The first full week of session has concluded, and the days have been intense and busy as the Senate began the work of reviewing and debating bills. We are now preparing for the week ahead. Here, I provide updates on my legislation and share highlights of some of the numerous visitors to my office and other engagements from this past week. Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter and for staying informed.
The Progress of My Bills through the Legislative Process
On Tuesday, the Committee on Privileges and Elections took up all of the introduced Constitutional Amendments (CAs) and ensured that all amendments that are on First Read this year continued on to the 2025 Session, the first year during which CAs can receive a full hearing. SJ 1, ensuring protections for the fundamental right to reproductive freedom and a bill for which I am a Co-Chief Patron, was among that group of bills. Constitutional amendments must pass out of the General Assembly during an odd year; their passage must be followed by a General Election, ensuring that voters have the opportunity to elect or re-elect representatives who will again pass those same amendments. The following year, CAs must then appear on the ballot for all Virginians to vote upon. Amending the Constitution of Virginia is a necessarily complex and lengthy process, taking three years and thus ensuring that voters have full participation in the matter.
On Tuesday, I also presented SB 250 to the Health Subcommittee; the bill was unanimously recommended for reporting on a 5-0 vote. SB 250 instructs the Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) to slightly modify the state’s codes for medical assistance devices to include reimbursement to providers for remote ultrasound and remote fetal non-stress test technologies. These technologies enable healthcare providers to connect with pregnant individuals through telehealth services and will, hopefully, help Virginia address its crisis in maternal mortality. Patients who have high risk pregnancies, or who live in remote areas, or who have work schedules that prevent them from receiving effective medical care are able to use these technologies in coordination with their providers and thus effectively monitor the health of their pregnancies. SB 250 also reported out of the full committee on Thursday and will now be reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee.
SB 232 reported out of General Laws and Technology on Wednesday and was unanimously approved with a 15-0 vote. SB 232 helps to ensure that the residents of mobile home parks and manufactured home communities and their landlords are ensured similar protections as other categories of renters receive through the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. The legislation achieves that goal by clarifying and expanding on tenant rights outlined within the Manufactured Home Lot Rental Act, specifically as it relates to the sale or transfer of a manufactured home park and the terms of a rental agreement. This bill will be on second and third read next week in the full Senate.
SB 332, a bill for which I am a Co-Chief patron this year and which reintroduces the legislation that I carried last year, passed out of the Senate once again 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 helps to save families from being torn apart and applies a more just sentencing. This bill is frequently misrepresented by Republican colleagues as creating a two-tiered justice system. It does not; changing the number of days for a Class 1 misdemeanor applies to all. Further, this change does not impact undocumented individuals who continue to fall under federal jurisdiction. This bill was principally carried by our new state Senator, Saddam Salim, and was his first to pass out of the Senate Chamber.
SB 235, a bill that amends legislation that was passed during the 2022 session related to parental notification of sexually explicit content, came before the Public Education Subcommittee on Thursday. The bill was recommended for reporting to next week’s full Education and Health Committee. During the 2022 Session, the same legislation was passed by a former Senator and received full-throated support from Republicans in the Senate. The legislation directed the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to establish guidelines for parental notification for sensitive instructional materials (not related to school libraries) and also authorized School Boards to adopt those or stricter guidelines. An enactment clause also directed that the legislation could not be used to ban or censor books. As some of us warned, however, some school divisions in the Commonwealth have used this statute as a basis for removing books completely from schools, leveraging the previous legislation as a tool of censorship. My bill simply restores that same enactment clause, adding it directly to the legislation itself. Ironically, one of the legislators who fully supported the 2022 bill spoke out vehemently against my bill during the subcommittee meeting, despite the fact that the language in the legislation remains exactly the same. The deliberate attempts to conflate parental notification and book bans have created pathways for minority voices to impact the work of our school libraries and librarians in harmful ways.
On Friday, I presented SB 239, a bill that authorizes Virginia to become a signatory to the Social Work Licensure Compact and thus expand opportunities for licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) to practice in other Compact member states. This legislation is also moving through nine other states simultaneously. Once seven states have authorized and joined the Compact, the interstate partnership will establish the structure and agreements by which the Compact will be regulated. This legislation is the result of efforts by the Council of State Governments (a Council in which Virginia is an active member) and is strongly supported by the Department of Defense. In previous years, I successfully carried and passed similar interstate compacts for Occupational Therapists and for licensed Counselors. SB 239 passed unanimously out of the Health Professions subcommittee on Friday and will be heard in the full Education and Health Committee this upcoming Thursday.
On Thursday, I chaired the second meeting of the Senate Education and Health Committee. I invited Lisa Coons, Superintendent of Public Instruction at the Virginia Department of Education to respond to questions from Committee members. Hearing directly from the Superintendent is an important part of the process as the Senate decides on confirmation.
This week, my legislative staff and I welcomed another new member to our session team, Amal. Amal is currently a junior at the University of Richmond and is double majoring in political science and leadership studies. She is also a long-time Richmond resident; she has lived in Richmond for 19 years. Amal has a passion for understanding the work of government, public service, and the establishment of just societies.
Select Community Events and Meetings
On Tuesday, I spoke at a press conference as part of Voices for Virginia’s Children advocacy day. I shared our work on SB 239, the Social Work Compact, and SB 227, which is related to JLARC’s recommendations for public school funding. These bills are critical to ensuring that Virginia’s children have access to quality mental health support.
We have had numerous visitors joining us to watch the work of The General Assembly. Here are just a few of the groups from whom I was able to learn personally about their legislative priorities: New Virginia Majority, Virginia Young Democrats, and the National Federation of the Blind.
Visitors, both individuals and groups, are always welcome to attend and observe Committee meetings, sit in the Gallery to watch the activities of the Senate and House, and to meet with me or my staff.
This Thursday, I joined CASA to show my support for the organization’s work on issues such as raising the minimum wage, ensuring rent stabilization, fighting for equitable healthcare, education, and language access. I spoke specifically about my bill known as the Cover All Kids Act, which ensures healthcare coverage for all children in Virginia. This bill is being carried by Delegate and Democratic Caucus Chair Kathy Tran in the House.
Connecting With My Office
As noted in last week’s newsletter, all legislative offices within the Senate now have new email addresses and phone numbers. My office can be reached at the following:
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