Wednesday, February 16, 2022

2022 Crossover

Monday, we spent nearly 12 hours on the House floor, reviewing over 300 bills and resolutions.

Repealing, Rolling Back, & Watering-Down

We made a valiant effort on several fronts to combat the onslaught of bad bills that were set to pass the House yesterday and today.

With Del. Sally Hudson, we fought HB 212 - politicians have no business interfering between an individual and their doctor when it comes to reproductive healthcare. I have always opposed legislation that restricts or limits women's access to reproductive healthcare and will continue to do so. You can view our remarks here.

We tried to amend the Stadium Authority Bill (HB 1353) to make it contingent upon the NFL to releasing the Wilkinson Report. When the amendment failed, I led the opposition to the bill on the House floor, which puts me at odds with Senator Saslaw and Senator Peterson.
 
Although it still passed, I made an impassioned speech against HB 70, which would roll back progress we made in the past few years regarding civilian oversight of law enforcement.
 
Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, Del. Sam Rasoul, and I worked to amend the fatally flawed bills (HB 1272 & SB 739) that will strip our school boards' authority to require masks in schools. This issue has previously been left to the local boards as they know what is best for their areas. You can watch the full debate of our amendments on HB 1272 and on SB 739.
 
Knowing the Rules
 
Last week, Republicans killed constitutional amendments to restore rights to returning citizens (HJ 28) and to remove the obsolete same-sex marriage ban (HJ 57) from the Virginia Constitution. This is upsetting for several reasons, not the least of which is that both of these measures have the floor votes to pass and that the Republican leadership did not want to give us the opportunity to do so.
 
Tomorrow, we'll vote on my rules change resolution (HR 24) so we can try to force a vote on these constitutional amendments. To be clear, the Rules change would have to pass first and then we could move to discharge the two amendments from committee. Virginians deserve to have their voices heard on these issues and we will use every tool at our disposal to fight for them. During my floor speech on the Republican's flip-flopping on these issues, I go into a little more detail. 
 
Legislation Update
 
My two Code Commission bills to remove obsolete language in the Code of Virginia, my bill to update the City of Falls Church Charter, and my bill to ban the possession or transfer of unserialized firearms have now crossed over to the Senate. They will be heard in Senate committees over the next few weeks.
 
Just as there are bills to undo our good work, there are also bills to that I'd categorize as missed opportunities. One such bill, HB 833, completely misses the mark in the fight against gun violence in the Commonwealth. The bill removes the Operation Ceasefire Grant Fund program from the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and moves it to the Attorney General's Office. This watered-down effort highlights the differences in our approach to prevention, putting the emphasis on law enforcement instead of focusing on the root causes of gun violence.
 
Next week, we'll review the House Appropriations version of the state budget and have a long floor session to review amendments.
 
Unfortunately, with our current numbers in the House, we can't defeat all the bad bills (or push through the common-sense ones), but we can certainly bring the issues to light and not go down without a fight.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

The 2022 Session Begins

Last week I had the distinct honor of being sworn in for my 5th term representing greater Falls Church, including the Little City itself, in the Virginia House of Delegates. The 60-day “long” session that has just begun and will be my 9th session as a Delegate, but my first under a Republican Governor.  

This week is one of transitions here in Richmond. The new General Assembly is sworn in on the 2nd Wednesday of January at noon. With 52 Republican seats to 48 held by Democrats, control of the Chamber shifted back to the GOP and a new Speaker of the House, Todd Gilbert of Shenandoah County, was elected.  

The State of the Commonwealth

On Wednesday evening the General Assembly convened in a Joint Session to receive outgoing Governor Ralph Northam’s final State of the Commonwealth address. On Saturday, Governor Glenn Youngkin was sworn in at an inaugural ceremony and on Monday we had a 2nd Joint Assembly, then the new Governor gave his State of the Commonwealth address.  

Governor Northam highlighted the achievements of his term, including his administration's work to expand Medicaid, reform our criminal justice system, expand broadband, teach the true history of Virginia, increase access to the ballot box, and keep Virginians safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will certainly miss his calming presence over the next four years. 

Despite delivering an Inaugural address at which the new Governor promised to be a Governor for ALL Virginians and teach our full and accurate history, both good and bad, Governor Youngkin released his first batch of executive actions, focusing on Critical Race Theory (CRT), and overturning student safety measures designed to keep kids safely in the classroom with schools open.   

Initially, he indicated he’d withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) with EO #8. Recent reporting seems to indicate that he may be acknowledging he has no authority to do so by fiat, since the requirement to belong to RGGI is enshrined in law.  

On Monday, he delivered his State of the Commonwealth address at four in the afternoon, eschewing the opportunity to address resident of the Commonwealth in the traditional prime time evening hours when more people would be home in front of their televisions to tune in.  

For an uncomfortable first 12 minutes of his speech, he mostly parroted conservative media talking points to an eerily silent chamber. This starkly contrasts with the frequent standing ovations that interrupted Governor Northam repeatedly and helped punctuate his retelling of his most important achievements. I hope that as the new Governor learns more about how Virginia’s Government functions, his future addresses will provide a more thoughtful articulation of our shared policy goals.  

Even as a member of the minority, I look forward to being a consequential member of the body and capable advocate for the people of Falls Church. While I was stripped of my chairmanship of the House Privileges and Elections Committee and the Housing Subcommittee of General Laws, I remain on the Courts of Justice Committee and the influential Civil Subcommittee (Sub #2).  I am back on Public Safety as the 3rd ranking Democrat and Communications Technology and Innovation (formerly known as Science and Technology) where I am the #2 ranking Democrat.  House Finance is a completely new committee for me and I'm looking forward to working with my colleagues on one of the "money" committees in the General Assembly. 

My Legislative Package

For my 2022 legislative package, I’m carrying a bill on behalf of the City of Falls Church to allow all its residents, including non-citizens, the opportunity to fully engage in civic life as members of boards, authorities, and commissions.  

I will once again carry legislation to clean up one of the most galling shortcomings in Virginia’s campaign finance laws - a loophole that allows candidates for office to pocket campaign contributions and convert them to personal use with no consequences. With the backing of last year's Joint Committee to Study Comprehensive Campaign Finance Reforms, I like its chances this session.  

I’ll also once again introduce legislation to ban unserialized unregulated “ghost guns” here in Virginia.  Since my bill was narrowly defeated during the 2021 Session, we’ve seen these guns used to commit serious crimes, including a homicide in the Springfield area committed by minor who couldn’t have purchased a weapon subject to a background check. Ghost Guns evade that requirement.  

If you’d like to hear more about what I’m doing this session and get the latest updates, please sign up for my e-newsletter (www.MarcusSimon.com) or follow me on social media.