Newsletter ~ February 19, 2018
What an amazing five weeks it has been! Each of the committees and subcommittees I sit on have had full dockets. Many organizations and constituents have stopped by my office and met with me or Legislative Assistant Dominic Melito. Listening to their thoughts and concerns has helped me develop legislative priorities and a more nuanced understanding of many important issues.
The arrival of the Virginia Beach flag and the Virginia Beach seal was a very moving experience for me. It is a strong, visual, daily reminder that I proudly represent the 85th district in Virginia Beach. Receiving notes and pictures from constituents and friends, reminds me daily of my duties in office. If you haven’t already done so, please feel free to reach out to me at my office in the General Assembly Building. You can find my contact information here. If you haven’t completed my constituent survey please do so by following the link here; your opinion matters to me. If you have completed the survey, feel free to forward this link to others that live in the 85th.
You may have heard I sit on two prominent committees: Education, and Privileges and Elections. As a life-long educator, it is a privilege to be assigned to the House Education Committee. It is a great honor to sit on the Privileges and Elections committee, as I can support bills that increase voter participation and bills for bi-partisan redistricting. My voice is being heard on some very important legislation, and I continue to learn about issues that constituents face all around the Commonwealth.
Richmond is a busy place, including days where there are rallies, press conferences, and other events. Early in session I was proud to participate in several rallies, including the 26th Annual Vigil & Advocacy Day sponsored by the Virginia Center for Public Safety, and the Rally to support the Equal Rights Amendment (photo below).
Extending and protecting voting rights, taking care of our veterans, ensuring the retention of our best and brightest teachers, providing protection from hate crimes, and preserving the environment are all principles I am passionate about, which is why I introduced the following bills:
HB 265 would have extended voting time by an hour on Election Day in Virginia from 7pm to 8pm, giving more people a greater opportunity to exercise their right to vote. The bill was passed by indefinitely (PBI’d,) or killed, on a party-line vote in a Privileges and Elections subcommittee 4-2.
HB 266’s intent was to add gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation to the definition of hate crime in the Virginia Code. As the co-sponsor of the Frank W. Cox HS Gay Straight Alliance, I saw first hand the fear and frustration of my students on the night of our assembly last year. The Virginia Beach Police Department provided bomb-sniffing dogs and extra officers to ensure our students’ safety as we prepared for a presentation about acceptance. Our students deserve the extra protection this bill would have provided them, as well as the LGBT Community as a whole. The Courts of Justice subcommittee defeated the bill along party lines 5-3.
HB 420 was introduced to the House Education K-12 subcommittee. It would have required each local school board to administer a model exit questionnaire to teachers developed to collect data regarding why teachers are leaving the profession. After a unanimously vote last year, the pilot program was created and implemented January of 2018. My bill was to simply expand the program statewide. However, when I presented the bill in subcommittee, the bill was killed on party lines 6-4.
HB 1371 was designed to correct an oversight. A veteran’s spouse and dependents were eligible for free tuition if that veteran became 90% disabled due to active combat. This bill sought to provide the disabled veterans with the same benefit. The bill was defeated along party lines in the House Appropriations subcommittee 5-3.
HJ 56 was a JLARC (Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission) study designed to analyze the teaching profession from top-to-bottom. It would have gathered data regarding our teaching programs at Virginia Universities, and salaries and benefits of teachers in every district. The bill was left in the House Rules subcommittee, with no opportunity for presentation.
HB 1344, The Virginia Alternative Energy and Coastal Protection Act would have authorized the Commonwealth to conduct an auction of allowances of CO2 emissions. The bill would have established the Commonwealth Resilience Fund to create programs that would help the environment and our community by fighting re-occurring flooding. It also never came out of House Rules, providing no opportunity for presentation.
The recent event in Parkland, Florida was truly a tragedy. I rose to address the House Floor on Thursday to share my disappointment about the loss of 17 more lives. This shouldn’t be an everyday issue, but it has become just that. I shared with my colleagues that the dates December 14th, April 20th, March 24th, May 21st, April 16th, March 21st, and now February 14th started off as good days, but are now decidedly very bad days. I shared my concerns that a shooting like this can happen anytime, anyplace, anywhere in the Commonwealth, and as a teacher of 25 years, it scares me. I asked my colleagues why over a dozen gun safety bills never got out of committee, even though many of them say they are in favor of practical solutions of everyday problems. I ended my speech by asking “when will we act…when will enough be enough?” You can follow the coverage on TV here and in the newspaper here.
As we move forward during this session, there are many important bills yet to be voted on, and of course, the budget. Again, feel free to reach out to me if you have any comments, questions, or concerns.