In this week’s newsletter, I reflect on my visit to Georgia and celebrate Senator Raphael Warnock’s historic victory; I also provide information on respiratory illnesses spreading across the Commonwealth and discuss Virginia’s status in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). My office was also involved in several community events this past week. Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter and for staying informed.
This past Sunday, several organizations, including Indian American IMPACT and Asian American Advocacy Fund brought together dozens of volunteers from around the country for an exceptionally well-organized Get Out the Vote (GOTV) Campaign. I joined several elected officials of South Asian-descent in this effort. Congressional Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL) also joined us to encourage and support the volunteers. We spent 2-3 hours knocking on doors and reached thousands of voters in the process.
Talking to voters at their doors, answering their questions and concerns, making them aware of the importance of an upcoming election, and educating them on their polling locations are all critical parts of knocking doors. These one-to-one interactions make all the difference and sometimes decide the outcome of an election.
This past Tuesday, Georgia voters re-elected Raphael Warnock, giving the US Senate a solid Democratic majority. This outcome is hugely important. Warnock's win now gives Democrats firm control of the Senate. It gives them more opportunities to pass bills, assures committee control, and eliminates procedural hurdles that have long obstructed the Senate’s ability to move forward in meaningful ways. Warnock’s win in Georgia was crucial for all of us.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), New Jersey State Representative Sadaf Jaffer, Pennsylvania State Representative Tarik Khan, and newly-elected Georgia State Representative Long Tran all joined me as we mobilized volunteers across the state to canvass for Senator Raphael Warnock.
Flu, COVID-19, RSV
Virginia is experiencing one of the worst surges in respiratory illness in several years, leaving healthcare providers overwhelmed. Though cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are on the decline, influenza and COVID-19 continue to spread.
This week is National Influenza Vaccination Week, and the Virginia Department of Health is encouraging everyone to get vaccinated. Vaccination is the best protection against the more severe symptoms of the flu virus and is especially important for pregnant women and those with weaker immune systems. Virginia is currently at a very high influenza activity level, and the 0-4 age group is at the greatest risk of transmissibility.
COVID-19 cases are also beginning to rise again, with the past few weeks seeing a 60% increase in the 7-day average of daily new cases. Individuals who are experiencing symptoms can get tested at a number of different community testing sites in Central Virginia. Information is available at VDH Testing, which also filters locations for free testing, Spanish language accessibility, and pediatric testing capabilities. Vaccination and testing information can be found at Virginia Health Department COVID-19.
On Wednesday, December 7, the Air Pollution Control Board voted in support of regulations proposed by the Youngkin administration to withdraw Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). In 2020, the General Assembly had voted in favor of Virginia’s participation in RGGI with the passage of the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act, and Senate Democrats defeated all efforts to remove Virginia from RGGI during the 2022 session.
RGGI is a regional cap and trade program designed to reduce carbon emissions and help states transition to clean, renewable energy. Virginia became the first Southern state to join RGGI and is the only state that dedicates half of its funding to support energy efficiency for low-income households. Virginia’s participation in RGGI brings in hundreds of millions of dollars each year and is helping to cut carbon emissions. This progress is now at risk as the Youngkin administration seeks to pursue its fossil-fuel friendly agenda outside of the legislative oversight of the Virginia General Assembly.
This vote is another attempt by the administration to dismantle efforts at combating emissions at the expense of our health, our coastal resilience, and economic stability. We have seen the rise and the consequences of dramatic flooding disasters, and these concerns will only continue to increase without the reduction of carbon emissions.
Democratic members of the General Assembly have made it clear: Virginia’s participation in RGGI is mandated by law and only a change in the law that passes both chambers of the General Assembly and that is then sent to the Governor can remove Virginia from RGGI. We will continue to challenge the Youngkin’s attempt to circumvent the Constitutional authorities of the General Assembly.
Monday night, I met with the Virginia Council for Exceptional Children as members shared their concerns regarding special education in the Commonwealth. I look forward to supporting our special education teachers and staff in the upcoming General Assembly session.
On Tuesday, I attended a roundtable discussion on the future of Sweet Briar College. President Meredith Woo presented the College’s five-year strategic plan to achieve a sustainable future for the College. The College continues to pursue innovative strategies as it engages its students intellectually and creatively, giving women the opportunity to develop leadership skills alongside their academic program.
Tuesday was busy also for office staff. As we approach the upcoming General Assembly session, the Senate Clerk's Office hosted its annual legislative staff training. This year, my Chief of Staff was one of the presenters, and she provided insights on key best practices to our new and returning staffers.
On Tuesday evening, I joined the Chesterfield County Democratic Committee (CCDC) to share my legislative priorities for the 2023 General Assembly session. The CCDC worked arduously to elect a Democrat to the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors this past November, and it is ready now to turn its attention to the upcoming 2023 elections.
The Virginia Nurses Association shared its 2023 public policy platform at its recent Legislative Advocacy Hour this past Tuesday. My Legislative Assistant represented the office and listened to nurses from the 10th District voice their concerns about the challenges facing the healthcare system in Virginia and what legislative action could be taken to alleviate those issues.
Connecting with college students is important for cultivating the next generation of leaders. On Tuesday evening, my Chief of Staff spoke to students in the Sustainability Advocates program at UVA about environmental policy in the Commonwealth. Though we’ve made tremendous strides in the last few years, we still have much work to do, and young voters will play a pivotal role in our future progress.
On Wednesday morning, I joined members of the Richmond-area delegation at the ChamberRVA Legislative Breakfast. Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg and Senator Siobhan Dunnavant provided their perspectives of the upcoming legislative session.
Wednesday was also a bittersweet day, as hundreds gathered to celebrate the life and legacy of Congressman A. Donald McEachin. One of the largest Congressional delegations also attended the services. The Congressman was remembered by family, friends, and colleagues as a man of integrity, courage, and compassion. Among the many speakers yesterday were former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Virginia’s Senator Tim Kaine.
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: