In this week’s newsletter, I provide an overview of the first day of the 2023 Session, offer a response to the Governor’s State of the Commonwealth Address, congratulate Aaron Rouse (the newly-elected state Senator), highlight the legislation I have proposed for the 2023 session, introduce my session interns, and share our Pre-SessionTown Hall. Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter and for staying informed.
First Day of the 2023 Session: Wednesday, January 11, 2023
The 2023 Session of Virginia’s General Assembly is well underway! The first day of Session began with a Senate Democratic Caucus breakfast highlighting legislative priorities, a deadline to complete the pre-filing of bills, a Joint House and Senate Democratic press briefing, and Floor Session to adopt the procedural resolutions for both House and Senate.
We are the unofficial Corner Caucus. For the past four years, it’s been a tradition for the five of us who sit in the furthest right corner (as one faces the dias in the Senate Chamber) to take our annual selfie. Joining me are Senator Jennifer Boysko, Senator John Bell, Senator Jennifer McClellan, and Senator Monty Mason.
We were so eager to begin the work of Session that the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee met during the recess of the Floor, under the leadership of Chair Adam Ebbin, and reviewed a full docket of bills. Included was my SB936, focused on preparing the Commonwealth for extreme heat, which reported out of committee. We then reconvened in the Senate Chamber and proceeded to the House Chamber to hear the Governor’s annual State of the Commonwealth address. I share my thoughts below on some of the Governor’s points during his address.
Response to the Governor’s State of the Commonwealth Address
Last night, Governor Youngkin delivered his second Address to the Joint Chambers. In his opening comments, he recognized the three new members of the General Assembly, newly-elected during Tuesday’s Special Election: Delegate Ellen Campbell who will complete the term of her late husband, Delegate Ronnie Campbell; Delegate Holly Seibold, elected to complete the term of Delegate Mark Keam who recently accepted a position in the Biden Administration, and Senator-elect Aaron Rouse (see below).
The Governor touted the elimination of the state’s share of the grocery tax, a proposal announced by Governor Ralph Northam and integrated into Northam’s outgoing biennium budget. The changes to the grocery tax were implemented on January 1, 2023, as stipulated in the proposal passed with the strong support of Democrats.
I highlight a few areas that the Governor addressed and with which I strongly disagree:
I agree with Youngkin on the urgency of improving our public education, directing increased funding towards our mental and behavioral health care systems, and addressing our critical nursing shortage. I hope that the Governor will focus on these very important issues and seek to find meaningful solutions to the severe crises we face.
Congratulations to Aaron Rouse, Virginia’s Newest State Senator
Senate District 07 held a Special Election on Tuesday, January 10, to fill the seat vacated by Jen Kiggans. Senator Kiggans was elected to the US House of Representatives this past November. I congratulate Aaron Rouse, a former Virginia Beach councilman, for his successful campaign. Senator-elect Rouse will join the Senate Democratic Caucus by the end of this week. He is committed to fighting for reproductive health care, small businesses, an economy that works for everyone, and public education. The addition of Senator-elect Rouse increases the number of Democrats in the Virginia Senate to 22.
In last week’s newsletter, I highlighted a few of my legislative priorities. Now, all of my bills are live on the Legislative Information System (LIS), and they are available for the public:
These bills are likely to undergo changes and edits as they go through the committee review process. We will be tracking the progress of bills through this weekly newsletter.
Introducing our Interns
Two interns have joined the office during Session to assist with legislative research, respond to constituent inquiries, and provide support as needed. We hope that this experience will provide them with a comprehensive overview of legislative processes, state government, and the essential role of constituent services.
Austin is a third-year undergraduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University. Austin is pursuing a Bachelor of Social Work with a minor in Public Management. He’s extensively involved on campus as part of VCU Transform and its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, the Presidential Student Ambassadors Program, the National Association of Black Social Workers, and the President of Pi Lambda Phi’s VA Omega Rho Chapter, as well as several other organizations. Austin’s policy interests encompass education, voting rights and fair elections, and infrastructure. As an intern, Austin is eager to learn more about my district and how we work to incorporate constituent perspectives into policy decisions. We look forward to working with Austin and are thankful that he was encouraged to apply for an internship by his mentor Dr. Maggie Tolan and advisor Kaylynn Hill.
Lauren is a junior majoring in Political Science and Leadership Studies and minoring in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Richmond. She is excited to learn more about the legislative process in Virginia and observe the impact it has on the community. Lauren comes from a family of educators and was drawn to my office because of my own background in education. We are certainly looking forward to working with Lauren who brings a considerable range of leadership skills, organizational talent, and communication experience to the office.
Internships for college students are invaluable experiences. We are pleased to have Austin and Lauren join the office for Session, and excited to see how this direct engagement with the Virginia General Assembly shapes their academic, personal, and professional goals.
The General Assembly Pre-Session Town Hall
On Tuesday evening, we held our virtual General Assembly Pre-Session Town Hall. Highlights of the town hall included an overview of the legislative process, how constituents can stay engaged throughout the Session, and what we expect to see from legislators this session. One central message emerged: government is most effective when it is transparent, accessible, and when the goal is to develop policies that work for all Virginians. I appreciate the information shared by staff on Tuesday evening and thank you to those who participated. For those that could not attend, a recording of the town hall is available here.
Last Thursday, Senator Jennifer McClellan and I spoke with members of the Richmond City Democratic Committee (RCDC) about Democratic policy priorities for this session including supporting our educators and students within our public schools, protecting reproductive healthcare access, and defending our progress on environmental legislation. Members of RCDC have been working hard to prepare for the Special Election on February 21 to fill the late Congressman Donald McEachin’s seat.
On Saturday, I joined members of the Richmond Education Association and the Virginia Education Association to hear directly from educators about the issues affecting them. We were also joined by VEA President, Dr James Fedderman, and Richmond City Councilmembers Kristen Nye, Mike Jones, and Ann-Frances Lambert.
Yesterday, members of SEIU Virginia 512 rallied at the Capitol in support of their mission: union jobs for all Virginians. Members of SEIU 512 have been consistent advocates for economic justice, and we are fortunate to have their strong voices advocating in the General Assembly.
Connecting With My Office
Although we will be extremely busy with Session, January 11 - February 25, 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: