Eileen's Latest eNews - General Assembly Week 5

General Assembly Week 5

The past week has been another incredibly difficult and painful one for the Commonwealth of Virginia. I remain extremely disappointed in our Governor and Attorney General and deeply concerned about the allegations towards our Lieutenant Governor. As our House Democratic Caucus statement issued on Thursday, February 7th (click here to read the full statement) says, “Much of the discussion has, rightfully, centered around who we are as Democrats, as we continue to stand against racism and sexual assault. We respect all survivors and believe they should be rightfully heard…this is not a partisan problem, but a problem for all Virginians and all Americans.” The following Friday, the House and Senate Democratic Caucus also issued the tough but, we believe appropriate, statement (click here to read) asking the Lieutenant Governor to step down. Both statements were made after many long and difficult conversations on what the best next steps for our Commonwealth would be.

Just as I wrote last week, please know that I remain by your side, fighting for the issues that matter to us - fairness, inclusivity and equality for all, while standing up for those most vulnerable in our communities.

 

Tax Conformity Compromise

Earlier this week, Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate have been working on a compromise on the tax conformity issue. This deal has the potential to benefit many hardworking Virginians, including those most impacted by the new federal tax structure. Additionally, this bill will provide conformity with the new federal tax law. Without it, Virginia would need to make significant changes to our financial systems, which in turn could cause confusion and delays. Passing conformity in a timely manner is something I and my Democratic colleagues have insisted upon for months.

This bill needs to be enacted as emergency legislation so that it can go into effect before July 1st. Therefore, it requires an 80% vote by both the House and the Senate to pass. The bill passed out of the House Finance Committee on Friday on a 20-1 vote, with my support (and one Delegate abstaining). The earliest we would likely vote on the bill would be tomorrow.

We also owe a particular debt of gratitude to our caucus policy chair and ranking member of the Finance Committee, Delegate Vivian Watts, as this compromise bill is largely based on her well thought out tax plan.

 

Crossover

We have now moved past Crossover Day. Last Monday, we spent over 9 hours on the House floor debating over 300 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 Tuesday was surprisingly brief. Nonetheless, I am again reminded of how much I value the opportunity to represent my community in the House of Delegates. I was pleased to have several pieces of legislation cross over to the Senate as well. I will have more details on my bills and a breakdown of the budget in next week’s edition of my enews.

 

Update on Key Pieces of Legislation

I also want to give you an update on some other key bills that passed from the House.

 

Redistricting Reform

As I have mentioned in my previous enews, I believe that constituents need to choose their representatives—not the other way around. A so-called redistricting bill came out of the House Privileges and Elections Committee (HJ 615). What gave me a lot of pause was how the bill dictated the makeup of the Commission. This comission would, “consist of twelve commissioners, four to be appointed by the Governor, four to be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Delegates, and four to be appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules.” HJ 615 claims that “Equal representation shall be given to the two major political parties.” What if one party controlled the Governor’s mansion, the House and Senate? How can we truly guarantee that those appointed by these bodies are a fair representation of both political parties? Delegate Mark Sickles offered a floor amendment that would have made this bill a true redistricting bill, but the Speaker ruled it out of order. HJ 615, which I believe does not give us non-partisan redistricting, passed the House on a 51-48 (party line) vote, without my support.

 

Casino Gambling and Sports Betting

Several bills were filed this year to legalize both gambling and sports betting in Virginia. This is a decision that will have long standing ramifications for our Commonwealth moving forward. I believe we need to weigh all options and outcomes before rushing to judgement. HB 2321 would create the Gaming Study Commission to analyze the Commonwealth's existing gaming industry and proposals to expand gaming in Virginia. Specifically, this includes the following: commercial casino gaming, in-person and online sports wagering, online and internet gaming, tribal gaming, historical horse racing, and electronic devices approved by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority to be placed in establishments licensed by the Authority. The bill passed both the Rules Committee (on a 13-3 vote) and the full House Floor (with an 84-15 vote) with my support and now heads to the Senate.
 

Floor Speech

On Thursday, as we prepared to debate the budget, I gave a floor speech reaffirming the values and mission of the House Democratic Caucus. I will always advocate for all Virginians. You can read my full remarks here and watch a video of the speech here. I closed my remarks by saying, “Where we can, we will continue to work diligently to find common ground with our colleagues on the other side. And where we cannot, we will continue to fight, unapologetically, for those values and principles we hold dear.”


Jewish Advocacy Day

On Wednesday, I had the distinct honor to recognize visitors in the gallery for Jewish Advocacy Day, as well as Rabbi Tom Gutherz of Congregation Beth Israel (CBI) in Charlottesville, who gave the invocation. Additionally, I was also pleased to address the statewide Jewish community earlier that morning before they met with their legislators at the Capitol. Rabbi Gutherz, who presided over his congregation when it was targeted by anti-semitic groups in August of 2017, offered timely words in his remarks. His closing lines, quoted from an ancient Rabbi, particularly struck me. I feel they ring true particularly this past week:

"You are not obligated to complete the task

But neither are you free to desist from it."

There are only two weeks left in the 2019 Legislative Session. I look forward to making progress in creating a Virginia that works for everyone. 

General Assembly Week 4

This was a difficult week for Virginia. Friday afternoon, I was shocked to hear the news about Governor Ralph Northam. I find it very difficult to reconcile that image with the man with whom I worked closely with for so many years. That evening, I joined the House Caucus and the Legislative Black Caucus in making the difficult, but I feel appropriate, decision in calling for his resignation. Unfortunately I feel the Governor has lost the trust of Virginians. Having said that, I appreciate Governor Northam's tremendous service and dedication to the Commonwealth of Virginia over so many years, which included providing health insurance for over 400,000 working Virginians. By stepping aside, this will allow the Commonwealth to begin healing.

As Leader of the House Democratic Caucus and the Delegate for the 41st House District, I remain by your side, fighting for the issues that matter to us - fairness, inclusivity and equality for all, while standing up for those most vulnerable in our communities.

 

Update On Legislation I Presented This Week

 

HB 2282--Temporary Licenses for Counseling Residents

I am pleased that HB 2282 passed the House unanimously on Wednesday. This bill would allow the Board of Counseling to promulgate regulations for the issuance of temporary licenses to individuals engaged in a counseling, marriage & family therapy, or substance abuse counseling residency for the purpose of meeting the Board's licensure requirement for postgraduate counseling practice during a supervised residency period. This legislation now heads on to the Senate.

 

HB 2203-Removing the Sunset of Fingerprint Background Checks for Child Care Providers

On Tuesday morning, I presented HB 2203, which I carried on behalf of the Governor’s Administration. This bill would have repealed the expiration date on the requirement that childcare providers undergo fingerprint-based national criminal history background checks. Unfortunately, the bill failed to report on a 3-2 vote. The irony is, support for the sunset on the background checks is something that only a small fraction of House Republicans support. The Senate unanimously supports these background checks.  At the federal level, only one Senator voted against these background checks being in place and a Republican-dominated House adopted the law by unanimous voice vote in 2014. Allowing this sunset to stand will risk Virginia losing millions of dollars in child development grants. My bill would have prevented this from happening, not only ensuring that federal funds remain accessible to Virginia small businesses, but more importantly that child care would remain more safe and secure.

 

HB 2206-Making Gun Safes Tax Exempt

On Wednesday, I presented HB 2206, which would have exempted the purchase of biometric and dial-locking gun safes under $1,000 from state sales tax, encouraging safe storage of existing firearms, before Finance Subcommittee 2. This is the fourth session that I have introduced this bill and I am pleased to say that each year, support for this bill has grown. This year, the following groups supported the bill:

  • Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
  • Virginia Citizens Defense League
  • Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Virginia College of Emergency Medicine
  • Virginia Retail Merchants Association
  • Virginia Manufacturers Association
  • Virginia Sheriffs Association
  • Police Benevolent Association

In addition to the above, we also heard compelling testimony from Dr. Sam Bartle, a pediatric ER physician. He shared gripping stories of two young children he treated for self-inflicted gunshot wounds just that week because the guns in their house were not locked up in a safe. Unfortunately, this bill died for lack of a second. Though the opposition to this bill seems to be based on partisanship, I will never stop fighting for common sense gun safety.

 

Tax Conformity Update

On Monday, the Finance Committee met to vote on several bills related to our changing tax code. As I stated last week in my floor speech, I share the concerns of millions of Virginians. If we do not pass a bill conforming Virginia’s tax code to the federal code, we risk serious consequences. I am disappointed to report that the majority party failed to bring a clean conformity bill to the floor in a timely manner. As Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne stated in his response to my letter to him last week, “deconformity may result in increased complexity and expense for many Virginia taxpayers.” It is my hope that we can promptly rectify this issue to ensure all Virginians can receive their tax refunds in a timely manner.

 

Arts Advocacy Day at the Capitol

It was a privilege to address Virginians for the Arts earlier this week at the beautiful Carpenter Theatre. I spoke about the importance of the Commonwealth’s role in promoting the arts and what Virginians can do to ensure that it stays vibrant. As a co-founder of the General Assembly’s Arts Caucus, it has been my distinct pleasure to serve as its co-chair and later chair for the past six years. This year, I am proud to pass the baton off to my very capable colleague, Delegate Cheryl Turpin from Virginia Beach. Even though my role has changed, I will always be an outspoken advocate for the Arts in Virginia.

 

Visitors to Richmond

Another week passed with many great visitors including representatives from the Virginia Education Association, the NoVA District PTA, George Mason University, SEIU and the Medical Society of Virginia. I look forward to visitors and constituents stopping by this week as well!

General Assembly Week 3

Another week of session has flown by and we have started more actively voting on bills on the floor. That said, I think some of the best news all week came on Friday, when the President finally agreed to re-open the Government for three weeks. This petty power play significantly impacted my district and the Commonwealth of Virginia as a whole. While I am relieved that many of my constituents can now not only get back to work, but get paid to do so, this shutdown accomplished nothing other than to lower our nation’s standing in the world and attack our federal workers and contractors. Shutting down the government as leverage does not work. Democrats and Republicans of prior administrations can attest to that. Furthermore, temporary three-week fixes are not sustainable for our country’s long-term financial health and national security. It is my hope that we can find a long-term solution that does not harm the livelihoods of so many Virginians and Americans in general.

 

Update on Redistricting Reform

As many of you may know, there has been an ongoing court case related to the drawing of House of Delegates districts in the Richmond and Hampton Roads Area. The litigation focuses on eleven racially gerrymandered districts. This week, federal judges selected a redistricting map from the appointed special master (in charge of redrawing the map). The court ordered the special master to complete a final plan by this Tuesday. Furthermore, either side can submit objections by Feb. 1. Following this, the judges will plan on implementing the new map soon after.

Caucus Chair Charniele Herring and I (as the Democratic Leader), issued a joint statement on the issue, “When a federal court rules that eleven Virginia legislative districts are racial gerrymanders in violation of the U.S. Constitution, it is incumbent upon our legislature and judicial system to ensure Virginians are represented in constitutional districts. A consequence of undoing gerrymandered maps is that the partisan make-up of some districts may change, but we cannot place partisan politics above the U.S. Constitution. We are pleased that Virginians will have constitutional districts for the November elections.”

Please know that I support the goal of creating independent entities to establish congressional and state legislative districts in Virginia that functionswith transparency and prohibits gerrymandering. Voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.

 

Tax Conformity

As tax season approaches, I share the concerns of millions of Virginians that if we do not pass a billconforming Virginia’s tax code to the federal code this week, we risk serious consequences. To that end, Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw and I jointly sent a letter to Virginia’s Secretary of Finance, Aubrey Layne requesting an estimation from his office about when Virginians will be impacted by the disruption of the current non-conformity of the Virginia tax law to the federal tax code. This is a key priority for both House and Senate Democrats. You can click here to read the full letter.

Secretary Layne responded by saying (click here to read the full letter) that, “the Internal Revenue Service announced that taxpayers may begin filing tax returns effective January 28th. On this date, Virginia tax will receive electronically-filed state tax returns for tax year 2018. However, while they will accept returns, the agency will not be able to process returns or issue refunds. Past experience indicates that by February 6, Virginia Tax could receive about 650,000 returns.” He further added that because returns will not be processed this year until the conformity issue is resolved, taxpayers will not receive refunds as promptly as they have come to expect. In addition, the “Where’s My Refund” website application, may not be able to provide information on the status of individual returns, unlike in prior years. He closed by warning that, “deconformity may result in increased complexity and expense for many Virginia taxpayers.”

I also spoke about these letters and why we need to act now on tax conformity, on the floor. You can view my speech here.

 

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 well attended this year, as always. We were privileged to hear from all three of our statewide office-holders who share our concerns about the scourge of gun violence.

I am proud to have consistently introduced bills that I believe constitute commonsense gun safety. This year, it was also a privilege to co-chair the Safe Virginia Initiative, which took place across the Commonwealth with listening sessions about how we can do better to prevent gun violence. Though most of our SVI bills did not move forward, one of mine is still alive will be heard on Wednesday afternoon. This particular bill that has the backing of both the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Virginia Citizens Defense League. The bill,
HB 2206, 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, Police Benevolent Association, the Virginia College of Emergency Medicine and the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, I am pleased to announce that the Virginia Retail Merchant Association is also supporting this bill. It is my hope that this legislation will make it to Governor Northam’s desk later this year. If you are interested in supporting the bill, it will be heard on Wednesday afternoon in Finance Subcommittee #2, you can email the members here.

Additionally, I presented another common sense gun safety bill last Thursday. HB 2797 would have barred high school students (aged 18-21), from purchasing semi-automatic assault-style weapons with exemptions for those who are in the military, public safety officials or have received a high school diploma or GED. In other words, the bill would have kept high school students, age 18-20 from purchasing these weapons. Although the bill was incredibly narrow in scope (it did not affect private sales), it was passed by indefinitely on a 4-1, party-line vote (which means the bill is dead for the session). 

 

Budget Amendment Presentations

On Monday, I presented Budget Item #485 1 h, which would help Virginia 529 fund a marketing position to help encourage more Virginians with disabilities to sign up for Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Accounts. This builds upon my work in 2015, when I carried the bill to initially establish ABLE Accounts in Virginia and ensured they were free from state means testing in 2016. I am appreciative to have the support of Mary Morris, Virginia 529’s CEO, long time disability advocate Matthew Shapiro and former Senator (and former co-Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee), Walter Stosch who carried the Senate companion to my 2015 bill in support.

On Wednesday, I presented Budget Item 134 12h, which would provide fund my bill, HJ 675. This bill would request a study of experiential learning and workforce development opportunities for high school students in high-demand fields including STEM by the Virginia Department of Education. The bill itself has the backing of the Virginia Education Association, the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, the Prince William County Chamber, the Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership and the statewide Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

The Appropriations Committee does not generally vote on budget amendments until later in the session, so if you feel strongly about these or any other budget amendments, please click here to contact members of the committee.

 

Equal Rights Amendment

I was extremely disappointed to see that HJ 579 which would ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, and on which I am a co-patron, was defeated in a Privileges and Elections Subcommittee earlier this week and then defeated again after Democrats attempted a procedural motion to bring it back in full committee.  Despite public polling showing that 81 percent of Virginians support the ERA and the presence of dozens of advocates, House Republicans quickly moved to lay all ERA resolutions on the table, procedurally killing them.

I was proud, however, of the incredible floor speech that my colleague, Delegate Delores McQuinn gave in response to these actions. She referenced the claim that women do not need “a piece of paper” to achieve equal rights. My colleague rebutted this claim by saying, "In this place that we often call Mr. Jefferson's House, we typically tend to value words written on a piece of paper. And although God made us equal, the Constitution that was written on a piece of paper did not. While the men who wrote it did some great things, there were countlessnumber of things that were not so great… Now Mr. Speaker, [the 13th and 15th] amendments are words written on a piece of paper. They are significant to me as a woman and to millions of other women. Mr. Speaker, words are indeed powerful, whether they are written or spoken aloud."

At the end of the day, we know that the ERA resolution has bipartisan and bicameral support in Virginia and it deserves to be voted on by the full House. It merely takes political courage.

 

Visitors to Richmond

It is always a treat for me to see so many friends and 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 Arc of Northern Virginia, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the Fairfax County Retired Educators and FEA-Retired (including my predecessor, Former Delegate Jim Dillard!) among others. I look forward to more constituents, friends and groups this week!

General Assembly Week 2

The first full week of session flew by. We are clearly now in the full swing of committee meetings, bills and voting.

I have outlined my legislative agenda below:

HB 2203 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 2204 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 2205 would expand upon legislation from 2016 and 2017 by strengthening education around consent in Family Life Education.

HB 2206 would exempt the purchase of biometric and dial-locking gun safes under $1000 from state sales tax, encouraging safe storage of existing firearms.

HB 2207 would require health insurance 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, contraceptive device, or contraceptive procedure.

HB 2281 would establish a presumption for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for certain firefighters, law-enforcement officers, hazardous materials officers, animal protection police officers, or 9-1-1 emergency call takers, dispatchers, or similarly situated employees.

HB 2282 would allow the Board of Counseling to promulgate regulations for the issuance of temporary licenses to individuals engaged in a counseling residency for the purpose of meeting the Board's licensure requirement for postgraduate counseling practice during a supervised residency period.

HB 2454 would require a court to permit an adult chosen by a minor victim in a criminal case to be present in the courtroom during any proceedings in addition to or in lieu of the minor's parent or guardian. Under current law, a court has discretionary authority to permit such person to be present during any proceedings.

HB 2797 would bar high school students (aged 18-21), from purchasing assault weapons or handguns with exemptions for those who are in the military or have received a high school diploma or GED.

HJ 675 would request a study of experiential learning and workforce development opportunities for high school students in high-demand fields including STEM.

HJ 676 would create a constitutional amendment that one motor vehicle of a veteran who has a 100 percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability would be exempt from state and local taxes. The amendment would also provide that only automobiles and pickup trucks qualify for the exemption.

Additionally, I am also carrying two budget amendments, one is to fund HJ 675, my workforce development study and the other helps Virginia 529 fund a marketing position to help encourage more Virginians with disabilities to sign up for Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Accounts. This builds upon my work in 2015, when I carried the bill to initially establish ABLE Accounts in Virginia.

 

House Democratic Caucus press conference

Earlier this week, I was proud to open the Virginia House Democrats Caucus’ press conference where we announced our legislative priorities for the 2019 Session. Last year, we showed what could be accomplished with more House Democrats fighting for the rights of all Virginians, most notably by voting to expand Medicaid. Our legislative agenda this year aims to build on last year’s progress. We will continue to show that House Democrats are fighting for greater opportunity and for the rights of all Virginians. My colleagues shared our proposals which include:

  • Investing in Virginia’s schools
  • Making voting easier and more accessible
  • Ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment
  • Addressing the housing crisis
  • Reforming our criminal justice system including ending the practice of driver's license suspensions for non-payment of court fees
  • Addressing the dangers of coal ash and modernizing our electrical grid
  • Tackling the Opioid Crisis

The overall theme for our legislative agenda is "A House for All Virginians." I look forward to advocating for these important issues during the 2019 Session. You can view the entire press conference by clicking here.

 

Committee Meetings

This week was filled with several committee meetings already, as this is the short session and things move very quickly. My first full Finance Committee meeting (click here to view the livestream) took place this past Monday. In addition to voting on several bills, we heard a presentation from Virginia’s Department of Taxation on the impact of the federal tax changes and the Wayfair decision (related to state sales tax and internet sales). Whether and how we conform to the tax code this year is an issue that in the past was fairly non-controversial (in fact, it is usually one of the first bills we voted on each session and would pass out of both the House and Senate unanimously or near unanimously) but in light of the changes to our tax code at the Federal level is undergoing some controversy. 

I also have the privilege to serve on the House Rules Committee—a committee that both majority and minority floor leaders serve on. The Speaker chairs the committee. Rules generally considers bills that pertain to the operation of the General Assembly, resolutions that declare a day/week/month, and creations of studies.  

I will also serve on the Joint Rules Subcommittee which deals with the governing rules of the House and Senate. 

 

State Corporation Commission Appointment Debate

Nearly a year after, Judge James Dmitri stepped down as one of three judges from the State Corporation Commission, the Speaker called a recess on Wednesday afternoon during the floor session, so the Commerce and Labor Committee, on which I serve, “could hold an unusual, 30-minute meeting to interview the SCC candidate who had emerged with full approval of the Senate Republican Caucus.”

My concern, as well as that of our caucus throughout this entire process, is that a candidate for the SCC needs more than 30 minutes of review before being appointed. The SCC is an integral part of our Commonwealth and sets rates for public utilities (electricity), insurance and helps incorporate businesses. Appointees to head the SCC deserve serious and careful vetting, and should not be pushed through by the will of a slim majority of one party. You can read several articles about the debate on the left-hand side, but as I said to the Virginia Mercury, "sunlight did not shine in the Capitol" on Wednesday.

 

Military and Veterans Caucus

I attended the first Military and Veterans Caucus meeting of the session. We started by reviewing proposed legislation. I am proud that my previously mentioned bill, HJ 676, which would create an amendment to Virginia’s Constitution (allowing disabled veterans to claim a personal property tax exemption on one motor vehicle) was included in the Caucus’ legislation.  We also received a presentation by MG Timothy Williams, The Adjutant General of Virginia’s National Guard. As someone who represents a district with a high population of military and veteran families, I am grateful to continue to advocate on their behalf this session.
 

Equal Rights Amendment

Though we have yet to vote on the Equal Rights Amendment here in the House, I am so pleased that the ERA has passed the Senate—and by a wide, bipartisan margin! Virginia once again stands on the precipice of history. If we pass this bill in the House, our Commonwealth becomes the crucial 38th state to ratify the ERA and enshrine it in the US Constitution.  I hope that this is the year we can make that a reality.

 

Visitors to Richmond

Another week passed with many great visitors including representatives from the Fairfax County Professional Firefighters, VOICE, SEIU, Jewish Foundation for Group Homes, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Fairfax County Democrats. I look forward to visitors and constituents stopping by this week as well!

Democratic Leader Filler-Corn in the News

 

General Assembly Week 1

It has been a whirlwind first week of the 2019 General Assembly Session. I remain optimistic that this will be a session marked with significant, bipartisan gains for all Virginians. Just as we had in 2018, with our historic vote on Medicaid Expansion, it is my hope that the General Assembly can once again come together this session, passing bills which create a Virginia where all can prosper.

The Federal Government Shutdown

That said, the government across the Potomac River could learn a lesson from Virginia’s vote on Medicaid last year. I am deeply distressed that we continue to be in the middle of the longest federal government shutdown in American history. Thousands of families in the 41st District are directly affected by the intransigence coming out of Washington. These furloughs are directly affecting so many Virginians, including many of my constituents’ ability to pay their bills, put food on the table and provide for their families. It hurts Virginia business and throws our country’s financial markets into disarray. While I am grateful that many of our Virginia representatives (such as my congressman, Gerry Connolly and our newest members of Congress, Jennifer Wexton, Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria) have been hard at work at re-opening the Government, I urge President Trump to end yet another unnecessary shutdown and let Virginians get back to work.

If you are a resident of Fairfax County currently impacted by the shutdown, Fairfax County has put together a number of resources to help. Please click here for more information.

 

Opening Day of Session

Wednesday, January 9th, was the first day of the 2019 General Assembly Session. Walking into the halls towards the House of Delegates chamber truly reinforces what an honor is to serve as Delegate for the 41st District and as the new Leader of the Virginia House Democrats. Though we will make history in this body with the laws we pass, we are also celebrating history itself.

2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the House of Delegates. Dating back to Jamestown’s establishment of the Virginia House of Burgesses, the House is the oldest English style legislative body in the Western Hemisphere. Per the General Assembly’s new website, “House History,” there have been 9,637 Burgesses and Delegates who have ever served in this body. It has included future Presidents, Governors, Senators and U.S. Representatives, just to name a few. It is humbling to be a part of this storied body.

Many people have also asked what it is like, or if it has sunk in that I am the first woman of any major party to serve as a Leader in the 400-year history of the House. The answer is the same as above, humbling. I recently came across an article about the first two women elected to the House, four years after women achieved the right to vote. The article termed both Sarah Lee Fain of Norfolk and Helen T. Henderson of Buchanan County as, “Legislative Debutantes,”. Despite the sexism they faced as glass ceiling breakers, Delegates Fain and Henderson worked tirelessly for their constituents and earned the respect and esteem of not only their voters but their male colleagues in the House of Delegates themselves. I am grateful for the way these women legislators paved for me and so many others. I see the same spark and fire in the women that I currently serve with and it is my hope that more women step up and run for office in the future too.
 

Governor’s State of the Commonwealth

On Wednesday night, the Governor of Virginia outlined his priorities in his annual State of the Commonwealth. In his speech, he reflected on the progress Virginia has made over the past year and his plans to keep our Commonwealth growing and prospering well into the future. You can watch his speech by clicking here. I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Northam and his cabinet to ensure Virginia reaches its full potential.

 

First Floor Speech as Democratic Leader

On Thursday, I addressed the House of Delegates for the first time as Democratic Leader. I spoke about one of the lessons that I learned on my very first day here, and in future years, is the importance of civility, compromise and working across the aisle. When we do come together, good things do happen for Virginians. We have clear examples of this: in 2013, when we passed a historic transportation bill, and last year in 2018, when we expanded Medicaid for hundreds of thousands of our fellow Virginians. Truly, I am confident that we can find even more common ground in 2019 if we work at it.

I reminded the body that the night before the Governor challenged us – if we want Virginia to be the best place to live, work, and raise a family, we need to come together and grasp this opportunity to:

  • Hire more school counselors and increase teacher pay,
  • Make our tax code fairer for all Virginians,
  • Reduce gun violence and save lives,
  • Protect our environment,
  • Reform our criminal justice system,
  • Remove barriers to voting,

I also urged my colleagues that now is the time to support gender equality by passing the Equal Rights Amendment.

I closed by saying, “This isn’t Washington. House Democrats are here in Richmond to do the people’s work, and we are ready to join together in a bipartisan manner to do great things for Virginia.”You can view my full speech here.
 

Governor’s Gun Safety Legislation Announcement and
Safe Virginia Initiative Press Conference

Prior to the beginning of Session, I was proud to stand with Governor Northam and my colleagues as he rolled out his common sense gun safety priorities earlier this month. His package includes, measures to require universal background checks; establish an Extreme Risk Protective Order; reinstate Virginia’s One Handgun a Month law; prohibit individuals subject to final protective orders from possessing firearms; ban assault firearms; prevent children from accessing firearms; and require individuals to report lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement. Click here to see the Governor’s press release.

Two days later, I was proud to stand with my fellow Safe Virginia Initiative (SVI) Co-Chair, Delegate Kathleen Murphy and our four regional SVI chairs, Delegates Delores McQuinn, Chris Hurst, John Bell, & Cliff Hayes on Monday morning, as we released the SVI report on the effects of gun violence in Virginia.

This report summarizes our town halls and roundtables across the Commonwealth over the past few months. It also contains our common sense gun safety legislative priorities. I firmly believe these bills can and will save lives and I hope the General Assembly will act favorably upon them. Doing nothing, with respect to gun safety, is not an option. Click here to access the SVI report. Click here or here to see coverage of the press conference.

 

Visitors to Richmond

It is 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 the ERA, George Mason University, and constituents visiting for Virginia Bankers Day.

Additionally, on Friday, Rabbi David Kalender joined us from Congregation Olam Tikvah, located in the 41st District, to deliver the invocation on the Floor of the House of Delegates. It was truly an honor to start the day with the inspiring words of my constituent. He was well received by my colleagues. 

It is my privilege to serve in the House of Delegates on your behalf and address the issues that face the 41st District and the Commonwealth as a whole.  I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you in Richmond and/or out and about in the 41st District during the weekends. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance from my office.

Sincerely yours,

 

Delegate Filler-Corn in the News

 

For past updates please visit the eNews Archive.

 

Paid for and Authorized by Eileen Filler-Corn for Delegate

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