Northam Blocks Opioid Bill Backed by AG Herring, Local Prosecutors

HouseGOPGovernor Northam, Press Releases, Public Safety

 Hugo: “When we tried to take action to save lives, Governor Northam stood in the way” 

For the third time in as many days, Democrat Governor Ralph Northam has vetoed bipartisan legislation designed to keep Virginians safe.

Acting Thursday, Northam vetoed House Bill 2528, which would have allowed prosecutors to charge drug dealers with second degree murder if the drugs they provide directly contribute to the death of the user. Long sought by local prosecutors, the bill was supported by Democrat Attorney General Mark Herring as a way to stem the tide of opioid deaths in Virginia.

Deaths from synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl increased 1,000 percent in Virginia from 2012 to 2017, the last year for which statistics are readily available, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“A drug dealer who sells someone heroin laced with Fenatnyl is no less a killer than if he had pointed a gun and pulled the trigger,” said House Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo (R – Fairfax), the bill’s chief patron. “Over 100 Virginians are dying of opioid overdoses every month. Constituents are losing friends and family members. When we tried to take action, Governor Northam stood in the way. It’s appalling.”

“This bill passed with wide bipartisan support, because Republicans and Democrats alike recognize what this scourge is doing to our communities,” added Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R – Shenandoah). “For years, our Commonwealth’s Attorneys have been begging for this tool to go after those responsible for peddling this poison in our communities.”

“This year, Republicans and Democrats managed to come together and give them this tool, only to see Governor Northam try to gut the bill through the amendment process, and then veto it,” he added. “Virginians deserve better.”


Bipartisan votes on HB 2528

Final passage House, 69-30
Final passage Senate, 40-0

Statement from Attorney General Mark Herring in a September 2017 press release:

Drug-induced homicide. For three years, Attorney General Herring has pushed to close a loophole in Virginia law that allows heroin/fentanyl/opioid dealers and traffickers to escape accountability when their drugs kill a Virginian. Unfortunately, the General Assembly has failed to close the loophole for three sessions. Currently, drug-induced homicide cases are taken to federal court, including by prosecutors from AG Herring’s team, but Commonwealth’s Attorneys in Virginia need a tool that is just as strong so we can hold these dealers and traffickers accountable in state court.