Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Being an Elected Official

Virginia has a part time legislature, with the House of Delegates and State Senate in session only in January and February, and every other year the first week of March. At least that’s the theory.

There is certainly enough going on to keep me busy 40 hours a week or more being your Delegate and representative in Richmond.

Last weekend was a great example. Instead of my usual Saturday morning trip to the Falls Church farmer’s market, I started out at the Annual Taste of Falls Church and Fall Festival. I was humbled by the number of constituents who approached me and told me they recognized me from my newsletter, or from reading the Falls Church News Press, or following me on Facebook and Twitter.

I was so happy to visit with my friends working the booth at Virginia 2021, a group that advocates for fair and non-partisan redistricting in Virginia. I saw my friends from the League of Women Voters registering and sharing information about the Fall Ballot. I saw familiar faces advocating for common sense action to reduce gun violence, and stopped to chat at the AAUW booth to talk about Student Loan Debt, one of the issues I’m most passionate about.

I got so busy meeting, greeting and chatting with constituents I barely had time to eat.

About half way through the day, I headed over to the Eden Center for another festival, celebrating the Lunar New Year with merchants and members of the Vietnamese community. I ran into the Mayor and introduced my son to bubble tea, and got to speak with many new American residents of the 53rd House district.

Later I returned with my son to close out the Taste of Falls Church before taking him to Flag Football tryouts at George Mason High School where I got reacquainted with the football parents from last season.

Sunday was another full day, as I attended one of a series of neighborhood meet and greets hosted by a constituent in the Pine Spring neighborhood. We chatted about Air BNB ordinances, school funding to help speed along the renovation of Falls Church High School, requiring Virginia employers to have fair leave policies, and even how to get permit parking districts expanded. The things that affect neighbors on a daily basis.

From there I headed to an event for NARAL Virginia. And then on to Gerry Connolly’s half way to St. Patty’s event in the 11th Congressional District one of two in my House of Delegates Districts.

As day turned to evening I headed over to McLean High School (where my daughter goes and I graduated) for a town hall with 8th District Congressman Don Beyer. I was so impressed with Congressman Beyer’s answer to questions on health care for all, net neutrality, improving guest worker visa application processes, and more.

I think maybe you all are starting to get the idea. Being a member of the House of Delegates is about much more than spending a few weeks each winter in Richmond. It’s about more than keeping track of how many bills passed vs. how many failed.

Don’t get me wrong, the time we spend in Richmond is incredibly important. We cast thousands of votes each session on the floor and in committee on an incredible range of issues.

How am I supposed to know how to cast those votes if I don’t know my district? I cast those votes on behalf of you, my constituents, my fellow Virginians.

I’m not complaining. This is a typical weekend in the life of a Delegate. Holding this office and representing all the people of my district, which includes Merrifield and the City of Falls Church, and much of the rest of Falls Church, is a responsibility I take seriously.

Being an elected official is about listening and being active in the community at all levels – city, county, and state. I truly enjoy the opportunity to meet constituents, to hear concerns, and to work to make our community and the Commonwealth the best place to live, work, and raise a family. This is why I keep a full calendar. This is why I’m running for re-election in November.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Hate has no place here

The Simon family is on our annual beach vacation this week.

Before I left for vacation, I had my Falls Church News-Press column all ready to go: a back to school column on education issues, student debt and Fairfax County’s school board special election on August 29 (absentee voting is underway, and don’t forget to vote Tuesday after next!).

Every year since I started my own business, we’ve rented a house in Rehoboth or Lewes Delaware, because it’s the beach closest to home. Midweek or middle of the night I can usually make the trip in about two hours forty minutes. As a small business owner, I needed to be able to buzz back to Falls Church on short notice to deal with an emergency, or to handle a case for a really important client.

The business has grown since then, to the point that I can take a week off without interruption. I have very capable partners and associates who can handle just about anything, and the phone in my pocket is more powerful than the laptop I used to tote around back then. Legislative work is rarely an emergency this time of year, so I don’t worry about it too much.

Then Saturday came. On the drive east I couldn’t tear myself away from my Twitter feed. It was full of news and images from Charlottesville. (I had Rachel drive.)

The first clue that this would be no ordinary demonstration came Friday night, when a group of tiki torch-bearing marchers paraded through the university town chanting white supremacist slogans.

On Saturday, a coalition of neo-Nazi white supremacists and neo-confederates gathered in Charlottesville under the guise of a “Unite the Right” rally, ostensibly organized to protest the potential removal of a confederate monument. Counter demonstrations were also planned.

By now you’ve probably all read the news accounts of the violent clashes that seemed to continue to escalate all morning, until a white supremacist from Ohio drove his car through a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Virginia State Police Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates also died when their helicopter crashed while they were attempting to monitor the rallies from the air.

I was glad to see Virginia Republican leaders, unlike the President, have condemned the overt displays of racism and white supremacy on display in Charlottesville last weekend. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. These demonstrators obviously got the idea somewhere that such displays are now acceptable. They feel comfortable enough to chant “Jews will not replace us” unmasked in front of video cameras.

It is time that the same leaders who denounced the waving of Nazi swastika flags recognize the racism inherent in many of the policies and proposals we’ve seen during the first months of the Trump administration. Policies we’ve seen advocated for in Virginia for years before that.

The president’s Muslim travel ban. Proposals to monitor and track immigrants who settle in Virginia. Virginia’s voter suppression laws (passed under the guise of voter fraud prevention) that disproportionately disenfranchise communities of color. Redistricting bills that courts have found were drawn to deliberately limit African Americans’ voice in Congress and the state legislature.

In the past few days, I have received over 1,000 emails from every corner of Virginia, unequivocally condemning these hateful acts and calling for legislation to track hate crimes and a state task force designed to promote policies welcoming everyone regardless of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, marital status or citizenship. I know my Republican colleagues are getting the same emails. I hope they are listening.

Since my very first session, I’ve introduced or sponsored legislation to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, to promote fair housing, uphold marriage equality, and prohibit discrimination based on religious beliefs. To make voting easier for everyone. To reform Virginia’s criminal justice system to end practices that resulted in the labeling of one in four African American men in Virginia felons depriving them of their civil rights.

These are the issues I am passionate about because it is the right thing to do and because I believe these are the issues that you, my constituents, want me to be passionate about. As your Delegate I’ll continue to work for what’s right, to work for you, to work for all of us.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Petition for Paid Sick Days


This is the moment
Tonight is the night, we’ll fight till it’s over
So we put our hands up like the ceiling can’t hold us
Like the ceiling can’t hold us

~ Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, "Can't Hold Us"



You may have seen the recent news reports about a norovirus outbreak at the Chipotle here in Northern Virginia. Apparently, one contagious employee who made the decision to come to work sick resulted in nearly 100 people being infected.

Why do people make the decision to come to work when they are sick?

Often people fear losing their job, or they can't afford to lose a day's pay. Nearly 42% of Virginians don't have paid sick days or paid time off to care for themselves or their children.

Federal policy makers have proposed the Healthy Families Act to make paid sick leave a national mandate. Unfortunately, given the way things are going in Congress these days, it's unlikely to move forward any time soon.

Once again, that means it is up to each state to figure out the best way to solve the problem and avoid outbreaks like we saw last week in Northern Virginia.

That's why I've introduced legislation and budget amendments to expand paid sick days and paid time off in Virginia.

Why are paid sick days important?

Paid sick days reduce the spread of contagious diseases like the flu (and norovirus!), emergency medical expenses, and employee turnover. Furthermore, communities of color and single parents are disproportionately affected by lack of access to paid sick days.

As a Delegate, I take my role of working to better our community and the lives of all Virginians seriously. And I believe that the majority of Virginians agree that offering paid sick days is is the right thing to do.

If increasing the number of Virginia workers with paid sicks days is important to you, please sign the petition and share it with you friends and neighbors!

 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Update on New Laws for 2017

They say it's your birthday
It's my birthday too, yeah
They say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy birthday to you

~The Beatles, "Birthday"

Every July 1st I step out my front door and remind myself that the grass is just as green as the day before, the sky is the same shade of blue, and everything really isn’t all that different than it was the day before. It’s just that it’s my birthday, so I have to start using a new number to describe my age.

July 1st is also significant in that it is the day that all the new laws that the General Assembly passed and the Governor signed officially become law. And because things don’t really seem that different this month than they were in June, let me highlight a few of the things we did in Richmond during the last session that just might change your life.

If you found a great new summer cocktail recipe that calls for the highest proof liquor available, you can now head out to the local ABC Store and buy spirits with a proof as high as 151.

Sticking with that theme, if you’ve ever walked into a bar starving for something to eat, only to be told the kitchen is closed: businesses with mixed beverage licenses are now required to have food available until at least 30 minutes prior to closing.

Have you have bought a concert ticket for the band you loved in the ‘80s and‘90s on impulse, without checking with your significant other first? Did they tell you, “No, you can’t go. What were you thinking?” Well, we just made it easier for you to more freely resell your concert or event tickets online via whatever website you choose. You’re also protected from discrimination or being denied admission to a concert or event if you purchased resold tickets.

Have you ever received a ticket for an expired pet license because you forgot to mail in the $5.00 renewal form? Counties and cities must now provide the option of a lifetime license for a dogs and cats. The law also sets the maximum fee for these licenses at $50.

For those of you that head out some weekends to the countryside to hunt, blaze pink is now an accepted hunting apparel color during firearms deer hunting season.

Renewing your vehicle registration? We’ve added still more choices to personalize your plate. Supporters of the Virginia Nurses Foundation or highway safety initiatives, can now get a special license plate at the DMV.

Those are some of the lighter issues we tackled this session. We had some serious issues to address as well.

I fought hard on the floor of the House to defend a bill that requires school principals to notify parents of any allegations of bullying within 5 school days. The allegations may turn out to be just that, but we believed that giving information to parents, of both the alleged victim and the alleged bully, would actually help bring these investigations to quicker resolution and enhance student safety.

We’ve brought some new standards to the way we handle evidence in sexual assault cases. Law enforcement agencies must inform victims of their right to have the evidence recovery kit stored for 10 years and the agency must notify the victim 60 days prior to the scheduled destruction date.

In an era where seemingly routine traffic stops have become fraught with peril for law enforcement officers and drivers alike, we modified the public school Driver Education curriculum to include specific instruction on what to do if you’re stopped by a law-enforcement officer. The training will include general procedures and appropriate interactions.

Many parents who work can have more confidence that the people watching their children have been appropriately vetted. Child care providers are now required to get fingerprint-based national criminal history background checks on those that apply for employment or volunteering.

Finally, if you are concerned that the house next door is being rented out for parties every weekend, or you can’t tell whether the occupants are coming or going, there may be something you can do about it. Localities can now adopt ordinances to regulate short-term rental properties like those used on Airbnb. In fact, Fairfax County is considering adopting some regulations - they are also taking comments on this via an online survey until August 31st.

The Division Legislative Services (DLS) prepares a summary of these new laws called In Due Course. While I’ve only highlighted a few relevant pieces of legislation, the full summary from DLS can be viewed online.

As always, if you have questions about this legislation or if you have ideas for something I can introduce during the next General Assembly Session, please contact my office at (571) 327-0053 or delmsimon@house.virginia.gov.

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/

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