Eileen's Latest eNews - February 11, 2018

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.

 

Paid for and Authorized by Eileen Filler-Corn for Delegate

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