General Assembly Session Week 5
House Passes Historic Non-discrimination Protections for LGBTQ Virginians
This week, the House passed HB 1663, the Virginia Values Act to grant non-discrimination protections to Virginians on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. When this legislation is signed by the Governor, Virginia will become the first southern state to have non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
Discrimination against our gay, lesbian and transgender friends, family, neighbors and co-workers in employment, housing and public accommodation is unacceptable.
This week, we laid a marker down that every Virginian can work hard, earn a living wage, and live their lives without fear of discrimination based on who they are or who they love. The sun shines brighter on the Commonwealth of Virginia with the House’s passage of this landmark legislation.
Thank you to House Chief Patron Mark Sickles, Chief Co-Patrons Delores McQuinn and Mark Levine, and all of our partners and allies who made this momentous day possible.
Further Promoting Equality and Justice
In addition to passing these historic, comprehensive non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community, the House passed a number of bills that will promote equality and justice regardless of where a person comes from, who they worship if they choose or what they look like. Among the impressive pieces of legislation passed this week include:
- HB 6 – makes housing discrimination on the basis of a person’s source of income unlawful
- HB 696 – gives localities additional authority in prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, credit and education on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity
- HB 787 – expands the list of hate crimes that a multi-jurisdiction grand jury may investigate
- HB 1514 – provides under the Virginia Human Rights Act protection from discrimination on the basis of traits historically associated with race, such as hair
- HB 386 – banning conversion therapy
- HB 180 – Eliminates the requirement that the race of married parties be included in the marriage record filed with the State Registrar
Improving Conditions for the Commonwealth’s Workers
The House also passed HB 582 this week, which establishes access to collective bargaining for our public sector employees. Police officers, firefighters, teachers, and all public service workers deserve the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
This legislation is a long-overdue win for the public workers who keep us safe, teach our children, and maintain the high quality of life we enjoy in the Commonwealth.
And this was not the only advancement made for working Virginians. A few of the many additional bills we passed this week in committee or on the floor to improve workers rights are:
- HB 358 – authorizes any public body to require bidders to enter into project labor agreements when contracting public works projects
- HB 123 – combats wage theft by providing workers a private right of action to hold contractors liable for unpaid wages
- HB 395 – legislation to raise the minimum wage to $9/hr this year and $15/hr by 2023 passed in Labor & Commerce Committee
Securing ABLE Savings Accounts
In 2015, I introduced and championed the passage of the Virginia Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. This law made it possible for individuals with disabilities and their families to open tax-free savings accounts, similar to 529 college savings accounts, so they can save for important future living expenses such as education, housing and transportation. This groundbreaking legislation established Virginia as a national leader and the first state to implement the ABLE Act after federal authorizing language was passed.
This week, my bill HB 887 passed unanimously in the House. The bill provides that the beneficiary of an ABLE savings trust account may appoint a survivor. It will also prohibit the Commonwealth from seeking estate recovery or payment from the proceeds of the deceased ABLE account holder for benefits provided to that person.
Under current law, if the beneficiary of an ABLE savings trust account dies, that person’s state of residence becomes a creditor of the account and may seek payment under federal law for Medicaid benefits provided to the beneficiary while alive.
Delivering on Good Governance for the Commonwealth
In addition to the legislation outlined above, this week, the House passed a number of bills in committee and on the floor that will make progress in our Commonwealth including:
- HB 108 – designating Election Day as a state holiday in place of Lee-Jackson Day
- HB 10 – establishing a borrowers bill of rights
- HB 36– grants student journalists in school-sponsored media at public middle, high and higher education institutions the right to exercise freedom of speech and the press
- HB 66 – caps insulin co-pays at $30 per month
- HB 630 – requires lobbyists to complete sexual harassment training
- HB 697 – protects food insecure children from going hungry while at school
For a full list of bills passed in the House and Senate so far, you may click here.
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 or out-and-about in the 41st District. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any assistance from my office.