Senator Obenshain Comments on Democrats’ Campaign to Block Parole Transparency

February 27, 2021


CONTACT:  Jennifer Aulgur

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Senator Mark Obenshain Comments on Democrats’ Campaign to Block Parole Board Transparency 

RICHMOND, VA, February 26, 2021 – Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) commented today on the General Assembly Democrats to water down legislation (HB2167 and SB1104) requiring accountability and transparency from Governor Northam’s Parole Board.

“Today, Democrats passed a conference report on so-called parole transparency legislation that does little but give the illusion of reform. The Northam Administration is desperate to look like it is doing something to address the growing Parole Board scandal and it urged Democrats to pass a bill that won’t provide any additional transparency until long after Northam and his Parole Board are but tiny specks in the rearview mirror.

House Bill 2167 contains a provision that will delay the implementation of any additional transparency until July 1, 2022. I could have lived with any of the other changes proposed to the bill, but I will not be complicit in a cynical effort to give the Governor the ability to claim that he supports more transparency when we all know that he does not.

This Governor and his administration have consistently endeavored to shield his Parole Board from criticism for its pattern of improper actions. The executive branch has circled the wagons, hidden reports from the state’s watchdog, engaged in efforts to silence dissent and now has enlisted his allies in the legislature in efforts to advance a “transparency” bill that is anything but transparent.

This is part of an effort by the Governor and his accomplices to block any legislation that remotely resembles any meaningful reform that would expose the actions of the Parole Board to any additional sunlight or accountability. I will not be a party to this effort.

Revelations about the Parole Board – both from last May and October, as well as the recent allegations that surfaced this week – point to the need for Governor Northam to clean house and immediately fire the Parole Board members.  Additionally, these repeated transgressions necessitate we act now to impose measures that will ensure accountability and transparency for the Board moving forward.

This is what I attempted to accomplish by filing legislation in the 2020 Special Session, and again this year with my SB 1104.  This legislation received unanimous bipartisan approval in the Senate last year and again this year.  However, the House of Delegates amended the bill to make the provisions within it little but window dressing with phony transparency. SB 1104 has died because I would not agree to these amendments.

The Democrats’ amendments to the bills, would no longer require the Parole Board to confirm or certify to anyone that it has complied with its obligations to notify victims and Commonwealth Attorneys of the impending release of felons convicted of serious crimes. These are the very laws that the Parole Board has been accused of consistently violating and this is the one provision in the legislation that could have prevented further releases of criminals without providing notice to crime victims.

I declined to sign the conference report and asked that it be rejected so that we could get a new conference that would strip the delayed enactment clause. That effort failed on a 20-18 vote*,” Obenshain said.

*One Senator failed to vote on the conference report, but filed a statement that his intention was to vote against the conference report, which would have resulted in a 20-19 vote.

Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia Senate. The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).  He is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is the former Chairman of the Virginia State Crime Commission.