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Governor Northam sends House Bill 5058 back

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(WVVA) - On Wednesday, Governor Ralph Northam amended restrictions to House Bill 5058, sending it back to the General Assembly to make changes. Critics say the bill that was passed compromised public safety. For example, it would prohibit police from stopping vehicles driving with only one headlight or only one of three brake lights at night. There are other restrictions for traffic stops that would create confusion for officers according to Tazewll County's Sheriff.

"It makes it more difficult for law enforcement to try to remember the ends and outs of the rule. If one headlight is out you have to let it go, if both headlights are out, and it's after dark then you can pull the car over. But then if you make the mistake and it's not completely dark, that's a point that could come up in court, so it's just a lot to try to remember instead of it being simple if a light is out that's a violation and you can pull the car over and give him a warning or give him a ticket," Sheriff Hieatt said.

The NAACP is one of the organizations pushing for police reforms to end systemic racism in law enforcement. The NAACP's President doesn't want safety on the highway compromised, agreeing with the changes Governor Northam want's to see in the bill.

"We expected that wholeheartedly in the beginning because it just makes good sense that if someone is driving at 2 o'clock in the morning with no lights on something is wrong, that would definitely warrant a stop by law enforcement," Virginia NAACP President, Robert Barnette said.

Barnette adds it's no surprise the bill is moving back to state lawmakers for consideration.

"We're OK with that minor change. We don't see that as a obstacle to defeating the bill. So I don't think will be an issue in the final analysis," Barnette said.

State data is currently being collected that can indicate if minorities are targeted unfairly in traffic stops in Virginia, but there are parts of the new bill that will fill the current gaps in that effort.

"In the past if we pulled a car over for having a headlight out, walked up gave the person a warning and said: "please get your headlight fixed," that data didn't go into the state previously. So we couldn't say that in the years past this has been done unfairly until we start getting those statistics in that's now required," Hieatt said.

"Virginia hasn't been keeping statistics, but this new bill that they have that will go into affect they will have to, because these traffic stops have been disproportionately applied. Not saying that they target minorities but it ends up like that. So again, we want to level the playing field," Barnette said.

The bill is expected to go back to the Governor's desk once lawmakers in the Commonwealth make the changes Northam wants to see in the legislation.

Star Connor

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