Tuesday, February 27, 2024

2024 Crossover Session Update

 What a difference a year (and an election) makes.  

This time last year, I used my monthly column to write about how the short 45-day 2023 Session was winding down and how the only significant legislation left to deal with was the state budget. I went on to talk about how the House version of the budget, then crafted by the Republican Majority, fell short in meeting the needs of hardworking Virginians. How it focused on multi-million-dollar corporate tax breaks, putting our critical services in jeopardy. A rather bleak outlook for sure. 

Fast forward to February 2024 and we’re having a very different conversation. 

First, we aren’t nearly done yet. We’ve still got a month left in our long 60-day session. And we’ve got a Democratic Majority in both chambers, which means that not only are the bills we’re passing looking radically different, but the House budget will also look dramatically different when it comes out on February 18th. 

Now that we’ve reached the halfway point, or Crossover, we’ve had a couple of marathon days on the House Floor, ensuring that we get through all the House bills that passed committee so they can get to the Senate for review. 

My Legislative Update 

I’m also happy to report that 16 of my bills have officially passed the House and are headed to the Senate! Here are some highlights: 

It looks like the 3rd time may be a charm for Falls Church City’s charter change request. This year I amended HB 54 on the floor to get in a format that would get bipartisan support and a 97-2 vote. The charter update will allow more Little City residents to participate on local boards and commissions.  

I also got significant bipartisan support for my bill to abolish the common law crime of suicide. The criminal status of suicide stigmatizes those who have passed and escalates the pain family's face following the tragedy of a loved one's death.  

I even got a bipartisan vote on the floor to advance HB 173 which bans these unserialized “ghost guns” and plastic firearm components in the Commonwealth. 

Another firearm safety bill, HB 175 prohibits the carrying of certain (loaded or unloaded) semi-automatic weapons on any public street, public park, or any other place that is open to the public. That passed the House on a strict party line vote, as did another common-sense gun safety bill, HB 183 which requires that firearms be stored in a biometric safe when individuals under the age of 18 are present. 

To avoid fraudulent or duplicative removal petitions for certain public offices, HB 265 states that removal petitions will not be certified when the asserted grounds have been previously filed and dismissed against the same public official. It also requires the signatures collected on a removal petition be collected within 90 days of the first signature being collected.  

A consumer protection bill, HB 418 makes it possible for class action lawsuits to be established in Virginia. Under the bill provisions, the Supreme Court of Virginia is tasked with creating regulations to govern such actions.  

The last bill I introduced, HB 1539, prohibits extraditions of those who travel to Virginia for reproductive health services. It also prohibits the sharing of personal reproductive or sexual health information without the consent of the consumer under the VA Consumer Protection Act. 

Crossover Stats 

During the 2024 session, there were 1,547 House bills introduced and, of these, 734 passed the House and 185 were continued to the 2025 Session. 

Legislation ran the gamut this year, covering topics like retail cannabis, raising the minimum wage, gun safety, abortion access, housing affordability, solar accessibility, tax policy updates, and campaign finance reform - just to name a few. 

To get a little more into the weeds, 253 of the total House bills introduced went through House Courts, 187 went through General Laws, 91 through Public Safety, and 140 through Rules. That’s a grand total of 671 bills that went through my 4 committees – or 43% of the total bills introduced! 

In the Senate, 737 Senate bills were introduced and the 430 that passed will be crossing over to the House. To keep things moving, we’ve started hearing Senate bills in my committees and I’ve already been over to the Senate to present a couple of my bills this week. We’ll continue on this path until the end of session on March 9th.  

Friday, January 19, 2024

2024 Session Update

 The 2024 legislative session kicked off on January 10th with the House of Delegates unanimously electing Don Scott of Portsmouth the first African American Speaker in the 405-year history of the body.  

Scott’s ascension to the Speaker’s dais was the result of Democrats winning 51 of the 100 seats up for grabs in November’s election, putting the party back in the majority in the House by the slimmest of margins. 

Along with the ability to elect the Speaker, majority status means Democrats will be in charge of the Committees and Subcommittees in the House where the real work of legislating happens.  

As the 26th most senior member of the House and one of the most senior members of the Democratic Caucus, I’ll have a lot of leadership responsibilities this session.  

I’m honored to have been appointed Chairman of the House Public Safety Committee by Speaker Scott, as well as Vice Chair of the Courts of Justice Committee. I’m looking forward to once again serving on the General Laws and Rules Committees as well. For subcommittees, I’m chairing the Civil Law Subcommittee of Courts of Justice and the Housing and Consumer Protection Subcommittee of General Laws this session. 

As Chairman of Public Safety, I’ll be charged with shepherding through a number of caucus priorities in the area of gun violence prevention, including HB2 our assault weapons ban, my bill to ban unserialized, untraceable, ghost guns, and a number of bills to required safe storage of firearms.  

The Courts of Justice Committee is among the busiest in the General Assembly, hearing hundreds of bills in the short 60-day sessionAs Vice Chair of the full committee and Chair of Civil subcommittee, I’ll be working on legislation to improve access to justice by making Virgnia the 49th of the 50 states to allow class actions. I’ll be working on leveling the playing field between landlords and tenants when they find themselves in court and working on fine tuning of family law and civil procedures. 

On the General Laws Committee, I’ll reprise my role as the Chairman of the Housing and Consumer Protection Subcommittee where bills regulating real estate transactions, landlord tenant law, fair housing and other important subjects are addressed.  

If those assignments weren’t enough to keep me occupied, I’m also patroning roughly 20 bill myself, including my perennial effort to make it illegal for candidates to convert the funds in their campaign accounts to personal use. I also have a bill to establish a public financing option for candidates that choose to rely on small donations to fund their campaigns.  

On behalf of the City of Falls Church, I’ve reintroduced legislation to allow the city to change their charter to allow residents who aren't citizens to participate in local boards and commissions. 

My bill, HB 81, will finally abolish the common- law crime of suicide. An outdated provision that needs to be removed from the Code of Virginia. 

As I mentioned previously, I’ve reintroduced my bill to prohibit the manufacturing, importing, or selling of ghost guns.  

To further my gun violence prevention agenda, HB 175 prohibits individuals from carrying assault weapons in public areas and HB 183 requires firearms to be properly stored in a locked container when minors are present.  

Related to the election process, HB 185 requires that challenges to a candidate’s ballot qualifications be made at least 60 days before the election date. This will hopefully prevent deceptive challenges from being submitted for political purposes.  

I’ve also got a bill that will enhance consumer protection in Virginia, which allows for class action lawsuits in Virginia's circuit courts. 

Working with the Legal Aid Justice Center and Justice Forward, I’ve got two bills that will further improve the criminal justice process by allowing defendants to have more flexibility in jury sentencing as well as protect them from being charged with “failure to appear” when the circumstances are beyond their control.  

I’ve got a full legislative agenda, to say the least, and I’m looking forward to working on the issues that my constituents care about the most. In that vein, you can contact my office in Richmond any time, sharing your concerns about a bill or if you have questions about what’s happening - (804) 698-1013 or delmsimon@house.virginia.gov.