Virginia House passes bill to reduce penalty for violating emergency orders declared by the governor

Virginia

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam listens as he prepares to speak to a group of volunteers to distribute supplies at health equity community event Tuesday May 12, 2020, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Legislation that reduces the potential penalty for violating an emergency order declared by Virginia’s governor, such as the current mask mandate by Gov. Ralph Northam, was passed Thursday by the Virginia House of Delegates.

State lawmakers moved forward on the bill after Northam caused confusion following remarks that law enforcement would not have a role in enforcing the mask order, despite it stating that violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and face jail time if found guilty.

The legislation, introduced by Del. Vivian E. Watts (D-Fairfax), allows a violation of an emergency order from the governor to either be a civil penalty of up to $500 or a Class 1 misdemeanor, which could bring up to 12 months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine. Under the current state law, the only penalty for violating a gubernatorial emergency order is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

The measure was approved with a 61-37 vote. The Virginia Senate has yet to vote on a similar bill in the chamber.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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