Facts from the Floor: Week Four

February 3, 2020

This week was some work! Although I am definitely in the routine now of subcommittee and committee meetings and daily floor sessions, I continue to learn every day and to still be in awe of my new job and responsibility. I have to take a few seconds to acknowledge a few key people who make my life exponentially easier in Richmond. My two legislative assistants, Tyler and Joe, keep my schedule moving, keep me (almost!) on time to all caucus meetings, and provide me with all the background information I need to make well-researched legislative choices. They track all constituent emails and phone calls and answer most of them, take meetings when I can’t be there, and make an entire pot of coffee without me asking every morning! They even work after hours and make sure I get safely to all dinner and night events. I am grateful for their help and thankful for their patience. We also have a legislative assistant, Samantha, who works out of our Virginia Beach office most of the week and holds down the fort while we’re in Richmond. Thank you three for all you do!

The biggest and toughest vote we took this week was SB 733 which removes the requirement for an ultrasound prior to an abortion, removes the 24-hour waiting period prior to an abortion, allows nurse practitioners to perform first trimester abortions, & repeals the requirement for medical professionals to provide certain information prior to an abortion. I am firmly against all of these provisions of the bill and spoke adamantly in opposition to this bill. We had an OB/GYN (who is our only physician in the senate) and myself (the only nurse practitioner) in addition to others speaking against this bill to no avail. I feel we are removing key educational components to women and not advocating for what is best for women nor the innocent life they carry. It was the first time our vote resulted in an even 20-20 split (one democrat voted in opposition). The Lt. Governor is always the tie breaker and he voted in support, thus the bill passed. More abortion bills will be coming in the following weeks.

Some of the other bills we voted on this week were:

-SB 631: Regulates shopping carts by allowing localities to give the business who owns the cart a notice the cart is misplaced and a fine for not cleaning it up. (I voted NO but bill passed 20-19)

– SB 263: Requires in person training for concealed carry permits. Code currently allows concealed carry training to be done either online or in person – neither training requires the actual use or demonstration of using a gun. In person training is not as accessible, not as often, and more expensive. (I voted NO but bill passed on party lines 21-19)

-SB 116: Removes the death penalty as sentencing option for mentally ill. Many of us, including myself, continued our “pro-life” stance and believe life in prison is sufficient if not worse punishment. (I voted YES and bill passed 32-7)

I had two of my bills come before a vote on the senate floor this week:

-SB 316: Changed the date of the primary election held in June from the second Tuesday to the third Tuesday due to school safety concerns. (The bill passed 24-16 & now goes to the House)

-SB 932: Prohibits cell phone use in active school crossing zones. (The bill passed 35-1 & now goes to the House). There is another bill which also passed which prohibits any person from holding a handheld personal communication device while driving a motor vehicle (SB 160). It goes to the House as well.

My SB 397 regarding nursing home standards of care and requiring staffing ratios, regular background checks, and education requirements for staff did not pass out of committee despite multiple advocates there to speak on its behalf. Instead, the committee voted to organize a work group to study a solution to nursing home conditions and staffing and gives me another year to meet with stakeholders to devise the best solution. You can read more about what happened to my bill in this great article written about it in the Daily Press: https://www.dailypress.com/health-fitness/dp-nw-nursing-home-staff-rations-20200129-lazysqrq3zcwxiw5l2mau7iele-story.html

If you are ever interested in reading the full bill or knowing more details, please go to the General Assembly homepage (https://virginiageneralassembly.gov/) and you can enter the bill number in the “Track a 2020 Regular Session Bill” block and track any bill as it goes through the process to become a Virginia law. Stay tuned for votes coming up this week including removing requirements to show photo ID to vote, expanding eligibility for parole, and prohibiting the rental or leasing of dogs and cats.

Besides listening to arguments for and against bills, I also get to welcome guests from my district and beyond to Richmond who are advocating for the groups they represent. This week I met with groups from the Boy and Girls Clubs of America, the Emergency Room Physicians, the Virginia Apartment Management Association, the Virginia Beach Hotel Association, the Dental Hygienists Association, the Virginia Counselors Association, and the Autism Society of Central Virginia to name a few! Come see us!

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

SENATOR KIGGANS’ TOP FIVE MOST SURPRISING THINGS SEEN IN THE VIRGINIA SENATE THIS PAST WEEK:

1- There are 11 women in the Virginia Senate (4 Republicans, 7 Democrats) .… 3 of us are named Jennifer! (There are 40 total senators.)

2- I was visited by casino representatives from Las Vegas and Chicago this week who were lobbying to get in on the Virginia gaming scene….. more on this when some decisions are made but the country is watching….!

3- There was actual debate on the floor about a 1909 resolution from then-President Taft to return Alexandria county to the District of Columbia as the original recession of that land to Virginia was deemed unconstitutional (Google it!). Sen Mark Obenshain (R) launched an attempt to reintroduce this issue to the senate but was faced with opposition from the Northern Virginia contingent. Credit to Sen Obenshain for thinking outside the box and suggesting Northern Virginia return to DC!

4- I learned that unless a legislator has committed treason, a felony, or a breach of peace, legislators are immune from arrest while the General Assembly is in session. This week saw a current delegate pulled over for DUI and released with a warning. In response, a resolution has been introduced that changes the law to avoid such situations going forward.

5- We actually debated a bill in the Rehab & Social Services committee concerning the removal of provisions that prevent the granting of mixed beverage licenses to strip clubs. They are currently only allowed to serve beer and wine. This bill was “passed by” or postponed until next year’s session.