The always quick pace in Virginia's part time legislature went into serious overdrive this week as the General Assembly reached the "Crossover" deadline for each house to wrap up action on their own bills. On Monday, February 9th the House of Delegates considered 270 pieces of legislation in one floor session. Today is the deadline for Delegates to file objections to amendments to the House version of the state budget. Fortunately, the final few weeks of the 2015 Session should be a bit more relaxed, as we only have to consider legislation that survived its house of origin - which is a much lower number of bills than were introduced.
Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, my bill to require domestic abusers and stalkers to surrender their firearms for the duration of any protective order failed to get out of Subcommittee #1 of Militia, Police and Public Safety last week. My bill to require applicants for concealed handgun permits to demonstrate actual competence with a handgun was defeated at the same hearing.
My bills to prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, repeal Virginia's same sex marriage ban, raise the minimum wage, and make it a crime to convert campaign contributions to personal use all failed on party-line votes in committee.
Two of my bills proved to be non-controversial. My bill to update the regulations that govern radon remediation companies passed the full House unanimously last week. My bill to provide General District Courts with the authority to pay for guardians ad-litem and attorneys in protective order hearings (so that the victims seeking the protective order don't have to) passed the House of Delegates 100-0.
During February, in honor of Black History Month, a different member of the House of Delegates gives a speech during the morning hour to share a moment in black history from their district. Last week I shared the story of the events commemorated at the new Tinner Hill Memorial Park - a significant episode in the history of Falls Church that happened almost exactly 100 years ago. On January 8, 1915, a delegation of African-American citizens called the Colored Citizens Protective League (CCPL) led by Joseph Tinner and Dr. E.B. Henderson held their first meeting at the home of Joseph B. Tinner. The CCPL formed to determine a course of action to protest a segregation ordinance by the Town Council.
Because of the CCPL's diligence, the ordinance was never enacted. The NAACP recognized the landmark efforts by this Group of Nine (as they were also known), proving they could succeed and survive - even in a rural area like Falls Church. They were granted their charter and became the first rural branch of the NAACP.
The House Budget was released on Sunday. Working with the Governor and my House colleagues, we have protected funding for K-12. Our children deserve a quality education and preserving this funding is detrimental to their future and that of the Commonwealth. Going forward, the General Assembly will also need to increase per pupil funding.
It is encouraging that the House Budget currently includes funding care for the seriously mentally ill, funding the First Lady's school breakfast initiative, and using increased revenues to offer teachers, police officers, and other state employees a much-needed raise. As the Budget process continues, I will keep you updated as best I can.
Last Friday, I spoke out against HB 1318, a bill that would require anyone requesting an absentee ballot to mail a copy of his or her ID with the application. While reasonable people may disagree about whether the burden of requiring everyone to have a photo ID in order to voter is worth it or not, there may be some value to requiring someone appearing in person to show a photo ID to prove they are the person they claim to be. As I explain in my speech though, a registrar who is reviewing an absentee ballot application along with a photo ID has absolutely nothing to compare it with, creating a burden with absolutely no benefit.
Finally, I was pleased to be able to share some good news with the House of Delegates on the morning of our crossover session. As you've probably read, INOVA Health Systems has, with the help of the Governor, struck a deal to acquire the EXXON Mobile campus, which will be the future home of the INOVA Center for Personalized Health. The Center will provide a unique, internationally prominent center for genomic research, personalized healthcare, and associated life science commercial development.
The Center, located in the heart of my legislative district, will be comprised of the INOVA Comprehensive Cancer and Research Institute (ICCRI), the Virginia Center for Genomic Science and Bioinformatics Research, and the INOVA Clinic.
This is a great step forward in the Governor's efforts to attract not just new businesses but entirely new industries to Virginia. Deals like this one are essential to transforming our area from a company-town where the Federal Government was the sole source of economic activity into a 21st Century new Virginia Economy.
* Denotes a speech which has a video available on my YouTube Channel.
Yours in service,