Monday, June 12, 2017

June Primary

Did you ever have to make up your mind?
You pick up on one and leave the other one behind.
It's not often easy and not often kind.
Did you ever have to make up your mind?

~Lovin’ Spoonful, "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind"

Primary Day is tomorrow, Tuesday, June 13th. I wanted to share some information that may be useful, including some tips for voting tomorrow.

The polls will be open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Vote at your regular polling place!

This is a big election year in Virginia. Not only is it the first election after the surprising 2016 Presidential race, but we also have all 100 delegates and our state-wide offices (governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general) on the ballot.

For the Democratic Primary tomorrow, I proudly support Ralph Northam for Governor and Justin Fairfax for Lieutenant Governor.

Over the last four years I’ve gotten to know Ralph Northam well. He’s been a great ally in the trenches as we fought together to build a Commonwealth that works for everyone - no matter who you are, no matter where you’re from - and he’s been doing it for the past decade.

I want to share a quick story so you’ll see what I mean. As a very new State Senator, Ralph was tapped by then Governor Tim Kaine to carry legislation to prohibit smoking in bars and restaurants in Virginia. In tobacco-friendly-anti-nanny-state Virginia, this seemed liked a tall order for a Democratic Governor to get past the General Assembly. And Ralph got it done.

As Governor, he will work hard and effectively to make progress every single day in Virginia, and that’s why we need to elect him as our next governor. He has a bold progressive vision and the knowledge, skill, and experience to get it enacted into law. Justin Fairfax, in addition to being a constituent, is someone who understands the needs of working class families and will work to ensure that our shared progressive values are represented in the Senate. Like Ralph, I know Justin and trust that he will continue to build upon his legacy as Lieutenant Governor. No one I’ve run across on the campaign trail has a negative thing to say about Justin.

I'm especially excited that Justin has made student loan debt a centerpiece of his agenda to empower Virginians to rise to a brighter future while creating economic security and opportunity.


Both candidates have been working hard to earn your vote and I hope you will join me in voting for them in the Democratic Primary on June 13th!

Hope to see you at the polls!






On Tuesday, June 13th, the polls will be open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

At the Virginia State Board of Elections website, you can check your registration status and confirm your polling place. In addition, voter ID laws are in effect. The list of accepted forms of ID and other related information can be found here.

Falls Church Voter Registration & Elections Office Website

Fairfax County Office of Elections Website

Election Day Tips
  • Polls officially close at 7:00 p.m., but everyone waiting in line at that time must be given the opportunity to cast their ballots.
  • If the voting equipment malfunctions at your polling place, inform the election officials immediately. If the equipment cannot be repaired in a timely manner, you may then request an emergency paper ballot.
  • If you are elderly or disabled, or otherwise unable to enter the polling location without physical assistance, curbside voting will be made available to you at your assigned polling place.
  • If you previously requested and received an absentee ballot, but prefer to cast your vote in person on Election Day, be sure to return the unopened ballot to either the local Electoral Board or to the General Registrar before Election Day, or to the election official at your polling place. This will enable you to cast a regular ballot on Election Day. 

Questions: call 1--866-OUR-VOTE (687-8683)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Importance of the Veto

The 2017 General Assembly Session was Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s final as Governor. In Virginia the Governor is not allowed to run for reelection. As the deadline for final action on all bills passed earlier this month, he set a record for the most Vetoes ever, acting as a brick wall against bills that would have threatened Virginia’s reputation as a great place to live, work, and raise a family.

Women’s Health

The Governor vetoed a bill that would have prohibited the Virginia Department of Health from entering contracts or providing funds to any entity that performs non-federally qualified abortions. Aimed solely at Planned Parenthood, this legislation would have hurt tens of thousands of Virginians who rely on the health care services and programs they provide, denying accessible, affordable care to those who need it most. Virginians, and particularly low-income Virginians, need more access to health care, not less.

Keeping Virginian’s Safe

The Republican majority in the House of Delegates is working on two tracks to allow any Virginian to carry a concealed handgun anywhere they may go. One track is with a bill that says exactly that. The second, more subtle approach, is to systematically and incrementally limit the places where weapons may be prohibited.

This year the Governor vetoed bills that would have prevented the State Police or National Guard from stopping people from carrying their personal firearms into emergency shelters during natural disasters, would have allowed 18, 19 and 20 year olds to obtain concealed carry permits, and would have allowed anyone with a military ID to carry concealed with no permit at all. He also vetoed bills that would have allowed people to conceal and carry switchblade knives and to allow them to furnish such knives to children.

Protecting the Vote

Voting rights and the ability to participate in election process seem to be under constant siege in the General Assembly. Members of the majority party frequently introduce bills aimed at alleged voter fraud prevention, which have the real-life impact of creating unnecessary obstacles to voting.

The Governor vetoed bill that would have made it easier to remove voters from the roles improperly, and forcing people to submit copies of photo identification when seeking to vote absentee by mail, burdening voters who don’t have ready access to a photo-copiers or scanners and printers. This seems particularly unhelpful and unnecessary since the person receiving the ID copy would have nothing with which to compare it.

Equality for All Virginians


I spoke out against on the floor of the House several times this session in opposition to legislation that would have provided a shield from civil liability to those who actively discriminate against same-sex couples.

Although couched as a "religious freedom" bill, the bill was nothing more than an attempt to stigmatize. The Governor, in his veto statement, mentioned something I pointed out in my remarks and in the press: any legitimate protections afforded by the bill would be duplicative of the first Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; Article I, Section 11 of the Constitution of Virginia; and the Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The additional so-called protections were styled in a manner that prefers one religious viewpoint—that marriage can only validly exist between a man and a woman—over all other viewpoints.

Businesses won’t do business in states that pass laws demonizing same-sex couples. This bill would have damaged Virginia's reputation and severely hindered our efforts to create the new Virginia economy. We don’t have to look far to see the damage these types of laws are doing in other states to understand the harm this bill would have done to the Commonwealth.

What It All Means

What the last four years – and this session in particular demonstrate is that it’s essential we continue to have a Governor who is willing to stand up to a legislature that seems more than comfortable interfering in decisions that ought to be between a woman and her doctor, that believes more guns in more places held by more people is a good thing, and that is willing to deprive people of the right to vote to protect their own seats.

I’ll continue to stand up for our values in the General Assembly, but it helps an awful lot to know I have a Governor who has my back.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

I-66 Update - No Gallows Flyover

I wanted to make sure that you heard the good news about the I-66 Project update that I just received this morning!

I just got off of the phone with representatives from Express Mobility Partners (EMP) who wanted to let me know that they are abandoning their preliminary plans to use a large flyover ramp at Gallows Road near Dunn Loring to avoid an electric facility at the Dunn Loring Metro. VDOT, EMP and WMATA worked together, based on your objections, to find alternatives to the large, unsightly ramp. Although they haven’t settled on a specific alternative yet, they are now confident enough that options exist to announce the ramp will not be necessary.

As the rest of the project moves forward, please know that I will continue to work to ensure that the needs of our community are met while also limiting the overall footprint of the project.

You can view my full statement on this announcement below.

PRESS STATEMENT


For Immediate Release

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Statement from Delegate Simon on the I-66 Project Update

Richmond, VA – Virginia Delegate Marcus B. Simon (HD-53), whose district is heavily impacted by the planned installation of express toll lanes on I-66, issued this statement today regarding the recent decision to remove a proposed flyover ramp in Dunn Loring from the project plans.

"I was pleased to get a call this morning from Express Mobility Partners (EMP) letting me know that they are abandoning their plans to build a flyover ramp at Gallows Road in Dunn Loring, in response to community concerns. I want to thank VDOT and EMP for their willingness to listen to the community and for working with Senator Dick Saslaw, Senator Chap Petersen, Delegate Mark Keam, and myself to ensure those concerned were addressed early in the process. I credit Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Lane and Governor McAuliffe for their leadership in working with WMATA and the EMP team to make the ramp unnecessary and not letting this issue linger when it became clear there were alternatives available."

More details on the I-66 Outside the Beltway Project can be found at http://outside.transform66.org/

###

Thursday, April 20, 2017

In Memory of James M. Scott


As you may have learned by now, my predecessor and friend, Jim Scott, passed away earlier this month of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Many of you have asked for information about his memorial service. Below please find those details and the text of my recent Richmond Report that appears in this week’s edition of the Falls Church News Press.

Memorial Service and Donations

A memorial for former Delegate James "Jim" Scott will be held on Saturday, May 6th at 2:00pm at the INOVA Center for Personalized Health Conference Center Atrium (3225 Gallows Road, Fairfax).

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that those who are interested make a donation in honor of Jim to either the Insight Memory Care Center, Homestretch, or Northern Virginia Family Services.

In Memory of Jim Scott

This month I’d like to use the space normally devoted to my monthly Richmond Report to share my memories of my early days in Richmond working for former Delegate Jim Scott, who died last week of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

Like many recent college grads, I was anxious to find a job that would allow me to live as an independent adult when I graduated in the spring of 1992. A journalism minor at NYU, I had applied to literally hundreds of newspapers looking for a paid gig. The best offers I got all were all unpaid internships lasting at least six months. It was beginning to look bleak.

Then I got word from home that the new Delegate who just returned from his first session in Richmond was looking for a Legislative Assistant. The ideal candidate would be a decent writer and a hard worker, but also willing to work for next to nothing.

To me, “next to nothing” sounded way better than nothing and would allow me to apply my writing skills. So, I interviewed and accepted my first “real” job working for James M. “Jim” Scott. At the time, practically everyone knew his nickname “Landslide Jim,” based on his one vote margin of victory in the 1991 election.

Coming from journalism school, I was a little apprehensive about going to work for a politician. I expected a self-important, smooth talking, boorish type with either an oversized ego or an incredibly fragile one. All I knew from politicians were the caricatures I’d seen on television.

What I found in Jim Scott, however, was a man of amazing character.

Jim, I learned, was in politics for all the right reasons. First off, he didn’t need to be. He’d retired from the Board of Supervisors and was making a nice living doing government affairs work for the local hospital system. Although Democrats controlled the Virginia General Assembly, party labels didn’t always mean the same thing then that they do now. Few of his Democratic colleagues were as liberal – what we’d now call progressive - as Jim Scott. He could provide a different voice, one that reflected the values of his Northern Virginia district.

In Richmond, Jim didn’t seek the spotlight, but rather sought opportunities to bring his experience and background in local government, health care, and education to bear. Because Jim had expertise in fair housing and housing affordability, he ended up carrying bills on manufactured housing – mobile homes. We didn’t have a lot of mobile home owners in Fairfax and McLean - the neighborhoods that made up the 53rd at the time - but Jim was happy to carry bills that would improve consumer protections for owners of manufactured homes and work with the industry to create a legal and regulatory framework that made sense for their business model.

What I learned watching that process unfold was that Jim’s greatest asset was his ability to learn and understand new information, apply it to what he already knew from his experience working on housing issues in Fairfax, and navigate the process so that everyone came out feeling like a winner. While not all his bills passed, he worked hard on all the issues he fought for, earning a reputation as someone that everyone wanted to work with.

While Jim never sought to be front and center, he prioritized responding to reporters and the news media in a timely manner and as often as possible. One lesson I’ve never forgotten is to always find a way to say yes to the press. You can’t dodge them on a tough question on Monday, then pitch them a story on Tuesday. Jim said it very simply, “If I start saying no, they’ll stop asking.”

Although I only worked for him for a few years before he introduced me to my next great mentor, Kate Hanley, I was careful to stay in touch with Jim and followed his career closely for the next 20 years. I was proud to see him work on issues such as brain injury awareness, ballot access, gun violence and domestic violence prevention, and so much more.

It was a privilege to work for him in the early days and an honor to succeed him in representing the 53rd District. Jim’s compassion made him a champion of the people, a true progressive before his time. His sense of humor made him accessible. He embodied the type of public servant I strive to be. I believe that we all serve a purpose and that good people can do great things. Jim Scott was a great man who did great things for our community. He will be missed, but his legacy lives on.

Monday, April 3, 2017

VDOT I-66 Project Update & Public Hearings

With the General Assembly's Reconvene Session coming up on Wednesday, I was going to wait until next week to fill you all in on what's happening with the I-66 outside the beltway, but with some information coming out in various forums, I don't want to wait any longer to share everything I know in the interest of transparency.

Last November, Governor McAuliffe announced that Express Mobility Partners (EMP) was selected to build express lanes on I-66 Outside the Beltway, following a 16-month procurement process. EMP will be responsible for financing, designing, building, maintaining, and operating the project under the Public-Private Transportation Act.

Nothing is set in stone and your input is extremely important.

Since the announcement, EMP has been working on the engineering with the intent to hold public hearings to present the refined plans. I have heard from many of you who are concerned with some of the most recent changes. I, along with other local elected officials whose districts are mostly affected by this project, will be meeting with VDOT and EMP staff to ensure that your voices are heard.

In the meantime, VDOT has promised me they will do their best to meet with any HOA, community organization, or civic association that would like to schedule a briefing on the I-66 Outside the Beltway Project. The best way to do that would be to email my office or give us call (571-327-0053) and I can help you set something up. I want to make sure that the most accurate information is available to you and that VDOT/EMP understand how best to serve our community.

You can also sign up to get project updates via email.

Upcoming VDOT Public Hearings

There are three public hearings scheduled for June 12th, 14th, and 15th. Although not all the meeting details have been finalized, the most up to date information can be found on the meeting page of the Transform 66 website.

Yours in service,

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

2017 Session - La La Land

City of stars Are you shining just for me?
City of stars
You never shined so brightly 


~Ryan Gosling, "City of Stars" - winner 2017 Oscar for Best Song, La La Land


Richmond may not be a city of stars in the same way that Los Angeles is, but during the 2017 Legislative Session, it often felt like I was in La La Land. While my House Democratic Colleagues and I focused on legislation improving the lives of working families, the other side of the aisle seemed intent on pressing hot-button partisan and social issues.

For instance, we introduced bills to give hard working Virginian's a raise, protect student borrowers from predatory and deceptive billing practices, provide guarantees of equal pay for equal work between men and women, and make sure the workers who care for the most vulnerable Virginian's could earn overtime and sick leave.

The House GOP introduced bills to defund planned parenthood, allow more people to conceal carry guns in schools, courthouses and emergency shelters, give tax breaks to encourage more coal extraction, and make it more difficult to apply for absentee ballots.

All that said, there are a number of pretty good things that made it through with bipartisan support. 


Good Things That Passed in 2017

Birth Control

Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn's bill to require health insurance companies to cover a 12-month supply of prescription birth control survived a last minute challenge on the floor from Delegate Bob Marshall of Manassas, who suggested that birth-control was bad for women's health. Fortunately, Dr. Stolle, a Republican Delegate from Va. Beach stood up to set the record straight.

Bullying

Another of Delegate Filler-Corn's bills requiring principals to notify the parent of any student involved in a bullying incident within five school days of the allegation also passed, on the last night of session after some last minute drama. I was pleased to be able to speak on the floor in support of the bill which ultimately passed.

Coal Ash

Senator Scott Surovell made some progress in his crusade to force Dominion Virginia Power to take some responsibility for their large coal ash ponds under a compromise bill that cleared the legislature.
DNR Reciprocity
Delegate Sam Rasoul and I introduced a bill that makes Durable Do Not Resuscitate orders or other orders regarding life-sustaining treatment executed in another state to be deemed valid in the Commonwealth.

Driver’s License Suspensions

We passed bills to require judges consider a defendants ability to pay when imposing a schedule for unpaid fines and to give judges discretion not to suspend a driver’s license for a first marijuana offense.

Immigration

On straight party lines, Republicans passed a bill to ban “sanctuary” localities here in Virginia. The Governor has promised to veto the bill.

The Governor vetoed a separate bill that would require the Department of Social Services to publish “personally identifiable reports” on refugees, saying “it does not reflect Virginia’s values.”

Lead

We passed a bill introduced by Senator Jeremy McPike that will have school systems create and implement plans to for lead in school's drinking water in pre-1986 buildings.

Mental Health

While we failed to add money for mental health screening in jails to the Governor's budget as he had asked, the House and Senate did approve $7.5 million in state and other funds for a “same-day access” program. The program requires Community Services Boards deal with people who are in mental health crisis the day they walk into the clinic, not days or weeks later.

Also added to the budget was $5 million for permanent supportive housing for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless because as a result of their serious mental illness.

Opioids

The Governor has already signed into law bills to create needle exchange programs; to increase access to naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of certain opioids; changes to prescription policies; and improved services for infants who had been exposed to opioids in utero.

Short Term Rentals

The General Assembly gave local governments more authority to adopt ordinances and otherwise regulate online short-term rental platforms like Airbnb, including requiring owners to register with the locality to be able to offer short-term rentals.

Veterans

We also passed a bill very similar to one I introduced authorizing any member of the US Armed Forces or Virginia National Guard who receives military relocation orders for a period of service of at least 90 days to terminate contracts for certain services (like internet, cell phones, or gym memberships).

Finally, with the end of the Session comes the end of restrictions on my ability to accept campaign contributions. Please consider clicking here to help me raise money to pay my filing fees and other costs of being a candidate for re-election.

I'm looking forward to returning to La La Land next session to fight for us.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

2017 Session - Week 6

You say yes, I say no
You say stop and I say go go go, oh no
You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello hello
I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello
Hello hello
I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello 


~The Beatles, "Hello, Goodbye"


Hello. This is the last week of the 2017 session of the Virginia General Assembly - so this will be the last of my weekly updates. I'll send out a session wrap up next week, though, so stay tuned for that.

Legislative Priorities

Who do you think is in greater need of consumer protection - 17, 18 and 19 year-olds taking out loans for what will almost certainly be the most significant investment of their lives to that point, or middle aged dads who forget their family vacation is scheduled for the same week as the Iron Maiden reunion concert?

If you said the dads - you'd fit right in here in Richmond.

My effort, working with Governor McAuliffe and Senator Janet Howell, to create a student borrower bill of rights and license student loan servicers (SB 1053) died on a party line vote in committee last week, despite passing the Senate with broad bipartisan support.

Meanwhile, Delegate Dave Albo's bill (HB 1825) to guarantee a right to resell tickets, which I happened to support, passed the Senate, even while Delegate Albo admitted that the restrictions on resale were actually disclosed in the fine print when he purchased his tickets. Again, I supported this bill and think many of us will benefit when it becomes law, but I don't understand why Republicans in the House of Delegates found these transactions more worthy of consumer protection than student loan transactions.

Similarly, during the same week that a bill to make it legal to discriminate against same sex couples (HB 2025) passed the House and the Senate, the bill Senator Jennifer Wexton and I introduced to add fair housing protections for same sex couples (SB 822) was defeated in the House General Laws Committee. The committee vote was on party lines after passing the Senate with bipartisan support. This has happened for the second year in a row.

So, instead of establishing consumer protections for student loan borrowers, which there is a clear need for as demonstrated by the current federal lawsuit against Navient, we made it easier to purchase scalped tickets.

Instead of expanding our fair housing statute to include non-discrimination against the LGBTQ community, we legalized discrimination.

While I am confident that the Governor will veto HB 2025, these bills highlight just how out of touch the House Republican Majority is with the problems facing ordinary Virginians.