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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.