than trying to play catch up and figure out a way how not to hurt particular localites under a formula that doesn’t work anymore, let's look at the formula and figure out what’s fair.
Jennifer McClellan has served in the House of Delegates since 2006.
Craig Carper, WCVE News, Capitol Square