This week, I’ll share an update on my legislation, discuss an opportunity for free financial aid application assistance, highlight two proposed constitutional amendments, and talk about ways to get involved in volunteer opportunities across the Tenth Senate District (SD10). Thank you for reading this newsletter and staying informed about current happenings.
Supporting the Fox Elementary School Community
First, I know that many of us in the Richmond area have powerful connections to Fox Elementary School. Sadly, on Friday night, a fire broke out at Fox causing parts of the school’s roof to collapse and destroying the upper floor. Thankfully, no injuries were reported, and we are certainly grateful to the efforts, skills, and bravery of the Richmond Fire Department and other first responders. I know that the loss of Fox ES is yet another massive challenge for the school, its students, teachers, and broader community to navigate. From the responses that I have seen, however, I hope that the students, staff, and families of Fox know how much they are supported and how deep the commitment is to rebuild this iconic landmark.
Anyone interested in making a donation to help rebuild this beloved school can visit the Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation and select "Fox Elementary Fire Response" in the pull-down menu. All contributions go directly to the rebuilding effort.
Marriage Equality & Voting Rights Restoration: Two Constitutional Amendments
During this current Session, Senators and Delegates have been voting on a variety of legislation, including bills, resolutions, and constitutional amendments. Amending the Virginia Constitution is a thoughtful and deliberative process. It first requires that the majority in both Chambers vote in favor of the amendment for two consecutive legislative sessions, with an intervening election between those sessions. Then, that proposed amendment is placed on the ballot for the vote of all Virginians. This Session marks the second consecutive session during which two constitutional amendments are being deliberated:
SJ 1, a constitutional amendment that restores the right to vote to individuals convicted of a felony upon their release from incarceration. This proposed amendment passed the Senate on Tuesday, February 15. This constitutional amendment allows those who have completed their period of incarceration to re-enter their communities as full citizens.
SJ 5, a constitutional amendment that repeals Virginia’s 2006 constitutional provision defining marriage as only a union between one man and one woman. This proposal passed out of the Senate on Tuesday, February 15. This constitutional amendment brings Virginia into alignment with the Supreme Court ruling that declared the fundamental right to marriage is guaranteed to same-sex couples.
If SJ 1 and SJ 5 pass the House of Delegates, they will be voted on by the citizens of the Commonwealth on November 8, 2022, via referendum. If they receive a majority vote, they will then be Amendments to the Constitution.
FAFSA/VASA Pop-Up Party & Opportunities Fair
This Saturday, from 10:00am until 3:00pm, Virginia students are invited to receive free assistance in filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the new Virginia Alternative State Aid (VASA) application.
In addition to one-on-one FAFSA/VASA help from financial aid experts, students can also visit the Opportunities Fair with organizations and institutions providing information about postsecondary options for students. The event includes music, prizes, food, and more.
The event’s location is the Dewey Gottwald Center at 2301 West Leigh Street in Richmond. Registration is encouraged, but walk-ups are also accepted. More information about the event is here.
Legislation Update - Crossover
Crossover, the deadline by which each Chamber must act on its own legislation, occurred on Tuesday. Twelve items of legislation that I am carrying passed the Senate and will now make their way through House subcommittees and committees:
SB 156 supports state funding for training and allocating more teachers to work with our English Learner students based on their proficiency levels.
SB 158 establishes the Virginia Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Historic Preservation Fund.
SB 159 prohibits transcript withholding as a form of debt collection for students attending public universities in Virginia.
SB 161 directs the Virginia Department of Education and stakeholders to develop guidelines on heat related illness.
SB 200 creates a FOIA exemption for active investigations of onsite sewage complaints made to VDH or DEQ.
SB 241 creates the Renal Disease Council and Fund to develop education programs, fund support services, and pursue research opportunities.
SB 257 directs the Virginia Department of Health Professions to study the merit of Virginia becoming a part of the Interstate Counseling Compact, which allows licensed professionals to practice counseling in member states.
SB 263 directs the Department for Housing and Community Development to expand the existing Housing and Supportive Services Interagency Leadership Team (ILT) initiative to include Virginians aged 65 and older as an included subgroup.
SB 265 establishes an advisory board for support and resources for our deaf and hard-of-hearing children ages 0 to 5 in Virginia.
SB 270 establishes the Interagency Language Access Working Group with the purpose of maximizing state policies, resources, technical assistance, and procurement practices to further language access and equity in the Commonwealth and its government agencies
SB 272 establishes a work group to review the climate impact of concrete, recommending policies to incentivize the reduction of air emission impact of concrete production procured for Commonwealth-funded projects.
SB 667 is a bill that makes the Office of Education and Labor Market Alignment a partner with the Innovative Internship Program and expands access to financial aid for student interns.
Additionally, three of my other bills have been incorporated into other legislation that is moving forward as well: the Living Donor Protection Act will protect organ donors from discrimination by insurance companies and employers; and another item of legislation will help uninsured patients address their medical debts.
Spreading Love Through Community Engagement
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day this week, we emphasize opportunities to spread love and kindness to neighbors across SD10. Community engagement is a great way to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the people around us. Whether it be reading to children at the library, working at a local free clinic, or contributing to our public schools, volunteering fuels vital organizations in our district. Here are a few links to get started:
Chesterfield Food Bank
Chesterfield County Public Library
Chesterfield County Public Schools
Communities in Schools (CiS)
City of Richmond
HandsOn Greater Richmond
Richmond City Public Schools
Free Clinic of Powhatan
Powhatan County Public Schools
Habitat for Humanity Powhatan
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:
June Laffey - Chief of Staff
Charles Turner - Legislative Assistant
You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.