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.