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Roanoke Free Press
Monday, January 14, 2013

Del. Habeeb & AG Cuccinelli disappointed on failure of voting rights bill

AG_Podium_thmbRICHMOND (January 14, 2013) – Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued the following statement after a House subcommittee vote against proposed constitutional amendments that would provide for the automatic restoration of rights for individuals who have committed nonviolent felonies but have served their full sentences and paid all fines and fees. Attorney General Cuccinelli testified in support of restoration of rights for these individuals this morning before the House Privileges and Elections Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee. The attorney general also supported putting a list of specific nonviolent felonies for which restorations of rights would be available in the code of Virginia.

Additionally, in November 2012, the attorney general issued two separate official opinions strengthening the governor’s power to restore civil rights to former felons. The first opinion related to the restoration of the right to serve as a juror, while the second opinion related to the restoration of the right to seek political office.

“I have long railed against politicians ratcheting up several low-level, nonviolent offenses from misdemeanors to felonies — what I call ‘felony creep.’ Many lower-level offenses should not result in the permanent loss of civil rights for individuals. That’s why we ought to make it easier for those who have committed certain nonviolent offenses and served their punishment to regain their place in society. I am in favor of setting out in the code a list of selected nonviolent felonies for which restoration of rights would be available.

“Though I am disappointed with this morning’s outcome, I will continue to keep up the fight on this important issue. I would welcome the opportunity to testify before members of the Senate in an effort to underscore the importance of the restoration of civil rights to these individuals. I encourage other members of the General Assembly to join me in this important fight.”

Delegate Greg Habeeb

Delegate Greg Habeeb

RICHMOND, VA – Delegate Greg Habeeb (R-Salem) expressed disappointment Monday that his constitutional amendment on restoration of rights failed to achieve enough votes to pass a House subcommittee.

“I am disappointed in the outcome this morning,” said Habeeb. “However, our work does not end here and I am optimistic about the future of this legislation. In the years ahead, I will continue to push for a more efficient and less burdensome re-entry process in the Commonwealth.

“There is a great diversity of thought in the House of Delegates. I very much appreciate the genuine concerns of those opposed to my legislation.  I look forward to continuing the conversation with my colleagues to solve this important issue.”

The Constitutional Amendment subcommittee of the Privileges and Elections voted Monday to pass the legislation by indefinitely. Habeeb’s legislation would have automatically restored rights to non-violent felony offenders after the completion of their sentence, including the payment of any fines or restitution.   

“I want to thank Governor Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for their leadership and support of my restoration of rights constitutional amendment,” Habeeb added. “I also want to thank Delegate Onzlee Ware and others who have devoted their careers to this very issue.  We will continue to work to improve the re-entry process in Virginia.

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