We’ve concluded another busy week, and we are now heading into the final days of the 2023 Session. Here, I provide updates on legislation, information about the upcoming special election for the 4th Congressional District, details on leadership programs happening throughout the district, and a few meeting highlights from the past week. Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter and for staying informed.
Here is an update on my bills still in the House of Delegates:
SB798 replaces the terms “handicap,” and “handicapped” in the Code of Virginia with alternative terms such as “disability” and “impairment.” The bill was reported out of the House Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee 20-1 and will be voted on by the full House in the coming days.
SB802 was reported out of the House Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee unanimously (21-0). This bill authorizes Virginia to join the Interstate Counseling Compact. This legislation permits eligible licensed professional counselors to practice in other Compact member states if they are licensed in at least one member state. The bill will be voted on by the full House in the coming days.
SB1005 was unanimously reported out of the House Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee with amendments on a unanimous vote of 21-0. The bill enables licensed physical therapists to provide direct patient care. The bill will be voted on by the full House in the coming days.
Unfortunately, partisan politics have prevented the passing of good policy in the House of Delegates. Here are the bills that have been killed by the House Republicans, despite the fact that most passed out of the Senate with bipartisan support or with the unanimous, full support of the Virginia Senate:
SB890 passed out of the Senate on unanimous vote. The Veterans’ Teaching Licensure Support Fund and Program was developed with the help of UVA’s School of Education, had the full endorsement of the General Assembly’s Military Veterans Caucus, and would help to address the critical shortage of teachers in Virginia. It was killed by the House Republicans in the Appropriations Committee.
SB929 passed out of the Senate on a party-line vote. This bill addresses the conflict between Virginia law and Federal law which requires that legal permanent residents or legal visa holders be deported even if they have not been convicted of a crime because of one day. Changing the sentencing guidelines for a Class 1 misdemeanor from 365 days to 364 days would save families from being torn apart and apply more just sentencing. This bill was killed by House Republicans in a Courts Subcommittee.
SB932 passed out of the Senate on strong bipartisan votes. This bill would establish the Virginia Psilocybin Advisory Board and help to establish a framework for therapeutic uses of this natural medicine for the treatment of PTSD, depression, and other mental health concerns. This bill was killed by House Republicans in the Rules Committee.
SB934 passed out of the Senate with very strong bipartisan support. This bill would raise the aspirational goal for telework options for state employees from 20% to 45%. Telework opportunities help our state government compete effectively with private employers, attracting and retaining top talent. It saves the state government hundreds of millions of dollars annually in office-related expenses, allows rural employees to work for state agencies, and builds efficiencies and productivity. This bill was killed by House Republicans in the General Laws Committee.
SB935 passed out of the Senate on unanimous vote. This legislation would have directed the Department of Education to develop and maintain an easily accessible and streamlined website to provide clarification on teacher licensure and endorsement requirements. This bill emerged from a 2020 report that stressed the need for an easily-navigable licensure portal. The bill was killed by House Republicans in the Early Childhood/Innovation Subcommittee.
SB936 passed out of the Senate with bipartisan support. This bill asked the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to develop a comprehensive extreme heat emergency response plan. This bill was killed by House Republicans in a General Laws Subcommittee.
SB941 passed out of the Senate on a party-line vote. This bill returns security deposits that are rightfully owed to tenants quickly and in a more expeditious manner. If a tenant is present for a move-out inspection, if the rental property has no damages beyond normal wear and tear, and if the tenant does not owe any rent to the landlord, then the tenant should be refunded their security deposit without long delays. This bill was killed by House Republicans in a General Laws Subcommittee.
SB1109 and SB1118 both passed the full Senate on unanimous votes. Both bills sought to address the immediate and growing concerns of English Language students in our public schools. Both bills were killed by House Republicans in the Education Committee. My press statement regarding these bills is here.
SB1110 passed the full Senate on a unanimous vote. This bill would allow potential employers and the recruitment offices of military services and the National Guard to access student transcripts, even in cases in which the student owes debt to the college or university. This bill would actually help students repay the debt that they owe. This bill was killed by House Republicans in the Higher Education Subcommittee.
SB1112 passed the Senate with bipartisan support. This bill helps women access contraceptive care without paying costly up-front charges or insurance co-pays. This bill would have placed Virginia in alignment with federal regulations. This bill was killed by House Republicans in a Subcommittee of Commerce and Labor. My press statement regarding this bill is here. The Biden Administration issued a strong statement against this partisan action, and details are available here.
SB1130 passed the Senate on a unanimous vote. This bill establishes a work group to increase flexibility and options for the very popular community college program known as G3: Get Skilled, Get a Job, Get Ahead. This bill was killed by House Republicans in the Higher Education Subcommittee.
SB1333 passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote. This bill would enable the Commonwealth to access the hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government that are set to be released by the Environmental Protection Agency. This federal funding has timelines and restrictions for states to access these dollars. Unfortunately, because House Republicans killed the bill in the Appropriations Committee, these funds may not reach Virginia and may be redirected instead to other states.
SB1334 passed the Senate with bipartisan support. This bill asks the Department of Education to convene a stakeholders’ group to develop a set of guidelines for a code of ethics for student IEP meetings. This bill was killed by House Republicans in the Rules Subcommittee.
SJ247 passed out of the Senate with bipartisan support. This bill would grant flexibility to localities to grant tax relief to those long-term, low-income homeowners who have been disproportionately impacted by heavy tax burdens resulting from gentrification and steeply rising property taxes. Such tax relief is already offered to the elderly, the disabled, to survivors of military veterans and those killed in line of duty. This legislation was a priority for the City of Richmond as well as for other localities. This bill was killed by House Republicans in the Rules Subcommittee.
This long list of bills that would have helped address vital concerns in public education, higher education, health care, the environment, housing, and safeguarding vulnerable communities were killed by House Republicans for partisan purposes. I hope to bring this legislation back again next year and hope that the legislation will have the full and thoughtful consideration that it deserves.
Special Election: Congressional District 4, February 21
This Tuesday, February 21, constituents in United States House of Representatives District 4 will hold a special election to fill late Congressman Donald McEachin’s seat.
On Election Day, February 21, polls will be open from 6:00am until 7:00pm. Any voter who is in line by 7:00pm must be allowed to vote, and so voters should not leave the line. Additional election information, including polling locations, can be found at Virginia Department of Elections.
Senator Jennifer McClellan has my full and enthusiastic endorsement. Over the past two decades, Senator McClellan has proven herself repeatedly as a fearless champion for reproductive rights, public education, social justice, the environment, housing, criminal justice, and so many other issues that affect all Virginians. Senator McClellan is the unmistakable heir to Congressman Donald McEachin’s legacy. Not only will she continue, but she will expand on the work of our Congressman, and she will make her own distinctive mark in the United States Congress.
Yesterday, I joined United States Senator Tim Kaine, Delegates Betsy Carr and Dawn Adams, and supporters from across the Metro Richmond Area for a canvass launch in support of Jennifer McClellan’s campaign. It was the final day for early voting in the district and volunteers were eager to get voters to the polls.
My Chesterfield Academy
Chesterfield County, in partnership with the Asian and Latino Solidarity Alliance of Central Virginia (ALSACV), will be hosting My Chesterfield Academy—a program designed to empower residents from multicultural communities in navigating local government programs and resources. Program participants will have the opportunity to tour county facilities, meet with government and school officials, and learn about how to obtain information and resources related to county services. Sessions will be held on Tuesdays from 9:30am until to 2:30pm, beginning April 25 and continue through December 21. Sessions will not be held in July and August. More information about the program is available here.
The Sorenson Institute’s High School Leaders Program
The University of Virginia is now accepting applications for its Sorensen Institute High School Leaders Program (HSLP). Participants learn about how Virginia government—both local and state—functions, how public policy is shaped and debated, and how to develop professional skills, pitch stories to the media, effectively address audiences, collaborate with others, and lobby legislators. The 2023 HSLP will be held at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville from Saturday, July 15, through Saturday, July 29. Additional information about the program and the application process is here. The deadline to apply is March 20.
Community Events and Meetings
On Monday morning I was pleased to speak with the Student Government Association of Virginia Commonwealth University. I’m grateful for their advocacy and continued dedication to the students they represent not just across VCU’s campus but throughout the Commonwealth.
Valentine’s Day at the General Assembly is always a lively, special occasion with members exchanging gifts, dressing in red, and extravagantly decorating our offices. This year, Delegate Lee Ware, Delegate Dawn Adams, and I were able to meet with students and staff from James River High School.
Students from the Open High School and the school’s Environmental Justice Club came to speak with my office about legislation concerning fossil fuels and workers’ protections. It is inspiring to see the next generation of leaders dedicate their time to making Virginia’s future one that is focused on environmental stewardship.
On Thursday, I had the pleasure of introducing Nausha Brown-Chavez (pictured) and other members of the READ Center staff on the Senate floor. The READ Center is a Richmond-based nonprofit that provides adults with the resources and instruction they need to become literate. It is estimated that more than 81,000 adults in the Metro Richmond Area lack basic literacy skills. I commend them on their important work in our community.
Connecting With My Office
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