Friday, January 20, 2023

The 2023 Session Begins

January 11th marked the start of my 10th General Assembly Session. The day before session, on January 10th, Holly Seibold and Aaron Rouse won in the 35th House District and the 7th Senate District seat, respectively. Aaron Rouse’s victory expands the Democratic majority in the Senate and assures a majority of Senators who favor protecting abortion access in the Commonwealth.

I’d love to be able to say session got off to a smooth and uneventful start, but reality was a bit different.

I started feeling badly last Monday and tested positive for Covid-19 on the Tuesday morning before session started. Fortunately, under the leadership of former Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, we established procedures for remote participation in the House of Delegates. I was able to use Zoom for opening day and didn’t miss any votes on the Floor or in committee.

Little Banned Book Library

While I was out, I missed the kerfuffle that occurred outside my office in the Pocahontas Building over my Little Banned Book Library.

In response to the growing and disturbing number of books being targeted by far-right MAGA activists around the Country and here in Virginia, I set up the library outside my office to give folks an opportunity to see and borrow some of the books that are being taken out of circulation and let them judge the books for themselves.

Although we've had a lot of positive feedback about the library, not everyone is a fan. One group of red-clad visitors was so upset by the library that they took to pulling books off the shelf, waving them around and pressing the books up against my administrative assistant’s plexiglass protector. Fortunately, things settled down before the Capitol Police had to get involved. 

2023 Legislative Agenda

My 2023 legislative agenda is a combination of constituent requests, City of Falls Church agenda items, and bills to make Virginia a better and more just place to be a worker, a parent, a consumer, or just someone who wants to be free to be themselves.

My first bill prohibits candidates from raiding their campaign funds for personal use. I've introduced a version of this bill every year since I was first elected. Campaign finance reform is an important issue and I'll keep chipping away until this becomes law in Virginia.

I’ve also introduced a bill to amend the charter of the City of Falls Church at the request of Council to allow any resident over the age of 18 to participate on appointed boards and commissions.

Another bill requested by the City would allow public schools to provide childcare for students on non-instructional and early release days without having a separate license as a daycare provider.

Dyslexia is the most common of the language-based learning disabilities in the country. I've introduced a resolution designating October as Dyslexia Awareness Month at the request of a constituent who lives with Dyslexia and is an advocate for raising awareness. The resolution acknowledges educators specializing in effective teaching strategies and celebrates the many achievements of kids, students, and adults with dyslexia.

This summer, I was approached by a constituent with a familiar and frustrating problem. She was drowning in different health forms and digging for different bits of information to enroll her children in various summer programs. So, at her request, I have introduced a resolution directing the Department of Health and the Department of Education to study the medical forms and information collected by children's summer camps and similar programs in order to make the process more efficient.

Finally, two of my bills are “ripped from the headlines”, inspired by real newsworthy events here in the Commonwealth. The first repeals the Code Section that allowed a Virginia Beach resident to sue books for being alleged to be obscene in an effort to prevent their sale at private bookstores. The Court held the statute unconstitutional, and I agree. It’s time to take it out of our Code.

The second requires anyone who possesses a firearm in a residence, where children are present, to store it unloaded in a locked container and to store all ammunition in a separate locked container. This aims to prevent tragedies like the 6-year-old who recently took a gun to school in Newport News and shot his teacher. 

My Budget Amendments
You may have read last month when the Governor introduced his budget that he included the money necessary to pay the costs of incarcerating women and their doctors for violating his proposed abortion ban. I’ve introduced a budget amendment to remove that language, and to assure that anyone who needs to terminate a pregnancy due to a severe fetal abnormality, but can’t afford it, can access Medicaid funds to do so.

And we’re just getting started!