Despite the occasional spikes in heat that say otherwise, Fall is certainly on its way to the 41st District! I always enjoy this time of year with its cooler temperatures, changing leaves, great Halloween decorations, apple picking and even “pumpkin spice flavored everything”. There are plenty of great fall activities in and around the 41st District to celebrate fall. In fact, if you click here, you can find the best places to view the fall foliage around Fairfax County (including my personal favorite spot, Burke Lake Park).
Richmond Committee Meetings
Paid Family Leave Subcommittee
I am proud to serve on the Commerce and Labor Committee’s Special Subcommittee on Paid Family Leave. Last week, we had our first meeting, where we listened to presentations about 2019 paid family leave legislation from my colleagues Delegate Elizabeth Guzman and Senator Jennifer Boysko, as well as a number of stakeholders including several unions, the AARP, and national experts on paid family leave.
Senator Boysko’s bill, along with its identical House companion sponsored by Delegate Carroll Foy, would have given many workers in Virginia up to 12 weeks of paid family leave a year to care for a new child, attend to a medical condition or care for an ill family member. Delegate Guzman’s bill would have required employers with 15 or more employees to provide to each employee paid medical and family leave at a rate of 0.46 hours per 40 hours worked, up to 24 hours in any 12-month period. Neither moved forward in 2019 but will be studied and discussed by this subcommittee.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act only provides unpaid leave, and even then, it only covers just over half of American workers. Many countries around the world already have paid leave in place and while most state employees have access to it in Virginia, many Virginians do not. I look forward to finding a way to make paid leave more accessible for everyone in the Commonwealth. This is an issue that has bipartisan support around the country, and I am confident we can find common ground in Virginia.
Health Insurance Reform Commission
Following the Paid Family Leave Subcommittee meeting, I attended the Health Insurance Reform Commission meeting. Much of our discussion dealt with the issue of balance billing. According to healthcare.gov’s glossary, balance billing is when a provider (e.g. usually a medical professional) bills you for the difference between the provider’s charge and the allowed amount (e.g. what is covered by insurance). The issue arises most frequently in the emergency room, where a doctor who is “out of network” (not a part of the insurance network) treats a patient and then the patient gets a bill they were not expecting.
Last year, HIRC asked interested parties to meet and develop a plan to address balance billing. Unfortunately, there was no consensus at the time. The issue was also a big discussion item for us during the 2019 session as well with two different legislative approaches put forward. Though legislation didn’t move forward this year either, I remain hopeful that a new working group created by the budget (from which we heard an update during the most recent HIRC meeting) created in this year’s budget, can finally come to a compromise on this very important issue.
Community Foundation Breakfast
I enjoyed attending the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia breakfast last week, speaking about the valuable role that public art and placemaking have on our communities. As a Board Member of ArtsFairfax and the former Arts Caucus Chair for the General Assembly, I have long promoted the role of public art in connecting our vibrant community. I was excited to have a great example of this located in the 41st District recently. In July, I joined ArtsFairfax, Chairman Sharon Bulova, Supervisor Pat Herrity and many others at the unveiling of Springfield: INOUT, a public art installation that was located at the Old Keene Mill Shopping Center (the northwest corner of Old Keene Mill and Rolling Roads). This temporary installation, in the shopping center’s parking lot, was designed to gather public input and raise awareness for arts in the community. It was art that was accessible to and reflective of the Fairfax County community.
Creating art that engages, like INOUT, helps defeat the narrative of “I don’t know art, but I know what I like.” The fact is, public art allows for multiple interpretations of the artist’s intent. It enriches the communities it serves. I look forward to seeing more of it here in Northern Virginia and I am grateful for the work of organizations like the Community Foundation and ArtsFairfax for making this possible.
Special Olympics Plane Pull at Dulles
I had a nice time at the Special Olympics Virginia Plane Pull at Dulles Airport last weekend! These incredible athletes competed to see which group could pull a 164,000+ pound Airbus the fastest! The funds raised help provide training and athletic competition to Special Olympics athletes all across our Commonwealth. There was even an impressive showing by our very own Sheriff Stacey Kincaid and the Fairfax County Sheriff’s office. Though I did not try to pull the plane myself, I appreciated the opportunity to address the crowd.
Did you know there are 20 valid reasons to vote absentee? In-person absentee voting started this past Friday in Fairfax County and continues through
Saturday, November 2nd at the Fairfax County Government Center. Additionally, starting October 17th, you will be able to vote not only at the Government Center but at nine other satellite locations (including the West Springfield Government Center in the 41st District) as well as by mail. Click here for hours and locations. Most importantly, don’t forget your photo ID!