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!