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A bill protecting bus drivers advances to the Virginia Senate

Public Transit Free Fares
Pablo Martinez Monsivais
A Metrobus in downtown Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022.

Mandatory minimum sentences have been controversial for years, and Democrats have tried to give judges more autonomy to make decisions about individual cases. But there’s at least one area where Democrats want mandatory minimum sentences.

Bus drivers in the Richmond area say they have had enough of people assaulting them, and they want the General Assembly to do something about it. That's why they approached Delegate Dolores McQuinn, a Democrat from Richmond, to introduce a bill requiring a minimum two-day jail sentence for anyone convicted of assaulting a bus driver.

"People were taking out their frustration, their anger during the pandemic," McQuinn said. "And they was taking it out on them when they get on the bus. And then there was one situation where the bus driver was attacked, the individual went away and then somebody by that same person was killed somewhere else."

When her bill reached the House floor, Speaker Todd Gilbert called on Delegate Tim Anderson, a Republican from Virginia Beach to question the effort.

"So, I'm not exactly sure how I’m the voice of reason over here in seat 78," Anderson said.

"Me neither. I'm not sure either. But go ahead. Please," replied Gilbert.

"But a two-day mandatory minimum, I just don't know," Anderson said. "It seems unusual that the party that has been against mandatory minimums this whole time seems to support that now."

Anderson was one of two Republicans and 12 Democrats who voted against the bill, which passed the House with a huge bipartisan coalition and is now on its way to the Senate.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.