As the legislative session progresses and each Chamber approaches Crossover, the day by which all bills must pass out of their Chamber of origin, bills are moving through the committee process. This week’s newsletter shares numerous updates on my legislation and reflects on select community meetings from this past week. Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter and for staying informed.
Legislative Updates on My Bills
On Monday afternoon, my bill known as the Contraceptive Equity Act ( SB238), passed out of the Committee on Commerce and Labor (8-6) and now heads to the Committee on Finance and Appropriations. This bill places Virginia in alignment with the federal government and requires that health insurance carriers provide coverage for contraceptive drugs and contraceptive devices without burdensome copayment, coinsurance payments, or additional fees. All too often, the costs of co-pay stand as barriers for individuals in need of contraceptive care and treatment.
On Wednesday, The Faith in Housing in the Commonwealth Act ( SB233), which would permit faith congregations to build affordable housing on their property, was heard in the General Laws and Technology Committee. The Committee’s recommendation was to carry the bill forward for a year with a letter from Chair Senator Adam Ebbin directing the Virginia Housing Commission to form a workgroup to study the issue. The stakeholders with which I am working are delighted by this step forward in helping to address the serious needs for affordable housing in so many communities.
Also on Wednesday afternoon, the Courts of Justice Committee took up my SB236. This bill enables full-time faculty at Virginia’s four year public institutions of higher education to request reports of aggregated case data on evictions in the Commonwealth from the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court for the purposes of research. This bill passed out of the Courts of Justice Committee on a vote of 9 to 5. The bill will be debated and voted on by the full Senate this upcoming week.
Additionally on Wednesday, the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee passed SB250 which adjusts the Department of Medical Assistance (DMAS) codes to include the technologies for remote ultrasound and fetal nonstress tests. Greater access to these technologies can help to address disparities in maternal health care, especially for rural and lower-income communities. On the Senate Floor, SB232, providing tenant protections for those living in mobile homes and manufactured homes communities passed out of the full Senate on a unanimous vote.
On Thursday morning, SB229 which had passed out of the Health Subcommittee on Tuesday afternoon also passed the full Senate Education and Health Committee on a vote of 14 to 1. It will now be before the Committee on Finance and Appropriations in the coming days. This legislation establishes the Advisory Council on Breakthrough Therapies for Veteran Suicide Prevention under the Virginia Department of Health. This legislation was brought to me by Reason for Hope, an organization that is focused on preventing veteran suicide and addressing the serious concerns of depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This legislation accelerates the research and deployment of psychedelic medicine and assisted therapies that have been granted breakthrough therapy status by the FDA and that are eligible for Expanded Access.
Also passing out of the Health Subcommittee on Tuesday and then passing out of the full Senate Education and Health Committee was my bill focused on Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD). This success is the first after many years of similar legislation being presented to the General Assembly. I have carried this bill for three years now, on behalf of numerous constituents and Virginians who have asked for the option to make personal end of life decisions when they are faced with unbearable suffering. SB280 allows for an adult diagnosed with a painful terminal illness, with six months or fewer left to live, to request a self-administered controlled substance from an attending healthcare provider with the purpose of ending their life. I thank Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton for putting her public support behind this legislation and for her courage in sharing her own very difficult medical journey.
With many coming forward to testify about themselves and their loved ones, my legislation supporting Medical Aid in Dying was heard by the Health Subcommittee on Tuesday afternoon. Earlier on Monday, I was joined by Delegate Patrick Hope, advocates, and Senators Jennifer Boysko and Russet Perry at a press conference about the bill.
Also passing out of the full Education and Health Committee on Thursday were two additional bills of mine: SB235 corrects the legislation that was passed in 2022 by ensuring that the previous enactment clause is in the actual legislation itself. The enactment clause differentiates parental notification for sexually explicit instructional material from censorship. This correction restates parents’ rights to be notified of potentially objectionable materials but does not allow books and materials to be removed from schools without following proper procedures. Additionally, the second bill to pass out that day was SB239, the interstate Social Workers Compact for licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs). Should Virginia and at least six other states join the Compact, the interstate agreement will support the portability of licenses and expand our workforce of licensed clinical social workers. This bill now heads to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee.
On Thursday afternoon, SB227 and SB228, two bills that are related to the recent JLARC’s K-12 Funding Report, passed out of the Subcommittee on Public Education. They will both be in front of the full Senate Education and Health Committee this upcoming Thursday. Additionally, SB272, which seeks to place more English Language teachers in classrooms based on the English proficiency levels of students, also passed out of the Subcommittee and will be presented at Thursday’s full committee meeting.
Select Community Events and Meetings
This week, my staff and I met with advocates from the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO) and CASA for their lobby days and outlined how my legislation will directly impact immigrant and Latino communities across our Commonwealth. Members are especially supportive of the Cover All Kids Act which provides healthcare coverage for all children in Virginia.
We also have a steady stream of healthcare providers. I was delighted to meet with physician members of the Medical Society of Virginia.
College students are frequent visitors to the General Assembly. My staff met with students from Radford University and Randolph Macon University.
We also greeted visitors from the VCU Massey Cancer Center as well as members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
I was especially delighted to greet visitors from Reynolds Community College, including President Paula Pando. Virginia’s community colleges provide incredible opportunities for all residents of the Commonwealth to achieve educational and career goals.
On Wednesday night, I was delighted to join the Senior Leadership Seminar of the American Council on Education - Women’s Network Virginia. As a graduate of this Leadership Seminar myself, I enjoyed meeting so many outstanding women leaders in a variety of higher education spaces and from so many of Virginia’s colleges and universities.
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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