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.