Thursday, January 24, 2019

Resources for Furloughed Feds

Today marks Day 34 since the government shutdown began. Northern Virginia is home to more than 83,000 federal employees, many of whom are currently on furlough or working without pay. Next Thursday, January 31, is the next regularly scheduled payday for federal employees, but it remains uncertain whether the government will re-open in time.

Our local governments in Fairfax County and City of Falls Church have done a wonderful job to provide support and resources in response to the shutdown, making sure no student goes hungry and hiring to fill temporary positions like substitute teachers and bus drivers.

Below is a list of resources available for furloughed federal employees and their families. I hope the information is helpful, but even more I hope that the Administration ends the shutdown soon.

Community Support for Furloughed Federal Employees

City of Falls Church 

Falls Church City Public Schools (FCCPS) will be expediting free and reduced lunch applications. The furlough is considered a change in income and all families affected can apply immediately to get this benefit. School lunch account balances will be allowed to accrue for affected students. Apply here.

FCCPS is also hiring substitute teachers and bus drivers. Find out more and apply online.
Falls Church Housing and Human Services offers a number of services and programs like food referral for City residents, along with financial assistance paying rent for contract government workers who will not receive back pay. Visit their website or reach them at 703-248-5005.

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington’s pet pantry is open to Falls Church City residents (with valid ID). No appointments needed. Find out more here.

Fairfax County 

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) will be providing meals (breakfast and lunch) regardless of ability to pay or temporary financial circumstances.

FCPS is offering substitute teaching positions to furloughed workers and will have an expedited hiring process. Learn more and apply online.

Fairfax Connector will provide free rides system-wide for federal government employees affected by the government shutdown who are still required to report for work. Eligible riders must present a federal photo ID to the bus operator. Find schedules, routes, and other information here.

The Fairfax County Animal Shelter has pet food and a limited amount of other supplies available for furloughed federal employees. Supplies are available during shelter business hours. For more information, call 703-830-1100 or email
Families in the Child Care Assistance and Referral Program with a 12-month eligibility can request that child care co-payments be lowered. Call 703-449-8484 or email

Other Resources 

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is offering a free (non-credit) class to furloughed federal employees and contractors. Employees can choose from select Business and Management, IT and Computer Skills, and Professional Development classes. Call 703-878-5770 or visit the website for more information.

George Mason University’s School of Business will offer free career skills workshops for furloughed federal employees and contractors. Find out more here.

The United States Office of Personnel Management has a website dedicated to furlough guidance.
AT&T/DIRECTV, T-Mobile, Cox, and Verizon are offering flexible payment options for those affected by the government shutdown.

Dominion Energy and Washington Gas are also providing support for federal employees impacted by the shutdown.

More information can be found on the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority’s website.

How You Can Help

If you’d like to help, check out the Stuff the Bus campaign to restock local food pantries in Fairfax County.

The Falls Church Community Service Council also welcomes donations of non-perishable food, toiletries, paper good (napkins, toilet paper, etc), and household items (laundry detergent, dish soap, etc). Donations can be dropped off at Knox Presbyterian Church (Route 50 and Allen Street) between the hours of 9:30a – 1:00p most weekdays. Please call their office 703-237-2562 if you have any questions.

Monday, January 21, 2019

2019 Session | Week 2

Raw power, honey, just won't quit
Raw power, I can feel it
Raw power, it can't be beat
Poppin' eyes and a-flashin' feet

Don't you try, don't you try to tell me what to do
Everybody always tryin' to tell me what to do

~Iggy and the Stooges, "Raw Power"

With the deadline to file legislation behind us, (Friday the 18th at 3:00pm was the final deadline to file bills), the pace of activity is really picking up during this short session. Each house has about 2 weeks left to finish work on their own bills. A couple of my 15 bills have already been heard and died (detailed update below). The House and Senate voted on judicial appointments last week, and advocacy groups ramped up their lobbying efforts.

Judicial election day caused the first real partisan fireworks of the session. Typically Judicial elections are fairly dull, procedurally complicated affairs with a lot of steps that have to happen in the right sequence so the House and Senate can sync up to vote on Judges.

About 4:30pm Tuesday, though, we learned that in addition to voting to reappoint sitting judges the majority party had decided on a candidate to be a new State Corporation Commission (one of three). We in the minority party were informed that she would be certified, qualified, and elected the following day.

As the House Democratic Caucus Parliamentarian, it fell to me to look for procedural opportunities to slow down the nomination and give us time to go through a proper process. As Delegate Toscano said on the floor, however, the nomination wasn’t up for actual discussion. Rather, it was an exercise of raw political power.

I submitted a floor amendment to remove the late addition from the resolution and force the election to be rescheduled for a later date, and made several parliamentary inquiries to see if we could have a genuine opportunity to vet the nominee. Unfortunately, the majority party had the numbers they needed to force the election through, which is exactly what they did.

Hope you enjoy this week's update!
Legislative Update

Early last week, my bill to allow same day registration was heard in a House Privileges and Elections Subcommittee (HB 1904). After some debate on the idea, the bill was defeated. Unfortunately, updating our voting and election laws remains an uphill battle.

Later in the week, my bill to prohibit 3D printing of guns was heard in a House Militia, Police, & Public Safety Subcommittee (HB 1691). For those that have read my session updates in the past, you can easily predict what happened with this bill - I presented the bill and several groups spoke in favor and the usual folks spoke against. In the end, the bill was killed as are most of the common sense gun violence prevention bills heard in this committee.

Tele-Town Hall on Minimum Wage & EITC

On Thursday, I participated in a teletown on raising the minimum wage and the Earned Income Tax Credit hosted by the State Innovation Exchange (SiX). Senator Rosalyn Dance, who represents parts of Richmond and Petersburg, and Michael Cassidy, President of The Commonwealth Institute, were also panelists on the call.

Meanwhile, over the weekend...

An annual tradition, my son swaps out my old license plate for my new one. Five years after my first plate, I’m into the 50s - the plate number signifies seniority and not the district number as some might think. Lots of turnover in the House of a Delegates lately!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The inalienable right to vote

This week’s edition of my Richmond Report is really coming to you from Richmond this month. The House of Delegates convened for our “short” 46 day session last week. With one full week behind us, things are starting to ramp up. A 46 day session means each chamber only has three weeks to work on its own bills before we reach cross-over and have to send them down the hall to the other side of the Capitol.

This past Saturday, many of you joined state Senator Saslaw and me for our annual early-session town hall, where we discussed our legislative agendas, priorities, and other issues that mattered most to our community. We covered a lot of ground during our time, discussing a broad spectrum of issues such as solar energy, the impact of Amazon’s HQ2 on our region, the Equal Rights Amendment, education funding, and of course, ending partisan gerrymandering, which will be a key fight this year.

Several bills I’ve introduced have to do with improving our system for choosing our elected leaders.

Gerrymandering is just one of many tools used to dilute the political power of specific voting blocs (like voters of a certain party, race, or religion). Perhaps the most insidious thing about gerrymandering though, is that it undermines the doctrine of “one man, one vote” or the idea that all votes cast should be counted equally.

It’s far from the only way Virginia has limited the right to vote. In 2017, then Governor Terry McAuliffe restored, en masse, the civil rights of 200,000 former felons who had served their sentences and paid their debt to society, allowing them to once again register to vote. This decision was controversial because language in our constitution, which traces its legislative history to the Jim Crow era, makes Virginia one of a handful of states that permanently deprives convicted felons of their voting privileges. The State Supreme Court eventually overturned the mass restoration, forcing McAuliffe to reinstate the rights of each felon individually.

Governor Northam continues the practice of routinely restoring the rights of felons individually as they complete their sentences and the process remains cumbersome.

That’s why I have introduced HJ598 – The Right To Vote – an amendment to the Constitution of Virginia to ensure that every person who is a U.S. Citizen and at least 18 has a RIGHT to vote and that no law can revoke that right. (Friendly reminder that in Virginia, Constitutional amendments must be passed through the full General Assembly twice before it can be put on a ballot to be voted on by the voters of the Commonwealth.)

There are other, more subtle ways that Virginia makes voting more difficult.

Which is why I also introduced HB1904 to allow voters who show up at the poll on Election Day not realizing that they needed to register or re-register the ability to apply for registration on the same day and cast a ballot.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 20 states plus the District of Columbia offer same day registration. States like California, Colorado, and Wyoming utilize state networked e-poll books to verify that voters are eligible to vote and that the voter has not registered or cast a ballot at a different location in the state. And guess what? It works!

Multiple studies have shown that on average, offering same day voter registration increases turnout by 3 to 7 percent, and about 5 percent on average.

Unfortunately, HB1904 didn’t make it out of the Privileges and Elections subcommittee, but I plan on introducing a similar bill again next year as part of a larger, more comprehensive proposal to reform our elections systems and processes.

Voting is a basic right and we should be lowering barriers of access to the ballot box and ensure voting is a free, fair, and accessible process. We should also be investing to make sure that every person who is eligible can vote without barriers.

Finally, voters need to have faith that the leaders they elect will act in their best interest, and not be overly influenced by the demands of constant fundraising and the strings that at least appear to come with some of those campaign contributions.

Up next week will be my perennial bill to ban the conversion of campaigns funds to a candidate’s personal use, and another stab at allowing Virginia localities to experiment with public financing of local elections.

Keep up with all things Richmond by following me on Facebook @DelegateSimon and Twitter @marcussimon.

Monday, January 14, 2019

2019 Session - Week 1

I need equal rights and justice
I need equal rights and justice
I need equal rights and justice
Got to get it, equal rights and justice

~Peter Tosh, "Equal Rights"

The 2019 Session began on Wednesday, January 9th and although it’s been less than a week since we started, I thought I’d go ahead and send out my first weekly e-mail today, since it is a short session (46 days).

Because it’s a short session, each member is limited to introducing 15 bills. That adds up quickly though, as we have already seen over 1,250 bills introduced, plus constitutional amendments, budget amendments, and other resolutions.

That’s a lot. And our session is even shorter than it seems, since every bill has to pass the house in which it was introduced by the halfway/crossover point. That makes the first three weeks of session by far the busiest and most hectic. I've already been meeting with advocates and constituent groups in between being on the floor and attending committee meetings.

Governor's State of the Commonwealth Address

Governor Northam gave his State of the Commonwealth address to the joint session on Wednesday, outlining his priorities for the year. I'm pleased to say that I'm carrying three of the Governor's priority bills - licensing of student loan servicers, prohibiting the use of campaign funds for personal use, and in-state tuition for Virginia National Guard members.

Overall, the Governor focused on key issues for Virginians including healthcare, education, environmental protection, workforce development, and improved access to parental leave.

You can read the Governor's full address or watch the video here.

My 2019 Legislative Agenda

As I mentioned, we are limited in the number of bills we can introduce during a short session. You'd think 15 bills would be plenty, but when you get down to what you think is important it can be surprisingly challenging.

This year, I have a combination of bills that were brought to me by constituents, state agencies, advocates, and of course the Governor. Here's a sampling:

HB 1690 | Adds the MWAA Police to the Line of Duty Act

HB 1691 | Restricts the 3D printing of guns

HB 1699 | Prohibits the personal use of campaign funds

HB 1760 | Requires student loan servicing companies to get a license to operate in Virginia

HB 1829 | Allows localities to establish public financing of campaigns

HB 1850 | Raises the minimum to $15 per hour

HB 1904 | Allows for same day voter registration

HB 2210 | Legalizes online sports betting with enhanced consumer protections

HJ 598 | A constitutional amendment codifying the right to vote

You can view my full legislative agenda here.

Constituent Services

I've already been hearing from many of you on a variety of topics, including the ERA, redistricting reform, the Solar Freedom bill, education funding, and voting rights - just to name a few!

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

I always appreciate hearing from you!