We’ve hit the mid-point of session, marked by what we call “crossover,” the day that all bills from one body cross over to the other in order to be considered. Many of the most heavily-contested bills arrive on this day, leading to long hours and fierce debates.
My primary focus continues to be passing legislation to help build the New Virginia Economy. That means pushing bills that spur job creation and that provide Virginians a much-needed raise. It also means supporting investments in education at all levels. We have made progress in some areas, but not in others. For example, House Republicans killed efforts to increase the minimum wage, expand paid family leave, and to address the student debt crisis. The House’s proposed budget, however, does include needed increases in salaries for law enforcement officers and state police. Since it doesn’t yet include specific allocations for teachers or university faculty, our fight to raise their pay is not over.
A Social Agenda
The House continues to pass socially-divisive bills, including measures to defund Planned Parenthood, allow lawsuits against Sanctuary Cities that wish to be more hospitable to immigrants, make it easier for citizens to carry weapons in more places without a permit, and place greater restrictions on voting. If these bills also pass the Senate, a number of them will likely be vetoed by the Governor.
Undermining the Executive Branch
In an affront to James Madison and the concept of separation of powers, both the Senate and House passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow committees of the General Assembly to suspend or nullify regulations enacted by the executive branch. Constitutional Amendments are required to pass in two successive sessions before they are placed on the ballot for voters to ratify, so this debate will continue.
Redistricting Reform Rejected
The major disappointment to date is the failure to enact redistricting reform. The closest we came in the House was an amendment I offered to a bill that would have included language that says redistricting should not be done for political reasons or to advantage or disadvantage a certain candidate. You can see a video of my efforts here. That proposal was defeated on a party-line vote. The proposed Constitutional Amendments promoting redistricting reform in the House were all defeated in subcommittee. Several measures have passed the Senate, so we will have another opportunity. We want a vote on redistricting on the House floor so that everyone can see where their legislator stands on this critical issue. For more information on efforts to bring nonpartisan redistricting to the Commonwealth, contact OneVirginia2021.
Solar is a Bright Spot
Some progress has been made on the solar energy front. Several bills were passed to allow more flexibility on solar energy development on farms and at colleges in southwest Virginia. In my view, we are not moving fast enough, and I will continue to push for initiatives such as my bill (HB1800) that would have expanded the use of power purchase agreements to generate more solar energy.
Among my bills that have passed the House and moved to the Senate is an initiative to expand the number of people allowed to participate in the Address Confidentiality Program (HB2217). This program is designed to protect victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, stalking, and trafficking from having their addresses published; in that way, they can maintain greater anonymity from their abusers. The House also passed two of my bills which involved adoption proceedings: one measure makes funds available for families who have adopted children with special needs, even after the child has turned eighteen years of age (HB2215), while the other provides more certainty to fathers in the adoption process (HB2216). I will continue to advance measures to promote adoption in Virginia. Finally, my resolution requesting a study on expanding the use of DNA to exonerate the innocent and prosecute the guilty is headed to the Crime Commission for consideration (HJ711).
For those of you interested in seeing any of my recent floor speeches, you can view them all on Facebook. And, I welcome and appreciate feedback from my constituents. To comment on any legislation, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or feel free to call my office in Richmond during the General Assembly session at (804) 698-1057. If you are in Richmond during the session (only 2 more weeks), our office is in Room 614 of the General Assembly Building.