The first week of session has concluded, and what a busy week it has been. In this newsletter, I provide an update on my legislation and share engagements from this past week. Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter and for staying informed.
#22Blue: Aaron Rouse Joins the Senate of Virginia On Wednesday, Aaron Rouse was officially sworn in as a member of the Virginia Senate, becoming the twenty-second member of the Senate Democratic Caucus. We are delighted to welcome Senator Rouse to the Chamber, and I look forward to working with him as we defend the progress we have made in reproductive rights, economic prosperity, and climate resilience.
Legislation Update In Virginia, odd years are “Short Sessions” for the General Assembly (45 days rather than the 60 days of the longer, budget year Sessions), and so bills are moving quickly through the committee process and onto the Floor of the Senate.
On Wednesday, SB 798 passed the full Senate on a unanimous block vote (38-0). It now heads to the House of Delegates. The bill, a recommendation of the Joint Commission on Health Care (JCHC), replaces the terms “handicap” and “handicapped” in the Code of Virginia with alternative terms such as “disability” and “impairment.” This bill is my first to pass the full Chamber this Session.
Additionally, we have several other legislative updates from this past week to share:
SB 802 was reported out of the Privileges and Elections committee unanimously (15-0) on Tuesday, and now it heads to the Senate Finance committee. 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.
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. The bill was recommended for reporting and will be heard by the full Senate Education and Health Committee next Thursday.
SB 929 reduces the maximum term of confinement for a Class 1 misdemeanor from 12 months to 364 days. This legislation will place Virginia in better alignment with federal regulations that trigger automatic deportation for permanent residents and visa holders for simple misdemeanors. The bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee 8-6 and now goes to the Senate Floor.
SB 935 instructs the Department of Education to create a comprehensive website and online portal dedicated to teacher licensure applications and endorsement requirements. The bill was recommended for reporting and will be heard by the full Senate Education and Health Committee next Thursday.
SB 936 directs the Department of Emergency Management to develop an extreme heat emergency response plan. This bill passed the Senate General Laws and Technology committee on a 10-3-1 vote, and has been referred to the Finance and Appropriations Committee.
SB 941 changes refund requirements for a security deposit if a renter is present for their walkout inspection. The bill was heard in the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee and was passed by for the week so that stakeholders could reach an agreement on language.
SB 1005 was debated in the Health Professions subcommittee last Friday and reported to the Education and Health committee. It passed out of the full committee on a 13-0-1 vote and will be heading to the Senate Floor for a vote in the coming days. Stakeholders are still continuing to work on details and will hopefully resolve some remaining concerns soon. This bill enables licensed physical therapists to provide direct patient care.
SB 1112 requires health insurance companies to provide coverage for prescribed contraceptive drugs and devices. This bill was assigned to the Senate Commerce and Labor committee and passed by a 12-3 vote on January 16. It will be up for final passage on the Floor of the Senate on Monday.
SB 1333 empowers the Clean Energy Advisory Board to apply for and disburse federal monies made available through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The bill passed out of the Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee (13-1-1) and now heads to Senate Finance.
Last Friday, I joined environmental advocates and members of the General Assembly, including Senator Scott Surovell and Delegate Rip Sullivan, for the Rally for a Liveable Future in Capitol Square. The Governor’s Administration has made its anti-climate agenda clear: pull Virginia out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), roll back our progress on emissions standards, decimate the Virginia Clean Energy Act, and strip away regulations. We stood united at Capitol Square to make it clear that Virginians will not let that happen.
On Monday, members of the Virginia Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus joined Hamkae Center for a panel discussion about issues impacting AAPI communities across the Commonwealth, including the importance of AAPI representation, combating the rise of AAPI hate, and how we as elected officials can support our AAPI constituencies. I’m grateful to the Hamkae Center for organizing this necessary, meaningful discussion and for its advocacy at the General Assembly.
Tuesday morning, I joined the Virginia Council of Muslim Organizations for their annual Muslim Advocacy Day. This year, Muslims from around the Commonwealth came to the Capitol to advocate for greater access to mental health resources and affordable housing.
On Tuesday, members of the VCU United Campus Workers (UCW) visited our office to discuss their priorities, including securing workers’ rights for university faculty and staff and supporting parents by expanding child care provisions on-campus. I am happy to have sponsored a budget amendment that will increase the number of child care specialists at the VCU Monroe Park Campus.
On Tuesday evening, members of the Virginia Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus and staff members held the first Caucus meeting of session. Together, we discussed how our priority legislation was moving through our respective chambers and began planning our mid-session town hall.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to connect with providers from across the district as a part of American Academy of Pediatrics Advocacy Day. The challenges facing our healthcare providers are serious, and they include workforce shortages, mental health concerns, and sufficient security for those who work in high-stress environments. We are working to address all of these issues during this Session.
Last evening, I had the opportunity to speak to advocates at the “Climate and Clean Energy Legislators Reception,” where I highlighted the importance of centering environmental justice in our clean energy transition. Our environmental advocates are crucial in our fight to protect Virginia’s climate progress.
On Friday, Senator Jeremy McPike and I wore pins in honor of CASA’s Advocacy Day at the General Assembly. Advocates spent the day meeting with legislators and staff to discuss their priorities of expanding healthcare coverage to undocumented children, rent stabilization, and prioritizing funding for ELL programs in our public schools.
Members of the Senate Democratic Caucus had a surprise visit from Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger this week. Congresswoman Spanberger has been a tireless advocate for Virginians on Capitol Hill, and we appreciate her taking the time to meet with us and our newest member, Senator Aaron Rouse.
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: