Happy New Year! I hope that you had a restful and rejuvenating holiday break. The new year begins with a heady rush towards the next General Assembly and the start of the 2023 Session on Wednesday, January 11.
This week, I provide an overview of the 2023 legislative session, a brief summary of some of my legislation, information on laws that went into effect on January 1, and highlight recent community events and engagements. Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter and for staying informed.
Overview of 2023 Session For the past several months, I and my staff have been meeting with numerous organizations, constituents, and advocates, researching legislation from other states, and connecting with other elected officials to determine policy priorities for the 2023 session. This year, my focal points target education concerns, housing, increasing access to mental health counselors and physical therapy, preparedness for heat illness and rising temperatures, and more. Here are a few more highlights:
Expansion of our community college “Get Skilled, Get a Job, and Get Ahead” (G3) program
More support and resources for English language students and teachers
Supports for a teaching licensure program for military veterans
Housing resources and opportunities
Incentives to promote Virginia’s television production industries and workforce
As we begin to drop bills over the next few days, my drafted legislation will be available here.
Engagement Opportunities Community members have numerous opportunities to stay engaged throughout the General Assembly Session. Session activities are accessible through the Legislative Information System (LIS) website. Helpful links include the following:
See what legislation has been introduced by all elected officials
The public is also welcome to attend and testify for/against particular bills during Subcommittee and Committee meetings; all legislators also usually have a steady stream of visitors during the weeks of the General Assembly. Visitors to the Capitol and to legislative offices should have a plan in place such as knowing which Subcommittee or Committee meetings are scheduled for that day, locations of committee rooms and legislative offices, and the particular bills on the docket.
The public is also invited to sit in the Senate and House Galleries to observe Floor proceedings. Visitors planning to attend the 2023 Session can reach out to my office for assistance or clarification.
We will continue to send newsletters each week, throughout the session, as well as post daily on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Upcoming Town Hall on the 2023 Session The workings of the General Assembly can sometimes seem opaque and complicated. However, the need for everyone to understand the development and implementation of laws, policies, and budgets is more critical than ever. Next Tuesday, January 10, my office is hosting a virtual General Assembly Pre-Session Town Hall to discuss access and participation.
My staff will provide a fun and engaging overview of the Legislative Information System website, the tools and resources that are available, and answer questions that participants have about the public participation in the Session. I’ll also discuss some of my bills and address questions about proposed legislation. Registration for the town hall is available here.
New Laws Effective January 1 Although most laws take effect in June, some have a delayed enactment. At the start of 2023, several laws that resulted from Democratic-led efforts came into effect, to the benefit of millions of Virginians.
Minimum Wage Increase Minimum wage throughout the Commonwealth is now $12 an hour. In 2020, Governor Northam signed into law SB7 which led to a gradual increase in the minimum wage, from the federal minimum of $7.25.
Grocery Tax Governor Northam included a repeal of the 1.5% grocery tax in his 2022-2024 biennium state budget, which was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law in 2022. Localities have the option to implement the 1% local tax on groceries.
Consumer Privacy Protection The Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act was passed during a special session in 2021 and is now active. This law gives people the right to access, correct, delete and obtain a copy of personal data and to prohibit their personal data from being used for targeted advertising, the sale of personal data, or consumer profiling.
On December 21, I traveled to Chesapeake, Virginia, for the grand opening of Paul Chhabra’s new restaurant, Rajput Indian Eats. Alongside Paul's family and friends, Senator Lionell Spruill Sr., and local elected officials, we celebrated this new addition to the Chesapeake restaurant community. Small businesses remain the backbone of our local economies.
On December 28, I visited the Ismaili Muslim community’s new Jamatkhana in Henrico County. The Ismaili community has worked to advance interfaith cooperation and promote the values of education, charity, justice and pluralism. We are fortunate to have such a thriving and diverse community in RVA.
This past Tuesday afternoon, I visited the Chesterfield County Jail to learn more about the nationally- and internationally-recognized Helping Addicts Recover Progressively (HARP) program, which provides peer-to-peer recovery, skills training, personal development, discharge planning, and transition services for inmates struggling with addiction. The HARP program offers support for both the mental and physical health recovery for the inmates struggling with substance abuse and addiction issues. I thank Sheriff Karl Leonard for his invitation to connect with the incarcerated participants of HARP, program staff and facilitators, and correctional officers within the facility.
Later on Tuesday, I joined Delegate Dawn Adams and Senator Jennifer McClellan for a Healthcare Town Hall discussion. Other elected officials such as Delegate Betsy Carr also joined the call. Constituents raised concerns about protecting reproductive healthcare access, the rising cost of healthcare, addressing staffing shortages at our healthcare facilities, and expanding funding for mental healthcare initiatives.
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: