In this week’s newsletter, I take a look at concerns about coastal resiliency and flooding, provide an update from the Virginia Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus, discuss recent General Assembly activities, share resources from our community partners, talk about the Senate Page Program, and reflect on community engagements from this past week. Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter and for staying informed.
Ian’s Impact on Virginia & the Importance of RGGI
Fortunately for the Commonwealth, much of the anticipated historic flooding and damage along Virginia’s coastline did not occur because of Ian's change in course as it moved northward. I am grateful for the emergency personnel, law enforcement, utility workers, and other first responders who handled emergency situations and remained on standby.
Moments like these remind us that extreme weather, one of the outcomes of climate change, is our new reality. It threatens communities, impacts businesses, devastates infrastructure, and it can be deadly. We have worked hard in the General Assembly to increase our resiliency in the face of extreme weather and the other effects of the climate catastrophes. One such effort has been joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program designed to reduce carbon emissions through regional cooperation. This “cap and trade” program has brought revenues in excess of $378,000,000 to Virginia. These funds are helping the Commonwealth to shore up its coastal resiliency programs, address flooding damage, and support energy efficiency programs, as well as health and safety upgrades, in many communities.
Sadly, Governor Youngkin has identified a goal of pulling Virginia out of RGGI. In light of the horrific damage and the toll on lives that we’ve seen communities experiencing because of Ian and other similar extreme weather events, our efforts must remain on taking on the challenges of climate change – and not turning a blind eye to the crisis of our times. Our children’s future depends on the work we do now.
To add your voice to Governor Youngkin’s efforts to pull Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, comment on the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall.
Virginia Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus Update
Last week, the Virginia Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus (VAAPIC) held its legislative retreat to discuss the upcoming General Assembly session and Caucus priorities. During the retreat, caucus members elected Delegate Kathy Tran as new Caucus Chair to fill the position recently held by former Delegate Mark Keam who is now serving in the Biden-Harris Administration.
Delegate Tran has been a champion for policies that help all Virginians: expanding healthcare access, protecting our environment, increasing protections for workers, and building a more welcoming and inclusive Virginia. I look forward to continuing to work with VAAPIC alongside Delegates Suhas Subramanyam, Irene Shin, and Kelly Convirs-Fowler under Delegate Tran’s leadership. To stay up-to-date on the Virginia AAPI Caucus, sign up for the Caucus newsletter and follow the Caucus on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Broadband in the Commonwealth
As a member of the Broadband Advisory Council, I joined other Council members to review the efforts to expand broadband and bring connectivity to the unserved localities throughout the Commonwealth. I’m excited to share the newly-released Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) Project Dashboard. This Dashboard allows the public to identify key broadband expansion projects across Virginia.
Joint Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources Committees Retreat
This Monday and Tuesday, I joined other members of the House and Senate Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources Committees in Syria, VA. During this two-day retreat, we toured a solar facility, learned about the intricacies and hard labor of managing a thriving dairy farm, and visited the new American Battlefield Trust site of the Battle of Brandy Station. In addition to these site visits, presentations and reports highlighted ongoing efforts in Virginia to preserve farmlands, protect natural resources, and support agricultural industries.
Joint Commission on Health Care
The Joint Commission on Health Care (JCHC) met on Wednesday, and we reviewed two critical reports, one on Assisted Living Facilities in Virginia and the other on Reducing Unnecessary Emergency Department Utilization. Both reports highlighted areas of ongoing concerns, consumer/patient issues, gaps in workforce needs, and systemic challenges. The reports prepared by JCHC staff also made several recommendations for improvements. These discussions will continue throughout the lead up to the next General Assembly. These reports and others are available here.
LGBT+ History Month
October is LGBTQ+ History Month, celebrating the accomplishments of the LGBTQ+ community, raising awareness of LGBTQ+ causes, and teaching about the movement for LGBTQ+ equality – all efforts that continue today.
Throughout October, I’ll be highlighting important figures, organizations, and moments in LGBTQ+ history. This week’s focus is on local efforts to support LGBTQ+ Virginians and specifically residents in the Metro Richmond Area. Here are just a few organizations doing incredible work within the LGBTQ+ community:
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month, granting us all space to mourn those who have lost their lives to domestic violence, celebrate and uplift those who have survived, and advocate for domestic violence prevention. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports that, in Virginia, 33.6% of women and 28.6% of men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner rape, and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes. Resources are available year-round to aid individuals and families impacted by domestic violence:
Richmond Folk Festival
October 7 through 9, Richmond will host its 18th annual Richmond Folk Festival, bringing together more than 30 performing groups from around Virginia, the nation, and the world. One of the Commonwealth’s largest events, the festival draws an average of 150,000 to 200,000 people to the River City each year. The event is free and open to the public. More information can be found here.
Senate Page Program: Applications Due Soon
Applications for the Senate Page Program are due by 5:00PM on October 17 – that’s right around the corner! The Senate Page Program is a remarkable educational experience for young Virginians who are interested in being a part of the annual General Assembly, learning about policy making, and engaging directly in state government processes. It is a tradition that has been in place for over 150 years.
Selected pages perform administrative duties, participate in team building, and help with day-to-day operations of the General Assembly. Pages are an integral part of the Capitol during the convening of the General Assembly. Pages live in Richmond throughout the duration of the General Assembly, visiting home on the weekends. The well-structured program provides time for Pages to keep up with schoolwork while also engaging in the direct experiences of government and policy making. More information about the program is available at the Senate Page Program. Applicants must be residents of the Commonwealth and either 13 or 14 years old on January 11, the first day of the 2023 session. The application is available here.
Last Saturday, I joined the ACLU-VA Annual Meeting and participated on a panel focused on students’ rights and on the growing efforts to target LGBTQ+ students in particular. These efforts have become especially strident in Virginia, and they are harmful to children and their families. In addition to this panel, the Annual Meeting also focused on issues of criminal justice and abortion access. The full meeting is available here.
On Sunday, my legislative assistant presented a memorial resolution for the late Reverend Stanley B. Bennett of Cornerstone Baptist Church during the Clergy Appreciation Month service. Reverend Bennett was an exemplary spiritual leader and an integral part of religious life in the Richmond area, serving as a member of the Richmond Police Chaplain Academy and the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists. His legacy will be forever remembered by both his Church Family and the broader RVA Community.
On Sunday, I joined the Central Virginia Iranian-American community as they gathered at the Capitol to protest the brutal murder of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian woman killed while in police custody. The rights of women and girls are human rights – the two cannot be distinguished. We continue to see assaults on women’s rights throughout the world, and these acts of oppression by any government must be addressed.
Connecting With My Office
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: