This past week in the General Assembly, we began wrapping up committee hearings and determining which bills will make the “crossover” to the opposite Chamber. Today and early tomorrow will continue to be even more hectic as we face the Crossover deadline on Tuesday, February 7. In this newsletter, I share updates on my legislation and spotlight some of the many meetings and events from the past week. Thank you for taking the time to read and for staying informed.
From the Senate to the House
As we wind down the first half of the legislative session, Senate bills are completing their passage from Subcommittee to Committee, and then to Finance and Appropriations (if the legislation has a fiscal impact) and then to the Chamber Floor for final passage. Last week, six more of my bills passed the Chamber, adding to the six bills previously passed; they are now headed to the House of Delegates:
Included in last week’s bills is SB 941, which passed out of the Senate on a party-line vote of 22-17. Known as the Contraceptive Equity Act, this legislation aligns Virginia Code with existing federal law. It eliminates the burden of insurance co-pays and coverage delays for prescription contraceptive drugs and devices. Birth control medications and contraceptives are a routine part of health care for many individuals, and are also used by many to address issues of debilitating menstrual pain and to regulate hormones. This bill ensures that medications remain accessible under insurance plans.
The second bill to pass came from one of my constituents from Powhatan and his attorney. Incarcerated for 23 years on false charges, this constituent was finally released from prison on parole in 2017 and then fully exonerated on a Writ of Actual Innocence. This legislation pursues compensation from the Commonwealth for the more than two decades of imprisonment on charges that were fabricated. Delegate Lee Ware (HD 65), who also represents Powhatan County, is carrying the companion bill in the other Chamber.
SB 1333, an environmental bill that I’m carrying which empowers the Clean Energy Advisory Board to apply for and disburse federal monies made available through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), passed out on a bipartisan vote of 26 to 13.
Finally, several education bills passed out on unanimous votes on Friday. SB 890 establishes the Veterans Teaching Licensure Support Fund and Program. The program awards grants to eligible veterans and service members teaching in a public school in the Commonwealth or pursuing an education career in the Commonwealth to reimburse them for the tuition expenses incurred towards receiving their teacher licensure. SB 935 instructs the Department of Education to create a comprehensive website and online portal dedicated to teacher licensure applications and endorsement requirements. SB 1130 increases the flexibility and options of Virginia’s Get Skilled, Get a Job, and Get Ahead (G3) Program for workforce development.
Additional Legislative Updates
In addition to the bills that passed out of the Senate, the following are a few additional updates on the legislation on which I have been working:
Community Events and Meetings
After a busy day of committee meetings last Monday, it was wonderful to attend the Virginia School Boards Association reception that evening. I had the chance to speak with many elected school board officials representing a variety of localities across the Commonwealth, including my friend, Chesterfield County School Board member Dot Heffron.
Tuesday was an exceptionally busy day. I began by joining an early morning rally with the Virginia Conservation Network. The hard work and dedication of so many concerned citizens continues to put a strong spotlight on conservation efforts and on key policy decisions such as Clean Cars, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), and the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA).
I also received many visitors, including sixth-grader Robert and his mother, Nkenge, who were at the Capitol for the Decoding Dyslexia Advocacy Day. Robert shared his experiences as a child with dyslexia and did a wonderful job lobbying for additional funding for literacy education.
Several constituents stopped by to speak about the importance of native plants, clean rivers, and land preservation. Virginia is blessed by an abundance of natural beauty, and these members of various Garden Clubs are among the leadership of those dedicated to conservation.
On Tuesday, we also held a very special Center Aisle presentation. Senator Mamie Locke (Hampton Roads) presented SJR 260, commending Colonel Anthony Pike. Colonel Pike retired as Chief of the Virginia Division of Capitol Police this past December. He is one of the longest-serving chiefs in the division’s history. Colonel Pike has had a long and distinguished career in public service, and he has the respect of all who served under his leadership and all who work and serve at the Capitol. Colonel Pike was one of the first to welcome me to the Capitol three years ago, and I’ve always valued his high standards of integrity and his thoughtful approach to public safety.
On Tuesday, the Virginia Radiological Society spoke to my staff about the opportunities and struggles facing healthcare workers broadly, and their discipline in particular. Our healthcare professionals have worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to provide the best possible care, and I am greatly appreciative of their commitment to keeping our Commonwealth healthy.
The Virginia Housing Alliance visited my office on Wednesday to speak on the issue of housing affordability. Virginia’s housing inventory is currently 300,000 houses less than what we need to keep up with demand and bring home prices to a more affordable position.
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