Effective July 16, 2002, the Department for Rights of Virginians with Disabilities ceased to exist as an executive branch state agency and was replaced by the newly created, independent state agency, the Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy (VOPA). The new agency has Governing Board. There are three separate appointing authorities for the new Board. The Governor appoints three members; the Speaker of the House appoints five members, and the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee appoints three members. The law ensures that the Board will include broad representation of persons knowledgeable about the needs of persons with disabilities, including consumers, family members, guardians, and advocates and disallows any elected official or current service provider from serving on the Board.
House Bill 9, now Chapter 8.1 of the Code of Virginia, established the powers and duties of the new Governing Board. These are as follows:
§ 51.5-39.5. Powers and duties of the Board; Protection and Advocacy Fund.
A. The Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy shall be administered by the Board, whose powers and duties include, but are not limited to:
- appointing and annually evaluating the performance of a Director who shall not be a member of the Board, to serve as the Chief Executive Officer of the Office at the pleasure of the Board. The Director shall be an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice law in Virginia, and a person qualified by knowledge, skills, and abilities to administer and direct the provision of protection and advocacy services regarding the rights of persons with disabilities;
- preparing and submitting a budget to the General Assembly for the operation of the Office and the Board;
- establishing general policies for the Office and advising and assisting the Director in developing annual program goals;
- establishing annual program goals for the Office;
- adopting regulations, policies, and procedures and making determinations necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter and Chapter 9 (§ 51.5-40 et seq.) of this title. The adoption of such regulations shall be consistent with the provisions of Article 2 (§ 2.2-4006 et seq.) of the Administrative Process Act;
- monitoring and evaluating the operations of the Office;
- maintaining records of its proceedings and making such records available for inspection by the public; and
- performing any other acts necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter.
The Board shall have the authority to apply for and accept, gifts, donations, grants, and bequests on behalf of the Office from the United States Government and agencies and instrumentalities thereof and from any other source and to deposit all monies received in the Protection and Advocacy Fund created pursuant to this subsection. To these ends, the Board shall have the power to comply with such conditions and execute such agreements as may be necessary, convenient or desirable, consistent with policies, rules, and regulations of the Board.