Dux back on duty

Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Deputy K. Kelley’s K-9 partner Dux returned to duty in late 2016 after being shot twice by a fleeing suspect.

RICHMOND — Legislation that would require a mandatory minimum sentence of six months for anyone who maliciously kills or injures a police dog advanced from a General Assembly committee on Friday.

The Spotsylvania County commonwealth’s attorney pitched the idea for the bill to Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania. A police dog was shot in 2016 during an incident that started with a traffic stop. A man who shot and wounded K9 Dux also fired at deputies and punched one officer. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

K9 Dux made an appearance before a subcommittee of the House Courts of Justice on Wednesday. The full committee voted on Friday to send SB 1675 to the House floor.

‘Junk science’ bill killed

Legislation that would have given more recourse to people convicted of crimes on the basis of “junk science” died in a General Assembly panel Thursday.

The bill from Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin, would allow people to challenge their criminal convictions on grounds that advances in forensic science now exonerate them or the forensic science technique has been discredited. The House Appropriations Public Safety subcommittee voted unanimously to kill the bill, citing financial concerns.

The state attorney general’s office said additional staff would cost $439,078 and more funding would be necessary to hire experts to respond to forensic science court challenges . Stanley disagreed with the accuracy of the cost.

Stanley’s SB 1066 applied to people who pleaded not guilty or entered what’s known as an “Alford plea,” which means they are not admitting guilt but acknowledge the evidence is sufficient to convict them.

If the Virginia Court of Appeals tossed out the conviction, prosecutors would have the option to retry the case. The Senate had earlier passed the bill on a bipartisan vote of 38-2.

Bill to lock up guns in child care homes dies

A General Assembly panel known for blocking gun control legislation defeated a bill aimed at locking up guns in child care homes.

The bill from Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, would have required that firearms and ammunition in a licensed family day care home be locked up.

The Senate passed SB 1321 on a bipartisan vote of 35-4. The Republican-controlled subcommittee of Militia, Police and Public Safety voted 6-0 to kill the bill on Thursday.

Redistricting reform bill moves forward

The House Privileges and Elections Committee voted Friday to advance a redistricting reform bill to the House floor.

The legislation from Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County, would require state legislative and congressional districts to be contiguous and compact. The bill advanced on a party-line vote of 12-10 from the GOP-controlled panel.

Suetterlein’s SB 1579 is nearly identical to the bill he introduced last year that passed both chambers but was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

The Northam administration has said it opposes Suetterlein’s bill this year because it believes “it does not go far enough to address some of the concerns we believe should be in criteria for redistricting.” The administration supported another redistricting bill that died in a Senate committee.

The House Elections Committee last year voted 20-1 to send it for a House floor vote.

Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, voted for the bill last year, but said some lawmakers wanted a more “comprehensive list” of criteria.

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Amy Friedenberger is the politics reporter for The Roanoke Times. She's been a reporter here since 2014. Previously, she worked for newspapers in Pennsylvania. Follow her on Twitter at @ajfriedenberger.

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