An early Happy July 4th! I hope you will be able to celebrate the 4th of July with friends and family and the traditional barbecues, baseball, and fireworks, while not forgetting what we’re really celebrating–the independence of this truly great nation. All those years ago, we united as a people to declare our independence from a distant foreign power, embarking on a unique new governmental journey in America. Our representative democracy was unprecedented, featuring three separate and equal branches of government– executive, legislative and judicial– with the guarantees of freedom of speech and religion, a vibrant free press, and the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for all. Every Independence Day, we reflect upon these values to ensure that we continue to fulfill the ideals that our founding fathers envisioned for us.
These are challenging times in our country today, and we must recognize the importance of standing up for what we believe in. As President Theodore Roosevelt said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” As we approach our nation’s 243rd birthday, let us be grateful for our good fortune to live in this country and remember we cannot become complacent in the beliefs that brought us that good fortune.
New Laws Going In Effect Today
On July 1st, legislation that was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor this past session officially became law, unless otherwise stated. You can check out this link to view legislation that is likely to affect the daily lives of Virginians. Additionally, my 2018 legislation prohibiting front facing car seats for children until age 2 or the manufacturer suggested weight also goes into effect today (having had a delayed enactment until this year).
Some other key laws and budget initiatives that have gone into effect include:
- Virginians who have suspended licenses due to unpaid court fines and fees will now be eligible for relief.
- The age to purchase tobacco products is now 21 years of age (having been raised from age 18)
- $85.7 million in net new funding for K-12 education. At the local level, Fairfax County Public Schools will see an increase in state aid of roughly $7 million.
- Public colleges and universities will receive $57.5 million in incentives and as a result, froze tuition for a year. Additionally, the governing boards of state colleges and universities will have to seek public input before voting to increase tuition or mandatory fees.
- The budget includes $168 million for Virginia’s share of an innovation campus that Virginia Tech proposes to build in Alexandria. This would be located near the new Amazon campus and would include expanded graduate programs in high-tech fields.
- In addition to providing information about perinatal depression, the dangers of shaking babies and safe sleeping arrangements, medical professionals will now have to provide expecting families with information about perinatal anxiety.
- Teachers will receive a 5% pay raise.
- Bars and restaurants will be able to advertise happy hour discounts and specials on alcoholic beverages.
- $3 million is allocated to the Housing Trust Fund – which will raise the total for the biennium to $14 million. This fund is used to increase access to affordable housing and homelessness prevention efforts.
Additionally, some of my bills passed this session also went into effect today, HB 2205, which will require the law and meaning of consent to be taught in high school Family Life Education courses and HB 2282, which will allow the Board of Counseling to create regulations for the issuance of temporary licenses to individuals engaged in a counseling, marriage & family therapy counseling, or substance abuse counseling residency. In layman’s terms, HB 2282 makes it easier for postgraduate counseling residents who are training in the three aforementioned specialties to get their required training hours in a much more efficient way. Most importantly, it increases access to both mental health and substance abuse professionals.
Preparing for the Governor’s Special Session on Gun Violence Prevention
I will return to Richmond next Tuesday, July 9th for a special legislative session. As I mentioned in my previous enews, last month I joined my colleagues and the Governor, as he announced that the General Assembly will convene to take up another package of life-saving common sense gun safety bills. Some of our shared priorities include:
- Universal background checks;
- A ban on assault weapons, to include suppressors and bump stocks;
- An extreme risk protective order;
- Reinstating the one-gun-a-month law;
- Child access prevention;
- Requiring people to report lost and stolen firearms; and
- Expanding local authority to regulate firearms, including in government buildings.
I will recap the outcome of this legislation and other potential bills in the next edition of the enews. Each year, we fight to pass these bills, but each time we are blocked by our Republican colleagues. Doing nothing is not an option. That being said, I firmly believe we have an opportunity to enact real change. As Leader of the House Democratic Caucus, I hope to have the opportunity to vote on and pass gun violence prevention legislation, bills which would save lives, during the special session on July 9.
PANS/PANDAS Advisory Council
I was in Richmond last week for another excellent discussion at our PANS/PANDAS Advisory Council Meeting, which I am proud to Chair. I am appreciative of my General Assembly colleagues as well as the distinguished physicians, medical experts, professionals and parents who make up this council and the invaluable insight they provide. In the few short years this council has been active, we have made great strides in developing information for parents, medical professionals and educators.
George Mason University
I enjoyed visiting George Mason University’s beautiful and impressive Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center last week. Though it was too rainy to take a boat ride across the Occoquan River to see their center in Lorton, I appreciated the opportunity to celebrate the many accomplishments of GMU. It was also a wonderful moment to congratulate President Ángel Cabrera on his selection to become the newest president of Georgia Tech. I have appreciated his and his wife Beth Cabrera’s friendship over the years. They will be missed, but I wish them all the best as they begin this new chapter!
At the same time, I am thrilled to hear that my mentor and friend Anne Holton was named the interim President of George Mason University. She is also the first woman to serve as President of GMU. I have no doubt that Anne’s impressive experience as an attorney, a judge and most recently as Virginia’s Secretary of Education will bring a great perspective to the Mason community. I look forward to working closely with Anne on the issues that matter most to George Mason, Northern Virginia and the Commonwealth.
Robinson Secondary School
Congratulations to Robinson Secondary School for winning the 2018-2019 Wells Fargo Cup for Academics for Class 6! This honor is awarded to the school that has achieved the best overall record in VHSL state competitions across 27 sports and 12 academic activities. The winner has been referred to as “the state champions’ state champion”. I am incredibly proud of the students, teachers and administrators of this 41st district school!
Soccer and the 41st District
It will be very exciting to watch the US Women’s National Team compete in the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup. The ladies have already racked up an impressive amount of points and I have no doubt that they will continue to do so as they advance to the cup final. It is particularly special to cheer on two former Virginians who have helped make this possible. One is Ali Krieger, USWNT Defender and a native of Dumfries. The other person is long time USWNT head coach Jill Ellis. Jill even has ties to the 41st District. She served as team captain on the 1984 state champion-winning Robinson Secondary School girls soccer team. Later that summer, she also won the under-19 national club title with the Braddock Road Bluebells.
But the links to Virginia and women’s soccer goes back even further than Jill Ellis, Ali Krieger and fellow Virginian and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Angela Hucles. In fact, it goes back to the 1999 World Cup Champion US Women’s National Team and their superstar and Lake Braddock graduate, Mia Hamm (Mia was part of Lake Braddock’s 1989 championship team as well). If you would like to follow the women’s team for the rest of the cup final, the US will play England in the semi final on July 2nd and should they win that match, they will play in the cup final on July 7th.