Facts from the Floor: Week Three

January 27, 2020

Last Monday, I left my house in Virginia Beach at 4:30AM to get to Richmond before the Gun Lobby Day crowds assembled and the streets were shutdown. Little did I know that crowds of Second Amendment-loving people would be gathering well before sunrise. Regardless of your opinion on guns, I think we can all agree that Gun Lobby Day was an amazing showing of people exercising their First Amendment rights and doing so safely, courteously, and cleanly. I met so many good Americans that day out on the lawn who were here from all over Virginia and other states as a show of unity. Almost 30,000 people braved freezing temps and made a statement that both parties heard loud and clear. Additionally, the Capitol Police should be commended for their significant contribution in making Monday’s gathering uneventful. And a big THANK YOU to everyone from the 7th District who stopped by to see me! (I apologize if you stopped by and missed me due to meetings- please come back again soon!)

On the senate floor, the gun debate continued with discussion and voting on SB 240 (the “red flag” bill). After heated discussion and testimony from both sides, the vote fell on party lines with the “red flag” bill passing 21 D-19 R. My main concern with this bill was that it does not provide due process before a court order can take your guns. It essentially takes people’s weapons even if no crime has been committed and before they are proven guilty. It also allows people to be charged with illegal possession if they refuse to surrender their guns. The bill will “crossover” to the House mid-session and then will go to the Governor to be signed if it passes out of the House. Being in the minority in both houses definitely makes life more difficult here in the General Assembly.

I was able to present my mental health bill (SB 317) to the Health and Education committee, a bill that would provide a process for ordering home health nursing care when available to psychiatric patients after an in-patient psych hospital stay. In my opinion, this continuity of care is essential for not only patients but also their families. Having a set of eyes in the home to check on medication compliance, follow-up appointments, and provide community resource education and general support is a great starting point to helping patients maintain good mental health after an acute stay. We are still not including mental health improvements in the gun debate as much as I’d like but the discussion has started.

Other bills we discussed this week included:

SB 631: A bill which would fine business owners $500 for abandoned and stolen shopping carts left around town (I voted “no)

SB 780: A bill that provides immunity for campgrounds if a person is injured as a result of an inherent risk of camping (I voted “yes”)

SB 981: Expands the definition of expedited issuance of credentials for spouses of military service members on active duty (I voted “yes”)

SB 66: Prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of “sexual orientation: and “gender identity” in housing (I voted “yes”)

SB 656: Requires mental healthcare providers to share mental health information and records with correctional facilities when patients are imprisoned (I voted “yes”)

This past week I was assigned to the “Gaming” subcommittee which has started to discuss legislation regarding the lottery, casinos, and games of chance and skill in Virginia. I asked for your opinions on social media about these issues and received a wide variety of feedback. There is much debate about not only local future casinos but about online lottery sales, the allowance of having electronic “games of skill” in convenience stores, legalizing sports wagering, and changes in charitable gaming regulations. If you have opinions on any of these issues, I’d love to hear your thoughts as I research the pros and cons of each piece of legislation coming our way. Please email me at: district07@senate.virginia.gov and let me know what you think about the future of “gaming” in Virginia.

In closing, I leave you with my Top 5 Most Shocking things I saw this past week….


1- A women actually brought a 50 cal rifle to the 2A Lobby Day and seemed to be using it as a walking stick of sorts. (We used to mount 50 cals to the window of the H-46 helicopter in the Persian Gulf when times got tough. Never thought I’d see one used as a walking stick!)

2- During gun debate, our lawyers actually broke out the set of Virginia Law Code books we have on a bookshelf in the corner of the senate, dusted them off, and quoted from them. Impressive to say the least.

3- Wednesday was the annual Brunswick Stew day where “stew masters” from Brunswick, Virginia, actually come to the Capitol and set up shop to provide all of us with a delicious taste of their local favorite. The stew crew has been doing this for the General Assembly for 18 years!

4- I presented my first bill up for a full vote on the senate floor this week which was an environmental bill limiting the number of intentional balloons that could be released in a one-hour period from the current law of 49 to one balloon. When a new senator presents their first bill, not only do a large handful of incumbent senators ask harassing and ridiculous questions to the new senator, but then they all vote “no” before casting their actual votes, and when the entire process is complete, the chamber gives a standing ovation to the new member. Provided some comic relief during a stressful week…!

5- At the end of every senate floor session before we adjourn, the Clerk of the Senate reads the weather forecast aloud for that day and the next. (It’s a tradition left over from before we had The Weather Channel and weather apps!)