July 9th Update:
February 27th Update:
The 2015 session is in the books.
The wheels of democracy churned quickly this session: the General Assembly managed to consider over 2000 bills in 44 days and agreed to a budget one day ahead of schedule. I will catch my breath, but I am already looking forward to working with my constituents over the next 10 months to prepare for next year’s session.
Since this is my final session update for this year, I wanted to take the opportunity to give you an overview of how some of my bills fared this session. I am pleased to have made some progress in several very important areas, and I will take up the fight again next session on what I could not accomplish this session.
Redistricting Reform (HB 1485): I introduced a bill this session that would have required the General Assembly to use non-partisan criteria when drawing the next round of legislative maps. Much to my disappointment, my bill did not even see the light of day in the House Privileges and Elections Committee. The Senate passed an identical version of my bill 38-0. Unfortunately, despite overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate, the Senate version of my bill breathed its last breath at a 7 AM House Privileges and Elections committee meeting and died on a 4-3 vote to table the bill.
I’ve been fortunate to work this year with a terrific bipartisan group, One Virginia 2021, along with a number of my House colleagues on the redistricting issue. I will renew the fight again next year.
Hate Crimes Reporting Bill (HB 1494): My hate crimes reporting bill was what one might call a “reality check” bill: it simply sought to have the code of Virginia capture existing practices.
Currently, the Virginia State Police reports hate crimes that were based on sexual orientation and gender identification to the FBI. The police also use this data to identify trends and take proactive steps to stop hate crimes. My bill simply added “sexual orientation,” and “gender identification” to the list of defined hate crimes in the Code. Despite receiving strong support from the State Police for my bill, it was unfortunately defeated in committee. I will try again next year.
Using Out of State College ID for Voting (HB 1495): I introduced a bill that would have allowed college students—who are properly registered to vote in Virginia—to use their college ID’s to vote, even if they attend a college outside of Virginia. This bill addresses a situation that affects some college students in the 48th district: a Virginia resident who is also a Georgetown University student is currently unable to use his or her college ID to vote in Virginia.
The Privileges and Elections Committee shot the bill down, with some members claiming to be concerned that registrars could not verify an out of state college ID. I pointed out that under current law, voters can use a private employee identification card to vote, and those employee ID cards cannot possibly be verified by poll officials. As was clear throughout session, however, committees are not the same as courtrooms. My argument did not carry the day. The bill was laid on the table—killed--by an unrecorded voice vote.
Voter Registration List Maintenance (HB 1496): This bill, much like my hate crimes reporting bill, suggested only a small step: it attempted to codify existing administrative procedures.
HB 1496 would have codified a process currently used by the State Board of Elections (SBE) that seeks to ensure that voters are not purged from the voter rolls unless and until it is clear that they have moved out of state.
My bill addressed an issue which arose during the 2013 gubernatorial election when the SBE attempted to purge almost 40,000 voters from the voter rolls up until Election Day.
The bill successfully made it out of a notoriously difficult Privileges and Elections subcommittee pending a fiscal impact statement demonstrating that the bill would not cost any money to implement. The SBE confirmed that the bill’s costs would be negligible and implementation would be routine. Despite this confirmation, the full Privileges and Elections Committee killed it anyway for reasons unknown and unexplained. I have to admit that this was a particularly frustrating moment this session.
No Excuse Absentee Voting (HB 1497): I introduced a bill that would align Virginia with over 20 other states that currently allow voters to vote prior to Election Day with no excuse. Currently, Virginia law allows voters to vote absentee if the voter has one of the valid excuses that prohibits the voter from voting on Election Day. This process is expensive for registrars and has resulted in a messy, unwieldy Election Code. My bill simply allowed anyone to vote early for any reason. Unfortunately, the bill died in the Privileges and Elections Committee killing fields.
Sexual Assault Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) (HB 1508): In the immediate aftermath of the Rolling Stone article, many members of the General Assembly sought to address the very complex, difficult issue of sexual assault on college campuses. My bill, which I filed along with Senator Barbara Favola on the Senate side, sought to fill an important gap: it required colleges to establish a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a local sexual assault crisis center and develop policies and provide resources and guidance for students who do not want to report an incident on campus.
A good portion of my bill’s language made it into the House bill (HB 1930) that will likely be signed into law.
Observation Status (HB 1509): As I mentioned in last week’s report, the Senate version of my observation status bill (SB 1950) passed the House and made its way onto Governor McAuliffe’s desk. I am confident that the law—which requires hospitals to notify patients that they are receiving care only under observation status, rather than having been admitted to the hospital—will provide patients with the information they need to make informed health care decisions while they are in the hospital.
Net Metering (HB 1622): I also mentioned last week that my net metering bill became part of Delegate McLellan’s net metering bill. I am happy to see her bill—of which I was the Chief Co-Patron—end up on Governor McAuliffe’s desk. This is a small, but important, step toward making Virginia a friendlier place for businesses to develop solar energy.
Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (HB 1728): This bill would have required Virginia to develop an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard.
Energy efficiency is the cheapest, fastest way to comply with the EPA’s upcoming Clean Power rule and would help promote clean energy in Virginia. My bill would have provided financial incentives for utilities to meet these standards, and potential penalties for those that do not.
The bill did not, unfortunately, get out of the Commerce and Labor Committee. This issue is very important to Virginia’s economic and environmental future, and I look forward to working with stakeholders to move the ball forward next year.
Solar Energy Gardens (HB 1729): This bill would have authorized the creation of community solar gardens. The goal was to give homeowners, apartment complexes, and businesses the incentive and ability to invest in solar energy.
The bill generated bipartisan support: I was able to get my old friend from Langley High School, Delegate Randy Minchew, to sign on. In the end, the bill did not get out of the Commerce and Labor Committee. Virginia is going to be moving toward solar energy—at least if I have anything to say about it--and I hope that the timing will be better next year.
Remote Access Land Records (HB 1983): The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) brought a bill to me that would save Virginia $250,000 a year. Of course, it’s the sort of a bill only a lawyer could love: the bill prohibits circuit court clerks from requiring indemnification clauses in contracts for remote access to land records. This bill was the first bill I got to the Governor’s desk this session.
Small Business Tax Relief (HB 2307): I sponsored a bill that will allow certain small businesses—businesses with 5 or fewer employees—to file their withholding taxes once a month, rather than twice a month, if the Virginia Department of Taxation grants a waiver to the small business. The bill’s idea is to reduce unnecessary paperwork and give small businesses flexibility. I was pleased that this bill sailed through both chambers and is now waiting for the Governor’s signature.
Voting Locations (HJ 551): Finally, I introduced a constitutional amendment that would have allowed voters to vote in any precinct in their House of Delegates district. Currently, if a voter votes in the wrong precinct, then the voter is required to submit a provisional ballot, which will ultimately not count. I am a firm believer that we should be making it easier, rather than harder, to vote in Virginia, and my bill would have made it easier for voters that will not be near their precinct on Election Day to cast a valid ballot.
The Privileges and Elections Committee shot the bill down, citing logistical concerns. Inexplicably, and frustratingly, the committee did pass a bill requiring voters to send a copy of their photo ID along with their absentee ballot application, despite the fact that registrars don’t have a database with voter identification cards to check the copy against in order to verify the ID sent with the absentee application. This was just another effort to make it harder to vote; the bill passed the House with me and 33 others voting against it. Disappointing.
Voting Record: I spent this session supporting bills on the floor and in committee that addressed climate change and protected the environment; promoted a new diversified Virginia economy; sought to protect and enhance pre-k, K-12, and higher education; and provided equal access and opportunity to all Virginians regardless of race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. I fought legislation that went against these core values. Please click here to see my voting record this session (just select my name on the drop down delegate tab).
What’s Next: I am looking forward to returning to Arlington and McLean. I will be holding a townhall with Delegate Kathleen Murphy and Senator Barbara Favola at the McLean Community Center at 2 p.m. on Saturday March 7th to talk about the session with you and hear your suggestions and concerns. I look forward to seeing you there.
Thank you again for all your thoughtful emails and letters this session. I enjoyed my time this session working on your behalf.
February 20th Update:
With just 5 days of session left, now is a good time to begin to reflect on the progress we made and challenges we faced this session. As we wrap up session I am hopeful that our work to advance several important issues – redistricting, the environment, and health care—will reap future benefits.
Redistricting: As I’ve mentioned in previous session updates, redistricting reform is one of my priority issues. The Senate passed four bipartisan bills this session with overwhelming support, including the companion bill to my legislation (HB 1485). Unfortunately, the House majority blocked all redistricting bills from consideration in committee, let alone in the chamber at large, prompting extensive criticism in the press for its failure to take action on this very important issue.
I am fortunate to be working with a terrific bipartisan group—One Virginia 2021—on finding commonsense solutions to gerrymandering. I look forward to working with both One Virginia 2021 and my constituents over the next year to devise a strategy that will get much needed redistricting reform through the House next session.
Energy/Environment: I introduced several bills this session to promote and develop the use of renewable energy and enhance energy efficiency in Virginia. While several of these bills did not make it out of committee, I am happy to report that my net metering bill—net metering allows solar producers to sell excess energy generated by their solar panels to utilities who then put the renewable energy into the grid—was incorporated into Delegate McClellan’s (D-Richmond) bill and is now awaiting Governor McAuliffe’s signature.
Over the course of the session I’ve had productive discussions with constituents, fellow lawmakers, and stakeholders about my Energy Efficiency Resource Standard bill. Virginia must require utilities to hit energy efficiency targets, especially with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan regulation being finalized this summer. Energy efficiency is the easiest, cheapest, fastest way to reduce our carbon footprint, and if Virginia wants to remain economically competitive with its neighbors—especially North Carolina—Virginia must stop dragging its heels on this critical issue.
Health Care: I introduced a bill this session that would have required hospitals to notify patients when they are in “observation status,” rather than having been admitted to the hospital. This is a very important issue because a patient’s status has important implications for reimbursement, particularly with Medicare. I was very disappointed to see my bill defeated in committee earlier this session.
But hope springs eternal, especially when a member of the majority party is carrying an identical bill in the Senate. Senator Black patroned a bill essentially identical to mine this year, and it will be before the House next week. I am hopeful it will pass.
Other Legislative News: Earlier this week, the General Assembly addressed a bill which would have legalized the sale or possession with intent to sell of blackjacks, throwing stars, brass knuckles, and other unusual weapons.
On Tuesday, the bill passed, not surprisingly, on a party-line vote. My friend, Delegate Alfonso Lopez, made a compelling speech about why the bill was unwise and reckless, and over the course of the next 24 hours the news media provided extensive coverage of the bill. On Wednesday, the House majority made an unusual motion: they wanted to reconsider Tuesday’s vote. Within minutes, most House Republicans reversed their votes and voted against the bill. I almost got legislative whiplash from the 180 degree turnaround.
Next Week: Session wraps up next week. The House and Senate will continue to consider each other’s bills, and will also iron out any differences during the conference process. Governor McAuliffe will be signing or vetoing bills all week as well.
Thank you again for your emails and phone calls this session. I am honored to be working on your behalf, and will continue to fight for the issues that are important to you after session. Please feel free to email me at email@example.com or call my office at 804-698-1048 if there is anything I can do for you.
February 13th Update:
This was another busy week in Richmond as the House of Delegates cleared two important hurdles: crossover and the budget.
Crossover: Tuesday was the crossover deadline—the date by which the House and Senate are required to finish working on bills originating in their respective chamber. Much like a college student who puts off studying for a final exam until the last moment, we had a lot of work to do before the crossover deadline. On Monday and Tuesday, we voted on over 250 bills and spent over 10 hours on the House floor.
I was fortunate to have another one of my bills (HB 2307) pass the House just before crossover. The bill would give small businesses the flexibility to file withholding taxes once a month, instead of twice a month, if the Tax Department grants a waiver. The bill is now over in the Senate awaiting a hearing by the Senate Finance Committee.
Now that the crossover deadline has passed, my two committees—Finance, and Agriculture, Chesapeake Bay, and Natural Resources—are in the process of considering bills that passed the Senate. We’ve got our work cut out for us to get through numerous Senate bills with only two weeks left in the session.
Budget: The House passed its budget bill yesterday by a vote of 81-18. I was one of the 18 “no” votes, for two reasons. First, the budget doesn’t go far enough to fund important priorities, including health care, education, pre-k and Medicaid expansion. While the House version of the budget does include some new, welcome expenditures, the newly available money is the result of an improving economy and better-than-expected revenues. And many of the new expenditures are targeted at areas and programs the Democratic caucus has been championing for years. But imagine how much better the budget could be if Virginia expanded Medicaid and recaptured the hundreds of millions of our tax dollars that we are sending to Washington, rather than using it here in Virginia to close the coverage gap and create jobs.
Second, the budget includes the Hyde amendment, which prohibits state funding of abortions done because of the fetus'physical deformity or mental deficiency. Virginia can—and must—do better than this year’s House budget.
There is still more work—and opportunity—to improve the budget as the House works with the Senate to conform their respective budgets. I hope to be able to support the budget in its final form.
Redistricting: As many of you know, redistricting is an important issue for me, and has been a hot topic this session, at least in the Senate and on newspaper editorial pages across the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, the House of Delegates has failed to do anything to address Virginia’s systemic gerrymandering of its legislative districts.
In an op-ed I wrote in the Richmond Times Dispatch and Roanoke Times this week with two of my colleagues—Delegate Sam Rasoul and Delegate Jeion Ward—we highlighted the fact that numerous redistricting bills have passed the Senate with bipartisan support, while the House won’t even hear redistricting proposals made by House members.
I participated in a redistricting press conference on Wednesday hosted by One Virginia 2021, at which we shined a spotlight on this issue. You can read about it here.
To make matters worse, the House Privileges and Elections Subcommittee on Elections killed two bipartisan Senate redistricting bills early yesterday morning. One bill--introduced by Senator Lynwood Lewis--would have required the Division of Legislative Services to draw legislative maps rather than legislators. The other bill--introduced by Senator John Miller--would have resulted in a statewide referendum on whether to create an independent redistricting commission. Both bills failed on a party line vote.
Next week the Privileges and Elections Committee will hear Senator John Watkins’ bill, which would require the General Assembly to follow specific non-partisan criteria when drawing the next round of legislative maps. I carried the identical bill in the House (HB 1485). My bill never saw the light of day in the Privileges and Elections Committee, but I remain hopeful that the Committee will give Senator Watkins’ bill a fair hearing.
Climate Change Press Conference: Yesterday I participated in a press conference with the Sierra Club that addressed the role of climate change in rising food prices. Since Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, the press conference used the rising cost of chocolate as the hook to talk about the role of climate change in crop production. You can watch the video here.
Next Week: The House will continue reviewing Senate bills in committee and on the floor next week. As bills pass the Senate and the House they will go to the Governor’s desk. If Senate and House bills are not exactly the same, differences must be ironed out in a conference committee before the bill goes to the Governor’s desk.
The end of session (2/28) is rapidly approaching. If you’d like to visit the Capitol building, want to let me know how you feel about a particular issue, or need any assistance, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at 804-698-1048.
February 6th Update:
With the House of Delegate’s deadline for passing its own bills rapidly approaching, this was the most hectic week of session yet.
Legislative Update: My first bill (HB 1983) passed the House of Delegates on Tuesday. The bill is the type of bill only a lawyer could love: it prohibits the inclusion of an indemnification clause in contracts between state agencies and circuit court clerks for remote access to land records. Governor McAuliffe and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) asked me to carry this bill. While I doubt it will make its way into any of my campaign stump speeches, it addresses an important issue, and will save Virginia over $250,000 a year.
A long-standing ritual in the House of Delegates is that new members are subjected to some good-natured teasing and questioning before their first bill passes the House. My old high school friend, Delegate Randy Minchew, and Minority Leader David Tuscano asked me some rather off-the-wall questions about my bill before it passed.
As for my other bills, my small business tax relief bill (HB 2307) passed out of the full Finance Committee this week and will be voted on by the full House next week. My legislation, which seeks to help address the issue of sexual assault on Virginia’s college and university campuses—HB 1508—by requiring institutions of higher education to establish a memorandum of understanding with local sexual assault crisis centers, was incorporated into one of the omnibus sexual assault bills that is moving through the House right now.
My effort to advance the use of solar power in Virginia, HB 1622, moved forward, as I joined forces with Delegate Jennifer McLellan and merged my bill into hers. I became chief co-patron of Delegate McLellan’s net metering bill (HB 1950) and was happy to see it pass the full Commerce and Labor committee yesterday.
Floor Speech: On Tuesday, I spoke on the House floor about the necessity of developing and promoting the use of clean energy. I emphasized that protecting the environment is a value enshrined in the Virginia Constitution, and is not—or should not be—a partisan issue. To see the speech in its entirety, please click here.
Constituent Meetings: I met with many people from the 48th district this week as groups continue to travel to Richmond for various lobbying days. On Tuesday, for example, I met with folks who came down for Clean Energy Lobbying Day. The timing was perfect, since Clean Energy Lobbying Day happened to coincide with the day that the Commerce and Labor Special Subcommittee on Energy was considering every energy-related bill introduced this session. I also participated in a press conference on Clean Energy Lobbying Day with several members of the House—from both parties—who are working to make progress on addressing climate change, and bringing new clean energy technologies—and jobs—to Virginia.
Next Week: Tuesday is the last day for the House of Delegates to pass its bills. In legislative-speak, the deadline is called “crossover.” For the remainder of the session, the House will consider bills that passed the Senate and the Senate will consider bills that passed the House. We will also soon turn to addressing the budget: no small task.
Thank you for all the calls, letters, and emails. Please feel free to be in touch with me on any issue.
January 30th Update:
With two and a half weeks of this whirlwind session coming to a close, I wanted to send you a quick update on what has been happening down here in Richmond.
Legislative Update: The committee process really picked up steam this week, as 9 of my bills were considered by various committees and subcommittees. I was pleased to get 1 bill out of full committee (HB 1983) this week, and I expect another to get out of committee Monday morning (HB 2307).
One bill—HB 1496—passed out of subcommittee but was derailed, and tabled, by the full Privileges and Elections Committee.
While I experienced some success this week I also had some disappointment. My hate crimes reporting bill (HB 1983) was defeated in subcommittee, despite receiving strong support from the Virginia State Police. For more information on the bill and the hearing, please look at this article.
I am also disappointed to report that it became clear this week that the House Privileges and Elections Committee does not plan to consider any redistricting bills this session. The committee has used several procedural maneuvers to keep my non-partisan redistricting bill (HB 1485) and others like it from even receiving a vote this session. This is an important issue, which needs a full discussion. We cannot allow the majority to simply ignore it. I will renew the fight next year.
Committee Meetings: One of the fun things about being a member of the House of Delegates is that I learn something new every day. This week one of my subcommittees—the House Natural Resources Subcommittee—considered two hunting-related bills that generated over 1000 phone calls and emails to my office.
One bill (HB 2343) would have allowed hunters to feed/bait animals during the hunting season. I think this takes the sport out of hunting and so did my fellow committee members: we unanimously rejected the bill. The other bill (HB 2345) would have reversed a long-standing hunting tradition in Virginia, allowing hunters to retrieve their dogs from someone else’s land while they are hunting. It turns out that this custom dates back to the colonial era. Once again my fellow subcommittee members unanimously shot this bill down.
Constituent Meetings: I continue to meet with many constituent groups that come down to Richmond for lobbying days. This week I met with students from Marymount University, Northern Virginia taxi drivers, members from the Virginia tourism association and many others. If you’d like to schedule a meeting or tour the Virginia Capitol email me at email@example.com or call me at 804-698-1048.
Next Week: We will continue to move ahead at an amazing velocity next week. All of my energy-related legislation (HB 1622, HB 1729, and HB 1730) will be considered by the House Commerce and Labor Committee on Tuesday. Tuesday is also Clean Energy Lobbying Day, and I will be meeting with various groups that are interested in seeing my legislation move forward.
January 23rd Update:
On January 14th I began my first regular session as a member of the House of Delegates. So far it has been an interesting, challenging experience. I still haven’t learned how to be in three places at once, but I have heard that’s something members figure out during their second session.
I am writing to you today—and will on each subsequent Friday during session—to give you an update on everything I’ve been doing while representing you in the General Assembly.
Committee Assignments: Speaker Howell placed me on two committees this session: the House Finance Committee and the House Agriculture, Chesapeake Bay, and Natural Resources Committee. Both committees give me an opportunity to work on issues vital to the 48th district. The Finance Committee takes up tax legislation that create incentives for Virginia industries to invest in Virginia. The Agriculture, Chesapeake Bay, and Natural Resources Committee handles many issues near and dear to my heart, including legislation that protects Virginia’s forests, waterways, and parks.
Governor McAuliffe’s State of the Commonwealth Speech: Governor McAuliffe gave a terrific speech to the General Assembly on the first day of session—which he managed to do with 7 broken ribs and a punctured lung—outlining his administration’s legislative agenda. The Governor focused on growing a new Virginia economy based on economic and social policies that will attract companies to invest in Virginia. I look forward to helping move Governor McAuliffe’s agenda forward in the House of Delegates.
Constituent Meetings: I have had the pleasure of meeting with many constituents from the 48th district in my Richmond office over the last week and a half. I look forward to meeting many more over the next five weeks. If you would like to meet with me in Richmond or schedule a tour of the Capitol please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Update on My Legislation: I have introduced 15 bills and 3 resolutions (so far) this session. The legislative process is beginning to take off now, with subcommittees and committees sending (or not sending) bills to be voted on the House floor. I was disappointed this morning when the House Finance Committee voted to table my renewable energy property tax credit bill (HB 1728). Virginia is losing too many renewable energy projects--and potential jobs--to our neighboring states, particularly North Carolina, and it is about time we begin taking the steps necessary to make Virginia competitive in this growing, vital sector. I will keep fighting for this bill next year.
I have 3 bills being considered by various subcommittees on Monday. One particularly important bill that will be taken up on Monday (HB 1494) adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identification” to the list of hate crimes that the Virginia State Police are required to report to the FBI. The fact is that Virginia law enforcement already collects this data, so it’s about time that the Virginia code recognize that hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity occur. Two other bills I am patroning, HJ 551 and HB 1983, will also be considered on Monday.
I will update you all on the status of my legislation in each weekly update. If you are interested in learning more about my bills you can read about them here: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?151+mbr+H269C