Northam, Cox announce bipartisan compromise on grand larceny threshold and restitution

Gov. Ralph Northam and House Speaker Kirk Cox announce bipartisan compromise on grand larceny threshold and restitution on Feb. 8, 2018.

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia’s top Democrat and top Republican announced a bipartisan compromise Thursday.

At a news conference at the State Capitol, Gov. Ralph Northam and House Speaker Kirk Cox said both sides will walk away with something they have been fighting for.

“This compromise today is just that — a meeting in the middle,” said Northam.

Democrats will get an increase in the felony larceny threshold.

It’s something Cox admits Republicans have been reluctant to support in the past.

Under HB1550 and SB105, it will go from $200 to $500.

Right now, Virginia is tied with New Jersey for having the lowest threshold in the country. It hasn’t been changed in nearly 40 years.

Northam said it’s not about being soft on crime but rather having the punishment fit the crime.

“Let me be clear. We want to remain tough on crime in the commonwealth of Virginia, but it is unjust that the theft of something like a pair of shoes or a phone could send someone to prison with a felony conviction on their record for life,” said Northam.

In return, Republicans will see their legislation to protect crime victims go through.

HB484 will require probation officers to monitor payment of restitution and will require courts to review restitution before releasing a defendant from probation supervision or court oversight.

HB483 will make sure that restitution is delivered to victims.

“These bills are extremely significant for the Republican caucus,” said Cox. “You might even say unprecedented for crime victims.”

The governor said there is give and take.

“In my view, the compromised legislation balances the rights of victims with a realistic view that there will be some offenders who are simply unable to pay restitution,” said Northam.

Investigative reporter Kerri O’Brien has been highlighting the problem. The governor and lawmakers pointed out her reports Thursday.

She found $8 million in restitution had been collected from defendants but never delivered to crime victims in Virginia.

Thanks to the compromise, that’s about to change.

“This will fix the problem for the whole state,” said Del. Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) who introduced both bills. “They’re going to hire two people whose only job is to wake up each day, find the person who we’ve already got the money for and make sure it gets to them. It’s a credit to Ms. O’Brien and her work.”