General Assembly Session Week 9
Tomorrow we will be voting on final passage of the Commonwealth’s budget for the 2020-2022 Biennium and adjourning Sine Die (Latin for “without day”), signifying the final day of the 2020 General Assembly Legislative Session.
This session has been historic in the extraordinary progress that the House of Delegates has made for Virginians in every corner of the Commonwealth.
In November, voters called for swift, impactful action to make their communities safer and more prosperous. We have delivered on that mandate.
We have passed an unprecedented amount of legislation that strengthens our democracy, protects Virginians from gun violence, makes our Commonwealth fairer and more equal, combats the climate change crisis, and so much more.
We have lifted up working families by providing more Virginians access to quality healthcare and transforming our transportation system so Virginians can spend more time with their families and less time in traffic.
I thank all the members of the House of Delegates for their commitment to their constituents and their tireless work to move Virginia forward.
It has been my high honor to serve as Speaker during this truly momentous legislative session.
Revitalizing Virginia’s Transportation Infrastructure
In November, voters overwhelmingly demanded this General Assembly session be focused on good governance, where we would pass bold, long-lasting reforms that improve their everyday lives. My landmark transportation modernization legislation, HB 1414, delivers on that mandate.
Among many additional measures, my omnibus Transportation bill:
- Ensures the Commonwealth’s transportation fund remains solvent;
- Supports critical transit and infrastructure projects, including Metro;
- Increases funds for local transportation projects and improvements across the Commonwealth;
- Generates an expected $30 Million in additional funds for Northern Virginia transportation improvement projects;
- Establishes the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority, which will manage the growth of the Commonwealth’s $3.7 Billion rail transportation growth over the next decade;
- Provides for a revitalization of Long Bridge, which connects Virginia to DC by rail, expanding passenger and freight capacity for VRE commuters and Virginia business;
- Allows for the use of speed cameras within 1,000 feet of any school crossing or work zones;
This bill works to ensure Virginians can go to work and get home as quickly and safely as possible.
By passing this legislation, we will continue to grow our economy, reduce congestion and make our roads safer, as well as transform passenger and commuter rail in every corner of the Commonwealth.
Improvements to Virginian’s Every Day Lives
After delivering on our many promises to Virginians, the new House Democratic majority didn’t stop there.
We continued to find ways to move our Commonwealth forward to improve Virginians’ lives every single day.
- HB 10 – Establishes a borrowers bill of rights;
- HB 66 – Caps insulin co-pays at $50 per month;
- HJ 103 – Adds a constitutional amendment to provide a tax credit for 100% service-connected disabled veterans on their first vehicle;
- HB 113 – Creates a Shield Law in Virginia to prevent reporters from being jailed for protecting the identity of a confidential source;
- HB 366 – Establishes a public defender office in Prince William County as well as the Cities of Manassas & Manassas Park;
- HB 697 – Protects children from going hungry while at school;
- HB 789 – Combats predatory lending practices in the Commonwealth, which disproportionately affect low-income communities and individuals facing hardship;
- HB 1428 – Creates the Virginia Health Benefit Exchange to facilitate the purchase and sale of qualified health plans and dental plans.
I am particularly proud of my contributions to the passage of HJ 103 this year. This is the required second passage of the resolution that I introduced and passed last year, HJ 676.
Now, this constitutional amendment will be put to a public referendum this November! Keep an eye out on your ballot this fall and vote to support our veterans!
Supporting Working Individuals and Families
Virginia has long been a welcoming place for business, in fact, last year we reclaimed the number one ranking as the best state in the country for business–a title which accompanies our longstanding AAA bond rating.
What isn’t always mentioned when those rankings are touted is that Virginia is last in the states for workers. I do my best to mention them both at the same time.
We can’t be the best for one at a detriment to the other. I reject the notion that a state that is good for business is bad for workers.
That is why, this year, we sent legislation to the Governor that will give working Virginians a raise–incrementally increasing the minimum wage each year to $12/hour by 2023.
Workers are the backbone of our economy. Public service and private sector together make up the valuable workforce needed to run a strong economy and our successful Commonwealth.
To that end, the new House Democratic majority set out to reshape business as usual in our Commonwealth, passing legislation such as:
- HB 336 – Improves accountability in cases of potential wage theft;
- HB 395 – Raises the minimum wage to $9.50 in 2021, $11.00 in 2022, and $12 in 2023, putting Virginia on the pathway to a $15/hour minimum wage by 2026;
- HB 582 – Permits counties, cities and towns to adopt local ordinances that allow their public employees to enter into collective bargaining contracts;
- HB 783 – Adds colon, brain and testicular cancers to the list of cancers that are presumed to be an occupational disease covered by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act for fire fighters;
- HB 833 – Requires workers be properly compensated at the prevailing wage when performing services in connection with public works contracts.
We can be both the best state for business and the best for workers. We began to make that happen this year, but we still have a way to go.
Fighting for Equality, Justice & Anti-Discrimination Protections
Our Commonwealth is abundant with opportunities to succeed. However, the system remains imperfect and opportunities are not always equal for all Virginians.
This year, the new House Democratic majority progressed with determined conviction to root out systemic inequality, openly address it and improve our Commonwealth for everyone.
Among the many ways we accomplished this include sending the Governor:
- HB 33 – Makes a limited class of inmates eligible for parole consideration in accordance with Supreme Court of Virginia decision in Fishback v. Commonwealth;
- HB 180 – Eliminates the requirement that the race of married parties be included in marriage records;
- HB 276 – Includes criminal acts committed against a person on the basis of disability, sexual orientation and gender or gender identification in the definition of hate crimes;
- HB 386 – Bans conversion therapy;
- HB 581 – Mandates state employees undergo cultural competency training;
- 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;
- SB 868 – Grants non-discrimination protections under the Virginia Human Rights Act to Virginians on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity;
- SB 874 – Repeals laws that implemented segregated accommodations on steamboats;
- SB 896 – Repeals laws that implemented segregation on rail cars, streetcars and buses;
- HB 972 – decriminalizes simple possession of marijuana;
- HB 973 – Repeals laws relating to racial segregation of students in elementary and secondary schools, as well as institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth;
- HB 995 – Increases the felony threshold for grand larceny from $500 to $1,000;
- HB 1211 – creates driver privilege cards and permits that do not require the applicant to present proof of legal presence in the United States;
- HB 1490 – Repeals the statutory prohibitions on same-sex marriages and civil unions, bringing the Virginia Code in alignment with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges;
- HB 1514 – Provides protection from discrimination on the basis of traits historically associated with race, such as hair;
- HB 1537 – Grants localities the authority to remove confederate statues.
While, this year, we made tremendous strides toward making our Commonwealth a truly equal place to live, work and raise a family, there is still much work to be done.
We must remain vigilant in our endless pursuit for justice in our community and in every corner of our Commonwealth.
Protecting & Expanding Access to Voting
This year, we kept our promise to give more Virginians a voice in their democracy.
For years, Virginia has fallen behind on encouraging and supporting Virginian’s right to participate in the electoral process.
Now, the new House Democratic majority has sent the Governor a number of legislative proposals that will expand access to the polls and remove unnecessary barriers to participation.
- HB 108 – Designates Election Day as a state holiday in place of Lee-Jackson Day;
- HB 201 – Establishes same-day voter registration in the Commonwealth;
- HB 207 – Establishes no-excuse absentee voting;
- HB 238 – Provides that absentee ballots received before noon on the third day after an election shall be counted, so long as the ballot is postmarked on or before election day.
The elderly and those who cannot make it to the polls on election day, but want to vote will no longer be scrutinized or punished. Instead, they will be encouraged to vote.
Historic Public Safety Improvements
After promising significant, constitutionally sound progress on gun violence prevention, we kept our promise. This week, we sent a historic number of vital gun violence prevention bills to the Governor to be signed into law. This welcome change is long overdue.
- HB 2 – Requires background checks on firearms sales;
- HB 9 – Requires lost or stolen firearms be reported within 48 hours;
- HB 264 – Removes the option for concealed handgun permit applicants to demonstrate competence online;
- HB 421 – Allows localities to enact gun safety measures that work for their community;
- HB 674 – Provides for a mechanism to remove firearms from persons posing a substantial risk;
- HB 812 – Re-establishes Virginia’s one handgun per month law;
- HB 888 – Provides for a sales tax exemption for biometric or dial-lock gun safes under $1,500;
- HB 1004 – Prevents those with a permanent protective order against them from owning a gun;
- HB 1080 – Keeps guns out of schools;
- HB 1083 – Increases the penalty for recklessly leaving a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a way that endangers children.
Women’s Reproductive Healthcare
For years, politicians have inserted themselves in the private healthcare decisions of women in our Commonwealth. Last week, we sent HB 980 to the Governor’s desk to end that shameful practice.
When signed into law, HB 980 will repeal the medically unnecessary Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws that restrict access to reproductive healthcare in our Commonwealth.
Finally, Virginia women will be free to make their own healthcare decisions in consultation with their doctors, and without political or medically unnecessary intervention.
Protecting Virginia’s Natural Assets
This session, the new House Democratic majority worked tirelessly to pass unprecedented legislation addressing the climate crisis–legislation that is long overdue in our Commonwealth.
And we did it! Once signed into law, our work will bring historic progress toward addressing environmental justice, fighting to achieve zero carbon emission and promoting the production of solar and wind energy.
This session, among many other environmental protection bills, we sent the Governor:
- HB 534– Gives localities the option to impose a five-cent tax on disposable bags;
- HB 572 – Promotes the establishment of distributed renewable solar and other renewable energy by removing the 1% cap on net metering;
- HB 706 – Prohibits offshore oil and gas drilling in the coastal waters of the Commonwealth;
- HB 1042 – Establishes the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice to advise the Governor and provide recommendations intended to protect vulnerable communities from the impacts of environmental pollution;
- HB 1448 – Delivers management of the Atlantic menhaden fishery to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to protect the delicate balance of our Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem;
- HB 1526 – Makes progress on climate justice and environmental protections, puts Virginia on a path to zero carbon emissions by 2045, protects rate payers and outlines a plan to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
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.
Speaker of the House
Delegate, 41st District
Virginia House of Delegates