Eileen's Latest eNews - June 4, 2018

June 4

Pressing the green “yes” button at my desk on the floor of the House of Delegates last Wednesday night was literally the most consequential vote I have ever taken. It truly was the best day for me, ever, in the Virginia House of Delegates.

People often ask me why I serve, and I always respond “because I truly want to make a difference.” The fact is, if I were ever in doubt, I can look at this vote and say, yes we can and yes we do make a difference, in this case, to over 300,000 Virginians who had no insurance. These people are not just statistics, they are neighbors, family members and friends.

As I drove back from Richmond that night, I think it finally sunk in: Medicaid expansion will become a reality in Virginia!  We passed a budget that reflects our values, providing well-deserved access to healthcare for over 300,000 people, teachers and state employees will receive raises, there will be additional money for mental health and for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities and insurance will be provided for people with autism up until age 21, while funds will be added to our rainy-day fund.

I have always gone to Richmond with a goal to listen and get things done, working with everyone, finding areas of commonality. This budget is a perfect example of Democrats and Republicans coming together to do what is right for the Commonwealth and its citizens. Governor Ralph Northam, former Governor McAuliffe, all of our Democratic members of the House and Senate, a number of Republicans and so many others: individuals, groups and stakeholders worked earnestly in support of Medicaid expansion for over five years and we finally did it!

We were victorious because everyone came together AND because we elected so many new diverse but like-minded voices into the House of Delegates this past election. As our Democratic Leader aptly put it, we showed “the power of 49.” But 49 is not 51; we needed leadership on the other side of the aisle, as we had through Speaker Kirk Cox, Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones and Commerce and Labor Chairman Terry Kilgore who were instrumental in leading support among Republicans in the House. Senators Emmett Hanger, Dick Saslaw, George Barker, and Janet Howell were essential in leading the Senate as well, and our new Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax was key in breaking a number of ties in the Senate to block hostile amendments to our budget. This was truly a team effort.

Thanks to the passage of this budget, there will also be funding for more judges and additional individuals with disabilities will have access to Medicaid waivers.  Investment was increased in economic development while additional money will also be provided to expand broadband and preserve our AAA bond rating. Through this budget, we will create opportunities for working families to thrive. We will build a better, healthier, stronger Virginia.

I will always remember pressing that green button on my desk on May 30th, 2018 and the vote board lighting up green in support of a budget we can all be proud of. During my time in office, this was truly the most important vote I have ever taken.

 

Health Insurance Reform Commission

I was in Richmond again for a meeting of the Health Insurance Reform Commission on May 24.  We had several presentations regarding the recent developments in health care at the federal level.  In addition, we elected a new chair and vice chair. We also discussed several bills referred to the Commission and developed a study plan to look into them.
 

Memorial Day

On the Friday prior to Memorial Day Weekend, I was pleased to have the opportunity to again join the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and American Legion Post 176 for their Memorial Day Celebration. Three days later, I had the honor of joining the Burke VFW Post 5416 at their annual Memorial Day observance at the Burke Center Conservancy in the 41st district. I always look forward to this moving ceremony and truly appreciated the opportunity to address the crowd along with my colleague Senator Dave Marsden and Supervisor John Cook. It was special to take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day, by honoring those men and women who have served and fallen defending our country. It is only because of them and their sacrifices that we can enjoy the liberty and freedom we celebrate and cherish today.
 

Car Seat Bill Signing

Last week, Governor Northam signed my bill,
HB 708which will prohibit child restraint devices (car seats) from being forward-facing until at least, a child reaches two years of age or until the child reaches the minimum weight limit for a forward-facing child restraint device as prescribed by the manufacturer of the device. The bill will also expand the reasons that a physician may determine when it is impractical for a child to use a rear-facing child restraint system due to the child's height. This is a common sense public safety measure protecting the most vulnerable Virginians, our children. I am grateful to the many stakeholders including AAA and our star, Poppy, who helped demonstrate the proper use of a rear-facing car seat! You can check out coverage of the bill signing by clicking here orhere.
 

Sudler Flag Presentation at Lake Braddock

It was wonderful to have the opportunity to celebrate Lake Braddock Secondary School Band at an event where they were honored with the Sudler Flag of Honor for the second year in a row last Thursday.  Awarded by the Sousa Foundation, the Sudler Flag identifies, recognizes and honors high school band programs internationally that have demonstrated high standards of excellence in concert activities over a period of several years, under the careful leadership of their conductor, Michael Luley. To mark this occasion, I was pleased to present a commending resolution, HJ 461 to Lake Braddock Band. Congratulations again on this distinct and well-deserved honor.
 

Graduations

Eagle Bank Arena is hosting local high school graduations from June 1 until June 16, including all four schools in the 41st District.  There will be greater activity and traffic around that section of Braddock Road, so please consider taking an alternate route on those days. Click here to find out the schedule of all the upcoming graduations at EagleBank Arena.
 

Upcoming Summer Events

Mark your calendars for the upcoming Braddock Nights and (new for 2018!) Springfield Nights in and around the 41st District.  For these and other outdoor fun events in the county, please click the link below.

 

May 23, 2018

Santa Fe High School

I am devastated that yet another school shooting has occurred in our country, this time in Texas. While my heart breaks again for the victims and their families, it is profoundly frustrating to think how often I have opened my newsletter with yet another shooting and in particular, another school shooting. Truly, I struggle to accept the fact that our government remains intransigent on this issue. Most, if not all of you, know my feelings on gun safety. Many of you also know my legislative efforts in dealing with gun violence prevention and my efforts with the Safe Virginia Initiative. Rest assured, I will continue to search for the much-needed common ground and reforms to help prevent a future tragedy from happening. 

Felony Larceny Threshold Bill Signing

I was pleased to stand with Governor Northam and so many of my colleagues for the signings of HB 1550patroned by Delegate Les Adams and SB 105patroned by Senator David Suetterlein today. These bills raise the felony larceny threshold from $200 to $500 in Virginia as part of a bipartisan compromise. While imperfect as many bills are, these are a small but essential step in the right direction. Raising the threshold is a key breakthrough for common sense criminal justice reform.

I applaud Governor Northam for not only delivering on a top campaign promise within his first few months in office -- but doing so through a bipartisan compromise and working across the aisle. I was privileged to carry the Governor’s legislation the past two years to raise this threshold. While my legislation did not move forward, I was honored to serve as a co-patron on HB 1550, speak at the signing ceremony and privileged to have the opportunity to finally help make this initiative the law.

Raising the threshold will not only create a more just and fairer system -- but it is fiscally responsible. According to the ACLU, larceny convictions accounted for one out of every four of those incarcerated in 2012, at a cost of approximately $25,000 a year per individual. The Virginia Department of Corrections found that the state could have saved between $18.3 million and $22.5 million in prison costs between fiscal years 2009 and 2014 had the General Assembly raised the threshold to $500 or $600 in 2008. Virginia’s progress on this issue has been slow, but this breakthrough for criminal justice reform is a small but necessary step in the right direction.
 

Boundaries Bill Signing

I was also in Richmond last week for the signing of my bill, HB 45. This bill will require any family life education curriculum offered in any elementary school, middle school, or high school to include instruction on the importance of the personal privacy and boundaries of other individuals. This legislation builds upon my legislation signed into law from previous years including HB 2257 (2017); which provides that schools can teach about the law and meaning of consent; HB 1709 (2017); which requires principals to notify parents if their child is a part of a bullying investigation, as well as HB 659 (2016); which requires any high school family life education curriculum offered by a local school division to incorporate age-appropriate elements of effective and evidence-based programs on the prevention of dating violence, domestic abuse, sexual harassment, and sexual violence.

I am incredibly appreciative of the compelling testimony from my friend, Brandon Farbstein, throughout the session as well as the Sexual Assault Resource Agency, the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, YWCA Richmond and Hanover Safe Place. It is my hope that teaching these values at an early age can help prevent bullying, harassment and violence in the future. You can view a clip that speaks more about Brandon’s story by clicking here.
 

Korean Bell Garden Dedication

It was great to join several of my colleagues along with Chairman Sharon Bulova and Supervisor Cathy Hudgins at the annual Korean Bell Garden Celebration—a partnership between NOVA Parks and the Korean American Cultural Committee. While the event was moved inside due to the rain, the celebration included great Korean dance performances, music, a Tae Kwon Do demonstration, beautiful traditional Korean clothing, adorable children, Korean games and delicious Korean food. I am proud to live in such a diverse county, and pleased that so many of its residents are willing to share their culture with us.
 

NAACP Richmond 100th Anniversary Gala

I was incredibly honored to serve as co-chair of the 100th Annual Richmond Branch NAACP Gala with my colleague and friend Delegate Delores McQuinn earlier this week. This effort developed from a discussion we had last summer on how we can find more opportunities to bring the African-American and Jewish communities closer together in light of the tragedy in Charlottesville. African-Americans and Jews have had a long and storied relationship. We often think of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with Dr. King, but we also cannot forget the efforts right here in Virginia, with the National Council of Jewish Women's Virginia Chapters, in partnering with African-Americans across Virginia, fought against massive resistance even in the halls of the General Assembly. We should also think of Louis Jaffe, whose compelling editorial on the evils of lynching, entitled, "An Unspeakable Act of Savagery," won the Virginian Pilot's first Pulitzer Prize in 1929 and shed light on the horrors of these hate crimes to the wider public.  

It was an incredible evening; a moving dance performance, uplifting music throughout and many inspiring speeches including the Governor of Virginia, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and our impressive keynote speaker, former South Carolina State Representative Bakari Sellers. Congratulations to the Richmond NAACP on 100 years of history of this tremendous organization along with Richmond NAACP Chair
JJ Minor and my colleague Delegate Delores McQuinn for organizing such an amazing event. I look forward to continuing to work with them for many years to come.

 

Virginia Chamber of Commerce Award

I appreciated the Virginia Chamber of Commerce honoring me with the Free Enterprise Award last Tuesday in Richmond at their 94th Annual Dinner. This award is in recognition of my work on HB 768, (patroned by Chairman of Appropriations, Chris Jones) on which I served as both a chief co-patron and as the sole House Democratic conferee. This legislation implements a gas tax floor in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads and will help pay for Metro. As a member of the House Transportation Committee, making transportation more efficient and effective, especially in Northern Virginia has always been a top priority for me.
 

Lake Braddock Chorus Concert

I was so impressed at the Lake Braddock Secondary School chorus choice awards. Andrea Harmon, Chorus Director, did a nice job organizing the amazing production with such impressive young musicians performing. I was especially thrilled to see my friends and constituents Rachna Sizemore Heizer and Beth Felsen’s talented sons Jake Sizemore and Noah Felsen perform.
 

Swim Team Success

I also wanted to acknowledge some impressive constituents from Somerset Old Creek who participated in the “8th Annual Swim Marathon to End Breast Cancer”. Both swam for twelve hours straight (one is only ten years old)! This marathon helped raise over $36,000 for the Artemis Project whose mission is to develop a vaccine for breast cancer. Thank you, Somerset Old Creek Swimmers, for your incredible efforts to help prevent and hopefully one day cure this insidious disease.

May 7, 2018

I hope you all are enjoying the warm/spring weather that has finally come our way. It is wonderful to see the flowers blooming throughout the 41st District. I look forward to spending more time outside in our beautiful open spaces, including Royal Lake Park in the 41st District.
 

Safe Virginia Initiative

I am proud to co-chair the Safe Virginia Initiative with Delegate Kathleen Murphy. This past Saturday, we held our first SVI town hall in Richmond, hosted by our Metro Richmond Regional Chair Delegate Delores McQuinn. This working group will develop and propose policy changes with respect to common sense gun safety. Additionally, SVI will organize events across the state between May and October of this year, gathering crucial public input. Following these events, SVI will issue a report based on suggestions and recommendations brought to the working group by Virginians across the Commonwealth.

It was good to hear from many elected officials, members of the House of Delegates, activists and Virginians from the Metro Richmond Area. We featured a panel, including Richmond School Board Member Felicia Cosby, Reverend Marcus Martin, Youth Activist Stephanie Younger, Richmond City Deputy Police Chief Eric English and Richmond City Councilman Chris Hilbert. Please check out two radio interviews on SVI earlier this week by clickinghere or here.

 

Fairfax County Volunteer Service Awards

I always enjoy attending the Fairfax County Volunteer Service Awards and I was pleased to attend again this year. I am proud of so many in our incredible county who step up and volunteer to make Fairfax County a better place. While many folks were honored, including several constituents, I want to make a special shout out to my friend, Sue Boucher and my constituent and friend, Joanne Walton for their significant contributions to the County we all love.

 

Retirement of Rabbi Amy Perlin

I was pleased to attend a special folk concert in honor of the retirement of my friend Rabbi Amy Perlin from Temple B'nai Shalom. Rabbi Amy is a trailblazer, having become the first woman rabbi to found her own congregation, located in Fairfax Station. I am grateful for her many years of dedicated service to both her congregation and the greater Jewish community. She will be missed. I was pleased to serve as a co-patron on Delegate Tran’s HR 206 during the General Assembly Session, commending Rabbi Perlin.

 

Northern Virginia District PTA Awards Ceremony

It was rewarding to attend the NOVA District PTA Awards Ceremony last week. We heard inspiring remarks from our Virginia Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni (a former middle school teacher himself) and our Teacher of the Year. I am very grateful to the dedicated parents, teachers and volunteers who make our schools such a great place. Additionally, I would like to give special recognition to Debbie Kilpatrick for her dedication and leadership of this important organization. As a former PTA mother, I know just how much effort goes into making these organizations vibrant and successful. Debbie and so many others both in and outside the 41st District manage to do so with poise and grace.

 

Lake Braddock Secondary School

I appreciated the opportunity to address Ms. Kolaskar's class at Lake Braddock Secondary School during which the students asked thoughtful questions. I enjoyed engaging with the students about the issues most important to them as well as sharing with them my legislative priorities and what has transpired over the past legislative session.

 

Congressman Connolly Town Hall on Gun Safety

I was proud to watch my Congressman and constituent, Gerry Connolly, host a town hall on gun safety. The house was packed! There was great energy in the room with these young impressive student leading the panel. I look forward to partnering with these young people in the future to help make our schools and communities safer and identify commonsense gun safety legislation.

 

Tribute to NoVA Labor

I enjoyed attending the Tribute to NoVA Labor Dinner this past Friday with so many friends.  Congratulations to all the honorees, especially to my colleague, Delegate Elizabeth Guzman, one of our many impressive new Freshmen. For those of you who have not heard of my colleague, Elizabeth is a real example of achieving the American Dream. Born in Peru, she immigrated to the United States as a single mom. She tirelessly worked three jobs, just to afford a one-bedroom apartment for herself and her daughter. She put herself through community college, earned a bachelor’s degree and two masters’ degrees, and is a public administrator and social worker in addition to her now serving as member of the Virginia House of Delegates. I am proud to call her my colleague and friend.

 

Road Repaving Schedule and What to Expect When a Road is Repaved

Substantial paving will take place in and around the 41st District this summer. I would like to provide you with some information from VDOT about what to expect during the repaving of residential streets, including Burke Station Road (finally!). You canclick here to see which roads are scheduled to be repaved this summer. 

The paving process starts with neighborhood notices.  The contractor will place door hangers on the front doors of the houses on the affected streets.  Door hangers are placed no sooner than 30 days prior to the work, but at least 3 days before work will begin.  At least three days prior to the start of work, “No Parking” signs will be posted.  These no parking signs will list a date range during which street parking is prohibited, in order to allow FCPD to enforce the restrictions legally if necessary. Please note that paving may occur at any time during the posted date range.  A range of dates is listed due to the nature of paving work, as many factors such as weather, equipment breakdowns, personnel issues, material supply issues, etc. can impede the progress of a paving project.

Parking enforcement and towing are handled by the Fairfax County Police Department at the contractor’s request.  However, no-parking restrictions are only enforced if a parked vehicle interferes with the contractor’s work. Parking on the street during non-working hours, or on days when the contractor is not working on the street may not result in a ticket or your vehicle being towed.  Even so, please note that parking on a street with posted no-parking signs is done at your own risk. Even if construction equipment may not appear, that does not guarantee that your vehicle will not be towed and impounded.

You can also work directly with the Construction Manager in the field by calling them at the phone number listed on the paving web site: http://www.virginiadot.org/novapaving. If you click on the affected road, it will list the construction manager's email and contact information.

April 23, 2018

The last two weeks have been filled with countless events around the community as well as both the special session and regular reconvened session in Richmond last week. While the warm and sunny spring weather seems to be unfortunately intermittent, we were able to enjoy gorgeous Cherry Blossoms. I am particularly excited that the Burke Farmer's Market is back and I look forward to picking up fresh produce on Saturday mornings. 
 

Special Session and Veto Session
Earlier this week, I was in Richmond on the 17thand 18th for our special session and reconvened/veto session, respectively. We have much to be proud of coming out of the special session and reconvened session this year on behalf of all Virginians, including upholding the Governor's vetoes on potentially harmful legislation. Interestingly enough, very few of the bills vetoed (click here to view them all) were actually contested by the bill’s patrons. One of the exceptions was HB 1257 which barred “sanctuary cities”. I opposed this legislation as it would have required local law enforcement personnel to use their precious resources to perform duties that are the exclusive responsibility of federal immigration enforcement agencies. Furthermore, I believe this bill would send a disturbing message to communities across Virginia that could have negative impacts on public safety.

Additionally, while I am extremely pleased we passed the bill which will provide the full funding of Virginia's share for improving Metro, I am disappointed we have done so at the cost of diverting significant funding away from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and in turn potentially delaying much-needed work on significant projects. This is something I hope we can fix going forward.

Our biggest vote was again passing a House version of the budget on April 17th, which includes Medicaid expansion and funding for education. We will now wait for the Senate to review and agree to a budget, hopefully with Medicaid expansion as we passed again last week. To learn more about the differences in the budgets from the regular session and the special session, please click here.

 

PANS/PANDAS Meeting
I was in Henrico County for a meeting on Monday the Statewide Advisory Council for PANS/PANDAS, which I chair. There was an excellent discussion on a variety of issues including handouts to disseminate information about these diseases. I am proud to be a part of such a distinguished group of impressive professionals, physicians, medical experts 
and parents. I truly appreciate everyone’s time and energy, including my House and Senate colleagues who also serve on the Council.

 

Student Town Hall
I appreciated the opportunity to participate in a Students Demand Action Town Hall last week with Delegate Kathy Tran, Delegate Vivian Watts, Senator DaveMarsdenand Senator Chap Petersen. We discussed what we believe to be the best solutions to promote gun safety laws and prevent gun violence, while also sharing specifics about the Safe Virginia Initiative, which I am co-chairing with Delegate Kathleen Murphy. I am proud of how engaged these young people are and was duly impressed by their thoughtful questions.

 

Woodson Pyramid Art Show
I was pleased to stop by the art show at Woodson High School on April 11th. It was great to walk through the halls of Woodson and visit with the talented young artists, parents of the artists and dedicated art teachers. I was quite impressed by the truly incredible talent of these Woodson pyramid students.

 

American University Panel
It was great to be in DC on Friday at my alma mater, American University Washington College of Law, where I served on a panel titled, "Making a Difference: Alumni in Government". I appreciated the opportunity to discuss the role government plays in our lives and how law school prepared me for my various experiences post-graduation. Additionally, I was thrilled to see my friend, former Professor and current Congressman and former State Senator, Jamie Raskin. Congressman Raskin was my Constitutional Law professor at AU.

 

Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC)
I was pleased to attend the Arlington Food Assistance Center's "Shining a Light on Hunger" event last week. It was particularly great to hear my friend, former First Lady of Virginia, Dorothy McAuliffe speak as their keynote. I am so proud that her tremendous efforts toward combating childhood hunger were recognized during this event.

 

Eagle Scout Court of Honor
I appreciated the opportunity to take part in the Court of Honor for my constituent, Nick Ortega. To achieve this rank, he put forth an incredible amount of hard work, dedication 
and sacrifice that was required to reach this important accomplishment. Nick is a wonderful young man who has overcome some challenges while continuing to persevere. He has been involved with scouting for over eight years as well as volunteering regularly with the Special Olympics at Robinson Secondary School. It is particularly impressive to note that in 2013, he played in nearly every Special Olympics event offered at Robinson. It was a privilege to celebrate this significant achievement in Nick's life. He is truly an example for others and I am confident that he will continue to be a leader in our community.

April 9, 2018

Last week marked the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. I was only a child when this act of violence reverberated across the country, but Dr. King’s legacy remains both historic and inspirational. Just recently, I came across an article about a visit he made to Norfolk, Virginia in 1966 to install a church pastor. King spoke frankly about the struggle for civil rights as well as the devastation of the war in Vietnam. While this speech does not have the universal recognition that his famous “I have a dream,” or mountaintop speech does, I wanted to share this passage with you:

 

“It’s midnight in our world today … it’s midnight out there and it’s midnight in here… it’s midnight within individuals … within the psychological order and the moral order…we know about midnight, don’t we? But the morning will come. Our morning will come.”

 

Reading these words and pausing to reflect on the tumultuous events of the last few months and years in our country, King’s words continue to resonate with me. Despite the difficulties we face as Americans, by working together and putting aside petty differences, I truly believe that a bright future lies ahead for all of us.

 

Safe Virginia Initiative

 

Last Monday, the House Democratic Caucus announced the Safe Virginia Initiative (SVI)—a statewide task force which I will chair along with Delegate Kathleen Murphy, that will focus on commonsense gun safety. While I am pleased to see that Speaker Kirk Cox of the Virginia House of Delegates has established a bipartisan select committee on school safety, the mission of this select committee does not include gun safety legislation. I believe strongly we cannot discuss school safety without also discussing gun safety legislation. 

 

I feel that as an elected official, it is our duty to deliver results that will keep our constituents safe. As elected member of the House, I am determined to do just that. It is our hope that this task force can develop real, substantive and bipartisan legislative gun safety solutions. I will keep you posted as our statewide outreach continues. In the meantime, please check out a Washington Post article about SVI’s establishment as well as an op-ed from Delegate Murphy and myself about our drive to curb gun violence.

 

Raising the Felony Larceny Threshold

 

This is a great example of how bipartisanship can move everyone forward as well as improve lives. I am incredibly pleased that HB 1550 (patroned by Del. Les Adams) was signed into law last week. For the past two years, I was proud to carry both Governor McAuliffe's and Governor Northam‘s bill raising the felony larceny threshold. I commend Governor Northam for signing HB 1550 (which raises the threshold from $200 to $500) into law. I am extremely proud to serve as a copatron on this bill.

 

Update on my bills

 

As of last week, I am pleased to report that Governor Northam has signed the following bills that I sponsored and passed during the regular session of the General Assembly. All except for HB 708, which has a delayed enactment date of 2019, will take effect on July 1st of this year.

 

I have detailed each of the bills below:

 

HB 45 will require any family life education curriculum offered in any elementary school, middle school, or high school to incorporate age-appropriate elements of effective and evidence-based programs on the importance of the personal privacy and personal boundaries of other individuals and tools for a student to use to ensure that he respects the personal privacy and personal boundaries of other individuals. This measure was signed into law on March 19th.

 

HB 454 will require the governing board of each public institution of higher education to implement guidelines that encourage the adoption and use of low-cost and no-cost open educational resources in courses offered at such institution. The measure will help universities and faculties make class materials more affordable to college students. The Governor signed this bill on April 4th.

 

HB 459 (by request) designates the red salamander (pseudotriton ruber) as the State Salamander of Virginia. This bill was signed on March 9th.

 

HB 708 will prohibit child restraint devices (car seats) from being forward-facing until, at least, the child reaches two years of age or until the child reaches the minimum weight limit for a forward-facing child restraint device as prescribed by the manufacturer of the device. The bill will also expand the reasons that a physician may determine when it is impractical for a child to use a child restraint system due to the child's height. The Governor signed this bill on March 23rd.

 

HB 1485 will reform truancy and absenteeism policies for public schools. This bill aims to find better options to keep children in school before they are referred to the court system for truancy. The Governor signed this bill on April 4th.

 

Inova Open House

 

I appreciated the opportunity to stop by the newly expanded Inova Behavioral Health Outpatient Center. While there, I learned about the many behavioral health and substance use disorder services that they provide to patients and families across Northern Virginia. I am incredibly impressed and grateful that we have such a crucial resource in our region. For more information about the services they offer, check out this link.

 

Visiting Our Local Schools

 

I have enjoyed the opportunity to visit several of the great schools in the 41st District this past week.

 

 

Lake Braddock Pyramid Art Show

 

As Arts Caucus Chair, I appreciated the opportunity to stop by the Lake Braddock Pyramid Art Show. I was pleased to stand with Congressman Connolly and welcome all in attendance. These student artists are incredibly talented!  

 

Laurel Ridge PTA

 

I enjoyed addressing the Laurel Ridge Elementary School's PTA and give an update on what transpired during the General Assembly session as well as speak about the Safe Virginia Initiative last week. A fun part of the night for me was seeing myself, my colleague, Delegate Cheryl Turpin (who grew up in the area) and the Governor of Virginia depicted in “peep” form from a fourth-grade class project on the three branches of government. If you are interested in having me speak to your PTA, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at any time.

 

Fairview STEM Open House

 

I enjoyed attending the Fairview Elementary PTA for their first annual STEM Fair on Saturday. I was also pleased to meet Dr. Oscar Barton, founder of the GMU engineering program.  Congratulations to Fairview PTA President, Pamela Ononiwu, who organized this event and Fairview’s impressive Principal, Lynn Mayer. Our students have a bright, impressive future!

 

Previewing the special session

 

It is my hope that we can start the process of passing a budget that expands Medicaid when we return to Richmond for the special session this Wednesday, April 11. As you may know, I have spoken out on the floor countless times over many years in support of Medicaid Expansion. We will convene in Richmond at noon to start the process of debating this budget. You can click here to watch the session this Wednesday.

March 26, 2018

This past Saturday, I was proud to join the many hundreds of thousands of people in Washington, DC taking part in the March for Our Lives, one of the largest peaceful marches ever held in our nation’s capital. Watching and being a part of so many exercising our First Amendment right to peaceably assemble was heartwarming.

In addition to the huge march in Washington, DC, nearly 800 sibling marches took place across the country and in fact, the world—including fifteen locations in Virginia. The teenagers and children who led, organized and spoke at the march inspired me. These impressive young people (including the great local chapter of Students Demand Action DMV) give me immense hope for our future. Not only is there a political will to get gun safety measures passed one day, but hopefully not too far into the future, I feel there is also a willingness to speak to the intersectional (race, gender, sexual orientation, et al.) dynamics of this issue and for this I am grateful and hopeful.

One particularly inspiring speech was from a fellow Northern Virginian, Naomi Wadler, an eleven-year-old from Alexandria. She "walked out" with her fellow students at George Mason Elementary School two weeks ago and then she gave an amazing speech on Saturday, which resonated deeply with me—not just her poise but her words as well. Naomi spoke about the fact that the media often fails to cover the devastating impact of gun violence in African American communities across the country. She said she represented, “the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls that fill a potential.”

Fighting for sensible gun safety legislation has been an important objective of mine, long before I was elected to the House of Delegates. I was proud to have been a founding member of the Million Mom March, an organization dedicated to ending gun violence. It is hard to believe that it was eighteen years ago that we also marched with MMM also in Washington, DC. Be assured that my advocacy for a safer Commonwealth will continue well into the future.

 

Special Session and New Budget

Governor Northam has called for the General Assembly to reconvene on April 11th for the purposes of passing a biennial budget. We adjourned the regular session, sine die on March 10th without a budget. Since that time, Governor Northam has introduced a budget similar to the one former Governor McAuliffe introduced last December. His budget expands Medicaid without any restrictions. It is my hope that we can come to a compromise that not only fully expands Medicaid, but also keeps the impressive extent of education funding allocated within the House Budget. I will keep you posted as I learn more.

 

"Art for Understanding"

In my capacity as chair of the Arts Caucus and a member of the VIAB, it was a pleasure of meeting over 70 international artists who participated in Art for Understanding, a cultural exchange between artists from Israel and the Commonwealth. Art for Understanding is a collaboration between the Virginia Israel Advisory Board, Richmond Ballet's Minds in Motion outreach program, Matter of Color and Binns of Williamsburg practicing their commitment to creating more compassionate communities. Minds in Motion is an impressive program that brings Arab and Israeli children together to teach empathy and understanding through the power of dance. I look forward to this successful program continuing for many years to come.

 

NBC 12 Digital Dialogue

I was honored to join Richmond NBC affiliate, Channel 12 for their digital dialogue focused on my bill, HB 708 which will prohibit “child restraint devices from being forward-facing until, at least, the child reaches two years of age or until the child reaches the minimum weight limit for a forward-facing child restraint device as prescribed by the manufacturer of the device.” The bill also expands medical exemptions to include height. I joined Martha Meade of AAA, Cori Miller-Hobbs of Safe Kids Virginia and Chief Deputy Lee Bailey of the New Kent County Sheriff’s Department on the segment and discussed how the bill passed both chambers, and the positive effect this bill will have on Virginians. You can view the program by clicking here.

 

Women In Government

I greatly appreciated the opportunity to join Senator Jennifer McClellan and Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol in the final panel for the “She Suite Summit” sponsored by Velvet Suite and the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce. The summit focused on actions to address gender equity. We shared personal stories and I expressed that one of the most significant ways I believe we can address gender equity is having more women run for office!
 

Women Veterans Week

Last week marked the first annual Women's Veterans Week in the Commonwealth. Legislation marking this week was brought about by my colleagues, Delegate Kathleen Murphy and Senator Jennifer Wexton. I was proud to serve as a co-patron on Delegate Murphy's bill and celebrate the accomplishments of the many impressive women who have served our country. For more information about Women Veterans Week, click here.

2018 General Assembly Sine Die

Saturday was Sine Die (Latin for "without day"), signifying the final day of the 2018 General Assembly Legislative Session.  The 60-day session always passes quickly, and this year was certainly very memorable. This session was successful on many levels as we passed significant legislation to improve the everyday lives of Virginians. I was proud to be able to play a role in considering many of the important legislative issues addressed this year and I enjoyed working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make a significant impact. However, we are not done yet! The House and Senate adjourned without passing a budget, meaning that Governor Northam will call a special session soon, to debate and discuss this important issue.

The current logjam exists because the House budget expands Medicaid and the Senate budget does not. Currently the budget conferees on both sides of the aisle are at an impasse. It is my hope that they can reach a reasonable compromise that expands Medicaid and allows the Commonwealth to make the much-needed investments in education that the House budget provides for.

If you are interested in discussing the session further with me, please stop by my office hours this Friday, March 16th, from 11:00 AM-12:30 PM at Peets Coffee on Burke Lake Road in the Kings Park Shopping Center.

 

Update on My Legislation

While three of my bills (HB 45HB 459 and HB 1485) already await Governor Northam’s signature, this week, the House and Senate passed two more of my bills, HB 454 and HB 709.

 

HB 454-Promoting the Use of Open Educational Resources

Paying for and staying in college is a struggle for many Virginia families. In addition to staggering tuition costs, many students also struggle with the cost of their textbooks. Making class materials more affordable for college students has been a priority of mine for over five years now and I have introduced several pieces of legislation since 2013 related to that effort. HB 454 will require the governing board of each public institution of higher education to create guidelines that encourage the adoption and use of low-cost and no-cost open educational resources (online course materials) in courses offered at their institutions. After going to conference, the House and Senate passed this legislation unanimously and it now sits on Governor Northam’s desk.

 

HB 708-Making Car Seats Safer for Infants

Earlier this week the Virginia General Assembly passed my bill HB 708, which will require that child safety seats remain rear-facing until the age of two, or the child reaches the minimum weight limit for a forward-facing child restraint device as prescribed by the manufacturer of the device. The bill is now on its way to Governor Northam for his signature.

Currently, Virginia law requires that any child, up to age eight is properly secured in a child restraint device which meets the standards adopted by the United States Department of Transportation. It does not, however, specify how long the child passenger safety seat must remain rear-facing. This is a safety bill that seeks to protect our most vulnerable Virginians: our children.

I am proud to say Virginia has enacted common sense requirements that will give the youngest and smallest children the extra protection needed when riding in a car. This is a long overdue requirement that will save lives. I was pleased to work with AAA and so many other stakeholders to ensure that our most precious passengers remain safe while riding in cars. I appreciate the broad bipartisan support from my colleagues to pass this bill. 

 

The Gas Tax Floor and Funding Metro

The ability for Virginia to attract and retain business is dependent upon our achieving a 21st century solution to the limitations we currently face with regard to our existing transportation infrastructure. Our state’s growth and economic development cannot be done without providing greater relief of the road congestion problems we currently face, and achieving the best return on investment for Virginia taxpayers.
 

Currently, the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads regions are losing millions of dollars in gas tax revenue that could be used to fund transportation projects; in particular, meet the Metro subsidies required to expand and improve public transit systems in Northern Virginia. By instituting a floor on the regional gas tax, Northern Virginians are able to bring in more revenue to finish projects we have already started, to expand and improve our Metro system and to hopefully avoid increasing roadway tolls in the future.  I was pleased that my bill to address this long-standing issue was incorporated into Delegate Chris Jones’HB 768. When the House and Senate initially could not agree on the bill’s provisions, it went into conference. I was proud to be the sole Northern Virginian and Democratic conferee on the part of the House. On Friday, we came to an agreement and this bill, as well as a Senate companion, patroned by Senator Wagner. Both bills are headed to the Governor’s Desk.

Additionally, on Saturday, I was pleased to support the final conference versions of HB 1539 and SB 856. These bills fund Metro at $154 million ($22 million coming from the new gas tax floor legislation). This funds Virginia’s proportional share of $500 million in funding agreed to between Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Funding Metro is crucial to the Commonwealth as a whole and to Northern Virginia's economy, because it will ease transportation congestion and continue to attract new and expanding businesses.

 

Commending and Memorial Resolutions

I introduced several resolutions honoring outstanding people and organizations this session. I recommend taking a moment to read the linked resolution text to learn more about the groups and people I highlighted.

Team Eileen for the 2018 Session

Thank you to my wonderful 2017 session team: my Legislative Assistant, Leigh Nusbaum, my session aide, Talya Stern and my two session interns, Johnson Liu and Kelsey Wilkinson. I so appreciate their hard work and efforts this session! #TeamEFC

2018 General Assembly Session Week 8

I hope that you fared reasonably well despite the heavy winds this week. I myself had a power outage in my home, as so many others also experienced. To start this enews, I wanted to recap some useful information from my winter weather email that may be of help to you.

You can report any power outages to Dominion power by calling 1-866-366-4357 and follow restoration efforts at www.dom.com. Please also know I have been on the phone with Dominion over the past few days communicating with them about the needs of the 41st district. Per my earlier email, Dominion's goal is to have most service restored by tomorrow and all service restored by Tuesday. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me should you have any questions or concerns. I am here to help you.
 

Update on My Legislation This Past Week in the Senate

Two of my bills passed the Senate this week and now sit on Governor Northam’s desk. HB 45 will require any family life education curriculum offered in any elementary school, middle school, or high school to include instruction on the importance of the personal privacy and boundaries of other individuals. This bill also builds upon laws that I introduced and passed in 2016 and 2017.

HB 1485 will reform truancy and absenteeism policies for public schools. The legislation aims to find better options to keep children in school before they are referred to the court system for truancy.

HB 708, my car seat bill, and HB 454, my bill promoting Open Educational Resources for college students both passed Senate committees this week and are now awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.
 

Gas Tax Floor Conference Committee

As I mentioned in a prior newsletter, I introducedHB 1083 to institute a gas tax floor in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Currently, the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads regions could lose millions of dollars in gas tax revenue that could be used to fund transportation projects—in particular, provide the necessary Metro subsidies to expand and improve public transit systems in Northern Virginia. The ability for Virginia to attract and retain business is dependent on developing a 21st century transportation and infrastructure plan to effectively address the many immediate challenges we face. Our state’s growth and economic development depends on our providing optimal relief of road congestion and achieving the best return on investment for Virginia taxpayers. My bill was later incorporated into House Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones’ bill HB 768. I am proud to serve as a chief co-patrons on this legislation.

HB 768 passed the House and also passed the Senate with an amendment. Because there was similar legislation passed in the Senate (SB 896, patroned by Senator Wagner), we need to find a compromise so that both bills go to Governor Northam’s desk while conformed to one another. Thus, both bills will go to conference.

I am pleased to be the sole Democrat and Northern Virginia conferee from the House. Senator Dick Saslaw is the sole Democrat and Northern Virginia conferee for the Senate. I look forward to working closely with the other members of the conference committee and advocating on behalf of Northern Virginia. Passage of this legislation would bring more stability to Northern Virginia’s transportation systems and will allow us to more effectively manage Metro in the Commonwealth. The bill is enthusiastically supported by many groups including the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce as well as many other Chambers of Commerce across Virginia.
 

Speaking About Commonsense Gun Safety Legislation

Earlier this week, I spoke on the floor and pleaded that my colleagues to take the same bipartisan approach to curbing the epidemic of gun violence that they have taken with our opioid crisis. I shared my own family’s personal story related to this difficult issue. You can view my remarks by clicking here. A day later, I also participated in a press conference on the same topic (click here to view those remarks).

It's long past time to have a rational and reasonable discussion about gun safety in Virginia. Let's work together to prevent the next Virginia Tech, the next Sandy Hook, the next Charleston, the next Orlando, or the next Parkland. Doing nothing is not an option.
 

The Capitol Square Basketball Classic

One of my favorite traditions during session is the Capitol Square Basketball Classic, a charity basketball game that pits the House against the Senate, and the Governor’s office against the Lobbyists. The games benefit VCU’s Massey Cancer Center. It is certainly entertaining to watch my colleagues, as well as members of the Senate, Cabinet Secretaries and lobbyists take the court.  This year, the House again pulled off a resounding victory against the Senate and the Governor’s office (whose players included Governor Northam himself) beat the Lobbyist team. Of course, the biggest winner was the Massey Cancer Center, with this event raising nearly $40,000 for the center.
 

Joint Arts Caucus and Military & Veterans Caucus Meeting

I convened my annual joint meeting of the Arts Caucus, which I chair, and the Military and Veterans Caucus. A special thanks to Rick Davis, Niyati Dhokai and Eileen Kennedy from George Mason University's Veterans and the Arts Initiative for their engaging presentation related to their successes in facilitating community engagement and bringing veterans, service members, families and military caregivers together through the arts. This is the fourth year we have convened a joint meeting of the caucuses and I look forward to continuing them in future sessions.

2018 General Assembly Session Week 7

The Budget and Medicaid Expansion

Medicaid Expansion is finally here! On Thursday, we spent nearly 6 hours debating the House budget proposal for the 2019-2020 budget years in the Commonwealth.  Following an extensive and comprehensive debate, the House budget was passed by a vote of 68-32. This year's House Budget is one Virginians should be proud of -- because it reflects what true bipartisan compromise is all about. Both House Democrats and Republicans are finally coming together to agree that Medicaid expansion is the right moral and economic move for Virginia.

In moving forward on this important issue, we would accept $2.5 billion in federal money raised under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to expand coverage for more than 300,000 uninsured Virginians who earn no more than 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

 

Health Care

With Medicaid Expansion, we would save $371 million in savings over the biennium by using federal dollars instead of our state general funds to pay for hospital care of the uninsured and prison inmates, as well as community behavioral health and substance use treatment and other Medicaid-financed programs that currently require a 50 percent share of state dollars instead of 10 percent under expansion. This is a common-sense move and allows us spend more money on programs that we previously could not. We would also be able to pay for 825 waiver slots to provide services to people with developmental disabilities in community settings. I was proud to be a co-patron on the budget amendment expanding these waiver slots.

 

Pre-K-12 Education

Our proposal covers the $481 million estimated cost of updating our mandatory state spending for the Standards of Quality (accreditation for schools). Additionally, our plan includes an additional $98 million for K-12 without requiring local matching funds. Lastly, it includes $36.4 million to accelerate a more than well-deserved 2 percent raise for teachers by five months, to July 1, 2019.

 

Higher Education

The House plan includes $114.5 million for Higher Education. $42.6 million would be for institutions that produce degrees in four targeted fields - science and engineering, data science and technology, health care and education. The budget also includes $45.5 million for financial aid to in-state undergraduates. 

Two other exciting items of note are the CyberX Initiative and the funding for the VIrtual Library of Virginia’s (VIVA) Open Textbook program. For CyberX, we have included $40 million, plus an additional $10 million in equipment costs to establish this Virginia Tech-led initiative in Northern Virginia. CyberX would also have links to other colleges and universities as part of a partnership with high-tech industry to commercialize research as well as advance graduate-level education in cybersecurity as well as other emerging technologies.

Additionally, earlier this year, I was proud to put in a budget amendment to enable VIVA to expand their Open Textbook Network pilot, as well as, “provide course redesign grants to faculty, create a central portal for faculty to select affordable textbooks, and coordinate and assess the program.” Making open educational resources more accessible to college students has been a priority of mine for over 5 years. I am pleased that this was incorporated in the House budget. In addition to making higher education more affordable, VIVA’s program will allow for increased student engagement and create courses with a more outcome-centered approach.

 

State Employees and Teachers

Our budget includes additional money for raises for state employees, college faculty, teachers (as previously mentioned) and state-supported local employees as well as an additional 1 percent in merit raises for state workers.

The budget also includes long overdue targeted raises for high-turnover, demanding jobs including: nurses and direct-care aides in mental hospitals, deputies in localities that rely on sheriff's departments for primary law enforcement, correctional officers in adult and juvenile prisons, as well as marine police.

 

Economic Development

Our budget contains an additional $15 million for GO Virginia (Virginia’s engine for business development) on top of the $24.5 million for the initiative in the current budget that expires June 30th. We also include $5 million for a a new customized workforce training program at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, as well as $5 million in marketing for VEDP.

I was pleased to vote for the House budget this year. This budget will enable low-income individuals to take advantage of billions of dollars that the Federal Government has collected from the Commonwealth for years under the Affordable Care Act. This year alone, it would mean $421 million towards healthcare for 300,000 working Virginians. Unfortunately, the Senate's companion budget bills do not expand Medicaid. While Senator Janet Howell attempted to expand Medicaid with a floor amendment, it was defeated on party lines. My hope is that this House budget is largely accepted in conference with the Senate.

 

Military and Veterans Caucus

I was pleased to attend the Military and Veterans Affairs Caucus earlier this week. We heard an interesting presentation from William and Mary's Whole of Government Center for Excellence. I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about this impressive resource. I look forward to hosting the joint meeting of the Military and Veterans Caucus and the Arts Caucus with Co-Chairs Senator Bryce Reeves and Delegate Nick Freitas next week.

 

Jobs for Virginia Graduates Visits Richmond

As I have mentioned often in this enews, I am incredibly pleased to serve as chair for Jobs for Virginia Graduates. JVG makes a difference in the lives of Virginia’s at-risk youth, helping to ensure they graduate high school and assisting in their transition from school to gainful employment. I was happy to visit with two JVG students and 3 staff members along with JVG's President and CEO, Barry Glenn in Richmond this week and I was honored to introduce them from the floor. I continue to be incredibly impressed by these inspiring students.

 

Sneak Peek for Repaving in the 41st District

Burke Station Road is on VDOT's list to be repaved in 2018! They are still finalizing the contracts and the public map will be online in the next few weeks. A special thank you to every constituent who has written me about this road for the past few years. Your efforts reaching out to me were crucial in making my arguments to VDOT as to why this road was long overdue in being repaved. You can learn more about VDOT plans for most of our district at a meeting on March 1st in the cafeteria of Oak View Elementary School, 5004 Sideburn Road, Fairfax from 7:00-8:30 PM.

2018 General Assembly Session Week 6

I remain dumbfounded and devastated that I am opening yet another enews discussing the horrific massacre that occurred at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen innocent individuals, mostly students, lost their lives at the hands of a nineteen year old with an AR-15. This is the same type of weapon used in the tragedies in Newtown, CT, Aurora, CO, San Bernardino, CA and Roseburg, OR. We cannot allow ourselves to become desensitized when we hear about these preventable tragedies. Far too many lives have been lost due to gun violence. While I support the second amendment, I also believe that everyone in this country deserves to live safely and securely, especially in their homes and neighborhoods.

Nearly every year I have been in office, I have introduced common-sense gun safety measures. This year I introduced HB 172, which would have eliminated the sales tax on biometric or dial-locking gun safes. Unfortunately, this bill was killed in subcommittee on a 5-3 party-line vote, despite rare, united support between the Virginia Citizen Defense League and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

This session, I also carried legislation on behalf of the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security (HB 707) that would have provided that any person who leaves a loaded, unsecured firearm to endanger the life or limb of any person under the age of 18 would be guilty of a Class 6 felony. Current law provides that any person who recklessly leaves a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any child under the age of 14 is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor. This bill was not even granted a hearing. It was left in the Courts Committee. Despite these discouraging setbacks, I will continue to advocate for commonsense gun safety legislation in the General Assembly, as I have done for so many years in the past.

 

Crossover

As we end Week 6 in Richmond, we have now moved past Crossover Day. On Monday, we spent over 8 hours on the House floor debating over 170 pieces of legislation to ensure it was all acted on in time for the Crossover deadline the following day. Generally, this requires long days in considering bills that can significantly affect the Commonwealth, but Crossover itself was surprisingly brief on Tuesday. Nonetheless, I am again reminded of how much I value the opportunity to represent my community in the House of Delegates.

 

Legislative Update on My Bills

 

Boundaries Bill (HB 45)

This bill would allow any family life education curriculum offered in any elementary school, middle school, or high school to incorporate age-appropriate elements of effective and evidence-based programs on the importance of the personal privacy and personal boundaries of other individuals—and tools for a student to use in ensuring that students respect the personal privacy and personal boundaries of others. This bill passed the House on the uncontested docket (unanimously) this past week. I also presented it on Thursday before the Senate Public Education Subcommittee with the help of compelling testimony by Brandon Farbstein. I am pleased the bill reported out of subcommittee earlier this week and will be heard by the full Education Committee next week.

 

Promoting the use of Open Educational Resources (HB 454)

My bill would require the governing board of each public institution of higher education to implement guidelines for the adoption and use of low-cost and no-cost open educational resources and low-cost commercially published materials in courses offered at such institutions. This bill passed the House on Tuesday. I look forward to presenting it in the Senate Education and Health Committee in the next week or two.

 

Keeping Children Safe in Cars (HB 708)

My bill, HB 708 would require car seats to be rear-facing until the child reaches two years of age or until the child reaches the weight or height limit of the rear-facing child restraint device, whichever occurs later. The bill would expand the reasons that a physician may determine that it is impractical for a child to use a car seat to include the child's height. The bill also would have a delayed effective date of July 1, 2019. I am pleased that HB 708 passed the House by an overwhelming margin on Tuesday. It will be heard by the Senate Committee on Transportation in the coming weeks.

 

Combatting Absenteeism in Schools (HB 1485)

This bill would reform truancy and absenteeism policies for public schools and would also aim to find better options to keep children in school before they are referred to the court system for truancy. I am pleased it passed the house by an overwhelming margin on Tuesday. I will present it before the Senate Education and Health Committee in the coming weeks.

 

Gas Tax Floor (HB 1083) 

I introduced HB 1083 to institute a gas tax floor in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Currently, the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads regions could lose millions of dollars in gas tax revenue that could be used to fund transportation projects, in particular, provide the necessary Metro subsidies to expand and improve public transit systems in Northern Virginia. The ability for Virginia to attract and retain business is dependent on a 21st century transportation infrastructure solution. Our state’s growth and and economic development depends on providing optimal relief of road congestion and achieving the best return on investment for Virginia taxpayers. My bill was later incorporated into House Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones’ bill
HB 768. Passage of this legislation would bring more stability to Northern Virginia’s transportation systems and will allow us to more effectively expand Metro.

 

Felony Larceny Threshold (HB 706)

For two years now, I have been working on the issue of raising the felony larceny threshold. I was honored to carry the bill to raise the threshold on behalf of Governors Northam and McAuliffe. While my bill, HB 706 did not pass, we are moving forward with this concept with HB 1550, patroned by Delegate Les Adams. I am proud to serve as a co-patron on his bill, which passed the House on Tuesday.

 

Updates on other Key Legislation

Metro

The General Assembly is also working on a compromise to ensure that WMATA has dedicated source of funding. Last week the Senate adopted the largest transportation funding package since 2013. The plan for Metro would redirect and raise taxes on deeds and lodging in Northern Virginia, as well as establish a floor on regional gasoline taxes (like my bill, HB 1083) that were levied in the $6 billion transportation funding package adopted in 2013. The Senate package also would include $30 million in existing state revenues. The Senate passed their version on a 25-15 vote.

On the House side, Delegate Tim Hugo's bill 
HB 1539 would provide Metro $105 million a year and would only do so if Metro limits operating spending increases to 2 percent per year. The bill would also study Metro's governance, labor agreements and the federal law that outlines arbitration. There are no tax increases in this bill, but it does provide less than the $150 million a year requested by Metro. The bill passed 78-21 out of the House with my support. I still have concerns with parts of the bill including inadequate funding for WMATA, but it is my hope that the House bill will be improved as it moves through the Senate and both bills are debated in conference.

 

Dominion Rate Freeze Repeal Bill (HB 1558)

As we debated this bill on Monday, Delegate David Toscano introduced a floor amendment that explicitly barred “double-dipping”. I supported this measure because it puts further consumer protections in this bill. (You can read an article about the amendment here) HB 1558 eventually passed the House on a 63-35 vote, with my support. Despite my yes vote, I believe the bill still needs work. We need to continue the conversation on this important issue, but I believe that can only happen with the bill being advanced with these protections and then put into conference. With a straight repeal bill having been defeated, doing nothing this year is not acceptable. Additionally, we have a tremendous opportunity to invest in renewable energy, by implementing policies to create up to 5,000 megawatts of solar and wind power (enough to power 1.5 million homes). I believe if we continue the conversation on HB 1558, we can also continue to strengthen and advocate for even greater consumer protections within this bill.

Stay Tuned for the Budget

Today, the amended House Budget (HB 29 and HB 30) will be presented to all of us House Members. We will continue to debate and discuss the new budget this week. Key issues that will be debated include the aforementioned Metro funding as well as Medicaid expansion. I look forward to breaking down the budget in more detail in next week’s enews.

2018 General Assembly Session Week 5

Like many of you, I enjoy watching the Winter Olympic games. Whether its marveling at the grace of the figure skaters, holding my breath as a ski jumper pulls off an impressive leap of faith or simply attempting to understand curling, I find the Winter Games just as exciting as the Summer ones. This year with the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, I was particularly taken by the display of unity between North and South Korea at the Games. I look forward to the US Team bringing back multiple medals over the next few weeks.

 

Update on my legislation

Boundaries (HB 45)

I presented my bill before the Education Committee earlier this week. This bill deals with providing tools for students to ensure that they learn how to respect the privacy and boundaries of all individuals. I see this as a respect and anti-bullying measure. I was pleased that this bill reported out of the Education Committee unanimously and was voted on in the uncontested block of the House of Delegates. It will next be heard in the Senate.
 

Child Care (HB 1480)

Though my bill, which would have established health and safety requirements for license-exempt child day care, was initially headed to the House Floor last week, it was re-referred to the Committee on Appropriations this week. On Friday, I presented my case before the Health and Human Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. Though my bill would make child care safer across the Commonwealth, unfortunately it was tabled in subcommittee. This is an issue I feel must be addressed. I will continue to advocate for the safety of children in these settings.
 

Driver's Education Bill (HB 1077)

Sometimes you can move forward with legislation in a different way than by passing a bill. My bill HB 1077 would authorize the Department of Motor Vehicles to allow licensed computer-based driver education providers to offer driver education tests virtually, provided that certain verification standards are met. After discussing the issue with DMV, I decided to strike my bill and request that they DMV study the issue. This lays the groundwork for future legislation and policy changes. I was pleased to receive a letter this week from the DMV and look forward to working on this throughout the year.
 

Achieving A Better Life Experience (ABLE) Medicaid Clawback Bill (HB 457)

This week, I also presented my bill, HB 457, before the Health and Human Resources subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee. This bill would have prohibited the Commonwealth from seeking estate recovery or payment from the proceeds of the deceased ABLE account holder for benefits provided to that person. Under current law, if the beneficiary of an ABLE savings trust account dies, his/her state of residence becomes a creditor of the account and may seek payment under federal law for Medicaid benefits provided to the beneficiary while alive. Ending the clawback for ABLE Accounts is a growing trend across the country. Unfortunately, the Health and Human Resources Subcommittee tabled this bill on 5-3 party line vote. I will continue to work on this throughout the year, with the hope that I can pass this bill next session.
 

Gas Tax Floor (HB 1083)

HB 1083 creates stability around the gas tax in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. This would correct a disparity unintentionally created during the 2013 bipartisan transportation compromise, providing stability for our ongoing transportation improvements. After my bill was referred to the Rules Committee, it was later sent the Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee along with other gas tax bills. My bill was incorporated into Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones’ bill HB 768. I am pleased to serve as a chief co-patron on this bill, which be voted on later this week.
 

Felony Larceny Threshold (HB 1550)

This week, Governor Northam and Speaker Cox announced that a deal was reached to raise the $200 threshold to $500. I applaud this bipartisan effort by Governor Ralph Northam and Speaker Kirk Cox. I believe that raising the threshold will not only create a more just and fairer system -- but it’s also fiscally responsible. I have been working on the issue of raising the felony larceny threshold for two years now. I was proud to carry the bill to raise the threshold on behalf of Governors Northam and McAuliffe. While my bill, HB 706 did not pass, we are moving forward with this concept with HB 1550, patroned by Les Adams. I am proud to serve as a copatron on his bill.

I truly believe we cannot let one person’s mistake ruin that individual’s entire life. Virginia has been a leader in the nation when it comes to providing people second chances, and now we are finally catching up to the rest of the country when it comes to our felony larceny threshold, as we were tied with New Jersey as having the lowest larceny threshold in the county. Our progress may be slow, but Virginia can continue to lead the way.

 

Important Issues Debated, Discussed and Voted on the Session

2015 Rate Payer Freeze

One of the most significant discussions during the General Assembly Session is the discussion over the utility rate freeze from 2015. The current bill that would repeal this rate freeze is HB 1558. I have received many letters on this issue and there continues to be considerable interest about what the bill does and does not do. 

In 2015, in response to concerns about possible rate increases in the aftermath of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, a bill was passed to prevent increases by freezing electricity rates for several years. That bill also removed the State Corporation Commission (SCC) from its role in reviewing rates until 2022. Since then, the Trump Administration has ended the Clean Power Plan and major utilities within the Commonwealth have had significant overearnings—estimated at several hundred million dollars. 

During the session, many of my colleagues introduced legislation that would have repealed this rate freeze and reinstated the SCC’s oversight over Dominion and other electrical utilities. As of this point, all House and Senate bills that would have been a straight repeal of the 2015 legislation have failed. The only bill that affects the rate freeze that is still viable today and gives us the ability to provide refunds to consumers is HB 1558.
 

What HB 1558 currently looks like today

The bill as amended would give rebates totaling approximately $200 million to ratepayers immediately. Another $125 million would come to ratepayers, due to benefits that utilities would receive due to the changes in the federal tax code. Additionally, the revised bill will restore SCC oversight beginning in 2021, one year earlier than under present law.

The new bill would also provide for $1 billion in energy efficiency investments over the next ten years. This is much more than what was in the original version of this bill and it would be far more than the Rate Freeze Bill of 2015. Furthermore, the bill states that as a matter of Virginia public policy, implementing 5,000 megawatts of solar and wind power (enough to power 1.5 million homes) is “in the public interest” — that is, such projects should be approved by the SCC in the event of a request.

Lastly, the bill also would extend the utility-funded EnergyShare programs through 2028, at an increased level of $13 million per year or $130 million over ten years. Under current law, EnergyShare will expire in 2019.

This is far from a perfect bill; however, I believe we need to continue a dialogue on this issue. One of my biggest concerns about this legislation is the issue of fairness and specifically the issue of whether there is a presence of double-dipping by the utilities in their investments. During the Commerce and Labor Committee (on which I serve), I supported an amendment by Delegate David Toscano that would require these companies to disclose information to the SCC so that it could conclude whether or not there was “double-dipping”. I am pleased that this amendment is currently in the bill. We will debate it on the House floor this week. I hope further adjustments may be able to be made on the floor of the House of Delegates, so that we can have a bill that is fair to consumers, promotes investment in renewable energy, and removes the risk of “double-dipping”.
 

Arts Caucus

Earlier this week. I had the pleasure of hosting the first meeting of the 2018 General Assembly's Arts Caucus, where Margi Vanderhye, Executive Director of the Virginia Commission for the Arts, and Deputy Secretary of Education, Holly Coy, spoke about the role of education in building a creative workforce. I appreciated how many of my colleagues came to the first meeting. I look forward to hosting the second meeting of the 2018 Arts Caucus on February 28th, along with the Military and Veterans Caucus.
 

House Pages

Those of you who have visited me in Richmond may have seen some very active young teenagers running around the Capitol. These are our pages. Each year, the Speaker of the House of Delegates appoints students 13-14 years of age from across the Commonwealth to serve as House pages during the regular session of the General Assembly. These young people assist members in the House of Delegates, as well as the House Clerk's staff and other legislative staff in the countless daily duties required for the successful operation of the House during the Legislative Session. They are a very impressive, hardworking group of 13 year olds, who embrace a truly unique opportunity.
 

Visitors to the General Assembly

Another week passed with many great visitors including, the College of William and Mary Law School, Old Dominion University, Virginia 21 and the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. One of the biggest highlights for me was seeing a former resident of the 41st District and graduate of Robinson Secondary School, Astronaut Kjell Lindgren. Two years ago, I was privileged to introduce a commending resolution in his honor. Earlier this week in Richmond he gave me an incredible gift--a flag that was flown in space! 

2018 General Assembly Session Week 4

The past week of session contained a lot of early mornings and late nights. I presented several bills in subcommittees, many starting before 7:30 AM. I participated in both committee and subcommittee meetings at times lasting past 9:00 PM. Despite the long days, I relish the opportunity to learn, discuss, debate and vote on a wide variety of issues, all towards the goal of improving the lives of Virginians.

 

Update on Some of My Legislation

ABLE Medicaid Clawback

On Monday morning, I presented my bill, HB 457 before the House Education Committee’s subcommittee #3. I was grateful for the compelling testimony of longtime advocates: Teresa Champion, Matthew Shapiro and Traci LaGanke as well as my constituent Joanne Walton. The bill reported out of the Education subcommittee as well as full Education Committee this week, with a referral to the Appropriations Committee.

 

Workforce Development

On Thursday night, I presented HJ 17 before the Rules committee’s subcommittee #1. I was proud that this bill had the backing of the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership, the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber, the Greater Richmond Chamber, the Greater Williamsburg Chamber, the Hampton Roads Chamber and the Roanoke Chamber, as well as the Virginia Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. Despite the agreement of respected authorities in both education and business for this important idea of ensuring our children are prepared for a New Virginia Economy, this bill failed on a party-line vote.

 

 

Consent

On Friday Afternoon, I presented HB 44 before the House Education Committee’s Subcommittee #2. This bill would have expanded upon legislation from 2016 and 2017 by strengthening education around affirmative consent in Family Life Education. Currently, the teaching of consent in Family Life Education is permissive—to me, that makes no sense—as Family Life Education itself is permissive. My bill last year, HB 2257, was not originally permissive, and it passed the house 83-11. Unfortunately, the bill failed on a tie vote. I was grateful for the incredible amount of support from many groups who recognized the importance, especially today, of including consent education in FLE.

 

Boundaries

I presented HB 45 before Education Subcommittee #2 on Wednesday morning. This bill deals with providing tools for students to ensure that they learn how to respect the privacy and boundaries of all individuals. I see this as a respect and anti-bullying measure. I was proud to have Brandon Farbstein provide compelling testimony again this year in support of this bill as he bravely shared his personal experiences in high school—which included intense cyberbullying and threats. I was pleased this bill reported out subcommittee on an 8-2 vote.

 

State Salamander

My bill HB 459, which would designate the Red Salamander as Virginia's state salamander reported out of the General Laws full committee this week.  I spoke about the bill on the floor this Friday when it was on second read. The bill will be voted on tomorrow. Check out the WTOP article about the Salamander Savers, the group of my young constituents who advocated for this bill.

 

 

Other happenings within the General Assembly this week

Medicaid Expansion

As always, we have several large pieces of legislation with a huge impact on all of our constituents this session which include Medicaid expansion.  I continue to be a big supporter of expanding coverage for our 400,000 working Virginians who do not have health insurance. Language to expand Medicaid has been included in our biannual budget. I remain hopeful that we can finally come together as a body to expand Medicaid for so many Virginians.

 

Rate Freeze

Another large issue is the effort to undo the rate freeze of Virginia’s electric companies (Dominion and APCO) adopted in 2015.  These proposals include several bills.  These are extremely complicated concepts which we have been discussing and debating each week. I am spending a great deal of time listening to all stakeholders as I try to fully absorb and even better understand the nuances and uniqueness of each bill as well as the ramifications. The Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, Dominion Energy, APCO and other stakeholders continue to negotiate in order to craft a bill that treats customers fairly while it also expands renewable energy and strengthens the grid.  Discussions and negotiations are literally going on around the clock with all parties and stakeholders at the table including the Governor. I am very hopeful that a breakthrough is imminent.  

 

Cannabidiol Oil

Friday marked the 3rd reading and unanimous passage of Delegate Ben Cline’s HB 1251. This bill is very similar to my earlier introduced bill, HB 458. Both bills would allow doctors to recommend the use of cannabis oil to treat conditions, a physician feels appropriate to relieve pain and came about from a study by the Joint Commission on Healthcare. I am proud to serve as a chief co-patron on Delegate Cline’s bill and to be able to continue the work on this issue with my constituents Beth, Patrick and Jennifer Collins and so many other amazing parent advocates. It is hard to believe this all began over coffee in the 41st District with me, Beth Collins, Teresa Brogan and Senator Dave Marsden five years ago. 

 

Guns in the House Gallery

My colleague Delegate Kathleen Murphy put in a suggestion at the beginning of session this year, that we align the rules of our chamber with the State Senate with regard to guns.  Her proposal was to ban guns in our gallery during daily floor sessions. In her remarks, she recalled a conversation she once had on the House floor with U.S. Rep Scott Taylor, R-2nd, a former Navy SEAL who previously served in the House. Her words stood out to me, “He stood here on the floor with me and he turned around and he looked up and after a minute he said, ‘You never want the enemy above and behind you… In other words, you’re a sitting duck.” I agreed with Delegate Murphy that this measure was common sense. It did not ban guns from the Capitol or the General Assembly Building, but enacted a safety measure found in other legislative chambers across the country—including the United States Congress. Unfortunately, this failed on a party-line 49 to 48 vote.

 

Visitors to Richmond

Again, this past week I was proud to have many constituents, groups and individuals stop by including members of the Jewish Community, JCRC and Virginians for the Arts—both of whom I had the pleasure of introducing on the Floor. I also was thrilled to have my constituent, friend and rabbi, Bruce Aft of Congregation Adat Reyim located in the 41st District, give the invocation at the opening of the House of Delegates. It was also great to see my constituents from the Fairfax County PTA, as well as Roxi Meijia with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and so many others. I look forward to seeing more constituents, friends and groups this week!

2018 General Assembly Session Week 3

The third week of the 2018 General Assembly session came and went with its usual twists and turns. If there’s one thing that I have learned since I first took my seat in the House of Delegates, no day of session is ever the same and always expect the unexpected.

Additionally, thanks to so many of you who attended my office hours yesterday. I always appreciate the opportunity to connect with my constituents. We had many issues and bills to discuss. I look forward to seeing many of you at my February office hours next month.

 

Update on My Bills

I presented several of my bills this week in various subcommittees.

 

HB 174

My bill, HB 174 would have created training for law enforcement on how to communicate and interact with those who have intellectual or developmental disabilities or on the autism spectrum. This bill represented a collective effort of law enforcement and disability advocates to come together to ensure that law enforcement officers have access to training on how to communicate and interact with people who have developmental disabilities or are on the autism spectrum. While unfortunately, this bill did not make it out of subcommittee, I am pleased that a letter will be sent from the Chairman of the Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee to the Department of Criminal Justice Services to ensure that this training will be included in the Department’s future regulations.

 

HB 458

This bill would provide that a practitioner may issue a written certification for the use of cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil for the treatment, or to alleviate the symptoms of, any diagnosed condition or disease. Under current law, a practitioner may only issue such certification to treat or to alleviate symptoms of intractable epilepsy. In addition to the bill, other similar bills have since been introduced. I am pleased to serve as chief co-patron of HB 1251, which just passed unanimously out of the Courts of Justice Committee’s Subcommittee #1. These bills are the product of extremely hard work by 41st District residents Beth and Jennifer Collins—whom I, along with Senator Dave Marsden and former Delegate Dave Albo, have worked closely with for years on this issue.

 

HB 459

Earlier this week, I presented my bill HB 459, designating the Red Salamander as our state Salamander at the request of several young constituents who founded Salamander Savers—a 4H club located in my district. I was so impressed (as were my colleagues on the subcommittee) with how these young people presented in Committee. The bill reported out of the subcommittee on a 6-2 vote. Next stop is the full committee. I am extremely proud to work with these students and see how engaged they are in the process, especially at such young ages.

 

HB 1480

I also presented HB 1480 this week before the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee’s Subcommittee 3. My bill would amend child care licensure codes and would add to minimum basic health and safety standards for license-exempt child care programs. This would help to ensure that no matter where Virginia’s parents place their children for child care—they can feel more assured that their children are being cared for in a safe environment. During my bill presentation, Betsy Cummings once again provided incredibly moving testimony in memory of her precious son, Dylan.  I am pleased to report that the bill reported out of HWI Subcommittee 3 unanimously and will go before the full HWI Committee. I have been working on this bill for several years and was thrilled to have this bill pass unanimously earlier this week.

 

HB 1481

I also presented, HB 1481, which would require health carriers to provide coverage, under any health insurance policy, contract, or plan that includes coverage for prescription drugs on an outpatient basis, for any prescribed contraceptive drug (such as birth control pills), contraceptive device (such as an IUD), or contraceptive procedure (such as tubal ligation). Currently, health carriers are required to offer and make available such coverage. The measure would prohibit a health carrier from imposing any copayment, coinsurance payment, or fee upon any person receiving contraceptive benefits pursuant to the provisions of the measure. On Thursday, I presented this bill before the Commerce and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee #1. I was grateful for the many activists, advocates and experts who came to speak in support of my bill. Unfortunately this bill failed to report out of subcommittee.

 

Women’s Issues Press Conference

On Tuesday, I had the privilege to participate in the House Democratic Caucus press conference on Women's Issues. I discussed my bills, HB 44 andHB 45, focused on education with regard to consent, personal privacy and personal boundaries. Protecting women is not a red or blue issue. I look forward to working together in a bipartisan manner to ensure the safety of all Virginians

 

Visitors to Richmond

This past week I was proud to have many constituents, groups and individuals stop by including the Women’s Equality Coalition, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, Credit Union members and White Coats on Call among others. I look forward to seeing more constituents, friends and groups this week!

 

Sunrise Living Opening

While I was in Richmond, the 41st District welcomed a new business to Burke. The brand-new Sunrise Assisted Living Center provides jobs in our community and a wonderful place for our seniors to retire. Additionally, I am pleased that the Silas Burke House (home of the namesake of the Burke community) has been preserved. I am looking forward to visiting many new constituents at Sunrise and I am thrilled they are investing in this important facility right here in Burke.

2018 General Assembly Session Week 2

The second week of the 2018 General Assembly session (and first full week) has come and gone.

I introduced the last of my bills this week. My legislative agenda totals 23 bills—the most I have ever introduced in my House of Delegates career. Here are the final 7 bills:

  • HB 1076 would clarify that a voter can either give their name and address out loud or in writing, and that giving an election officer a form of identification that contains his full name and current residence address would satisfy this requirement. Furthermore, the bill would end the practice of an election officer repeating the voter’s address out loud.
     
  • HB 1077 would authorize the Department of Motor Vehicles to allow licensed computer-based driver education providers to offer driver education tests virtually for such courses, provided that certain verification standards are met.
     
  • HB 1083 would provide that the 2.1% tax imposed on the sales price of motor fuel in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads shall be imposed on the regional price of gas, defined and computed as the six-month average price of fuel, for each region of the Commonwealth. The regional price used to calculate the tax shall not be less than the average statewide price of a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline on February 20, 2013. This would fix a disparity unintentionally created during the 2013 bipartisan transportation compromise. I am pleased that my bill is backed by the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce as well as the Hampton Roads Chamber and Greater Richmond Chamber. Passage of this legislation would help Virginia maintain its status as one of the best places for business.
     
  • HB 1128 would repeal the expiration date on the requirement that childcare providers undergo fingerprint-based national criminal-history background checks. Allowing this sunset to stand would risk Virginia losing millions of dollars in child development grants. My bill would prevent this from happening, not only ensuring that federal funds remain accessible to Virginia small businesses, but also that child care would remain more safe and secure.
     
  • HB 1480 would amend child care licensure codes and would add to minimum basic health and safety standards for license exempt child care programs. This would help to ensure that no matter where Virginia’s parents place their children for child care—they can feel more assured that their children are being cared for in a safe environment.
     
  • HB 1481 would require health carriers to provide coverage, under any health insurance policy, contract, or plan that includes coverage for prescription drugs on an outpatient basis, for any prescribed contraceptive drug (such as birth control pills), contraceptive device (such as an IUD), or contraceptive procedure (including both tubal ligation and vasectomies). Currently, health carriers are required to offer and make available such coverage. The measure would prohibit a health carrier from imposing any copayment, coinsurance payment, or fee upon any person receiving contraceptive benefits pursuant to the provisions of the measure.
     
  • HB 1485 would reform truancy and absenteeism policies for public schools. This bill aims to find better options to keep children in school before they would be referred to the court system for truancy.

For a complete list of all of the bills that I have filed this session, please check out this link.

 

Subcommittee Assignments

In addition to be serving on the Commerce and Labor, Finance and Transportation Committees, I am privileged to serve on several subcommittees as well. I currently sit on Commerce and Labor Subcommittee 1, Finance Subcommittee 1 and Transportation Subcommittee 3. I am now the senior Democrat on all three subcommittees. I look forward to leading my fellow Democratic colleagues during these meetings and advocating on behalf of our constituents across the Commonwealth. While only full committee hearings will be live-streamed, you can check Progress Virginia’s “Eyes on Richmond” program to view many of our subcommittee hearings.

 

Martin Luther King Day

MLK Day is always very busy at the General Assembly. Nearly all local, state and federal offices are closed while the Capitol is full of advocates, lobbyists and visitors. MLK Day is the major lobbying day for those on both sides of the gun issue.

I was proud to yet again to join hundreds of Virginians at the Bell Tower by the Capitol to rally in support of commonsense gun safety laws and to remember the victims of gun violence. This annual gathering was meaningful, powerful and again well attended this year. We were privileged to hear from all three of our statewide office holders.

I am proud to have consistently introduced bills that I believe constitute commonsense gun safety. I am especially proud of one particular bill that has the backing of both the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Virginia Citizens Defense League. My bill, HB 172 would exempt the purchase of biometric and dial-locking gun safes under $1000 from state sales tax, encouraging safe storage of existing firearms. This bill represents an incredibly rare moment for both sides of a contentious issue to come together. In addition to the Virginia Sheriffs Association, I am also pleased to announce the support of the Police Benevolent Association. It is my hope that this legislation will make it to Governor Northam’s desk later this year.

 

Small Business Press Conference

I appreciated the opportunity to participate in the House Democratic Caucus’ Press Conference on small business earlier this week. I discussed my bill, HJ 17 which would request that the Standards of Learning Innovation Committee study experiential learning and workforce development opportunities for high school students in high-demand fields. I believe this bill is just the beginning for finding out how we can unlock our Commonwealth's biggest potential - our students. I am pleased to have received support for this bill from several chambers of commerce and the VEA on this important issue.

 

Visitors to Richmond

It’s always a treat for me to see so many dedicated individuals representing many groups and organizations in Richmond advocating for their causes. I truly appreciate visitors from the 41st District, as well as others from throughout the Commonwealth taking the time and effort to stop by my office. This past week I was proud to have many groups and individuals stop by including advocates for gun safety, the George Mason Roosevelt Institute, advocates for a constitutional conventions, as well as those from the Virginia Autism Project, New Virginia Majority, the National Federation for the Blind and the Fairfax County Fire Department among others. I look forward to more constituents, friends and groups this week!

 

Office Hours Reminder

Just a friendly reminder that I will be holding my my January office hours this upcoming Saturday back in the 41st District. I hope to see you on January 27th from 10:00-11:30 AM at Chesapeake Bagel Bakery in Burke. 

2018 General Assembly Session Week 1

This marks the end of a whirlwind first week in Richmond for both the beginning of the 2018 Legislative Session as well as the inauguration of Ralph Northam as our Governor, Justin Fairfax as our Lieutenant Governor and Mark Herring as Attorney General. I began the week with various pre-session meetings on Monday and Tuesday. Session itself began promptly at noon on Wednesday and the Inauguration festivities began on Thursday and ended yesterday.

 

An update on House Districts 28 and 94

Following the previous enews, I would like to provide an update on the two outstanding house district elections, the outcomes of which could have determined control of the House of Delegates.

House District 28

This was the seat of the outgoing Speaker of the House, House District 28, located partially in Stafford County and partially in the City of Fredericksburg. This seat was in the middle of a federal court case, to decide whether or not a new election should be held to ensure that every voter can cast their vote for the right person. On January 5th, a Judge ruled, declining to order a special election in the 28th District. Additionally, he rejected a request to issue a preliminary injunction blocking Republican Bob Thomas from being seated when Session convened. Although Thomas has been seated, the voters who filed the initial lawsuit have appealed the judge’s rulings.

 

House District 94

Following the decision of Judges in Newport News (where the 94th District is located) to count an additional ballot for Republican David Yancey, throwing the race between him and Democrat Shelly Simonds into a tie, Simonds asked the Judges to reconsider their decision; they did not. On January 4th, the Board of Elections hosted a drawing of lots to decide the winner. David Yancey won the drawing of lots and Shelly Simonds officially conceded.

As of this point, the House is currently in a 51-49 Republican majority. Despite the House Democrats remaining in the minority, the caucus made historic gains—the likes of which have not been seen since 1899. I commend Joshua Cole and Shelly Simonds for putting themselves out there and running for office. I truly believe both have bright futures.


Session

Structural Changes

On Wednesday, the first day of session, our body elected Delegate M. Kirkland “Kirk” Cox (R-Colonial Heights) as Speaker of the House. Our previous Speaker, Bill Howell retired at the end of the last session. Additionally, the Republican and Democratic Caucuses came to an agreement that will substantially increase fairness and transparency in our body. This agreement resulted in a decision to record subcommittee votes and proportional representation on most committees . The significance of both parts of the agreement cannot be understated. First, it gives the Democratic caucus representation on committees more reflective of their numbers. Secondly, the recorded subcommittee votes usher in a new period of sunlight in Richmond. I welcome the openness and accountability we will see in this new era.

On Thursday, we voted on the rules and procedures of the House and each member received their committee assignments. I am looking forward to continuing my work in the Commerce and Labor, Finance and Transportation Committees. I have served on Commerce and Labor since 2015, Finance since 2013 and Transportation since 2011 (my special election occurred so late in the Session in 2010 that I was not assigned any committees that year).


Governor McAuliffe’s final address

Wednesday was Governor McAuliffe’s final address to the Joint General Assembly. The (now-former) Governor touted his record on economic development, and said that his proudest achievement was restoring the civil rights and ability to vote for hundreds of thousands of felons who had served their sentences. Though McAuliffe was leaving office, he extolled lawmakers to "put the politics aside" and expand Medicaid as well as avoid divisive legislation, citing the record number of bills he vetoed (120) while in office. I am grateful to the former Governor for his friendship, advocacy, tremendous legacy, service and dedication to the Commonwealth. I wish him the best in his future endeavors.


Inauguration of Governor Ralph Northam

This past Saturday, I had the honor of attending the inauguration of our 73rd Governor, Ralph Northam, as well as the inauguration of our new Lieutenant Governor, Justin Fairfax and Attorney General, Mark Herring. Governor Northam gave an incredible address. It was moving, inspiring, sincere, well-delivered and it hit the perfect tone. Freezing temperatures and cutting wind made for a cold afternoon, but the excitement permeated the crowd. I am confident this will be a successful four years ahead. I look forward to working closely with Governor Northam, Lieutenant Governor Fairfax, Attorney General Herring, as well as the Governor’s new and returning cabinet secretaries.

 

Update on my legislation

The following are some of the bills I have introduced:

 

·      HB 454—Expanding the use of Open Educational Resources

This bill would require the governing board of each public institution of higher education to implement policies, procedures, and guidelines that encourage the adoption and use of low-cost and no-cost open educational resources in courses offered at such institution.

·      HB 455—Ensuring VRE can adequately pay for rights of way on railroad tracks

This bill would provide that funds for contract fees paid by the Virginia Railway Express for access to the rights-of-way of CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Corporation, and the National Railroad Passenger Corporation are to be allocated from the public transportation portion of federal Surface Transportation Program funds.

·      HB 456—Repealing code that causes health care professionals to lose their licenses due to student debt delinquencies or defaults

This bill would repeal provisions authorizing an obligee to petition for and a circuit court to order the suspension of any state-issued license to engage in a health care profession or occupation when an obligor is delinquent or in default in the payment of a federally guaranteed or state-guaranteed educational loan or work-conditional scholarship.

·      HB 457—Ensuring that ABLE account holders and their families can keep the funds they have saved

This bill would prohibit the Commonwealth from seeking estate recovery or payment from the proceeds of the deceased beneficiary's account for benefits provided to that person.

Under current law, if the beneficiary of an ABLE savings trust account dies, his/her state of residence becomes a creditor of the account and may seek payment under federal law for Medicaid benefits provided to the beneficiary while alive.

·      HB 458—Increasing access to cannabidiol oil for people with debilitating diseases

This bill would provide that a practitioner may issue a written certification for the use of cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil for the treatment, or to alleviate the symptoms of, any diagnosed condition or disease. Under current law, a practitioner may only issue such certification for the treatment or to alleviate the symptoms of intractable epilepsy.

 

·      HB 459—State Salamander (by request)

 

This bill would designate the Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber) as the State Salamander of Virginia. I am carrying this bill on behalf of the Salamander Savers, a 4-H Club located in the 41st district.

·      HB 706—Raising the Felony Larceny Threshold

This bill would increase from $200 to $1,000 the threshold amount of money taken or value of goods or chattel taken at which the crime rises from petit larceny to grand larceny. The bill would also increase the threshold by the same amount for the classification of certain property crimes. I am carrying this bill on behalf of the Governor’s office.

 

·      HB 707—Preventing Child Access to Firearms

This bill would provide that any person who leaves a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any person under the age of 18 would be guilty of a Class 6 felony. Current law provides that any person who recklessly leaves a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any child under the age of 14 is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor. I am carrying this bill on behalf of the Department of Public Safety.

·      HB 708—Raising the age for rear-facing car restraints for children

This bill would require child restraint devices to be rear-facing until the child reaches two years of age or until the child reaches the height or weight limit of the rear-facing child restraint device, whichever occurs later.

I will continue to highlight several more pieces of legislation this week, which I will detail in my next enews.

 

Commerce and Labor Hearing

Friday was my first Commerce and Labor Committee Meeting of the 2018 session. We certified Judith Jagdmann as a State Corporation Commission Commissioner and Wesley Marshall as a Commissioner of the Worker’s Compensation Commission. This was also the first hearing that was live-streamed online, so that the public could easily access it. You can click here to view the archived sessionYou can also click here for more information about how to view other House and Senate Committees as well.

 

Visitors to Richmond

It’s always a treat to see so many dedicated individuals representing many groups and organizations in Richmond advocating for their causes. I truly appreciate visitors from the 41st District, as well as others from throughout the Commonwealth taking the time and effort to stop by my office. This past week included my constituents Bob Sargent (representing AARP Virginia) and John Peterson, member of the Fairfax County Soil and Water Conservation Board. I am looking forward to a steady stream of constituents, groups and many other visitors this upcoming week as well!

 

January 2, 2018

Happy New Year! From our family to yours, we wish you a happy, safe, healthy New Year! I hope that 2018 is filled with good health, peace, love and plenty of time to spend with family and friends and all who make you smile.

Update on the Makeup of the House of Delegates

The election in November substantially changed the makeup of the House of Delegates--gains the likes of which have not been seen since the 1880s. Democrats picked up at least 15 seats, but two seats are still in play. If the Democrats gain one seat, there will be 50-50 parity in the House. If the Democrats gain two more seats, they take back the majority.

House District 28

The first seat is the seat of the outgoing Speaker of the House, House District 28, located partially in Stafford County and partially in the City of Fredericksburg. The seat is currently open. Following a recount, the Democrat, Joshua Cole is behind the Republican, Bob Thomas by 73 votes. Here's the nuance, HD-28 and its neighboring district HD-88 have a split precinct. In this precinct, 147 voters who live in the 28th District received the wrong ballot. There is currently a federal court case, set for January 5th, to decide whether or not a new election should be held to ensure that every voter can cast their vote for the right person.

House District 94

The story in the 94th District is a case where the truth is stranger than fiction. After the election, incumbent Republican David Yancey led the Democrat, Shelly Simonds by 10 votes. Following a recount, Simonds pulled ahead by a single vote. The next day, the election was to be certified, yet, at the last minute, David Yancey asked the judges overseeing the recount for a ballot that had already been determined to be an "overvote" (e.g. the person filled in too many options) to be revisited and counted as a vote for him. This made the race a tie. Shelly Simonds has asked the judges to reconsider their decision. It will be decided on January 4th in Richmond by a drawing of lots, unless the original judges reconsider their decision.

I stand with both Shelly Simonds and Joshua Cole and remain hopeful they will join our caucus. 

 

The Upcoming General Assembly Session

A week from tomorrow, Wednesday, January 10th, the 2018 Virginia General Assembly Session in Richmond begins.  This year’s session is set to last 60 days, with many issues important to our community up for debate including: the biennial budget, the New Virginia Economy, education reform, health care, military and veterans, public safety and transportation. Saturday, January 13th also marks the inauguration of our next Governor, Ralph Northam, our next Lieutenant Governor, Justin Fairfax and our returning Attorney General, Mark Herring.

During this year’s session, I will once again provide you with weekly updates through my eNews about the important topics that arise during each week as well as any action on the legislation I introduce.

I encourage you to visit the Virginia General Assembly’s website here.  This website is a great tool to track legislation of interest, follow Committee meetings and obtain member contact information.  You can also watch each day’s House of Delegates session live starting next Wednesdayhere. In addition, please visit my website here and follow me on Facebook at Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn and Twitter at @efillercorn for breaking updates and issue briefs during the Session.

If you are interested in visiting Richmond during the Legislative Session, please contact me ateileen@eileenfillercorn.com.  My Legislative Assistant, Leigh Nusbaum (leigh@eileenfillercorn.com) and I will be happy to help you set up a tour of the Capitol, reserve seating for you to observe a floor session and offer recommendations for other places to visit while in Richmond. Please come visit me in my office, Room E210 in the new General Assembly Building, while you are in our State Capitol.

 

Annual Fairfax Delegation Public Hearing

Prior to Session, the Fairfax Delegation to the General Assembly holds a public hearing to listen to residents' concerns and suggestions about the upcoming legislative session.  This year's hearing will be held on Saturday, January 6th from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center (12000 Government Center Pkwy, Fairfax, VA 22035).

The hearing will start with remarks from the Chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and then each member of the public who wishes to speak will be given three minutes to do so.  You can watch the event live on Fairfax County Government Channel 16. Click here for more information if you are interested in signing up to speak as an individual or on behalf of an organization. I hope to see you there.

 

Bills Introduced

I have introduced several pieces of legislation to date:

· HB 44- This bill would expand upon legislation from 2016 and 2017 by strengthening education around affirmative consent in Family Life Education.

· HB 45- This bill would require any family life education curriculum offered in any elementary school, middle school, or high school to include instruction on the importance of the personal privacy and personal boundaries of other individuals and tools for students to use to ensure that they respect the personal privacy and personal boundaries of other individuals.

· HB 171- This bill would provide that any person who becomes a citizen during the period immediately following the close of registration records and the day of the election and is otherwise qualified to vote, will have the ability to register and vote up to and including the day of the election.

· HB 172- This bill would exempt the purchase of biometric and dial-locking gun safes under $1000 from state sales tax, encouraging safe storage of existing firearms.

· HB 173- This bill would increase from $200 to $500 the threshold amount of money taken or value of goods or chattel taken for the crime to rise from petty larceny to felony grand larceny.

· HB 174- This bill would require the Department of Criminal Justice Services to establish protocols for communication by law-enforcement personnel with individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities, and developmental disabilities.

· HJ 17- This joint resolution would request a study of experiential learning and workforce development opportunities for high school students in high-demand fields including STEM.

I have many other bills currently in the drafting stages which I will file prior to the final deadline for introducing bills on January 19th.
 

Caucus Elections

Despite the fluid situation regarding the makeup of the full House of Delegates, the House Democratic Caucus had its post-election retreat in Richmond. We met to elect our caucus leadership. I was honored to be re-elected as Vice Chair for Outreach. I am grateful for the support of my colleagues and the trust they have placed in me.

 

Joint House and Senate Transportation Committee Meeting

I was in Richmond for the Joint House and Senate Transportation Committee meeting on December 19th, where we discussed a variety of issues including the tolls on I-66 and elsewhere in the Commonwealth. We also received updates on WMATA and learned more about the DMV's efforts to conform identification cards to REAL ID standards.

 

Electronics Recycling

If you received new electronics this holiday season, you can recycle your old devices at two easy locations right outside the 41st District in Fairfax County. This service is free for County residents and acceptable items include computers (and related equipment), televisions, gaming systems, stereos and other household electronic devices and cables. Click here for more information.

 

 

 

For past updates please visit the eNews Archive.

 

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