This week, I will share updates from the Reconvened Session in Richmond, talk about an upcoming town hall, share opportunities for community involvement across Senate District 10, reflect on events I attended this past week, and wish Eid Mubarak to those community members who are celebrating this upcoming Monday. Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter.
Reconvened Session: Returning to the Capitol This Week
On Wednesday, Senators and Delegates came to Richmond to vote on the Governor’s amendments to and vetoes of legislation passed during the 2022 Regular Session. Although we were not successful in overriding any of the Governor’s vetoes (a two-thirds vote is needed to override a veto), I will highlight some of the unnecessary and problematic amendments that we were able to vote down. A vast majority of this legislation was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Regrettably, politics trumped policy in the Governor’s actions.:
HB 573 would have helped thousands of Virginians through a statute of limitations on collecting medical debt from five years to three years. Medical debt is a debt that most of us incur through no choice of our own, and it often bankrupts families. This bill passed with strong support from both Republicans and Democrats, with the Senate voting 40-0 and the House of Delegates 87-9-1 during the Regular Session. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed this bill, and those Delegates and Senators who previously supported the bill changed their votes.
HB 802 would have allowed localities to sue negligent landlords if conditions in a rental dwelling constitute a fire hazard or serious threat to the life, health, or safety of tenants or occupants of the premises. The bill passed the Senate 26-14 and the House of Delegates 59-41 during the Regular Session. This bill had the strong support of many stakeholders, including the Virginia Apartment and Management Association.
HB 1197 would have convened a work group to study the transfer of responsibility for the Department of Juvenile Justice from the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security to the Secretary of Health and Human Resources. A report on the work group's findings would have been presented to the General Assembly by November 1, 2022. The bill passed the Senate 32-7 and the House of Delegates 64-35 during the Regular Session. The veto of a proposed study and work group, to be composed of a variety of stakeholders, delays our ability to address the serious concerns of mental and behavioral health and necessary treatment of juveniles.
Unlike vetoes, members of the Senate were able to challenge and defeat the Governor’s proposed amendments that harmed rather than helped the underlying legislation.
The Governor’s amendment to HB 1138 represented a serious violation to Virginia’s Constitution, exerting executive power over local elections without following any procedural guidelines. The Senate was able to defeat the amendment on a bipartisan vote of 22-18.
The Governor offered amendments on over 100 items of legislation. The full history and results of votes on these amendments are available here.
Reconvened Session is, by Constitution, focused only on legislative acts in response to a Governor’s vetoes and amendments. We are still in Special Session and will be returning to the Capitol as soon as the budget Conferees have completed their negotiations and are ready to present the budget bills. I will continue to provide updates in my newsletter and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Language Access Town Hall with the VEC
On Wednesday, May 18, I will join representatives from the Virginia Employment Commission, the Office of New Americans, the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services, the International Rescue Committee, and ReEstablish Richmond for a virtual town hall on the importance of language access for limited English proficiency (LEP) Virginians. During the 2022 session, I carried SB 270 which would have established the Interagency Language Access Working Group to create, monitor, assess, and recommend model language access policies for the Commonwealth’s state agencies. The bill did not pass, but the issue of language access still remains. All Virginians—regardless of language barriers, including disabilities that affect communication—should have meaningful access to necessary resources and information. The town hall is free and open to the public.
Interested participants can RSVP and submit questions for the Q&A portion here. Individuals with questions or accommodations needs can email email@example.com. Registration closes on Wednesday, May 4.
Medication Take-Back Events in Chesterfield
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 16 million people aged 12 and older reported misusing prescription drugs in the United States in 2020. This crisis has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. To combat prescription drug abuse and misuse, the Chesterfield County Police Department is encouraging residents to safely dispose of expired and unneeded medications on Saturday, April 30, from 10:00am to 2:00pm at two drop-off locations:
John Tyler Community College located at 13101 Jefferson Davis Highway
Wegmans located at 12501 Stone Village Way
Residents are urged to leave medications in their original containers. Needles, syringes, and other sharp objects will not be accepted.
Combating Opioid Overdoses
There were over 430 overdose deaths in 2020 across Richmond City and Henrico, Chesterfield, and Hanover counties, representing a 40% increase from 2019. To address overdoses in our community, the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) and community partners have launched the Metro Richmond Spike Alert—a system that notifies the general public when spikes in opioid overdoses occur. In addition to providing notifications for community spikes, the system also includes educational resources such as how to identify signs of an overdose, how to respond, and where to access free naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan. You can sign up for the Metro Richmond Spike Alert here.
Efforts to combat opioid overdoses are also taking place in Chesterfield County. Individuals and groups can schedule virtual and in-person trainings on how to use naloxone by calling 804-717-6169 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. More information can be found here.
Get Involved: RVAgreen 2050
The City of Richmond’s RVAgreen 2050 initiative is encouraging residents to contribute their thoughts and ideas to equitable climate action and resilience efforts. Currently, community input is being requested on the Climate Equity Action Plan 2030, which is expected to be finalized and go into effect this summer. The full plan is now available for review and comment via the City’s Konveio platform. Residents can also take the first annual RVAgreen 2050 Community Sustainability Survey here, available in both English and Spanish. Survey results will be used by the City of Richmond’s Office for Sustainability to guide future efforts reflecting the Richmond community’s priorities and values. Both engagement opportunities close on June 19.
Ranger-Led Hikes at Powhatan State Park
On Saturday, April 30, rangers at Powhatan State Park will be leading a hike on the park’s Pine Trail while sharing local history and wildlife. This event is a part of the Powhatan State Park Hiking Series, which includes hikes through December 31. Spots are limited, and registration is required. Registration for any of the hikes in the series is available by calling the park office at 804-598-7148 or by emailing email@example.com. Emails should include "Hiking Series" in the subject line and specify date(s) and alternates.
Arts in the Park Returns
After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Arts in the Park returns to the Carillon at Byrd Park on Saturday, April 30, from 11am to 6pm and on Sunday, May 1, from 11am to 5pm. Arts in the Park is a nationally-recognized art show that offers the opportunity for nearly 400 Virginia artists to showcase and sell their artwork and crafts. The festival will be held rain or shine, and a free shuttle service is offered between parking at the City Stadium and Byrd Park.
DMV Mileage Choice Program
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will be launching The Mileage Choice Program—a voluntary option for drivers of eligible vehicles to pay their highway use fee (HUF) on a per-mile basis rather than all at once at the time of registration renewal—to comply with legislation passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 2020. Under the Mileage Choice Program, Virginians pay only for the miles they drive; the program is designed to assist those residents who drive fewer miles than average.
If you drive less, you pay less than the highway use fee, and if you end up driving more, you'll never pay more than the established highway use fee. If you drive either a fuel-efficient or electric vehicle and drive fewer than 11,600 miles (the average number of miles driven per year by all Virginians), you will save money on your HUF. Eligible customers will be able to enroll in the program beginning July 1. Details are available here: The Mileage Choice Program.
Community Events This Week
This past Saturday, I joined a variety of dedicated public servants at the Mosaic Muslim Federal Employee Association’s Virtual Ramadan Event. The conversations and presentations gave us all an opportunity to reflect on the ideals of public service and how values-inspired public service can be transformative for all engaged communities.
On Saturday, I also joined members of the Liberal Women of Chesterfield County (LWCC) to present the founder, Kim Drew Wright, with SR 708, a resolution commemorating her work as the group’s founder. LWCC has galvanized thousands of women throughout Chesterfield County, the Commonwealth, and the nation to actively engage in politics as volunteers, advocates, and candidates for elected office.
On Sunday, I was honored to join members of the congregation of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Chesterfield for the installation ceremony of Senior Pastor Jonathan Bennett and First Lady Chelsi Bennett. I congratulate the members of the Cornerstone Baptist Church community as they begin this next phase of their journey together.
On Monday, Muslim across the Commonwealth and across the world will be celebrating Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Eid is a joyous celebration, especially for children, and involves a variety of food, family, and friends. Celebrations will continue throughout the week. I will join other elected officials at an Eid community festival taking place at the Islamic Center of Virginia (ICVA) on May 7, from 11am to 3pm. ICVA is inviting all who would like to celebrate with them to their Eid Festival and enjoy food, games, and fellowship.
Connecting With My Office
My staff continue to hold meetings with constituents via Zoom or by phone. You can sign up for a meeting with either of my staff members with our easy scheduling app: