When I’m in session, I rely on the Richmond Times-Dispatch which is the daily media for Virginia politics. It always has the inside dope.
Today, I picked up my usual copy at 6:00 a.m. at the Robinson Street Starbucks. The front page headline was “Panel OK’s mandatory reporting of sexual assault.”
I read, with some surprise, that a Senate subcommittee of “five white men” (one being yours truly) had passed legislation which requires “employees of public universities and colleges” to report sexual assaults to police within 24 hours — despite the objections of student advocates.
The article accurately noted that the subcommittee panel recommended SB 712, which consolidated four “mandatory reporting” bills (including two carried by Democrats, Saslaw and Deeds). However, the story essentially buried a critical detail:
In other words, if a young woman has an issue or potential complaint and meets with an on-campus counselor, that is a confidential discussion and neither party is legally required to go to the police or prosecutors.
That exemption was done yesterday morning (at the request of myself and Sen. Cosgrove) in response to the testimony we received from young women. In some cases, this was public testimony — or private calls and emails.
That’s not to say that SB 712 is perfect. As I stated yesterday in the subcommittee, I felt that the bill of Sen. Favola (D-Arlington) was a better vehicle on this issue for a number of reasons. One, it’s a more holistic approach. Two, she’s a woman.
Also, the subcommittee process is confusing. We had two hours of testimony on this issue last week and then essentially “amended” the bill yesterday in another hearing, which was public but had no testimony. Now the bill goes to the Courts committee, which will amend it further.
Having said all that, the RTD really dropped the ball by going with the easy headline and burying the issue of the exemptions, which took up nearly all our panel discussion both last week and yesterday.
[BTW, it seems like the Post story on "mandatory reporting" also missed this point.]