The 2019 Session Is Upon Us
Since my election to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2005, my goal has always been to serve this region with honesty and integrity while pushing the progressive measures which reflect this community’s values. For all of this time, Democrats have been in the minority in the House, with the result that many of the initiatives our region supports have not yet been adopted. Nonetheless, we have achieved some major victories, not the least of which occurred in the last session when we were able, after 5 years of trying, to pass Medicaid expansion, and provide access to health insurance to over 300,000 Virginians. It was the most consequential vote in decades.
Working with others in the General Assembly, we have been able to raise teacher salaries, make more investments in environmental protection and mental health, and provide monies for critical investments in transportation, including roads and mass transit. We have worked to restore and increase funding for education that was cut during the Great Recession. And we have fought efforts to restrict the reproductive rights of women and deny the rights of our LGBTQ and immigrant communities. As Democratic Leader for the past seven years, I was proud to help lead these fights. Under the McAuliffe Administration, Virginia’s economy expanded and many new jobs were created. Under the Northam Administration, growth rates have increased and we have been able to better meet the needs of all citizens in the Commonwealth. I remain committed to the following principles and will work to see policies embodied by them passed in upcoming sessions.
Good Jobs that Honor Work, Provide Opportunity, and Build Prosperity: Virginians Need a Raise
Hardworking Virginians should be able to earn a livable wage and have a decent standard of living, including the ability to access paid time for family leave, vacations, and sickness. Opportunity and prosperity are ensured when employees are protected at work, and have access to health care and other benefits. Virginia families want their children and grandchildren to succeed and not be forced to move from their communities to seek a better life. To that end, we should pass laws to ensure:
- A concrete plan to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour, lowest in the nation, to $15 per hour.
- Strong paid family leave policies.
- Contracting procedures that reward companies which provide health care and benefits to their employees while ensuring workers’ rights to a safe and secure workplace.
- Equal pay for equal work.
- Nondiscrimination in hiring and employment.
- Incentives to ensure that all Virginians have access to affordable and quality health care.
- Prohibitions against wage theft in the workplace.
- Better workforce training linked to good jobs in the community.
- Greater investments in Virginia’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, directing these monies for local use (similar to the $1 million grant we obtained for Habitat’s Southwood initiative).
Access to Affordable and Quality Health Care
Virginians continue to experience problems with accessing health care at affordable rates. Large numbers of Virginians remain uninsured, and in many parts of the Commonwealth insurance premiums take too large a percentage of a family’s income. Medicaid expansion will permit a larger number of Virginians access to quality insurance, but there are other areas where reforms are necessary. I support:
- Effective implementation of Medicaid expansion.
- Expanding health care insurance options to increase access and hold down costs.
- Transparency in providing information about the costs of services and prescriptions so that consumers can make educated choices.
- Investment in public health centers and free clinics to assist those who are unable to pay for medical procedures and prescriptions.
- Emphasis on preventive public health rather than expensive emergency medicine.
- Increasing investments to ensure that food insecurity is eliminated among Virginians.
- Protecting women’s reproductive rights.
- Lowering drug prices under Medicaid by leveraging the purchasing power of state agencies.
- Protecting consumers from surprise medical bills from out-of-network providers.
- Ensuring that persons with pre-existing conditions do not lose insurance.
- Enhancing the ability of our Bureau of Insurance (BOI) to rein in health insurance premium increases.