Trump’s Actions Affect Virginia
The new President’s chaotic first ten days in office are being felt in Virginia. First, the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a replacement would mean 400,000 Virginians would lose their insurance, and Virginia could lose 50,000 jobs. Second, the president’s announced hiring freeze will have one of its greatest impacts on Virginia, as our state has a high level of federal employment. These are bad enough, but what has set off the largest firestorm is his Executive Order last weekend, which effectively creates a Muslim ban on travel from seven majority-Muslim countries. We have had several “morning hour” speeches on the floor of the House discussing the analogies between this Muslim ban and what happened to Jews in World War II. Thousands of Jews who sought refuge were turned away from this and other countries and forced to return to Europe, where many were subsequently killed. This is a sad part of our history that no one wants to repeat. Many Syrian refugees caught up in the Executive Order have already gone through an extensive vetting process and could conceivably come to this country but for the Executive Order.
What does this have to do with Virginia?
First, many Virginia families have relatives who are legally in this country but could be caught up in detentions arising from this order. Second, many Virginia businesses meet with and work with people from Muslim countries who may now be unable to come to this country and generate economic activity in our state. Finally, we have many students and faculty members from majority-Muslim countries who also might be affected by the ban. I drafted a letter to the president and asked my colleagues to provide input and sign it. Only the Democrats and no Republican in the House were willing to sign what is arguably a very measured petition.
Action and the Opioid Epidemic
On a positive note, a high level of bipartisanship emerged with our efforts to address the opioid problem. It has become a national and a Virginia epidemic. In 2015, 880 Virginians died from opioid-induced overdoses. Preliminary figures for 2016 indicate deaths have increased to 1,100. At more than three deaths per day, this is more than the total number of Virginians killed in auto accidents each year. The tragedy in this is that many people become addicted without even knowing it, and that addiction can lead to death. The House passed seventeen bills, all of which are designed to address this problem without criminalizing people, in the absence of criminal activity, who become addicts.
DNA Collection Study
My resolution to study expanded collection of DNA in criminal cases, HJ711, is headed to the Crime Commission for possible study. HJ711 requests the Commission to conduct an inquiry about whether to expand the number of misdemeanor convictions for which DNA samples would be taken. This arises out of the Hannah Graham case. Jesse Matthew, the murderer in this case, might have been located earlier had DNA been taken at a point where he was convicted of a misdemeanor offense years earlier. If this had occurred, he never would have met Hannah Graham in 2014. I was honored to meet with the Graham family in my office last week. As a result of their efforts, the Speaker of the House has penned a letter to the Crime Commission with a strong recommendation that they take up HJ711 for study. I will report to you later on the results of this effort.
I continue my advocacy on behalf of the redistricting reform initiatives. Republicans in the House have done all they can to prevent even a vote on the House floor on these matters, and we will continue to advocate to change a system that is operating at present in a way that has representatives choosing their constituents rather than the other way around.
Supporting Public Education
I continue to fight for increasing teacher salaries and providing more monies for K-12 in the budget. We will have a full floor debate on those issues next week.
We Welcome Visitors and Input
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, our office is in Room 614 of the General Assembly Building.