March 10, 2018 Update
What a week. We had stop-and-start sessions as the House and Senate worked to reconcile their bills, which made the days longer than usual as we tried to wrap up our legislative business before adjournment today. We were more successful on some efforts than others.
Budget: Unfortunately, the House and Senate were unable to resolve their budget disagreement due in large part to the debate over Medicaid expansion – which is included in the House but not the Senate budget. The General Assembly will have to reconvene in a Special Session in the next couple of months once budget conferees work out their differences.
Metro funding: As a conferee on the Metro funding bill, I understood that failure was not an option. We had to reach $154 million in funding to fulfill Virginia’s portion of the $500 million that the Metro system needs. For every dollar that Virginia funded Metro below $154 million, D.C. and Maryland would have dropped their funding levels by their proportionate amount.
The Metro system is not only an asset to Northern Virginia, but to the entire Commonwealth. It enables us to attract and retain businesses and workers, support tourism in the region, and allow people to get to work and school in a more environmentally friendly and efficient way. For example, the tourism dollars from a family staying in Rosslyn, visiting the Iwo Jima Memorial, and eating at a local restaurant – of which there are many great spots in the 48th District – don’t just stay in Northern Virginia, but help to fund public schools in Southwest Virginia.
The conference bill is not perfect, but we reached the much-needed $154 million funding level that was in my original bill, thus signaling to our regional partners that it’s time they do their part to fund Metro.
BYOB Bill: I am happy to report that my BYOB bill, HB 1520, was signed into law on Monday, March 5 by Governor Northam. Virginia neighborhood swim clubs have a long-standing summer tradition of members bringing a picnic dinner to the club, perhaps including a beer or a bottle of wine. For decades, community swim club members throughout Virginia believed they were well within the law. But it was recently discovered that they – and I – had been breaking the law the whole time. The problem has now officially been solved, and I for one cannot wait to try out this newly legal activity.
Gun Safety: This week, Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott signed into law a version of my bill, HB 198, to create Violent Threat Restraining Orders in his state in response to the recent massacre in Parkland. Marco Rubio, the National Review, and even Mike Pence support the idea. Meanwhile, in Virginia, no action was taken on my HB 198, which would create a risk warrant procedure just like the new procedure in Florida. When I called on Republican leaders to bring up my bill, they claimed it was too late. Yet this past Monday, a Republican Senator introduced a bill related to drugs in animal shelters, which passed today. Four days. In response, I issued a press release, linked here, calling out Republicans for their inaction on a bipartisan measure that has the potential to save lives in Virginia.
Resolutions: I introduced several resolutions honoring outstanding people and organizations this session. I recommend taking a moment to read the linked resolution text if you have a moment to learn more.
- HJ 251 Celebrating the life of Senta Amon Raizen.
- HR 68 Celebrating the life of Abraham Alfred Raizen.
- HJ 354 Commending the McLean High School band.
- HJ 355 Commending the McLean High School boys' tennis team.
- HJ 356 Commending the McLean High School Highlander marching band.
- HJ 357 Commending The Highlander.
- HJ 359 Commending the Longfellow Middle School Rubik's Cube team.
- HJ 360 Commending the Longfellow Middle School Science Olympiad team.
- HJ 382 Commending Reuse and Replay.
- HJ 383 Commending Justin Young.
- HJ 384 Commending Melanie Pincus.
- HJ 471 Commending Allison Stocks.
- HJ 472 Commending Wheels to Africa.
- HJ 475 Celebrating the life of Irving Comer.
- HJ 476 Celebrating the life of Patrick William McDonough.
- HR 131 Commending the Honorable Robert H. Brink.
Photos from this week:
Former Speaker of the House Bill Howell visited us this week to receive a commending resolution, and spoke on the floor:
We had a visit from Lucy, our favorite Capitol Police dog:
It has been a successful session this year so far, but with a Special Session coming soon, be sure to stay posted for further updates. For now, we are adjourned Sine Die.
March 2, 2018 Update
It has been a very busy week. With just six days remaining in the 2018 session – we are scheduled to adjourn on March 10 – the General Assembly is embroiled in the process of determining how similar House and Senate bills can be reconciled through floor amendments or conference committees. We had a marathon day on Wednesday because the House and Senate each had to stop and start session several times, to communicate back and forth about whether one chamber’s version of its bill would be accepted by the other.
Metro bill: As I had hoped, I was named Wednesday to be one of three House conferees – the only Democrat – on the Metro funding bill. There are two very complex bills that need to be reconciled in conference. Failure is simply not an option on an issue this critical to Virginia’s economy and transportation infrastructure. Funding sources and levels are two of the most contentious topics we have to find a way to agree on, but I am confident that we can achieve a bipartisan solution ensuring Virginia finally provides a much-needed dedicated funding stream for Metro. Washington D.C.’s and Maryland’s legislators are waiting for Virginia to act first, so the pressure is on.
Gun Safety: Even more Republicans have come out in support of the idea behind my bill, HB 198, which would create “risk warrants” in Virginia to keep guns out of the hands of people found by a judge to be a risk to themselves or others. Since my last report to you, a number of Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio, Florida Governor Rick Scott, and even Vice President Mike Pence have come out in support of risk warrant bills, which are sometimes called Gun Violence Restraining Orders or Emergency Risk Protection Orders.
I participated Thursday in a gun safety press conference with a large group of my Democratic colleagues, where we highlighted a number of bills that were stymied by Republicans in subcommittee early in the session. That was before the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that has since galvanized public support for immediate action on gun safety. There is still time before we adjourn to take up bills like HB 198, which has not yet received a subcommittee assignment, let alone a hearing. We implored our Republican colleagues to join us to take action on gun safety before we adjourn for the year. As I noted in my remarks, “inaction is indifference” and “complacency is complicity.” The time to act is now, and lives are at stake.
Black History Month: I spoke on the House floor Monday about Arlington County’s first African-American police officer, Irving Comer, who passed away last November. He was a trailblazer for black law enforcement officers in Arlington and made lasting and important contributions to our community.
It was a privilege to meet with several members of his family, including his mother and two daughters, before and after the speech – they all received a lengthy and well-deserved standing ovation from the House of Delegates following the speech. To view the tribute to Officer Comer, click here. To read the transcript of the speech, click here.
Great as always to catch up with my friend Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax:
I also had the opportunity to meet with the smart, passionate young women of “Girls for a Change.”
Stay tuned for updates next week – the last six days of the 2018 session will be action-packed.
February 23, 2018 Update
This week was action-packed, highlighted by passage of Medicaid expansion in the House budget. Voters made their message clear last November and, for once, it appears Republicans were listening. The expansion is limited, and the Senate is not yet on board, but it’s a start. It was an historic day.
Here is the vote board for the budget bill:
BYOB Bill: I am happy to report that my BYOB bill, HB 1520, passed the Senate this week and is awaiting Governor Northam’s signature. Virginia neighborhood swim clubs have a long-standing summer tradition of members bringing a picnic dinner to the club, perhaps including a beer or a bottle of wine. For decades, community swim club members throughout Virginia believed they were well within the law. But it was recently discovered that they – and I – had been breaking the law the whole time.
My bill will fix this anomaly in ABC law, and permit members to BYOB to their swim clubs.
Gun Safety: After last week’s tragedy in Parkland, Florida, the national conversation has shifted markedly on gun safety. David French, a senior editor at the conservative National Review, wrote a piece titled “A Gun-Control Measure Conservatives Should Consider” supporting the idea at the heart of my bill, HB 198, which would create a risk warrant in Virginia. Soon after, A. Barton Hinkle of the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote a column, “A gun-control proposal that protects gun rights,” that echoed French’s call for reform through bills like HB 198.
On Wednesday night, Senator Marco Rubio said at that remarkable CNN town hall in Broward County: "I've already announced ... a concept called a gun violence restraining order that allows authorities – and it has to be someone in your immediate family, it has to be somebody you live with, it has to be a parent, it has to be an administrator – can go to authorities and allow someone to not just be prevented from purchasing any firearm and allow those to be taken from them – and the person will have due process," he said. "I support that and I hope they will pass that."
Just an hour ago, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) endorsed the idea as well. He calls it a "Violent Threat Restraining Order."
Conservatives are finally beginning to recognize the potential of bills like HB 198 to save lives. But time is running out – the 2018 session will adjourn on March 10. I hope that if my bill is not considered this year, Republicans will at least come to the table for a meaningful discussion on gun safety so we can pass HB 198 next session. Inaction is not an option.
I also want to recognize the efforts of the students who participated in Wednesday’s walkout at McLean High School and H.B. Woodlawn and those who attended vigils – including Friday’s gathering outside of NRA headquarters in Fairfax – in response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The solidarity, eloquence, determination, passion, and civic mindedness that these young people have shown gives us all hope for the future.
Budget: Thursday the House first considered amendments, and then passed the budget bills, HB 29 and HB 30. It is not a perfect budget, but its inclusion of Medicaid expansion, raises for state employees, and increases in K-12 funding, among many other positives, drew an interesting bipartisan 68 votes in the House. The House budget will now go to conference with the Senate version, which passed that chamber on Thursday.
The budget contains some, though not enough, funding for Metro. Metro is vital to the economy of the entire Commonwealth, and we simply must solve the dedicated funding issue. Moreover, as I noted in this Washington Post article, “Surely we will not get the Amazon headquarters if we allow Metro to wither on the vine.” Fully funding Metro means fully supporting economic growth in Virginia for decades to come. It is my hope to serve as a conferee as the House and Senate reconcile their respective Metro funding bills in conference.
This week I had the pleasure of meeting with constituents who are members of the Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
I also met with Langley High School students Adam Mafi and Lauren Lewis:
Two weeks to go. Two important weeks. Stay tuned.
February 16, 2018 Update
Crossover: This week kicked off with a rush to finish consideration of all House bills before “Crossover” on Tuesday. Crossover is the day by which all House and Senate bills must be acted on by their respective chambers (except for budget bills). The approximate half-way mark of the 2018 session provides an opportunity to reflect on the effect last November’s stunning results have had on the House of Delegates.
As I have said over and over this session, “everything is different, but nothing has changed.” The Republicans continue to use their 51-49 “mandate” (they actually use that word – no kidding! A mandate built on a drawing by lot and a calamitous election day mistake…) to kill good Democratic bills at will, just as they’ve done for years. We are, however, beginning to see the power of 49. This year we didn’t see bathroom bills, 20-week abortion bills, or other similarly outrageous bills. The Republicans might be continuing to shoot down our good ideas, but they seem to at last be acknowledging that some of theirs are far too extreme for Virginia.
Even other terrible bills that Republican members did introduce, and passed out of committees, were pulled from the floor by Republican leadership before the majority had to embarrass itself and cast votes for clearly unpopular and misguided bills. Bills that would allow guns in places of worship, for example, and allow application for a concealed carry permit by mail, were ultimately killed because Republicans recognized the potential consequences.
There still have been some of the awful votes we are used to seeing from the Republican majority. They refused, for instance, to change the House rules to prohibit guns in the gallery of the House. And they passed that silly “sanctuary city” bill – despite there being no sanctuary cities in Virginia.
Old habits die hard.
My bills: I was pleased when a bill I co-patroned (HB 793) and worked hard on with its patron, Delegate Roxann Robinson (R-Chesterfield), passed the House of Delegates on Monday. The bill would lift a number of unnecessary restrictions on Nurse Practitioners and allow them to practice to the full extent of their training, and lead to increased access to health care across the Commonwealth.
Two of my bills passed the House unanimously, HB 1451 and HB 1520. The first would create a pilot program to enable public schools that produce more energy than they consume – like Arlington’s zero energy Discovery School – to credit the value of that energy back to other public schools in the same district. The second would preserve members’ ability to “BYOB” at private swim clubs, a time-honored Virginia summer tradition. HB 1520 was successfully reported out of the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee this morning.
Unfortunately, most of my legislative agenda was thwarted by Republicans in subcommittees. From implementing redistricting reform to promoting renewable energy to making voting easier, my bills reflected many of the principles on which Democrats ran and won last November. If the majority won’t listen to Virginians on the issues most important to them, we need a new party in the majority.
Gun safety: On Wednesday morning I issued a press release taking the Republicans to task for refusing to even hold hearings on a number of gun safety bills. Just hours later, a gunman with an AR-15 killed 17 people and wounded dozens more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Another heartbreaking day. This marks the 18th school shooting in 2018. Thoughts and prayers are simply not enough. It is time for action, and I will keep fighting until we pass gun safety laws that make Virginia safer.
HB 1558: One of the most complex and controversial bills this session is HB 1558, also known as “the Dominion bill.” The bill has come a long way from when it was first introduced by Delegate Terry Kilgore. For example, the Ratepayer Impact Measure (RIM) test for energy efficiency projects is likely to be eliminated if HB 1558 becomes law. The RIM test has too often been used by the State Corporation Commission to reject energy efficiency programs that would create energy savings for ratepayers. I introduced a bill this session, HB 964, which I have been pushing since I came to the House of Delegates, which would have thrown out the RIM test. I am glad to see that this important concept was incorporated into the Dominion bill.
In a massive win for Democrats, Democratic Leader David Toscano introduced an amendment on the House floor that put significant checks on Dominion’s power – six Republicans joined all 49 Democrats to support the amendment. The amendment would prohibit Dominion from “double dipping” to boost profits, a major blow to Dominion, a company not used to losing votes like that. Again, the power of 49.
Metro funding: As I noted last week, my bill to provide a reliable funding stream for Metro was killed in favor of a Republican version with reduced funding. That bill, HB 1539, remains a work in progress, so I supported it when it came up for a vote on Tuesday in order to enable the House (and hopefully me) to have a seat at the table when the bill goes to conference. I look forward to helping craft the final bill and will keep you posted on its progress.
Photos from this week:
The Sweet 16 – all of the Democratic freshmen:
The women of the House Democratic Caucus:
The full House Democratic Caucus – 49 strong!
Visiting with my friend John Fant, who serves on the Board of Supervisors of Grayson County:
Meeting with Nancy White and Carly Kelly of the Arlington Free Clinic:
2018 Governor’s Fellow Program: Yesterday, Governor Northam launched the Governor’s Fellows Program for 2018. The program offers graduate students, rising college seniors, and graduating college seniors the opportunity to experience firsthand the administration of state government in the Commonwealth. The deadline to apply is March 18, 2018. If you know anyone who might be interested, click here for more information.
February 9, 2018 Update
This week was a busy one – I presented four different bills to five different committees. I began with HB 205 at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning at a House Privileges and Elections subcommittee meeting. HB 205 would have laid out specific criteria by which the General Assembly would draw legislative and congressional district maps in case the current map is found to be unconstitutional by a federal court currently considering the question in a case named Bethune-Hill. It is possible we will have to redraw several districts – and hold special elections – this year. In that event, HB 205 would control. Importantly, the bill would forbid the use of political data. The bill was tabled indefinitely (killed) 4-2, but I will not stop fighting for redistricting reform in the House of Delegates until we have district maps that empower voters, not silence them.
On Thursday morning I presented my Metro funding bill to the House Committee on Transportation. HB 1319 would provide a dedicated, bondable funding stream for Metro, and make meaningful reforms. There were dozens of supporters from across Virginia in attendance, and Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine even noted in her remarks to the committee that Metro is the top transportation priority for the Northam Administration. Notably, the Senate Metro funding bill, which is identical to mine, is on the move, having been reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday evening.
My HB 1319, however, was ultimately rolled into Delegate Tim Hugo’s HB 1539, a bill that would not only drastically reduce the amount of funding allocated for Metro, but also change the mechanisms by which those funds are collected. While it is frustrating that the Republicans killed my bill despite the massive amount of stakeholder input it included, I am hopeful that their reporting of HB 1539 to the House Appropriations Committee is a sign that the majority understands the importance of Metro to Virginia and its economy. It appears that the issue is how much and how to fund Metro, not whether to do so at all, so I look forward to engaging on this subject moving forward, shepherding the Senate version in the House, and ensuring that a sustainable, smart solution is reached this session.
Thursday afternoon was more successful. My bill, HB 1451, passed 20-0 out of the House Commerce and Labor Committee. HB 1451 would create a pilot program to enable public schools that produce more energy than they consume – like Arlington’s zero energy Discovery School – to credit the value of that energy back to other public schools in the same district. This would not only incentivize school systems to become more energy efficient and install renewable energy sources, but would also save school districts (and taxpayers) money on energy bills.
For those who are tracking the session from home, the floor schedule next Monday and Tuesday will be packed, and will begin at 10 am instead of noon. Tuesday, February 13th, is called “Crossover” – it is the day by which all House and Senate bills must be acted on by their respective chambers (except for budget bills). Then, starting next Wednesday, the House and Senate will begin considering all of the bills that the other chamber has passed.
That’s all for this week. Stay tuned for further updates, and thank you for reading.
February 2, 2018 Update
This week kicked off early Monday morning (7:00 a.m.) with my presentation of HB199 to a House Education Subcommittee. HB199 would create the Digital Citizenship, Internet Safety, and Media Literacy Council within the State Superintendent of Schools’ Office, to focus on how we ensure our students can safely navigate the pitfalls and opportunities of the internet, and equip them with the skills to separate online fact from fiction. The bill was successfully reported out of the subcommittee on Monday and the House Education Committee on Wednesday. The Appropriations Committee still awaits…
Tuesday was packed with legislative action – I had ten bills up for consideration in three different committees, plus I led a gun safety press conference with my colleagues in the House Democratic Caucus. At the press conference I spoke about a bill I have introduced with Delegate Chris Hurst, HB198, which I consider more of a mental health/suicide prevention bill than a gun bill. The bill would allow concerned family members and individuals close to a gun owner whom they believe to be a risk to himself (or others) to go to a Commonwealth’s Attorney or law enforcement officer and request that they seek a “risk warrant” from a circuit court. The Commonwealth’s Attorney or law enforcement officer would then go before a judge to ask for a risk warrant to authorize temporary removal of the person’s firearms. The gun owner could then, if he or she so chooses, appeal the judge’s ruling, ensuring there is always full due process. Click here for coverage of the event by Richmond’s local NPR station and here for the press release by the House Democratic Caucus.
The majority of bills I presented on Tuesday were related to promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy in Virginia. While most of the bills were unfortunately killed in a Commerce and Labor Subcommittee, I was impressed by how far the conversation surrounding these issues has progressed since I first came to the General Assembly. During the same hearing at which I presented my bills, Delegate Terry Kilgore spoke on a bill he introduced to repeal the Dominion Power rate freeze. A sizeable portion of his argument for the bill highlighted its requirements that utilities invest in renewable energy and improved efficiency. While the bill’s details are still being negotiated, and I am a long way from being able to support it, I will continue to push for the inclusion of meaningful language which will propel Virginia forward on 21st Century energy issues.
On Friday afternoon, I presented to a House Courts of Justice Subcommittee a bill, HB522, that would protect victims of sexual assault from prosecution for underage drinking or drug use they engaged in at the time of the attack. Other states including Texas, Indiana, and Wisconsin have similar legislation to provide some form of a “safe harbor” for sexual assault victims to address fears of “getting in trouble” with police for underage drinking or drug use if they come forward. The bill was killed in subcommittee, but I am committed to fighting for survivors of sexual assault moving forward.
I had a number of great groups visit this week, including folks from a variety of Chambers of Commerce from Northern Virginia, the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.
Feel free to write, call, or come by as the session continues to accelerate.
January 26, 2018 Update
As expected, the temperature and the pace turned up in Richmond this week. The days are long, packed with subcommittee and committee hearings, floor session, constituent meetings, press conferences, and more. With just two and a half weeks until “crossover” – when the House sends to the Senate all the bills it has passed and vice-versa – there are still hundreds of bills that must be considered in subcommittee, including must-pass items related to Metro funding and Medicaid expansion. I am carrying the Metro funding bill in the House. That one will be, pardon the pun, a wild ride.
Bill Updates: Several of my bills were considered this week, including one (HB 204) that would allow localities to “benchmark” commercial buildings’ energy efficiency, and another that would create a tax credit for renewable energy property (HB 54). Both were killed in subcommittee, but the broader conversations about energy are getting more thoughtful as more members of both parties have come to understand the importance of passing legislation to boost renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Press Conferences: I participated in two press conferences this week. The first was on Monday, January 22. As you may recall, last year Republicans in the House passed a partisan resolution calling for January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, to be designated as the “Day of Tears,” and for Virginians to fly their flags at half-mast. This year, I was proud to stand with my female Democratic colleagues in the House as they presented the Caucus agenda on issues important to women, including Delegate Fowler’s resolution re-designating January 22 as the “Day of Women.”
A special thank you to Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, who highlighted a bill I have introduced (HB 522) that would protect those reporting a sexual assault from prosecution for underage drinking, public intoxication, or drug use. You can watch the press conference here.
On Thursday, I emceed the Democratic Caucus press conference on education issues. I spoke briefly about my own bill (HB 199) that focuses on how we prepare our students to navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of the internet and social media, and then introduced several of my colleagues, who presented their respective pieces of the Democratic agenda on education. You can view the full press conference here.
Constituent Visits: Thank you to all my constituents who stopped by this week to discuss their legislative priorities, including Caroline Tornquist, an H-B Woodlawn senior who will serve this year as the Speaker for the Model General Assembly in March, and the fabulous women of the Equal Rights Coalition.
Feel free to write, call, or come by as the session continues to accelerate.
January 19, 2018 Update
The streets are not the only thing frozen in Richmond – this week was an unusually slow one in the House of Delegates. Recounts, lawsuits, and elections won by chance delayed the start of our business. And between cancellations due to snow here in Richmond, and many bills not yet being assigned to subcommittees, Delegates and staff are eager to finally get into the full swing of things.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Believe it or not, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is the day on which pro-gun and gun safety activists come to Richmond to lobby lawmakers. As a strong supporter of gun safety reform in the General Assembly, I was heartened to see the massive crowd that attended the 26th Annual Vigil and Advocacy Day to end gun violence. We heard powerful speeches from family members of victims of gun violence, different faith groups, Governor Ralph Northam, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, and Attorney General Mark Herring. Frustratingly, a Senate Committee killed a slew of common sense gun safety bills that very morning, but the message from rally attendees was clear – we are not losing hope and we are not giving up. I have introduced two gun safety bills this session, HB198 and HB629, and I plan to push hard for these and all bills that will make Virginia a safer place.
Governor Northam’s Address: Over just a few days, we have had the privilege of hearing from both the 72nd and 73rd Governors of the Commonwealth of Virginia. On Monday evening, newly sworn-in Governor Northam addressed a joint meeting of the General Assembly. He reiterated his agenda, including his G3 program (short for “Get Skilled, Get a Job, and Give Back”), Medicaid expansion, environmental protection, and criminal justice reform.
The following day, Majority Leader Delegate Todd Gilbert delivered the Republican response to Governor Northam’s speech, and it was both bitter and partisan. Claiming the Governor’s speech was too partisan (one wonders if he had listened to any of candidate-Northam’s campaign speeches), Del. Gilbert waived a piece of paper on which he claimed to have a list of “twenty things” that the GOP had “just thought of this morning” on which the two parties could find common ground. I look forward to the day when he actually reads that list for Virginia citizens to hear.
Committee Assignments: I will be serving on the same committees on which I have served since first being elected: the Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources and the Committee on Finance. The Agriculture Committee handles bills related to a vast array of topics from battlefield properties to endangered species to stormwater management. Click here for a full list of the bills referred to this committee. The Finance Committee is tasked with all tax-related bills. One of my bills, HB54, which would provide a tax credit for the purchase of renewable energy property, has been assigned to this committee for consideration. Click here for a full list of bills that will be voted on by the Committee on Finance.
Next week will likely be much busier, so stay tuned for further updates.
January 12, 2018 Update
The 2018 General Assembly session began a bit slowly this year, as Delegates, Senators and staff had to figure out where everything is in our new location, the Pocahontas Building. Come visit us, but be prepared to have to wander a bit to find me!
On Wednesday, we welcomed nineteen new Delegates, including sixteen Democrats. Considering the House Democratic Caucus was a merry band of just thirty-four last year, having rocketed to forty-eight fellow Democrats is a remarkable and exciting new experience. And full of potential. There were also several other significant firsts. On Wednesday: the first transgender lawmaker, Delegate Danica Roem; the first openly gay woman, Delegate Dawn Adams; the first Latina Delegates, Delegates Hala Ayala and Elizabeth Guzman; and the first Asian-American woman, Delegate Kathy Tran, were all sworn in.
The House also now includes a record twenty-eight women. This is an important milestone toward gender equality in the Commonwealth, and as a copatron of two bills – HJ2 and HJ4 – that would ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, I am hopeful that we can finally make real progress on these critical issues.
Governor Terry McAuliffe’s State of the Commonwealth Speech: Governor McAuliffe gave his final State of the Commonwealth speech to the General Assembly on Wednesday evening. He reflected on his Administration’s many achievements over the last four years, including reforming Standards of Learning (SOL) testing, taking executive action to reduce carbon emissions, restoring voting rights for felons, and attracting business to the Commonwealth. He urged legislators to move forward with bipartisanship and civility to continue making progress in Virginia, noting that work still needs to be done on Medicaid expansion, gun safety, and more.
House of Delegates’ Rules: As I have personally experienced in past sessions, bills on subjects ranging from redistricting reform to energy efficiency have too often been quietly killed in subcommittees without recorded votes. This year, leaders of the House Democratic Caucus negotiated changes to the rules that will increase transparency and accountability in the House. We will finally have recorded votes in both subcommittees and committees so Virginians can see how their representatives voted on the issues important to them, and committees and subcommittees will finally have proportional representation to better reflect the will of Virginia voters.
My Legislative Package: I expect to have a very busy session, having introduced twenty bills (and counting…). Many reflect priorities that I have pushed in past sessions, such as implementing nonpartisan redistricting reform, making it easier to vote, promoting energy efficiency, and reducing gun violence. I am carrying the Administration’s bill to provide a dedicated – and desperately needed – funding stream for Metro. Additionally, I introduced a bill that would create a Digital Citizenship, Internet Safety, and Media Literacy Advisory Council. A 2016 Stanford study found that "when it comes to evaluating information that flows through social media channels, [students] are easily duped." My bill would establish a Council to help our State Superintendent of Schools develop best practices to help students learn to distinguish fact from fiction online. Finally, I authored a bill that would create a “safe harbor” for sexual assault survivors and witnesses who were underage drinking or using illegal drugs at the time of an attack – no twenty-year-old woman, for example, should fear reporting an assault to the police because of potential prosecution for underage drinking. For a full list of all the legislation I introduced this session please click here.
Inauguration Ceremony: I am very much looking forward to Governor-Elect Ralph Northam’s swearing in ceremony tomorrow. He has been an outstanding Lieutenant Governor and I know he will be a terrific Governor. Governor-Elect Northam is wasting no time working to fulfill his campaign promises. Just this week, he demanded that President Trump not permit offshore drilling in Virginia, and joined Governor McAuliffe in releasing a series of legislative priorities that include Medicaid expansion and greenhouse gas regulation. You can read the full list here.
Visiting My Office in Richmond: I am always happy to meet with constituents while in session, whether you’re coming by about a specific topic or bill, in the area for vacation, or just want to say hello. My office in the Pocahontas Building is Room E220 – if you would like to schedule an appointment ahead of time, please email DelRSullivan@house.virginia.
Stay tuned for further updates every Friday.