This week’s newsletter shares findings from the December Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, reflects on our recent Virginia Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus event with bestselling and award-winning author Angie Kim, and discusses select community meetings and engagements from this past week. Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter and for staying informed.
On Monday, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) held its final meeting of 2023 with a full docket including presentations on state psychiatric hospitals, the Virginia Growth and Opportunity Program (GO Virginia), the Virginia Retirement System (VRS), and our K-12 Standards of Quality (SOQs).
The research conducted by JLARC plays a vital role in the policymaking process of the Virginia General Assembly, as we look to the Commission’s recommendations, data, and analysis. I encourage everyone engaged in policy matters to review the various findings of the studies conducted by the Commission.
An Evening with Angie Kim and VAAPIC Fund
On Friday evening, I traveled to McLean, Virginia, for a fundraiser supporting our Virginia Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus (VAAPIC) Fund, the political arm of the Virginia Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus. We were joined by a large gathering of VAAPIC Fund supporters and fans of the bestselling, award-winning author, Angie Kim.
Angie Kim has a remarkable life story that she shared with us that evening. After graduating from Stanford and Harvard Law School, Angie is currently focused on her writing career. Her first two novels have garnered critical acclaim and numerous awards.
Having recently completed her book tour for her second novel, Happiness Falls, Angie generously joined us in McLean to share why she supports our efforts in Virginia, and especially the work of VAAPIC Fund. During the recent election cycle, VAAPIC Fund supported candidates across the Commonwealth, with endorsements, campaign support, and volunteer efforts. Our goal is to continue this momentum of building political power for AAPI Virginians and strengthening coalitions across the Commonwealth to support diverse minority communities. We are delighted to have many strong partners in this effort.
Surrounded by a lively crowd, Angie shared her story of coming to the United States from Korea as a middle-schooler and her personal journey to find a sense of belonging, identity, and purpose.
Earlier this month, members of the Caucus held elections and selected our leadership for the upcoming session: Delegate Irene Shin will serve as Chair; I am delighted to continue serving in my previous role as Vice Chair, and Senator-elect Saddam Salim will serve as Treasurer. Chair Emeritus, Delegate Kathy Tran, has been an integral part of building the Caucus and I look forward to working with her in her new capacity as Chair of the Virginia House Democratic Caucus.
Highlights from Community Events & Meetings
Last Friday morning, I joined the final 2023 Broadband Advisory Council meeting. The meeting included a “Broadband 101” presentation for new members and the public, as well as updates on Virginia Telecommunication Initiative Project, expanding broadband equity, access, and deployment projects, and an overview of the Virginia Digital Opportunity Plan.
Later that morning, I presented to the 2023-2024 VCU Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows. This program brings accomplished professionals and researchers from around the world to the United States to study, build on their practical professional experiences, and experience American culture.
Additionally, last Friday, my staff joined the Maggie Walker Robotics Team, The Mech Tech Dragons, for their legislative open house. Students in the robotics team learn industry-transferable skills in STEM and leadership skills, which are reflected in their competition successes. Earlier this year, the students competed in an international robotics competition in Austin, Texas, a first for the Mech Tech Dragons.
Saturday evening, I joined the Chesterfield County Democratic Committee (CCDC) for its annual Snowflake Soiree to celebrate our county's success in recent local and state elections. It was great to connect with friends, supporters, and other officials, including Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan, Delegate-elect Mike Jones, Clerk of Court-elect Amanda Pohl (pictured), CCDC leadership, outstanding volunteers, and many others.
On Monday afternoon, a few current Senators gathered in the Capitol for a Pro Forma Session, in order to officially and formally adjourn the two Special Sessions sine die. Senator Jeremy McPike (pictured) presided over the Chamber.
On Monday evening, I joined Delegate-elect Mark Earley at the Chesterfield Technical Education Center for the Virginia Board of Education Stakeholder Listening Session on Accountability. Over the past 18 months, the Virginia Board of Education has studied accountability policies, engaged the public and local school leadership. The Board will be presenting its findings and recommendations soon.
On Tuesday morning, I attended Chamber RVA’s annual Legislative Breakfast with several other Richmond-area legislators. Delegate Carrie Coyner and I were asked to speak that morning on the upcoming General Assembly session, its upcoming priorities, and the work that we are individually focused on.
On Tuesday evening, I joined many well wishers from various agencies and administrations to honor Mark Smith as he retires from public service. Mark’s long and successful career has been characterized by his steadfast commitment to serving the people of Virginia and opportunities for education and economic development. I especially appreciate his friendship and his devotion to Virginia.
Later that same evening, I traveled down to the Chesterfield County Airport to join the Virginia Farm Bureau for its Regional Briefing Dinner to discuss the concerns and legislative priorities of our agricultural communities. Virginia’s farmers are not just an integral part of the Commonwealth’s economy; our farms feed and sustain us. Protecting vital farm lands as well as farming families is imperative in every way possible.
On Tuesday evening, my staff joined the Metro Richmond Area Young Democrats (MRAYD) for its Holiday Potluck. MRAYD has been a committed partner, both during election cycles and during legislative sessions. I look forward to continuing engagement with members as we work through the 2024 Session.
I began Thursday morning by receiving a briefing from the Virginia State Police (VSP) on issues impacting recruitment and retention of officers, ongoing technology needs, legislative and funding concerns, officer training, and an overview of efforts to address human trafficking and domestic terrorism. I appreciate the dedication and devotion of Colonel Gary Settle and his leadership team.
Later on Thursday evening, I enjoyed visiting the American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar for its Holiday Reception. The ACWM is a remarkable museum, and we are fortunate indeed to have it accessible to us right here in Richmond. The Museum takes seriously its responsibility to provide an accurate and comprehensive history of the Civil War, the role of slavery in America, Emancipation, Reconstruction, and the long-lasting impacts this history has had on our contemporary society.
I traveled from that holiday reception, on Thursday evening, to join the Richmond City Democratic Committee (RCDC) for its Rank and File Holiday Party. At this event, we recognized amazing leaders in our community. I was honored to present the Democratic Hero Award to Alexsis Rodgers. Alexsis’ leadership as Chair, her unrelenting work as a volunteer on numerous campaigns, and her commitment to many efforts that champion social, economic, and political justice have inspired many others. Photo credit: Steven Sykes, MR. LP. of On One Consulting.
Wishes for the Holiday Season
My staff and I extend warmest wishes to all who are celebrating Christmas and Kwanzaa in the coming days. My staff are on a well-deserved break beginning Friday, December 22, and they will return to the office on Wednesday, January 3, in good time and (hopefully) well-rested for the long days of the 2024 Session.
We wish everyone a family- and friend-filled holiday season and a good New Year that brings with it peace, love for each other rather than for self, a willingness to engage in dialogue rather than diatribe, and a true commitment to justice, protections for innocents, and recognitions of our shared humanity.
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