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 This bill would have repealed the expiration date on the requirement that childcare providers undergo fingerprint-based national criminal history background checks.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!