2018 Legislative Session - Week Six

February 16, 2018

Dear Friend,

A few times this session, I smiled warmly when Democratic lawmakers were able to shift the proverbial tide towards a fairer and more just Commonwealth.  Some progress on Medicaid Expansion and the inclusion of better consumer protection elements in the Dominion Energy bill were two such examples.  More details on these topics follow.

However, the shooting at a Florida high school this week demonstrated how backward the country is on addressing gun safety issues and the need for states to take more of a role in keeping us safe.  Nikolas Cruz, the shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, had links on his Facebook page to a white supremacist group and he reportedly commented on YouTube that he would be a professional “school shooter.”

How did Nikolas get access to a firearm when school administrators, his fellow students, and the FBI all had reason to believe he was dangerous?  Democrats reminded the Senate that bills to implement a true universal background check and ban bump stocks, among other bills, had been universally defeated by the Republican majority and called for a bi-partisan approach to coming up with a solution.  Unfortunately, I am not hopeful that Virginia will make any progress on this issue this session.  To get better policies, we have to change the decision-makers.  I think we can agree that 2019 cannot come soon enough!

Regarding my education bills, I am particularly pleased that my bills to create an option for a shorter teacher preparation program, to provide more flexibility in addressing truancy issues, and to specify policies to prohibit “shaming children” when lunch fees are unpaid, seem to be surviving the deliberation process in the House. 

Metro Funding:

A bill raising $150 million for the Metropolitan Washington Transit System (METRO) passed the Senate this past week.  The bill enables Virginia to honor its share of the regional commitment necessary to draw down Federal funding and, most importantly, to provide an ongoing, dedicated source of revenue to METRO.  Some state dollars are part of the $150M, along with slight increases in specific taxes associated with the Transient Occupancy Tax, Grantors Tax, and Real-Estate recordation tax.  Fortunately, a gasoline floor proposal is part of the METRO funding and local leaders will be asked to dedicate some NVTC dollars to METRO.  A House bill passed that falls short of the $150M; some experts expect the House version to raise only $100M.  There will be more to discuss on this topic as the proposal grinds through the legislative process.

Residential Permits:

Unfortunately, my bill that would have allowed Fairfax County to issue permits to residents who are now prohibited from turning into their neighborhood streets during certain times failed on a 20-20 vote in the Senate.  However, Delegate Murphy had a companion bill (HB295) in the House and it passed that body overwhelmingly.  With help from Supervisor Foust and constituents in Great Falls and McLean, I am hopeful that Delegate Murphy’s bill will pass the Senate.

Medicaid Expansion:

The Senate adopted an aspirational bill with bi-partisan support, but no funding mechanism was included, which moves us closer to agreement on an outline for a Medicaid Expansion proposal.

The bill (SB915) increases the income eligibility from 100 to 138 percent of the federal poverty level for uninsured Virginians.  It extends program eligibility to individuals with a diagnosis of mental illness, substance use disorder, or a life-threatening or complex chronic medical condition.  The benefit package would include inpatient hospital and emergency room services and requires that enrollees participate in the Commonwealth Coordinated Care Plus pilot program.  Although not perfect, I voted for this bill in the Senate.

I did mention on the floor that SB915 was a step in the right direction, but we also need to provide on-going primary and preventive health services.  We know that individuals and families have a much better chance of staying healthy if they have medical homes. 

Short-Term Health Plans:

I am proud to say that the Senate passed a bill, commonly called the Gap Insurance Plan, that will enable individuals to purchase catastrophic health insurance for a period not to exceed 364 consecutive days.  The Federal Affordable Care Act permits states to adopt such an option and data suggests that younger, healthier individuals might be inclined to select this plan.  The deductible will be no more than $7,200 dollars and expensive, acute care services would be covered.  We expect premiums for such a plan to be more reasonable than other insurance plans on the market.  Any progress we can make to get more folks to purchase health insurance is a good thing!

Supporting our Hospitals & the Uninsured:

We must not limit access to care by causing harm to hospitals.  The Senate debated reversing some Certificate of Public Need Requirements (COPN) to enable low-cost profit-making services, now provided by hospitals, to enjoy stand-alone status with little or no obligation to provide charity care.  Imaging services, colonoscopy procedures and other services were debated within the COPN context, but it became clear that low overhead procedures bring in revenue and allow hospitals to off-set some of the costs associated with serving those who need care but are uninsured.  Although a small COPN repeal bill passed the Senate, the House has not viewed this topic favorably.  I expect the topic to take more twists and turns as the General Assembly moves to a broader discussion about access to health care.

Reinvestment in our Power Grid–Energy Security:

A bill passed the Senate (SB 966) that repeals Dominion Energy’s 2015 rate freeze review and restores full regulatory oversight over Dominion (Hurray)!  The bill also empowers the SCC to consider reducing rates in 2021 with no possibility of a rate increase for consumers.  Additionally, Dominion is required to issue $200M in rate credits to consumers who were overcharged during the rate freeze period and to reduce power rates by an additional $125M.  Another big benefit to the bill is the requirement that Dominion make $1.45B in investments in energy efficiency projects and low-income energy assistance over the next 10 years.

The Energy Security bill got even better in the House.  The Democrats added a provision to prohibit the utility company from charging ratepayers twice for expensive projects to upgrade the grid and for investments in renewable energy.  There will be more back and forth on this issue as the legislative session continues.

Visitors:

Once again, many groups visited the Capitol during the past week.  I met with the Virginia Realtors Association, the Auto Dealers Association, local government leaders, advocates for local control over the school start date, the Dominion Equine Welfare group, the Virginia League of Women Voters, and the Girl Scouts, to name just a few of the organizations that made their voices heard in Richmond.  

It is an honor and privilege to represent you in Richmond.  Rest assured, I will always fight for our Democratic values.

2018 Legislative Session - Week Five

February 9, 2018

Dear Friend:

This session continues to be productive around certain “bread and butter” issues and narrow topics of fairness related to giving Virginians a second chance.  However, there are seismic differences between the two parties when it comes to ensuring that women, our LGBTQ friends, individuals of color, or new immigrants equally enjoy the protections that the State confers on others.

A joint resolution asking Virginia to endorse the ERA amendment came before the Senate Rules Committee this morning, February 9.  Many men and women were in the audience to speak to the resolution but realized that the Committee was not going to take a recorded vote.  It was only through an organized and continued demonstration of displeasure over this decision that the Rules Committee decided to take a vote with a showing of hands. (see clip:https://youtu.be/4hrhaj7oOpU )

Drivers' Licenses and Court Fines

A Kinder and Gentler LawOn a positive note, I am delighted to say that a bill passed the Senate that will prohibit the courts from suspending an individual’s driver’s license for nonpayment of fines or costs.  I had worked on this effort in the past and Governor McAuliffe had tried several times to get this proposal passed.

This time, a Republican from Franklin County, Senator Stanley, served as the chief patron of the bill and Democrats such as myself and others signed onto the bill as co-sponsors.  The Washington Post wrote several articles on this topic and noted that one out of six Virginia drivers had lost a driver’s license because of their inability to pay court fines.  These individuals were then forced to choose between driving without a license or acquiring more debt because they could not get to work to support their families.  I argued on the floor of the Senate that, “It is time to give these folks a second chance.  We should be passing public policies that enable individuals to make the right decisions.”  The vote in the Senate was 33-6.

METRO Funding

State Realizes our Economic Value - I am expecting a bill to pass out of the Senate that raises the $150M necessary to honor Virginia’s share of the regional commitment to draw down Federal funding and, most importantly, to provide an ongoing, dedicated source of revenue to the Metropolitan Washington Transit System (METRO).  Some state dollars are part of the $150M, along with slight increases in specific taxes associated with the Transient Occupancy Tax and real estate recordation tax.  Fortunately, a gasoline floor proposal is part of the METRO funding, and local leaders will be asked to dedicate some NVTC dollars to METRO.  There is more to come on this topic as the proposal grinds through the legislative process.  I am pleased that we have gotten this far!

Protecting Children

Modernizing Virginia’s Sexting Laws - I advocated for a bill that establishes a misdemeanor category for sexting offenses involving minors sexting to minors within a consensual context.  The current law only provides for a felony offense for such crimes.  Moreover, a felony charge is very serious and can have long-lasting consequences on an individual’s life.  As you know, most teens are unaware that sending partially nude or nude photos of themselves to a boyfriend or girlfriend is illegal.  On the Senate floor, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-XLZ_oeHT8) I reminded lawmakers that a child’s ability to control impulses, in many cases, is not fully developed until a youth is 25 years old.  In today’s world, 70 percent of teenagers over the age of 14 have texting devices, and approximately one-third of these teenagers have participated in some form of sexting.  Next year, I will submit a bill to ensure that the topic of sexting is covered in our Family Life Education Programs.

Sexual Abuse in our Schools - I introduced bills recommended by the Commission on Youth (COY) to ensure that the reporting of founded cases of sexual abuse by teachers or school employees are handled in an expeditious and fair manner, with appropriate personnel informed, as necessary.  These bills were the result of an in-depth study conducted by the Commission as a result of a situation where Child Protective Services investigated an allegation against an Arlington teacher and determined that the allegation was “founded,” but the teacher was hired by the Prince George’s County Public Schools before such information was available to those who needed to know.  The bills were created with all stakeholders at the table, including the Virginia Education Association.  My legislative proposals and House companion bills are successfully working their way through the process.

Workforce Training

Educational Opportunities for Low-Income Folks - My budget amendment to provide $4M, over a two-year budget period, to the Virginia Community College system (VCCS) for scholarships to those receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and other low-income individuals is alive and well.

Cyber Security Certificate - This certificate is a much-needed credential for the many unfilled jobs in Northern Virginia related to cyber security.  The NoVA Chamber, the VCCS, and other regional leaders, are lobbying aggressively for this appropriation, and I am helping as much as I can.

Consumer Protection

Credit Freeze Requests - My bill to eliminate fees associated with “freezing” a credit report was amended to reduce the fee from $10 per request to $5.  This amendment made it possible for lawmakers to vote the bill out of Committee, so I consider the action a win. :)

Net Metering

Incentivizing Solar Energy - My bill allowing individuals and corporations to install solar generators at a larger capacity than current law will be heard on the Senate floor next week. My bill also allows excess energy to be sold back to the grid at wholesale prices.

Next Week - I will give an overview of the Dominion Energy Bill and why I think the Commonwealth gained enough public benefits to vote for the bill.

Visitors - As usual, my office was extraordinarily busy greeting visitors from Equality Virginia, Moms Demand Action, Indivisible Arlington, and local officials from Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun. This year more than ever, Virginians are involved with the legislative process and excited about having their voices heard.

It is a pleasure to represent you in Richmond and to fight for our Democratic values. Keep sending us your thoughts (district31@senate.virginia.gov) and let us know how we can address issues important to you.

2018 Legislative Session - Week Four

February 2, 2018

Dear Friend,

The General Assembly Committees are busy meeting in an attempt to dispose of more than 3,000 bills.  Unfortunately, many bills are defeated in Committee meetings along party-line votes, but the Committee votes are now electronically recorded and the meetings are live-streamed.   I often remind myself that these new transparency measures will be an invaluable tool in holding lawmakers accountable in our 2019 elections!

When bills do emerge from Committee meetings, they usually pass overwhelmingly in the House and Senate.  I am proud to say that several of my bills are advancing along, and I fully expect they will be adopted by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor.  

Voter Suppression - Unfortunately, there continues to be tension and policy disagreements between the two parties on topics related to voting.  I passionately spoke against a “Voter Suppression” bill on the floor of the Senate that would have required electronic poll books to contain photos of voters from DMV records.   

Many citizens, particularly older Virginians, do not have DMV issued picture licenses, so they would be disenfranchised under this bill   The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that the incident rate of voter fraud is between 0.0003 and 0.0025.  Clearly, voter fraud is not a problem.  However, the low level of voter participation in our elections should be a concern.  In past years, I have sponsored no-excuse absentee voting bills, but they have always died somewhere in the legislative process.  Perhaps this session will be different.  We can only hope.

Bump Stocks - Before I give you a summary of my recent successes, I want to advise you that my bump stock bill, ultimately, died in the Finance Committee.  My bill prohibiting the manufacturing, sale, or use of bump stocks (devices used to increase the rate of fire of a semi-automatic weapon) was rolled into Senator Ebbin’s bill and referred to Finance.  For a fleeting moment, I was hopeful that this common-sense bill would be reported out of Committee. However, the Finance Committee defeated the bill this week.  Here is a sample of the presentations during the Committee’s deliberations:

In support of the ban: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7ZiP_GlO0w&t=28s

In opposition to the ban: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYvw3KcAGrU

Highlights of My Legislative Agenda:

Education & Youth Bills Reach the Senate Floor

Preventing Truancy: My bill to give parents, school systems, and students additional time to implement a corrective action plan addressing truancy before the schools must refer students to the JDR court has passed out of Committee.  This proposal requires the school systems to work with families, and where appropriate, to make other community resources available to empower the student to attend school.

Lunch Shaming Bill: At the request of a church-based social justice advocacy group called Social Action Linking Together (SALT), I submitted a proposal that would prohibit school personnel from discussing an outstanding lunch debt with a student.  The proposal further prohibits identifying the student or shaming the student in any way or requiring the student to “work–off” the debt.  Under this bill, school systems must develop policies to address lunch debt that require communication be addressed to parents.

More Recess Time: I co-sponsored a bill with Senator Petersen that grants school systems the flexibility to expand recess time.  Information presented to the Commission on Youth (COY) and the Education and Health Committee emphasized the importance of physical activity to the healthy development of children.  This bill has just passed out of the Senate and is on its way to the House.

Kinship Care Bill - This is the fourth year I have submitted a bill to financially help relatives who come forward to take care of kin who have been placed in foster care.  My bill would enable the State to draw down Federal money to assist these extended families, once a permanency arrangement is agreed to and sanctioned by a JDR court.  Foster children have fewer emotional problems and perform better in school when they are placed in the homes of relatives.  Although the bill is likely to pass the Senate, a small fiscal impact may prevent the proposal from being funded in the budget.  The statewide association of social service directors and the faith community is helping to advocate for this bill. The Family Foundation is also working the Republican side of the aisle on behalf of this bill.  I am very hopeful that my Kinship care proposal gets funded this year.

Agreement Reached on Net Metering Bill - I am excited to say that the Sierra Club and Dominion Energy have reached a compromise on my net metering bill.  This proposal would allow residential solar users to capture solar energy up to 125% of their previous 12-month usage pattern and sell back any excess energy to Dominion at wholesale prices.  Hopefully, the bill will pass out of Labor and Commerce on Monday.

Local Authority Bills Defeated Along Party Lines - My bill giving local governments, including cities, towns, and counties, the authority to rename highways within their jurisdictions died in the Transportation Committee. Other bills sponsored by Democratic Senators, giving localities authority to move statues to museums or other public places where more extensive markers and contextual information could be provided, were defeated as well.

Coming Up

I plan on advocating for a bi-partisan bill that allows prosecutors to apply a misdemeanor charge rather than a felony charge for sexting among adolescents, as long as the sexting is consensual and not meant to demean, harass, or embarrass an individual.  Many young folks are being charged with felonies and face the possibility of being placed on a “Sex Offender Registry” for an action that they did not understand was a serious violation of the law and could result in life-altering consequences.

Visitors

I greeted many visitors to the State Capitol this week.  Among the many I met with were staff from Wolf Trap for the Performing Arts and Arlington’s own Signature Theater.  This was Celebration of the Arts Week and it was fun to see so many advocates engaged with their lawmakers.  

Additionally, I visited with the “Decoding Dyslexia” group and discussed the challenges associated with training teachers to identify dyslexia.  Friends from the Jewish Community Relations Council talked to me about sensible gun safety measures and the expansion of Medicaid.  We strategized about how to make Medicaid Expansion a reality in the Commonwealth.

I was delighted to see advocates from the ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia.  I discussed some budget amendments that I submitted to help those with developmental disabilities access more community-based services.

Thank you for reading this newsletter.  It is an honor and a privilege to represent you in Richmond.  Contact my office for updates on issues of interest to you or send us an email (district31@senate.virginia.gov) if you have an opinion you would like to share.

2018 Legislative Session - Week Three

January 26, 2018

Dear Friend,

Once again, this was a busy week in the General Assembly.  Medicaid expansion bills were referred to the Finance Committee without much debate.  However, Governor Northam’s budget claims more than $400 million in savings as a result of expanding Medicaid.  It is my hope that the Finance Committee makes it clear that education and other health care programs will suffer if Virginia does not access the Federal money available to ensure more working Virginians.  Here is one of my floor speeches on this topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ywz8QYmD0g

Several bills are coming up that are aimed at voter suppression.  I will be working with advocacy groups to defeat these bills.  The Democrats in the Senate are backing bills to make voting easier and to ensure that the voting process on election day runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Public Education

Kings Dominion Law: Unfortunately, my bill granting local school boards the authority to set their own calendars died in committee.  This was an effort to reverse the “Kings Dominion” law which requires school systems to start after Labor Day. The hearing was very interesting.  I informed the Committee that over 60% of school districts have currently been granted a waiver from the Kings Dominion Law.  Moreover, I noted that my bill would require school systems to close school for the Thursday before Labor Day through the Tuesday after Labor Day to address concerns from the amusement park owners.  Finally, I argued that Advanced Placement tests are administered based on a Federal schedule and students attending school before Labor Day have more time to prepare for these tests.  Even though my bill received a lot of support from the education committee, lawmakers had already decided how they were going to vote before the case was presented.

Best Practices to Prevent Truancy:  My bill to grant school systems more flexibility in working with parents and other professionals to address the causes of truancy and ultimately keep children in school, passed out of subcommittee.  This was an initiative of the Fairfax Public Schools.

Keeping Children and Youth Safe

Child Protective Services:  Two of my bills passed the Senate that make the investigation and reporting of child abuse allegations against a school employee more seamless.  One bill requires Child Protective Services to inform the Superintendent of Education, without delay, if a teacher is the subject of a “founded” allegation of child abuse.  The second bill requires that Child Protective Services inform the School Board if the subject of a “founded” allegation of child abuse was a school employee at the time the incident took place.  This bill fixed a gap in current law that did not require reporting to the school board of past employees with “founded” allegations of child abuse.  Both of these proposals were recommended by the Commission on Youth and supported by the Virginia Education Association.

Unfortunately, my bill to add “medically accurate” language as a qualifier in the preparation of Family Life lessons addressing human sexuality and reproduction failed.  But the phrase “evidence-based” was emphasized in other parts of the code.  This is a partial win.

Substance Abuse on College Campuses:  My bill directing the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Board to establish an Advisory Committee on how to best promote educational, prevention, and intervention strategies related to illegal substance abuse on campuses overwhelming passed the Senate.  This initiative came about through my work on the COY and the recognition that college students are dying because of lack of information on the damaging effects of even one-time use of illegal recreational drugs.  Peer counseling strategies were specifically mentioned as a best practice approach in my bill.

Renewable Energy and the Environment

Solar Energy:  I am working with the Sierra Club and Dominion Energy to pass a bill that will enable homeowners to capture solar energy and sell back excess energy at wholesale prices to Dominion.  We are very close to agreement on this initiative and I am hopeful the bill will pass next week.

Safety

Pedestrian Safety: Unfortunately, my bill to protect pedestrians in crosswalks failed on a party-line vote.  I narrowed this bill considerably, requiring that cars only stop when the pedestrian was crossing in front of the car’s lane.  Nonetheless, this bill seemed to be too much government for some lawmakers.

Driver’s Licenses for Immigrants:  It was heartbreaking to see hard-working immigrant individuals stand before the Transportation Committee and simply ask for a license so they could care for their families and go to work each day.  The DMV said that a provisional license could be prepared that specifically stated, on its face, that such a license could only be used for driving purposes and not for any other identification purposes.   Senator Surovell worked hard on this bill and I will double my efforts next year to get such a bill passed.

Visitors

The Urban League visited my office and the organization was well represented by a group of NOVA Young Professionals.  Additionally, I enjoyed meeting representatives of the Humane Society and One Virginia 2021, an organization advocating for non-partisan redistricting.

Finally, the week ended with advocates from across the state rallying in Richmond for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.  It is always a pleasure to meet with folks who are passionate about an issue and are motivated by the arguments of fairness and justice.

It is an honor to represent you and our Democratic values in Richmond.  Please contact my office at (804)698-7531 on issues important to you or to lend your voice to the battles ahead.

2018 Legislative Session - Week Two

January 19, 2018

Dear Friend,

The week began with a very contentious debate on the Senate floor, but we made some progress on non-controversial bills.

Senator Stanley from Franklin County, which includes several counties and localities, mid-state, along the North Carolina border, asked for a retroactive license for a shuttered hospital in Patrick County, a hospital also in his district.  The hospital was closed last summer due to “quality of care” violations enforced under Medicare regulations.  Moreover, there is a high percentage of uninsured individuals in the area.  Yet, their elected representatives, including Senator Stanley, have consistently voted along party lines and refused to expand Medicaid. This hospital situation has brought Medicaid expansion to the forefront of our legislative work. I pray we can make progress on insuring our hard-working fellow Virginians.

The Women’s Health Care Caucus, which I chair in the Senate, submitted a number of bills to protect a woman’s access to first trimester abortions and primary and preventive care.  All of these bills were defeated by the Republican majority in Committee.  Two of the proposals presented are noted below.

My bill to repeal the law that could make clinics subject to many of the physical regulations that hospitals must meet was defeated, even after I cited the Supreme Court ruling in Whole Woman versus Hellerstedt!  This decision stated that Targeted Regulations Against Abortion Providers (TRAP) requirements emanating from this law placed medically unnecessary and unconstitutional  burdens on women attempting to access first trimester abortions.

Additionally, a bill was put forth by Senator McClellan to enable low-income women to access state funded abortions resulting from rape or incest which is current law but McClellan’s bill removed the requirement that the survivor had to report these crimes to police.

Next week, members of the caucus will be advocating for paid family leave and other bills to enhance economic fairness for women.  I continually remain hopeful. :)

Set Back on DACA:

A Republican-led Senate committee on Thursday defeated a bill that would have given in-state tuition rates to beneficiaries of an Obama-era program that shields the children of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Progress on Education:

My bill to enable prospective educators to achieve a teaching degree in four years, rather than five years, passed out of the Senate unanimously and will proceed to the House of Delegates. This bill is a result of weeks of investigation and study into how we can make teaching a more desirable profession.  It was a recommendation from the subcommittee I chair on School Leadership and Academic Outcomes.

Extreme Positions on Gun Safety Prevail:

The Senate Courts of Justice committee defeated or sent to the Finance Committee a slew of Democrat-sponsored bills this week, including bills I introduced requiring owners to report lost or stolen firearms; enabling local jurisdictions to ban the “open carry of firearms” in permitted peaceful demonstrations, and banning the sale and use of “bump stocks,” devices that enable firearms to fire like semi-automatic weapons,

Many people spoke in support of these legislative proposals, including two members of the Charlottesville City Council, Councilors Kathleen M. Galvin and Dr. Wesley Bellamy.  Additionally, the President of the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice and representatives of Moms Demanding Action also spoke to the committee in support of these bills. Lastly, the Committee was advised that 80% of Virginians supported the common sense measures put forth. Surprisingly, these arguments were not embraced.

Women Continue to be at Risk:

Additionally, a bill was put forth by Senator McClellan to enable low-income women to access state funded abortions resulting from rape or incest which is current law but McClellan’s bill removed the requirement that the survivor had to report these crimes to police.

Progress on Education:

My bill to enable prospective educators to achieve a teaching degree in four years, rather than five years, passed out of the Senate unanimously and will proceed to the House of Delegates. This bill is the result of weeks of investigation and study into how we can make teaching a more desirable profession.  It was a recommendation from the subcommittee I chair on School Leadership and Academic Outcomes.

Extreme Positions on Gun Safety Prevail:

The Senate Courts of Justice committee defeated or sent to the Finance Committee a slew of Democrat-sponsored bills this week, including bills I introduced requiring owners to report lost or stolen firearms; enabling local jurisdictions to ban the “open carry of firearms” in permitted peaceful demonstrations and banning the sale and use of “bump stocks,” devices that enable firearms to fire like semi-automatic weapons,

Many people spoke in support of these legislative proposals, including two members of the Charlottesville City Council, Councilors Kathleen M. Galvin and Dr. Wesley Bellamy, Additionally, the President of the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice and representatives of Moms Demanding Action also spoke to the committee in support of these bills.   Lastly, the Committee was advised that 80% of Virginians supported the common sense measures put forth. Surprisingly, these arguments were not embraced.

Women Continue to be at Risk:

Senate Bill 732, which was also on the docket for the Senate Courts of Justice Committee this week, would require a perpetrator convicted of two misdemeanors for sexual assault of a household member or two misdemeanors of stalking offenses to give up possession of firearms for two years before petitioning the Court for firearm restoration rights.  I introduced the legislation in a previous General Assembly session and continue to advocate for policies that prevent the escalation of domestic violence.

About 4,000 women die each year due to domestic violence and studies have indicated that a woman’s chances of being killed by her abuser increases 500% if the abuser has access to a firearm but the Republican controlled committee defeated  SB732.

Votes Against Inclusiveness:

Republican committee members also voted to defeat my legislation intended to expand the hate crimes statute to include those with disabilities (SB45) and other categories of individuals who could be victims of crimes as the result of their gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity (SB112).

Visitors:

It’s always a pleasure to welcome friends, neighbors and advocates to Capitol Square.  This week we saw friends from the Virginia Family Law Coalition, the New Virginia Majority (an advocacy group dedicated to democracy, justice and progressive policies), the Arlington County Community Services Board and representatives of the Northern Virginia Builders Association.  It was also a treat to visit with Alex Campbell, a young man who was the poster child for a bill I  passed a few years ago to prohibit seclusion and restraint in our public schools.  A crew from Dateline taped my interview with Alex.

I hope you’ll consider a visit to Capitol Square during this legislative session.  Please call my office at (804) 668-7531 to schedule a meeting.

It is always a pleasure and an honor to represent you in the General Assembly.  I look forward to continuing to fight for our Democratic values in Richmond!

2018 Legislative Session - Week One

January 12, 2018

Dear Friends,

It is always exhilarating and humbling to sit in the Chamber as the President of the Senate gavels an unruly body of 40 Senators into order.  On January 10th, Lieutenant Governor (LG) Ralph Northam did just that.  The next day, LG Northam presided over the Senate for the last time.  We wished him well and sent him off to be inaugurated as the 72nd Governor of Virginia. The Inauguration will take place on Saturday, January 13th.

Highlights of My Week

Transparency: Committee votes will now be recorded and live-streamed, so Virginians can hear the substantive debates on bills as they work their way through the process.  Most bills, especially controversial ones, face their defeat in Committee meetings.  This long overdue bit of sunshine will enable Virginians to see for themselves how seriously lawmakers are tacking issues important to them.  The link to view meetings can be found under the “Members and Session” tab of the virginiageneralassembly.gov website.

Education: Option for Four-Year Teaching Degree - I am proud to say that my bill SB76 to enable prospective teachers potentially to gain a teaching degree in four years, rather than five, passed out of the Senate Health & Education Committee unanimously.  This will reduce the opportunity cost of becoming a  teacher, a factor that weighs heavily on prospective teachers who have incurred a large school debt, yet they have the desire to enter an important but low-paying profession.

Children & Families: Kinship Care Bill - My bill (SB44) provides support payments to relatives who are willing to offer kin in foster care a permanent home.  It passed out of the Rehab and Social Services Committee but was referred to Finance.  More than 75% of the cost of this kinship program, called “Fostering Futures,” is born by the Federal Government.  I really hope the money committees can find the $45,000 to start this program.  

On a lighter note, my bill to help small business that bake alcohol infused confectionery products obtain an ABC license, so they may continue to grow their businesses, passed out of committee as well.

Next week my gun safety bills go before the Courts of Justice Committee.  I am hoping that the November election will make some lawmakers more open to common-sense approaches, but we will see.

Your emails and support are crucial to the legislative process.  It is an honor to represent you and to fight for our values.  

MEDIA RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Contact: Julia Chun

703-835-4845

julia.district31@gmail.com

 

Sen. Favola Announces her 2018 Legislative Agenda

ARLINGTON, VA – Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) released today highlights of her 2018 legislative agenda.  

She will continue her fight to expand Medicaid and to reform Virginia’s Hate Crime statute to include the LGBTQ community and any group in the Commonwealth who may be a target of hate.  Expanding access to healthcare and making Virginia a more welcoming state are values that cut across several subject areas.

Her other efforts focus on the following subject areas.

K-12 Education

Sen. Favola’s K-12 education priorities focus on teacher recruitment and retention.  She has submitted legislation to re-design teacher preparation programs in Virginia colleges and universities to enable education majors to be in the classroom after four years of study rather than five.  This would reduce the opportunity cost of selecting teaching as a profession and accelerate the pipeline for teachers.

“As chair of the subcommittee on School Leadership and Academic Outcomes, it is clear to me that Virginia must do a better job of supporting teachers and making teaching a desirable profession,” said Favola.

Favola will also seek funding to support teacher mentor programs and leadership training for principals.

Equal Taxing Authority for Counties

Sen. Favola will work to grant counties the same taxing authority as cities.  Specific revenue streams that may be enhanced include the cigarette tax and the application of a meals tax, without requiring a referendum.

“Counties are providing the same services as cities and the discrepancy in taxing authority is really unfair.  Moreover, diversified revenue streams would help counter swings in the real estate economy while still supporting vital programs such as public school funding, public safety and the arts,” said Favola.

Children's Health and Public Health

Sen. Favola’s children’s health and public health efforts focus on the need to provide children with "trauma informed" care.  Based on recommendations from the Commission on Youth for which Favola is the Chairperson, her legislative efforts include advocating for an inter-agency task force in the Governor's Office to help ensure that trauma-informed care is integrated into the programs and policies that are administered at the local level.  

Sen. Favola is also submitting legislation to enable relatives of children in foster care to access financial support if they can provide a permanent home for the child.

“I would like to continue my work to care for the ‘whole child’ and provide every opportunity for our children to grow up healthy and ready to succeed.  It is particularly important to me to help our children who are struggling in the foster care system.  To that end, I am continuing my efforts to provide relatives financial support for providing a permanent home to kin who are currently in the foster care system.” said Favola.

Paid Family Leave

Sen. Favola’s paid family leave agenda has two parts:  One part focuses on requiring employers who already offer sick leave to allow employees to use sick leave to care for a family member.  A second part and more comprehensive proposal, requires employers to provide paid family leave to employees in organizations with 50 or more workers.  This expense would be covered in part by the employer and in part through a payroll tax on the employee.  Favola notes that specifics of the bill are still being negotiated.

“Families should not have to choose between putting food on the table and taking care of a loved one.  Paid family leave is one of the most important benefits to workers and their families.  It is time that Virginia made some progress in this area.” said Favola.

Gun Safety

Sen. Favola’s gun safety legislation is robust and includes several pieces of legislation that attempt to reach a better balance between 2nd amendment arguments and public safety.  Sen. Favola submitted a bill that enables local governments to prohibit the "open carry" of firearms in protests or demonstrations.  

Another bill requires that lost or stolen firearms be reported within 24 hours.  

In light of the Las Vegas killings, Sen. Favola also submitted a bill to prohibit mechanisms that enable a semi-automatic weapon to fire faster.

Domestic Violence Prevention

In the area of domestic violence prevention, Sen. Favola has resubmitted her 2015 bill that would take firearms away, for a designated period of time, from domestic abusers with two or more misdemeanors.

Women’s Health

In the area of women’s health, Sen. Favola’s legislation removes the unconstitutional statute on Virginia's books, frequently referred to as the TRAP law, that requires women's health centers that provide five or more abortions a month to meet certain physical standards of a hospital.  A recent Supreme Court decision, Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt, ruled that these requirements are medically unnecessary and create an undue burden in accessing abortion services.  In Virginia, five women’s health centers have closed since 2011 because the cost of renovations were so expensive and burdensome.

“It is time to make access to basic primary and preventative care easier for women and families.  The clinics impacted by the TRAP law are frequently the only source of healthcare in underserved areas in the Commonwealth,” said Favola.

Details of these bills are available to the public at lis.virginia.gov.

Senator Barbara A. Favola represents Virginia’s 31st Senate district, which includes parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties, and a portion of Loudoun County.  Senator Favola currently serves on the Local Government, Rehabilitation and Social Services, and Transportation Committees.

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Highlights of my Legislative Agenda

Dear Friend,

I hope you have been enjoying the holiday season.  I have been working with various stakeholders, advocacy groups, and constituents on my legislative agenda for the 2018 General Assembly session that kicks off on Wednesday, January 10, 2018.

Here are the highlights of my legislative agenda for 2018.  We have worked together on many of these ideas, and I hope we will make significant progress on improving the lives of Virginia's children and families in the 2018 session.  I am introducing other bills as well, but these are the major subject areas where I will be spending most of my time and energy.  

K-12 Education

My legislative efforts will focus on teacher recruitment and retention.  As chair of the subcommittee on School Leadership and Academic Outcomes, it is clear to me that Virginia must do a better job of supporting teachers and making teaching a desirable profession.  To that end, I have submitted a bill that will redesign teacher preparation programs in our colleges and universities to enable education majors to be in the classroom after 4 years of study rather than five.  This will reduce the opportunity cost of selecting teaching as a profession and accelerate the pipeline for teachers.  Additionally, I will be asking for funding to support teacher mentor programs and principal leadership training.  

Equal Taxing Authority for Counties

Many NoVA school activists and School Boards are asking the General Assembly to allow counties to enjoy the same taxing authorities as cities.  Counties are providing the same services as cities and the discrepancy in taxing authority is really unfair.  Moreover, diversified revenue streams would help counties counter swings in the real estate economy while still supporting vital programs such as public school funding, public safety and the arts.  Specific revenue streams that could be enhanced include the cigarette tax and the application of a meals tax.

Hate Crimes

In Virginia in 2015, there were 155 hate crime offenses reported, including 71 assaults and 49 acts of vandalism or damage to property.  This represents a 21% increase over the prior year and an increase in hate crimes was recorded in nearly reported category.  Although the statistics may be alarming, shining the light on these crimes enables the state to identify trends and to better target educational and law-enforcement strategies. In addition to better enforcement of current laws, I will be introducing legislation that covers gender, gender identification, sexual orientation, and disability in the definition of a "hate crime."

Children's Health and Public Health

I will continue my emphasis on caring for the "whole child."  My legislative proposals focus on  the need to provide children with "trauma informed" care.  Based on recommendations from the Commission on Youth, I will also be advocating for an inter-agency task force in the Governor's Office to help ensure that trauma-informed care is integrated into the programs and policies that are administered at the local level.   Once again, I will be fighting to provide relatives financial support for providing a permanent home to kin who are currently in the foster care system.

Paid Family Leave

I will submit legislation that would require employers who offer sick leave to allow employees to use sick leave to care for a family member.  Moreover, I also want to move the conversation about comprehensive paid family leave forward.  To that end, I will be submitting a bill that covers paid family leave for employees in organizations with 50 or more employees.  This expense would be covered in part by the employer and in part through a payroll tax on the employee.  Specifics of the bill are still being negotiated.

Gun Safety

I will introduce a bill that would enable local governments to prohibit the "open carry" of firearms in protests or demonstrations.  Once again, I will submit a bill to require that lost or stolen firearms be reported within 24 hours.   I also have a proposal to prohibit mechanisms that enable a semi-automatic weapon to fire faster.

Domestic Violence Prevention & Women's Health

I will resubmit my bill from a few years ago to take firearms away from domestic abusers with two misdemeanors or more for a designated period of time. Once again, I will attempt to remove the unconstitutional statute on Virginia's books that require women's health centers that provide 5 or more abortions a month to meet certain physical standards of a hospital.  These requirements are medically unnecessary and are referred to as the TRAP law.

You can follow the status of my bills by clicking here.  If you have any questions or comments about these bills, please don't hesitate to email me or my staff at district31@senate.virginia.gov.  

Sincerely,

Barbara Favola

Representing Parts of Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun

Embarrassed about Trump-Like Politics? Send a Message – VOTE TOMORROW!

Dear Friend,

Polls are open Tuesday, Nov. 7, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the stakes could not be higher.  Ralph Northam and the Democratic ticket offer a vision that will move Virginia forward.  They will invest in our children and in our economy.  With Ralph Northam as Governor, Virginia will be a welcoming state, a state where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

On the other hand, Ed Gillespie has been endorsed by Steve Bannon.  Need I say more?

In a November 5 article by Paul Schwartzman with the Washington Post, Bannon said:

“Corey Stewart is the reason Gillespie is going to win,” Stephen K. Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and Trump’s campaign czar, said in an interview.  “It was the Trump-Stewart talking points that got Gillespie close and even maybe to victory.  It was embracing Trump’s agenda as personified by Corey’s platform.  This was not a competitive race four weeks ago. You could have stuck a fork in Gillespie.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/as-gillespie-adopts-trumpian-tactics-in-virginia-bannon-credits-corey-stewart/2017/11/05/cb32b5ac-bf5b-11e7-97d9-bdab5a0ab381_story.html?utm_term=.90e82721ad6d

Folks, this race has tightened.  If you want to tell Gillespie that the Trump tactics of fear mongering and divisive politics have no place in Virginia, you must vote.

If you are unsure about your polling place, click here.

Thanks for caring.

Sincerely,

Barbara Favola

31st District - Representing Parts of Arlington, Fairfax & Loudoun

Stand up for your values: Vote Tuesday, Nov. 7

Tuesday, Nov. 7, is Election Day.  Polls are open 6 a.m. until 7 p.m.  Please exercise your civic duty and VOTE.  Your family and friends are depending on YOU!  I am supporting Ralph Northam and the entire Democratic ticket in this election and I ask you to join me. This is why:

Virginia’s Future with Ralph Northam & the Democrats

Ralph Northam will work to ensure that economic security is a reality for Virginia families.  Ralph will lead efforts to include everyone in a 21st century economy, an economy with good paying jobs and access to first-class public schools, affordable healthcare and college or job-training opportunities.  Ralph Northam will create a more inclusive Virginia, a Virginia that welcomes our LGBTQ friends, new immigrants, and individuals of all faiths and backgrounds.  Ralph trusts women to make their own healthcare decisions and will ensure access to safe and legal abortions.  Ralph Northam would create a cleaner and healthier Virginia, a Virginia we could be proud to leave to our children.

Virginia’s Future with Ed Gillespie & the Republicans

Mr. Gillespie has said that violent crimes can be blamed on immigrants and distorted the facts behind a historic restoration of voting rights championed by Governor McAuliffe.  In Gillespie’s Virginia, a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion would be eroded and health clinics would be closed.  Expanding Medicaid would not be a priority for Mr. Gillespie.  Instead, Gillespie would entangle Virginia in whatever flavor of healthcare President Trump is promoting at the moment.  Virginians would lose state dollars for public education because of tax-cuts promoted by Gillespie.  

The vision Ralph Northam offers is very different from the Republican agenda of fear, divisiveness, and government interference in our personal lives.  

The message we send on November 7 will be seen by the pundits as a referendum on Trump.  Need I say anything else?  Please make a plan for when you will vote on Tuesday.  Call your family, friends and colleagues to remind them to vote.  This is the most important action you can take to secure a brighter future for your children and the Commonwealth.  Thanks for caring.

Sincerely,

Barbara Favola

31st District - Representing Parts of Arlington, Fairfax & Loudoun