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HB 498 - This bill would have repealed the blanket agreement for concealed handgun permit reciprocity that was passed during the 2016 Session.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