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.