Thursday, December 20, 2018

It's getting better all the time

I've got to admit it's getting better (Better)
A little better all the time (It can't get no worse)
I have to admit it's getting better (Better)
It's getting better

~The Beatles, "Getting Better All the Time"

If Governor Ralph Northam’s address this week to the Joint Money Committees, still chaired by members of the opposite party, was a Beatles song, it would have started with “You have to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time.”

In fact, the 2019 General Assembly Session presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to make significant investments for Virginia’s long-term success including in education, broadband access, affordable housing, and protecting our natural resources. And it can be done while shoring up our reserves, preserving our AAA bond rating and providing targeted tax relief.

So, where is this money coming from?

Virginia is on positive financial footing resulting in better revenues than anticipated and all indicators suggest that these positive economic trends should continue. This, coupled with a few other things happening this year, creates an opportunity to adopt a budget that truly reflects our priorities.

Governor's Proposed Budget Amendments for 2018-2020

Internet Sales Tax

State Governments are now able to charge and collect sales tax on all internet sales, regardless of whether online merchants have a physical presence in the Commonwealth. Given the amount of conversation surrounding the internet sales tax, this is something that we all expect to address this session.

Federal Tax Conformity

The Governor’s budget assumes that, as in previous years, the General Assembly will conform to changes in the federal tax code. Conformity is usually a routine, straightforward action that comes before any conversation we have on tax policy. Because of the changes to the standard deduction, fewer Virginians will itemize on their state income tax returns. So, while the total tax burden for many in our area will decrease, Virginia’s income tax receipts are expected to rise.

Earned Income Tax Credit Refundability

The Trump tax cuts are mainly benefiting high earners and corporations – that’s why Governor Northam proposes targeted tax relief that will let working Virginians in every locality and every region keep more of their paychecks. $216.3 million (one time, sunsets with Trump tax cuts) will make the Earned Income Tax fully refundable, which will provide an estimated 600,000 working Virginians with targeted tax relief.

Teacher Pay

Every child in the Commonwealth deserves access to a world-class education. To compete with other states on attracting and retaining the best teaching talent, the Governor proposes adding $88 million to provide teachers a long overdue 5% raise effective July 2019. Another $80 million in one-time revenues will go toward state aid for school construction through low-interest loans and $70 million will be added to support high-needs students and supplement general aid on a per pupil basis.

Student Health and School Safety

Virginia is a nationally-recognized leader on school safety, but we need to take a more holistic approach when it comes to creating a safe learning environment for our students. $36 million will fund additional school counselors, the first-installment of a three-year, phased strategy to hire enough school counselors to reduce caseloads to 1:250 across all grade bands, the nationally-recognized best practice.

Higher Education Affordability

Although Virginia’s public higher education system is top-ranked and well-regarded, having best-in-the-nation colleges and universities won’t mean much if our students can’t afford to attend them. More than $20 million will go to additional need-based financial aid for public colleges and universities and the Tuition Assistance Grant Program.

Higher education institutions will also be required to develop tuition predictability plans for in-state undergraduates, outlining the expected cost of tuition and fees for at least three years.

Affordable Housing

Virginia families should be able to count on stable housing. The Housing Trust Fund, which supports local and regional efforts to address housing affordability would get an additional $16 million with $2.6 million going for expanded legal assistance for Virginians facing eviction proceedings.

Energy and Environmental Protection

The Governor proposes investments to improve water quality and to protect the progress we’ve made on restoring the Chesapeake Bay. This means $90 million to fund technical assistance for eligible farmers to prevent pollution from farm runoff and $50 million (one-time) to the Stormwater Local Assistance Fund to help urban and suburban areas reduce pollution coming off impervious surfaces.


Reliable, safe infrastructure is critical to our economy and quality of life. $75 million (one-time) will go to the Virginia Transportation Infrastructure bank to help fund infrastructure projects across the Commonwealth. $20 million (one-time) to develop build-ready sites, furthering Virginia’s ability to compete for large manufacturing companies.

You can review the Governor’s complete proposed budget here.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

2018 Election & The Blue Wave

Election night 2018 reminded me a lot of Election night 2017, only on a larger scale. In Virginia we love elections so much we have them every year, and so in 2017 we were the first place in the country to hold elections during the Trump presidency. Democrats did remarkably well, exceeding all but the loftiest of expectations, picking up an apparent 16 seats in the House of Delegates and being within a literal handful of votes (10 one for each finger) of picking up a 17th. The high didn’t last long though, as we learned that a transposition in recording the votes in the 40th led to an erroneous result there.

For weeks, while we awaited the outcome of the recount, it was hard to be excited about all we had won. Everything was focused on the one’s that got away, the places where we were so close.

Eventually, it started to dawn on us how big a day we really had, and how powerful we could be with 49 votes in the Virginia House of Delegates. Even if it wasn’t yet a majority with 51.

In 2018, its easy to focus on the fact that Republicans maintained control of the Senate, and view the evening as disappointing, the Blue Wave crashing made its way all the way to shore.

As more data comes in, though, the news looks better than we maybe felt about it on election night.

Democrats flipped 8 state legislatures, 372 legislative seats, and almost 40 Congressional House seats. We broke Republican supermajorities in 3 states and made significant gains in 7 other states. And just like this time last year, there are ballots still being counted and potential recounts, ongoing.

What does that portend for the year to come?

A lot of what happens in Richmond during our upcoming session will depend on how the state’s political parties read and react to the results of our midterm elections.

When you breakdown the statewide vote by legislative district, many Virginia Republican legislators find they now represent districts where a sizable majority of their constituents voted for Tim Kaine for US Senate and Jennifer Wexton, or Abigail Spanberger, or Elaine Luria for Congress.

Knowing that, how will they react? Will they try to moderate some of their positions, distancing themselves from the president and the National Republican Brand?

One of the first tests will be how the leadership of the Virginia House and Senate decides to deal with the Equal Rights Amendment. Virginia has the chance to be the 38th state to pass ERA legislation – putting us over the 75 percent threshold required to amend the US Constitution. Will the GOP Speaker of the House allow the bill to emerge from committee for a vote on the floor?

Will members of the majority view the defeat of Barbara Comstock, the NRAs highest funded member of congress, as a cautionary tale? Will they finally work with us to pass meaningful gun violence prevention legislation?

Will watching our former colleague, Scott Taylor, lose in a race where integrity and veracity were major issues, bring legislators to the table to finally have meaningful ethics and campaign finance reform?

Dave Brat, a Tea Party favorite, lost his election as well. Will that embolden those legislators who are more amenable to reaching across the aisle in search of bi-partisan solutions?

Or will the endangered GOP majority look at the results as a different kind of warning, that when participation is this high, Democrats tend to win. Will they double down on their efforts to restrict voting and access to the ballot to hold on to their slim majorities?

As your Delegate here in Falls Church I can tell you that I found Tuesday’s vote affirming. Corey Stewart received less than 16 percent of the Vote in the City of Falls Church.

That tells me you want me to continue to pursue the legislative agenda I’ve been working on for the last five years: making sure full time work pays a living wage for all Virginians, ensuring equal protection under the law for everyone, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or who they love; making Virginia a leader in solar renewable energy, and most importantly to all those goals, increasing voter participation and access.

After all, we have an election every year in Virginia, which means we have an opportunity to push the progressive line every year. In 2019, all 100 House members and 40 Senate members will be up for election. The 2019 General Assembly Session will be a strong tell as to how my conservative colleagues want to move forward – whether it is in the spirit of working together or in towing the party line and supporting the antics of the President.

Friday, October 19, 2018

A rise in hate crimes

Over the last two weeks we’ve seen the best and worst of our Falls Church and Fairfax community. The worst in the ugly, vile painting of 19 swastikas on the Jewish Community Center on Little River Turnpike. And the best in the overwhelmingly positive and supportive response to that incident from the community at large.

Sunday night I had the pleasure of attending a CommUNITY event at the JCC and was moved by the outpouring of support from leaders of other faith communities, statewide elected officials, county leaders from both parties, and community members.

The week prior, upon seeing images of swastikas spray painted on the walls and windows of the Center, I did what so many of us reflexively do when we are moved to speak out, I typed out a Facebook post on my smartphone. In addition to sharing a picture of the graffiti with words of condemnation, I also observed that the President had recently been accused of repeating anti-Semitic tropes about global Jewish financiers, and that the number of anti-Semitic incidents of violence and vandalism had increased substantially since his election.

I also said then, and I repeat it now, that we don’t know who painted these 19 swastikas or why. Nevertheless, sharing those observations in my post apparently hit a nerve with a number of people including many of my own constituents who support the President. They resented any implication that they were somehow responsible for the acts of a still-unknown bad actor, whose motives can currently only be guessed at.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which has catalogued anti-Semitic incidents since 1979, reports that anti-Semitic activity increased 34% in 2016 and by 86% in the first quarter of 2017. Before 2016, the number of incidences had been in decline.

Here in Virginia, there were 6 incidents of anti-Semitism in 2016. By the end of 2017, there had been 34.

Let me be clear. I don’t believe that support for the President makes you anti-Semitic. Nor do I believe the President himself is an anti-Semite. He does, however, have a troubling history of managing to appear to encourage those with extreme views.

Does he do it by design, or is this just part of his aversion to appearing to be “politically correct?” Does it matter?

Let me say it again. I don’t know who vandalized the JCC last Saturday and I don’t know why.

Here is what I do know.

When people watch a man mock a reporter with disabilities on stage; when they listen to him describe whole nationalities as primarily rapists and murderers – with some good people; when whole countries are described as s**tholes; when he calls women dogs, and horse-faced; when you support a leader who differentiates himself from other politicians with an unprecedented, unembarrassed willingness to demonize “the other” and stoke fear and sow division for his own political gain, you don’t get to pretend that the rise in acts of hate - against Jews, Muslims, LGBT friendly congregations, and others - has nothing to do with the poisonous environment those words and acts create.

When you build your coalition by pitting people against one another, by framing your world view as “us” being victimized by “them” - be it in trade, in job creation, or in allocation of government resources - when you frame every argument as a struggle where some are winners and the rest are losers, it’s easy to lose control of who gets to wear which label.

So, what do we do?

Elected officials at every level of government, Democrats and Republicans must continue to swiftly and forcefully condemn these criminal acts of vandalism. We also must not remain silent, or reward those who engage in campaigns to categorize and then divide us – to cast some members of our community as outsiders who don’t belong here. Be they anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, homophobic, or xenophobic, we can drown out these hateful words and deeds with messages of love and welcoming.

It was great to hear the unanimous voices of support at the JCC this past weekend, clapping and singing together. I think everyone enjoyed listening to Christians, Jews and Muslims, parents and children, Democrats and Republicans, all singing Bob Marley songs together, then tracing our hands and cutting construction paper as part of a collective art project. Symbols of love to obliterate those symbols of hate that had been painted days before.

It really was great and inspiration evening, and yet, as so many of the speaker’s said - we really have to stop meeting like this.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

VDOT Alert: Lane Closures This Week

I wanted to alert you to a few ramp and lane closures scheduled to occur this week in our area related to construction on I-66.

If you are traveling through these areas at any of the times listed below, please pay attention to on-road signage. All work is weather dependent. Drivers should expect delays and use alternate routes.

Upcoming Lane Closures and Traffic Changes
The following planned lane closures are expected to have significant traffic impacts. All work is subject to change based on weather and schedule. Find the latest information on travel conditions and work zones by visiting or downloading the Virginia 511 app.
Route 286 (Fairfax County Parkway)
Saturday, September 29th: 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. 
Three left lanes will be closed to implement long-term lane shifts. Drivers should expect occasional 15-minute stoppages.
Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) | Oakton | City of Fairfax
I-66 East between Blake Lane & Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) and I-66 West between Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) & Route 50
Friday, September 28th: 9:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m.
Three left lanes will be closed on I-66 East and West between 9:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. There will be periodic stoppages of traffic for up to 15 minutes between midnight and 4:00 a.m. in both directions on the interstate and on the Route 123 C-D Road to remove overhead utility lines.
Ramp from Route 123 South to I-66 West 
Friday, September 21st: Midnight to 4:00 a.m. (on Sept. 22nd)
Overnight closure of the ramp from southbound Route 123 to westbound I-66, and periodic full stoppages of traffic on Route 123 South for up to 15 minutes between midnight and 4:00 a.m. to remove an overhead gantry and set concrete barrier along previously shifted travel lanes. Traffic will be detoured to the I-66 East exit and ride the ramps to I-66 West.
I-495 (Capital Beltway) | Dunn Loring
I-66 West between Virginia Lane & Gallows Road
Thursday, September 27th: 9:30 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. 
Friday, September 28th: 9:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m.
Three left lanes will be closed to implement long-term lane shifts. Drivers should expect occasional 15-minute stoppages. Additionally, there will be narrowing and single lane closures on the ramps from the northbound and southbound I-495 General Purpose lanes to I-66 West with occasional 15-minute stoppages.

Friday, August 17, 2018

I-66 Reverse Commute Tolling

As many of us hit the road for August vacations, whether it’s a week at the beach, or a long weekend in the mountains, one of the toughest questions to answer is what time to leave town, to try and avoid spending half your vacation stuck in traffic.

Personally, I like to get up at the crack of dawn on Saturday, skip my normal morning run, and get out before I have too much company on the road.

Unfortunately, when we plan our daily commutes to and from the office, we don’t always have the flexibility to decide to leave at the optimal traffic time. That’s one of the things I’ve certainly heard a lot about since VDOT added congestion-based tolling to the HOV lanes of I-66 inside the beltway and expanded the HOV hours.

It’s also why I supported legislation introduced last session by my colleague, David Bulova, to restore the HOV hours inside the beltway to what they were before we added the tolls. Unfortunately, that bill died.

The good news, though, is we beat back an effort by House Republicans, led by Delegate Tim Hugo, to double the already extended tolling hours on I-66. When I saw their budget language didn’t make it in to the final two year spending plan (thanks to budget conferees like Senator Richard Saslaw, my Senate counterpart representing Falls Church), I thought that was that.

Well, the other thing about late July and August in this region is we often have slow news days for the local TV and radio reporters. That’s the only reason I can think of that this issue got back into the local news cycle a few weeks ago.

You may have seen or heard recent television news reports, and most recently a question to the Governor on WTOP’s Ask The Governor, about whether there are still plans to implement tolling on I-66 during reverse commuting off-peak hours at some future date.

When I saw these reports hitting the airwaves again, I reached out to Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine, a Ralph Northam appointee. I shared with her our community’s concerns about the persistence of these rumors. The expansion of the HOV hours and shockingly high level the Congestion Based Pricing “option” often hits have had the unfortunate effect of limiting transportation options for many of my constituents. Doubling the hours and charging people who made a strategic decision to live and work so that they could go against the rush hour traffic is simply unacceptable, and I let her know it.

Secretary Valentine responded promptly to my letter with a phone call. We discussed my concerns on your behalf.

She was very clear that doubling tolling hours on I-66 inside the beltway by adding tolls to already existing capacity is not on Governor Northam’s agenda nor is it something that VDOT intends to move forward with.

I look forward to working with Secretary Valentine and the Northam administration to find practical, effective transportation solutions that do not create a two-tiered transportation network in Northern Virginia - with fast lanes only for those who can afford to pay $15 -$40 a day.

To get the most accurate information and news about I-66 projects and tolling measures, remains a great source. You can sign up for their e-news or visit their social media accounts (@VDOT and

If you have issues or concerns about this or any other state-related issue, you can always contact my office. Hearing from constituents helps me better represent you and ensures that I know what you value the most. I can be reached at and (571) 327-0053.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

New Laws in 2018

July is the month that most of the new laws approved by the General Assembly & signed by the Governor officially become law. However, because many of us have probably been busy watching the World Cup, it’s possible that some of these changes went unnoticed. So let me highlight some of the successful legislation that we worked on in Richmond this past session.

Ever wanted to go to take your dog along to a winery but found that your destination didn’t allow it? Well worry not, your dog can now accompany you on those winery, distillery, or brewery events so long as you don’t take them into the areas used for the manufacturing of food products. No more last-minute searches for dog sitters!

Have you ever read the research on the benefits of using CBD oil and THC-A oil for treatment of certain conditions? Well since March 9, 2018 a practitioner can issue a prescription for the use of CBD oil and THC-A oil for the purposes of treating or alleviating symptoms of a specific diagnosed condition or disease.

Virginia is home to many military and state department families whose careers require them to live in and out of Virginia from time to time. Many spouses have earned professional teaching credentials in other states during their travels, but have difficulty getting their license in Virginia, so we made the process for licensing out-of-state teachers smoother by (i) permitting teachers with valid out-of-state license and full credentials to receive licensure by reciprocity and (ii) by permitting a local school board or division superintendent to waive certain licensure requirements for anyone who holds a provisional license and is employed by the local school board.

Have you been trying to or been thinking about installing solar panels on your property? Well now you can install these panels on your roof or building to serve all your electric or thermal needs. The installation must still comply with any height and setback requirements in the zoning district where the property is located.

Thinking about getting a new license plate? If you would like to show your support for gun violence prevention you can now get a special license plate bearing the legend STOP GUN VIOLENCE. Many of you know this was a bill I carried this year - we were finally able to get it passed because of my constituent, Carol Luten, and her unfailing commitment to getting all the required prepaid applications.

Do you own an all-terrain vehicle, moped, or off-road motorcycle? Then this law may apply to you. Starting October 1, 2018, these types of vehicles will be subject to the motor vehicle sales and use tax. But don’t worry - if the Virginia retail sales tax has already been paid on a vehicle, it is exempt from motor vehicle sales tax.

If there is ever an emergency when you need to contact 9-1-1 but can’t make a phone call, by July 1, 2020 each public safety answering point will be required to be able to receive and process calls for assistance sent via text message.

Driving can be dangerous, especially when there are individuals using their phones instead of giving their full attention to the road. To promote the safety of our workers on highway work zones, there is now a mandatory fine of $250 for those seen using their phones while driving in these areas.

Finally, we all know the difficulties in getting a higher education. With the law we just passed, the Virginia Community College System will be required to develop a 15-credit-hour Passport Program and a 30-credit-hour Uniform Certificate of General Studies Program that can be offered at each community college for which courses are transferable. Along with the previous change, the law also requires that each college or university develop a pathway map that clearly outlines the courses that a community college student is encouraged to take before transferring to a college or university. These changes will make it easier to pursue a higher education within the Commonwealth.

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 found here.

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

Thursday, June 21, 2018

What's Next?

What’s next?

Now that the Virginia General Assembly passed a budget that expands Medicaid in Virginia, and the Governor has signed it, what will be the next defining battle between partisans in an extremely narrowly divided General Assembly?

That’s the question I’ve been getting most lately.

The conversation usually starts with a “thank you” for all your hard work these last five sessions working to close the coverage gap and provide health care for 400,000 Virginians. Or sometimes a simple “congratulations.”

When I hear that one, I sometimes have to remind myself we just accomplished something really, really consequential this year. It took years of grassroots activists and organizations lobbying General Assembly members with thousands upon thousands of phone calls, emails, and letters plus rallies, parades, and “die-ins” to make this happen. Passing Medicaid expansion was huge.

So, what is next?

Gun reform? Not likely. Not with the current make-up of the General Assembly, where Republicans still do hold the majority (albeit by the narrowest of margins) in both houses. This year they made a point of hearing every single piece of common sense gun violence prevention legislation on the new Governor’s first day in office. The promptly killed every last one before he could even give his first address to the joint assembly of the House and Senate.

Redistricting reform? Perhaps, although the devil continues to be in the details. I think partisans on both sides probably want to see what the outcome of the 2019 elections look like before they commit to a particular approach.

Campaign finance reform? Also a possibility. I reintroduce a version of my bill to prohibit using campaign funds for personal use every year. This past session was the closest we ever got to forming a compromise version of the bill. In the end, my conservative colleagues chose to abandon the effort, but there is hope for next year.

There were other areas of compromise, in addition to Medicaid Expansion, though, that give me reason for hope that more can be accomplished in the area of criminal justice reform.

We raised the felony threshold for larceny, for instance, from $200 where it had languished for decades, to $500 in 2018. While not as far as some would have liked, we did more than double it.

We also passed legislation to limit long term suspensions and began to address issues that lead to a “school to prison pipeline” in some parts of Virginia. The legislation is a good first step, and also an acknowledgement of the problem and the need for solutions.

Some issues can be addressed without any legislative involvement. One such issue is the prevalent use of cash bail, which results in a dual track justice system for rich and poor. The result is that those who are poor are incarcerated without being convicted of any crime at an alarming rate.

Last month, the newly minted Prince William Delegation sent a letter to Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney (and fellow Democrat elected official), Paul Ebert, asking him to create a pretrial release system that is based on the defendant's perceived public safety and flight risk rather than the defendant's ability to pay.

Our Fairfax County and Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorneys were both also elected after campaigning and running as Democrats. Perhaps activists looking for the next good fight to engage in should reach out to their elected CAs and ask them to address this issue in the same manner.

So, really the question of what’s next could be many things and isn’t necessarily relegated to the General Assembly passing specific legislation. This is partly why it is so important that the grassroots advocacy groups that came about in the past few years remain active. Your voices were heard on Medicaid expansion. And I have no doubt that your voices will be heard on a few more critical issues in the years to come.

Have another idea on what we should tackle next? I’d love to hear from you. My office can be reached at (571) 327-0053 or

Friday, June 1, 2018

Final Budget Highlights

Now I'll be bold
As well as strong
And use my head alongside my heart
And I'll kneel down
Wait for now
I'll kneel down
Know my ground

'Cause I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you

~ Mumford & Sons, "I Will Wait"

Thanks to you, hundreds of thousands of Virginians who work just enough to stay out of poverty, but don't earn enough to be able to afford health insurance, will be able to get healthcare through expanded Medicaid coverage next year.

After 6 years of failed attempts, and now 3 months after the House of Delegates did it, the Senate of Virginia finally passed a state budget with Medicaid expansion! I was pleased to once again vote YES on the Senate version, which will now go to Governor Northam for amendments, line item vetoes, and ultimately his signature.

Elections matter. And when we vote, we win AND we can make landmark policy changes that make Virginia better for everyone.

Of course, Medicaid expansion is not the only thing the 2018-2020 Biennial Budget accomplishes. With the draw down of federal money from expansion coupled with the higher than projected state revenues, we were able to fund quite a few good things.

Budget Highlights


Medicaid Expansion | Extends coverage to nearly 400,00 Virginians with incomes up to 138% above the federal poverty level pursuant to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) | Effective January 2019

I/DD Waiver Slots | Adds 1,319 waivers slots and 50 reserve slots to further reduce the waiting list, which is about 6,500 children and adults

Mental Health | $191.7 million to address capacity issues through discharge planning, assisted living slots and community support teams, including $84.1 million for community mental health services

LARC Pilot Program | $6 million for the Virginia Department of Health to expand access to long acting reversible contraception (LARCs) for low-income populations


Teacher Raises | 3% raise for school positions | Effective July 2019

Tuition Assistance Grants | Increases TAG funding to $3,350

Direct Aid to Public Education | Increased by $166.3 million from the General Fund and the Lottery above the original introduced budget

Per Pupil Funding | Includes $4.6 to increase the per pupil amount to $6,326, an increase of $201 per student

Student Loan Ombudsman | Includes funding to establish the Office of the Student Loan Ombudsman, which will assist borrowers with understanding their rights and responsibilities regarding their loans as well as resolve complaints involving loan servicers

Transportation & Public Safety

Law Enforcement Raises | Targeted salary increase for some law enforcement and deputy sheriffs | Effective January 2019

I-66 Reverse Commuter Tolling | This Republican amendment was not included in the budget and will not go into effect.


State Employee Raises | 2% raise for state employees and 2% additional merit salary adjustment for state employees with 3+ years of service | Effective July 2019

Judicial Branch

Judicial Vacancies | Includes funding to fill all current vacancies across the state

Special Dockets | Dedicated funding to expand existing or establish new mental health dockets and to increase the number of drug courts

You can view the full compromise budget here.

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Tale of Two Bills

Earlier this week, I stopped by Larry Graves Park for a T-ball game between the Delegate Marcus Simon Nationals and their not-so-bitter-rivals the Merrifield Orthodontics Nationals. (Thanks to a sponsorship agreement with Washington’s Major League Baseball team, every team in Falls Church Kiwanis Little League is named the Nationals.)

It was a great chance to get out and get some photos with the team I proudly sponsor and to chat with the kids and their parents about what’s going on in the General Assembly.

“You guys are done, right?” asked one parent.

“No, not really. We still haven’t passed a State Budget.”

“Oh, that’s right, I think I read something about that . . . something to do with healthcare?”

“That’s right, in the Virginia House of Delegates, we passed a budget that expands Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act - you know, Obamacare. The Senate still doesn’t want to do that,” I explained.

“What’s the hold up? Different party’s in charge?”

“No,” I replied, “But we had an election in the House of Delegates last year. We picked up 15 seats that had been held by Republicans. So even though we are two seats shy of a majority, our Republicans got the message. On the Senate side, they haven’t had an election since 2015. They don’t understand what it’s like to campaign in post-Trump world here in Virginia.”

“What’s the deadline?” he asked.

“June 30th.”

“That’s the law?”

“That’s when we run out of money,” I explained.

Meanwhile, one of the players was in the dugout having a meltdown because she didn’t want to leave the shade and two other teammates started wrestling over a ground ball hit in their general vicinity, both wanting the opportunity to throw it into right field.

The whole scenario was a reminder of how much of what we do in Richmond may not register with our constituents who are busy living their lives. Working, paying their bills, coaching their kid’s sports teams, or just making time to cheer them on from the bleachers.

A Tale of Two Bills

Then he asked me to tell him about one piece of legislation I introduced that passed this year. Thanks to that 2017 election I was telling him about and our 15 new Democrats, I had several bills from which to choose.

I decided on a bill that I’d introduced for two years in a row, with two very different outcomes.

In 2017, I introduced a bill to allow Virginia consumers to greater protection from being caught in recurring payment and automatic renewal offers.

Last year, the bill went straight to the full House Commerce & Labor Committee and was dismissed rather quickly, without much debate or questions from the committee members.

Fast forward to 2018 and I gave it another try. This time, the set up appeared to be even worse. The House Commerce and Labor subcommittee had a long docket that started about 6pm on a Thursday night. Many of the subcommittee members served on another subcommittee that had started at 2pm.

I had three bills. The first two bills I presented had some debate and a few questions, but both failed.

It was late. We were all exhausted after a full day of session and committee meetings. So, I set aside my talking points and just started with a question.

How many of you have ever signed up for something (or been signed up) and couldn’t figure out how to cancel it? Heads were nodding in the affirmative.

And have you ever gotten so frustrated you found it was easier to call and report your credit card lost and get a new number than figure it out? A few actually raised their hands.

My bill will fix that, I said.

I then started to explain how and nearly immediately one of the Republican members of the committee interrupted, “Mr. Chairman, I have a Motion. I move to report.”

That would send the bill to the full Committee for a vote. Ultimately, the bill passed the House and the Senate unanimously.

The bill had not substantively changed between 2017 and 2018. However, the makeup of the House of Delegates had done so dramatically. Whereas my bills previously would have been dismissed without much cause (and they often were), now I can present my legislative ideas and have a better opportunity to see them succeed.

And it’s a bill that, starting on July 1, will make companies doing business in Virginia treat consumers better, and make their lives a little easier, even if they might not notice or know what happened.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The waiting is the hardest part

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

~ Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, "The Waiting"

Is session over? Are you still in Richmond? When are we going to get a budget?
These are the top three questions I get on the sidelines of my kids' sporting events this spring.

Seems like you should be done by now, but I think I heard somewhere that you all are still in some kind of special session. And I think I saw on Facebook that you were down there in April.

So here’s the deal. We met for our regular 60 day Session which ended March 10th, with the House of Delegates passing a budget that included Medicaid expansion to provide health insurance options to 400,000 Virginians who live on incomes very near the poverty line. The Senate did not include Medicaid expansion and the two houses adjourned without a budget.

In April, the General Assembly met in Special Session to try again. The House once again passed a budget that included much-needed Medicaid expansion the day before our regularly scheduled Reconvene Session where we sustained all of the Governor’s vetoes (yay!).

Since then, Senate Finance has reviewed the budget and the full Senate will meet on Monday, May 14th to vote on any Senate committee amendments as well as the full budget. Their budget will likely have substantial differences that will need to be reconciled through a conference committee. We should know a little more by the middle of next week, but this may well take until close to our June 30th deadline to avoid shutting down state government.

We also had some debate on the WMATA funding legislation and ultimately accepted some of the Governor's recommendations and voted down ones related to taking less money from Northern Virginia road projects. While this was not the outcome we wanted, the good news is that we do now have a dedicated funding source for metro.

Around the District

Now that I'm back in the district full time, I've been attending community meetings and speaking with local organizations about what happened during the General Assembly Session and what lies ahead.

So, if you've got a civic organization, scout troop, HOA, or other community group, I'd be happy to attend a regular meeting to give an update on the budget or relevant legislation and hear about issues that concern you the most. I can also help schedule a briefing on the I-66 project and how it will affect your particular community.

If you'd like to schedule something, please contact my office ( or (571) 327-0053)).

Memorial Day Parade & Festival

In case you'll be in town, the Falls Church Memorial Day Parade and Festival will be held rain or shine on Monday, May 28th from 9:00am to 5:00pm on the grounds of City Hall (300 Park Ave.). Admission is free!

Every year, this family-friendly event has something for everyone - from pony rides to tours of Cherry Hill Farm and live music to booths featuring local business and civic groups. The parade begins at 2pm - if you're interested in marching with us, you can sign up via the Facebook Event Page. Please note that we have to line up at 1pm at our designated location. As the event gets closer, more information will be posted in the event page.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

I-66 Outside the Beltway Project Update

The Virginia General Assembly is supposed to be a part time job. That’s what I keep telling my partners. We meet for 60 days in even numbered years and 45 days in odd numbered years because we adopt a biennial budget during the even years. We meet one day in April to vote on the Governor’s vetoes and amendments, but other than that most of the rest of the work can be done at night or on the weekends.

At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

This year we got to the end of the legislative session, but the House and Senate couldn’t agree on a budget, and they realized they were too far apart to try and hammer out their differences with a couple days extension of the session.

So last week, I trekked down to Richmond mid-week again for Special Session I. (The fact that we number the special session always seems ominous. Could we have Special Session II, III and IV yet to come?)

This special session is to review and vote on Governor Northam’s new budget (which is based largely on former Governor Terry McAuliffe’s outgoing budget) so that we can have another opportunity to get it right.

Of course, the big issue holding things up is Medicaid expansion.

I’ll be down again this week to work on the budget some more and to vote on the Governor’s vetoes as well as his amendments to a few bills. So what happened?

Unfortunately, the sessions didn’t end before my deadline . . . so you’ll have to wait until next month for my take.

For now, let me update you on another issue that is about to start having a big impact on Falls Church and Merrifield residents - the beginning of the construction on I-66 Outside the Beltway.

Construction on the project will include lane shifting and concrete barriers narrowing some of the lanes. There will also be intermittent weekend shutdowns of the Orange line to accommodate some of the construction and to avoid safety issues.

The project completion is expected at the end of 2022. At that time, there will be two toll lanes in each direction (like the I-495 HOT Lanes) plus three regular traffic lanes and a shoulder area. The toll lanes will be HOV-3, requiring drivers to have three or more people in car if they’d like to use the lanes and avoid the toll. Motorcycles and buses will also be able to use the lanes for free, but other cars with fewer than three people will pay the toll. Alternatively, drivers can use the regular lanes at any time without paying any tolls.

As always, if you can carpool, telecommute, or take public transportation, this will help you avoid some of the expected residual issues during construction and avoid the tolls once the project is completed. During construction VDOT and their partner are offering free or reduced bus fare along the corridor to help ease congestion and provide commuters with alternatives to get from points into town.

Some of the revenue generated by the tolls will go toward other regional transportation projects and to provide transit services that include three new bus routes, increased service on existing routes, and connections to metro stations. There will also be a new park and ride lot to support future bus services. In addition, there are some other road and bridge maintenance/repairs that will be possible because of the money from the tolls.

I don’t expect that these positives will erase all the animosity toward tolling or that knowing the construction will eventually end will make your current daily commute any easier. But I do hope that having some information will help make it more manageable.

In the meantime, the project website ( is a great source for updates. Here, you can sign up for their e-news or visit their social media accounts (@VDOT and The main website has interactive project maps plus a listing of any upcoming public hearings.

Of course, you can also contact my office to let me know about your issues and concerns. I’m happy to relay them to the project team and ensure that your voice is heard. I can be reached at and (571) 327-0053.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

2018 Session - Week 8

What a difference a day made
Twenty-four little hours
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain

~Dinah Washington, "What a Difference a Day Makes"

The Speaker just gavelled out the 2018 Session and I wanted to give you an update on what happened with some outstanding pieces of business.

Last year at the end of session, I referenced the movie La La Land, highlighting the stark contrast between the hyper-partisan legislative agenda that my Republican colleagues pursued versus the working families-focused legislative agenda that I and my Democratic colleagues championed.

What an incredible difference a year and another election makes.

During the 2018 Session, there was still some contentious legislation, but far less than in previous years. This had a lot to do with the new makeup of the House - we picked up 15 seats last November and several of these pickups replaced conservative members that were well known for their outrageous and headline-grabbing legislation. Having a Democratic Governor with veto power in addition to 49 Democrats in the House doesn't hurt either.

Legislative Update

So, 2018 has really been different. My personal bill stats:

  • 6 bills through the House of Delegates vs ZERO in 2017
  • 5 bills made it through the Senate
  • 3 bills had to go to Conference committees but all passed
Assuming the Governor signs them into law, beginning July 1, 2018 you will be able to get a license plate bearing the legend Stop Gun Violence (HB287); you will have a more predictable process for evicting or being evicted after a foreclosure (HB 311); students who fall behind in their tuition and fee payments will have more flexible options for getting caught up before having their account turned over to a collections agency (HB 339| a really good Washington Post article highlights this issue); very small cities and localities will have the option of hiring registrars from nearby localities or retaining registrars who move (HB 690); and consumers will have greater protection from being caught in recurring payment and automatic renewal offers that don’t have easy and obvious ways to cancel (HB 911).

Nothing earth shattering, but some little things that should make life a little better for some of you, I hope.

I also spoke against HB 715, which would have allowed EMS and firefighters to carry a concealed weapon while on duty. Not only did EMS personnel and firefighters not ask for this bill, but the Virginia Department of Criminal Justices Services, Virginia Association of Fire Chiefs, the Professional Firefighters, Office of Emergency Medical Services, and Virginia Association of Volunteer Rescue Squads opposed the bill. Fortunately, the majority of my colleagues agreed and it was defeated in the House on a vote of 35 to 62.

On a lighter side, my seat-mate, Delegate Bagby, and I hosted the 1st Annual Coffee Awards in which we awarded coffee mugs to winners in 6 specific categories. You can view the whole awards "ceremony" here.

For my own part, I was awarded The Pop Up Award from the other side of the aisle for regularly "popping up" to speak on legislation that wasn't my own.

The Budget

Unfortunately, the path to reconciling the House and Senate versions of the 2018-202 Biennial Budget remains a long one. Since the Senate version did not contain Medicaid expansion, the differences to be ironed out were large to begin with. It was confirmed yesterday that we wouldn't have a compromise budget to vote on today. Instead, we will return for a special session in a few weeks to vote. As I learn more information about what the compromise will look like, I will share it with you.

Governor's Vetoes and Reconvene Session
While Governor Northam has not vetoed any legislation yet, chances are good that there will be at least a couple of them for the House and Senate to review during the Reconvene Session on April 18th. At that time, we will also address any recommendations that the Governor has made to legislation as well as any amendments he has to the compromise budget.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

2018 Session - Week 7

All my days I prayed and prayed and now I see the finish line
Oh I'm gonna finish mine
All my days I prayed and prayed and now I see the finish line
Gonna finish mine

~Chance The Rapper, "Finish Line/Drown"

The 2018 Session is nearly at and end, but things have only slightly slowed down. We're wrapping up committee meetings to get through the last of the bills to go to the floor for votes. Conference committees are meeting to work out the kinks in bills. So, while this week's update is relatively short, I'll have a longer one next week once more things have been finalized.

On the House floor, I once again spoke against a bill that would prohibit localities from requiring a wage floor when entering contracts. A version of this bill has been vetoed for the past two years and I suspect it is headed for the same fate this year.

I also did a speech in honor of my mentor and predecessor, former Delegate Jim Scott. One of the nice things that we can do in the House is adjourn in the honor and memory of someone - I took this opportunity to honor Jim last week as he touched many lives over the years, including many of those still elected to the General Assembly.

Legislative Update

For the first time, I have three bills in conference:

HB 911 | Requires companies offering a recurring contract or automatic renewal to clearly state the terms and conditions of the contract. The bill is in conference so that we can add a line about those companies that try in good faith to comply.

HB 690 | Removes the residency requirement for registrars in localities with a population less than 15,000. There is a Senate version of this bill that has a higher population threshold, which will most likely be what the compromise version looks like.

HB 287 | Creates a Special License Plate for "Stop Gun Violence. Because the House and Senate versions of this bill are different, we need to find the happy medium between the two.

The Budget

Conferees are still hard at work to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the budget. Unfortunately, it may be a long path to consensus since the Senate version did not include Medicaid expansion. There are also rumors that a compromise won't be reached before the last day of Session and what we'll have to have to come back to vote on a final version some time later in March or even April.

Monday, February 26, 2018

February Budget Update #2

It's getting better all the time
Better, better, better
It's getting better all the time
Better, better, better

~The Beatles, "It's Getting Better All the Time"

Making new laws some times feels like making sausage — hopefully what comes out in a nice neat package is tasty, but the process for getting it made can be ugly. Often times the raw ingredients we are given to start with are awful, but getting the right mix of ingredients, along with some sweeteners and some items to spice things up, we come out with a good product.

When you take a look at it before its done, though, it’s really, really unappetizing.

2018-2020 Biennial Budget

In my 4 years here, I’ve never voted YES for a biennial budget. In 2014, Governor McDonnell’s departing budget didn’t expand Medicaid. In 2016, Governor McAuliffe’s original budget did, but House Republicans took it out.

This year, the House version of the budget passed with Medicaid expansion left in tact on a vote of 68 to 32. I'm happy to say that because expansion was included, I was able to vote YES.

I voted YES to helping the nearly 400,000 Virginians who will gain healthcare coverage, to increased funding for mental health services in the community and in our jails and prisons. I voted YES to teacher pay raises, to an Office of Student Loan Ombudsman, and to more Lottery funds coming back to local school districts with no strings attached.

Of course, this version of the budget isn't perfect and we tried to add a few floor amendments to further improve it, including an amendment to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in public employment and in-state tuition for those that have lived in Virginia for at least a year and have filed to become a permanent US resident. We also objected to a few of the amendments that the House Appropriations Committee decided to include. More information on these are below.

Since the House and Senate budgets differ, there will be a conference committee to work out the kinks in the next week or so. The biggest difference, of course, is that the Senate version doesn't include Medicaid expansion. In spite of this, I'm hopeful that the budget conferees will be able to work out a compromise that includes Medicaid Expansion in time for us to vote on the final version of the budget at the end of next week.

Floor Amendments

Budget Item 420 #1h | To establish a See Something, Say Something Hotline, run by the State Police. The hotline would be specifically for tips and help in identifying potential mass shooting instances. This is my floor speech.


Budget Item 452 #2h | A committee approved budget amendment to require reverse commuter tolling on I-66 inside the beltway. I also spoke on this.

Budget Item 303 #7h | A committee approved budget amendment to eliminate the proposed 2% salary increase for personal care assistants. Here is my speech.

You can still view online the full biennial budget and all the budget amendments.

Rate Freeze Repeal Bill

Another bill that looked awful when we saw it for the first time was a bill to repeal a 2015 bill to freeze rate reviews for our regulated electric monopolies, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power Company. I voted no at the time. I’m always skeptical of these sorts of bills, but given how bad the 2015 bill was, I knew we had to do something. The first bill we saw, though, wasn’t much better than the status quo.

I’ve included a chart here that shows you how much better we were able to make that bill through a series of amendments in both the House and Senate committees and on the House Floor. There are three columns, one showing how things work under the 2015 bill we need to repeal, one showing the bill as introduced, and another showing the bill be voted on today.

It’s a bill I would never have supported in its original form, or even as it first came out of committee. As a result of the hard work of a large group of stakeholders, it has emerged in a from I was able to vote YES on.

There are certainly folks who won’t like this flavor of sausage - those who think we used too much spice and not enough sweetener. But at the end of the day, I think it’s a product my constituents and consumers will be delighted with, as more of our energy than ever will come from renewable sources, we will experience fewer power outages, and our grid will be more secure than ever before.

Monday, February 19, 2018

February Budget Update

Finally it has happened to me right in front of my face
My feelings can't describe it
Finally it has happened to me right in front of my face and
I just can not hide it

~CeCe Peniston, "Finally"

It's budget week at the General Assembly. The House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees introduced their respective versions of the 2018-2019 Biennial Budget yesterday afternoon.
Finally, after years of Democratic lawmaker's advocating for it, the House Budget includes Medicaid Expansion.

Amendments to House Bill 29 increase health care coverage to uninsured Virginians with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level pursuant to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) effective January 1, 2019, with 300,000 individuals projected to enroll.

As part of the deal to expand Medicaid, the plan incorporates innovative reforms to promote health and well-being, personal responsibility and fiscal sustainability.

Within 45 days after passage HB 29, Virginia will submit State Plan Amendment application & file initial paperwork for the section 1115 demonstration waiver. HB 29 provides $3.5 million General Fund (GF) and federal Medicaid matching funds to hire an expert with successful experience with similar waivers to assist with the design and federal approval process.

House Bill 30 provides $4.6 million GF in FY 2019 and $16.9 million GF in FY 2020 to support the Training, Education, Employment and Opportunity Program (TEEOP) for Medicaid enrollees.

My colleagues and I will be reviewing the entire proposed budget this week. On Thursday, we will vote on the House Amendments to the Governor's budget and any submitted floor amendments. The decision to expand Medicaid has freed up hundreds of millions of state general fund dollars for mental health, education, economic development and other important priorities.

2018-2020 Biennial Budget | House Version

Mental Health

  • Total spending of $163.1 million from the General Fund over the biennium for behavioral health and developmental services including the following major items:
  • $47.8 million for 825 I/DD waiver slots and 50 reserve slots
  • $59.7 million for community mental health services
  • $15.8 million for behavioral health facility capacity and operating costs
  • $15.3 million for Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation capacity and facility expansion and services
  • $36.1 million in savings for Community Service Board funding due to Medicaid transformation

K-12 Education

The Introduced Budget has a net increase of $515.9 million GF higher than the FY 2018 base budget – which includes rebenchmarking, policy changes, new and expanded initiatives
  • $481.1 million for the total cost of Rebenchmarking
  • $34.8 million for new policy changes, new/expanded initiatives
  • To that, the Subcommittee recommends increasing the K12 budget by an additional $98.0 million over the biennium as compared to the introduced bill
  • Increases the Supplemental Lottery Per Pupil Amount (PPA) by $43.4 million the first year and $48.1 million the second year
  • The revised Supplemental Lottery PPA allocation totals $234.7 million the first year and $239.4 million the second year
  • The per pupil amount increased from $274 each year to $336 the first year and to $342 the second year
  • The recommended additional funding increases the total percentage of Lottery dollars going directly the school divisions to 40% in the second year
  • School divisions have 100% flexibility on spending

Higher Education 

  • Finally got funding for an office of Student Loan Ombudsman, which I've been working on with Senator Howell for a few years
  • Commonwealth Cyber (CyberX) Initiative $40.0 million
  • $40.0 million under VRIC for a new cyber initiative
  • Engine for research, innovation, and commercialization cybersecurity technologies
  • Address statewide shortage of advanced and professional degrees within the cyber workforce
  • Hub and Spoke structure with the Hub located in Northern Virginia with Virginia Tech as anchor, along with participating universities and industry partners spokes co-located with, and operated by, other public universities throughout the Commonwealth
  • Opportunity to participate in collaborative programs and access to investment resources via VRIC


  • Re-evalution of the inside the beltway tolling algorithm
  • Establishing of reverse commuter tolling inside the beltway (which I don't support and will oppose on the House floor)

You can view online the full biennial budget and all the budget amendments.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

2018 Session - Crossover

I had a dream so big and loud
I jumped so high I touched the clouds
Wo-o-o-o-o-oh, wo-o-o-o-o-oh...

I'm never gonna look back
Woah, never gonna give it up
No, please don't wake me now

~American Authors, "Best Day of My Life"

We are officially halfway through the 2018 Session.

I knew coming in to the session that it would be different than any of my previous four. After all, we have a new Governor, a new Speaker, and 19 new members, including 16 new members of my caucus, bringing the balance of power from 66-34 to 51-49.

With several races not decided until just before session, we got off to a slow start in early January. We spent more time than usual getting committees organized, causing bills to be heard a little bit later than normal.

That said, the last two weeks more than made up for that slow start.

I presented bills to subcommittees that had as many as 60 bills on their docket for a single meeting. One evening, I had the last 3 bills on the docket and didn't present until 9:30pm. The good news is, one of them even passed.

Early mornings and later nights are not a new thing for session, nor is having multiple bills in different committees at the same time. We also had a few intense floor debates. When I speak on the House floor, I try to get video clips and then post them on my YouTube Channel or Facebook page.

Crossover, the deadline for when all House and Senate bills must be acted on in their house of origin in order to "crossover" to the other house, is this week. It was another long day on the House floor as we reviewed hundreds of bills before voting to send them to the Senate.

Big Issues Update

Rate Freeze | Dominion Bill

This bill passed - I voted yes after the double-dip was successfully removed from the bill. This is a good article discussing what happened on the House floor yesterday.

Felony Larceny Threshold

Bills to raise the felony larceny threshold to $500 passed both houses. While not as big an increase as I would have liked, any increase would have been impossible under the old balance of power.

Metro Funding

Very different solutions to providing a dedicated source of funding came out of the House and the Senate. I voted NO on Delegate Tim Hugo’s bill which contained unnecessary anti-union provisions that misplace the blame for Metro’s woes. I expect to be able to vote for a bill that emerges from the Senate or a conference committee before session is over.

Student Loan Debt

For those that have followed my legislative agenda or my social media pages over the years, you know that I've been working on tackling the student loan debt crisis. On Tuesday, I participated in a tele-town hall with Delegate Marcia Price and Anna Scholl of Progress Virginia, discussing student loan debt legislation as well as taking questions from the audience. The State Innovation Exchange (SiX) hosted the town hall.

Personal Use of Campaign Funds

Later in the week, I was pleased to work with my fellow members of the House Courts Committee and Delegate Mark Cole on HB 122, which addresses personal use of campaign finance. This is another issue that I've been working on since my first session and I'm pleased that the legislation is moving forward.

My Legislative Update

At the halfway point of Session (also known as Crossover), I am happy to report that I have 6(!) bills that have passed the House and will move to the Senate for consideration:

HB 287 | This bill will create a specialty license place with the legend "Stop Gun Violence." It took a few years, but we collected the required 450 pre-paid applications and now the bill will be heard in the Senate Transportation Committee later this week.

HB 311 | I carried this bill for the Virginia Realtors Association which handles unlawful detainers in the case of a foreclosure.

HB 339 | This bill requires universities and colleges to work with student loan borrowers to establish a payment schedule once an account is 60 days past due. Previously, higher education institutions would refer the account to a debt collection agency when it became past due.

HB 690 | This bill removes the residency requirements for registrars in localities with a population less than 15,000.

HB 911 | This bill requires companies offering a recurring contract or automatic renewal to clearly state the terms and conditions of the contract while also requiring the company to acquire the consumer's consent before entering this type of contract.

HB 1424 | This bill clarifies the Code of Virginia when it comes to how many recounts a candidate is afforded.

You can view all the bills I introduced this year online.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

2018 Session - Week 3

It's gettin' it's gettin' it's gettin' kinda hectic
It's gettin' it's gettin' it's gettin' kinda hectic

~Snap, "The Power" 

Things are getting so busy around here, I’m finally sending out my weekly Monday e-mail on Wednesday night!

After our initially slow start, last week made up for lost time as committees and subcommittees began their regular schedule.

Midweek, Appropriations staff briefed my colleagues and I on the Governor's budget. We won't have a floor debate on the new state budget for a few more weeks. We also won't know what member requested budget amendments will be included until that gets closer. However, you can view the full budget and the proposed amendments online now.

Legislative Update

Here's an update on some of my legislation that was heard last week:

HB 287 - The House Transportation Committee reviewed HB 287, which would create a specialty license place with the legend "Stop Gun Violence." I'm pleased to say that the Committee passed the bill and it will be in front of the full House this week. This bill has taken nearly two years to come to fruition, primarily due to all the hard work of local gun violence prevention advocates who collected over 500 prepaid applications.

HB 76 - This bill would create a Virginia Honest Ads Act, making the process of purchasing political advertisements more transparent and simply hold online ads to the same disclosure requirements to which print media, television, and radio advertisements are already subject. Members of the House Privileges & Elections subcommittee saw the merits of this bill, but wanted to make a few tweaks to the language. So, they voted to pass the bill by for the week until the subcommittee meets again, giving me the opportunity to address their concerns. HB 1424 - This bill clarifies the Code of Virginia when it comes to how many recounts a candidate is afforded. I'm happy to to report that the House Privileges & Elections Committee voted unanimously to pass the bill and that it will now go to the full House.

HB 498 - This bill would have repealed the blanket agreement for concealed handgun permit reciprocity that was passed during the 2016 Session.

Monday, January 22, 2018

2018 Session - Week 2

A whole new world
A new fantastic point of view
No one to tell us no
Or where to go
Or say we're only dreaming
A whole new world
A dazzling place I never knew
But when I'm way up here
It's crystal clear
That now I'm in a whole new world with you

Now I'm in a whole new world with you

~A Whole New World, "Disney’s Aladdin"

During the first full week of the 2018 General Assembly Session, I had 3 bills up in subcommittee and 2 of them passed to the next step in the process unanimously.

Last year, all my bills died in subcommittee on unrecorded voice votes.

I had a third bill - to repeal a law that allows the Virginia Department of Corrections to obtain death penalty drugs in secrecy without revealing the drug maker, the ingredients or any other pertinent details about the lethal injection drug protocol they are using - die on a party line vote, but without the new administration speaking out against it.

With 16 New Democratic Delegates, a 51-49 partisan split in the House of Delegates and a new Governor and Cabinet, things in Richmond feel much different than they have in previous sessions.

A Whole New Administration

Things got off to a bit of a rocky start last week, when we heard from our new Governor as he addressed a joint assembly of the House and Senate last Monday night. While the Governor laid out a policy agenda for the coming year that wasn’t all that different from the platform he campaigned on, Republicans complained Tuesday morning that his tone was too partisan.

While they held a press conference to complain about the new Governor’s tone, I was happy to kick off a press conference for the House Democratic Caucus that focused on non-partisan issues designed to improve life for hard working Virginia families. It featured my bill to raise the Minimum Wage in Virginia over the next several years to $15 an hour along with a bill to make sure women receive equal pay for equal work, to ease the burden of student loan debt, and to provide paid family and medical leave to all Virginians.

Later in the week, I gave a floor speech acknowledging the Majority leader’s call for all of us to embrace bi-partisan initiatives by reminding him that my bill to ban the personal use of campaign funds had bi-partisan support during the recently concluded Gubernatorial campaign, and that legislators from both parties had introduced bills to accomplish this during the 2018 session.

By the end of the week, Governor Northam had met with members of the Republican leadership and bills were beginning to move through subcommittees to be considered on their merits, without regard to the party of the patron. I hope that we can continue to work together for the remaining weeks of the session to get things done - particularly to find a way to provide health care coverage for over 400,000 Virginian’s through some form of Medicaid Expansion.

Legislative Update

In the meantime, here’s an update on the bills I’ve filed that have been heard do far:

HB 311 - I'm carrying this bill on behalf of the Virginia Association of Realtors. The bill passed the Courts subcommittee unanimously and will be heard by the full Courts Committee sometime this week.

HB 1056 - This bill the personal needs allowance for individuals in nursing homes who are on Medicaid. The current allowance is $40/mo. in Virginia and this bill will raise it to $150/mo. to bring the amount more in line with other states. The subcommittee of Health, Welfare, & Institutions voted to refer the bill to the Appropriations Committee for further review.

HB 100 - As I mentioned earlier in the email, this bill would have ended the secrecy surrounding the procurement and usage of the drugs used in lethal injections. It was defeated in a Courts subcommittee last Friday.

You can also view my legislative agenda for this year.

Monday, January 15, 2018

2018 Session - Week 1

You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need

~The Rolling Stones, "You Can't Always Get What You Want"

We gaveled in the 2018 General Assembly Session at noon on Wednesday, January 10th. Since this is a long session, we'll meet for 60 days.

Many of us have been watching since Election Day to see what the final make up of the House of Delegates would be. I was really hopeful we’d wind up 50-50 with real power sharing until we picked up a 51st seat in the 28th House District.

As it turns out, Shelley Simonds conceded her race a few hours before session and the 4th Circuit denied our motion to block the seating of the Republican in the 28th house district, so we start the season with the new makeup of the House 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats.

That is still an amazing and historic change of composition, as Democrats picked up 15 seats. As a result, I was very busy working with the leadership of our Caucus as we negotiated rules that preserve some semblance of proportionality on committees AND subcommittees - which is a first.

Subcommittee votes will now be recorded, another major concession from previous sessions.

Although we weren’t successful in getting a change to allow the leaders of each party to appoint their own members to committees, the Speaker did, in some cases, take into account our preferences for committee membership. After four years in the House, I am now on three committees:

  • Court of Justice
  • Militia, Police, & Public Safety
  • Science & Technology
I'm particularly excited to be on Courts as it is a new committee for me and will give me the opportunity to work on criminal justice reform, civil procedure, and changes to the Code of Virginia. I’ve already had more than 8 bills of mine referred to Courts, where we hear between 1/5 up to a 1/4 of all legislation that’s introduced.

Former Governor McAuliffe delivered his farewell address on Wednesday, highlighting the successes of his administration as well as the "rough patches" in his relationship with the Republican leadership.

Over the weekend, Governor Ralph Northam, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, and Attorney General Mark Herring were sworn into office on the Capitol steps. You can view the transcript of Governor Northam's inaugural speech here. 2018 Legislative Issues Survey

As I mentioned in my last email, my 2018 Survey is now available online and I'd love to hear from you. Please take a moment to let me what state-related issues are important to you.

During Session, you can always reach out to my office with constituent issues and legislative concerns:

Mailing Address | Pocahontas Building | 900 E. Main Street | Room 224W | Richmond, VA 23219

Email |

Phone | (804) 698-1053

You can also view my legislative agenda for this year.