9/1/20 Facts from the Floor: Special Session Edition

September 2, 2020
Dear Friend,

As we wrap up week two of our General Assembly Special Session, we continue to change the state of Virginia with one party (the Democrats) having unilateral control over the legislative and executive branches. This past week, the Senate continued to meet in person at the Science Museum of Virginia (despite one senator being quarantined at home due to a positive COVID-19 test last week). We spent many days in heated debate over several issues that no one campaigned on but that have come to light over the past several months of national unrest.

One of the most contentious bills we voted on this past week was SB 5032 which removed the mandatory minimum sentence of six months in jail for assault and battery against a law-enforcement officer. It also allows a judge or jury to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor (from a felony) in cases where an officer is not hurt. The bill passed along party lines with a vote of 21 (D) – 15 (R). I voted against this bill because I believe we should support our law enforcement officers by having stiff penalties in place as a deterrent for assaulting an officer. Especially in today’s climate, the message this bill sends to our law enforcement and to would-be aggressors is not right in my opinion. 

Another bill that passed on a party line vote of 21 (D) – 16 (R) was SB 5120 which is the companion bill to a budget amendment that allocates $2,000,000 for pre-paid absentee ballot stamps and ballot “drop boxes” (among other things). It also mandates the general registrar to notify the absentee voter of any ballot errors within three days of such finding. The absentee voter shall then be entitled to make necessary corrections before noon on the third day AFTER the election and his ballot shall be counted. I voted against this bill as I worry about keeping our elections fair and secure, especially after passing legislation during our regular session eliminating the requirement to show photo ID and allowing for no excuse absentee voting among other changes. I believe everyone has the opportunity to vote in this country and there is no voter “suppression” occurring in the way we currently conduct elections. Opening the door to fraudulent elections is NEVER the answer.

One thing I have heard from many of you since March and the beginning of COVID-19 is the question of why our Governor is able to mandate executive order after executive order with no input from the legislative branch. As it currently stands, Virginia law gives the Governor unilateral authority to declare a state of emergency for an unlimited amount of time without involving the legislature. This past week we voted on FIVE bills in committee which addressed this imbalance of power (SB 5001, SB 5008, SB 5048, SB 5077, SB 5111) including two (which I co-patroned) which proposed that the Governor’s emergency orders be limited to 30 days or 45 days before calling back the General Assembly. I voted in favor of all five bills, but all five were killed one-by-one in committee along party line votes of 8(D)-6 (R). I believe that no matter which party is represented in the Executive branch, the Governor (one person acting independently) should not be allowed to have this much power for an unlimited amount of time. 

Monday morning in my General Laws committee, we voted on a bill adding a civil penalty of not more than $500 as a punishment for people who do not follow the Governor’s executive orders. Currently it is a Class 1 misdemeanor only (which is not often enforced), but adding this fine allows people to be fined fairly easily for not following mandates like mandatory masks or gathering restrictions. I voted against this bill (which passed 9-5) because in my opinion, we should not make it easier to hand out monetary punishments to people and families who are already struggling financially, nor do I feel it is right to fine people for living their lives in a manner they feel is responsible.

From now until we are finished with the business of special session, we will be reporting to Richmond Wednesdays through Fridays. This allows us to do our “other jobs” Monday and Tuesday which is great because I miss my patients and helping people one-on-one. Although representing the Seventh District and having a seat at the table governing the Commonwealth is the honor of a lifetime, it is good to keep up with my regular job as a primary care geriatric nurse practitioner!
I thank you all for being engaged and for following state politics. Now more than ever, I need people to understand what is happening in Virginia and to be vocal and involved. Please forward my email to your friends who are concerned about the direction of our Commonwealth and keep them “in the know”. Let me know if there is anything I or my office can do to help you all navigate through any challenges you may be experiencing. We are here to help! 

Take care,

Election Reform
The battle in the Virginia General Assembly for fair and unbiased elections (as printed in today’s Richmond Times)……

Navy License Plate: 2021 SessionI’m proud to be the legislative sponsor for a US Navy specialty license plate in Virginia! There have been 210 prepaid plates sold but need to get to 450 before I can introduce it in the General Assembly during regular session. Thank you NAVY PLATE Virginia for helping to make this license plate a reality! Click here for more info:https://www.navyplatevirginia.com

A Tour of Richmond

Steve’s Airplane Build
Most people have cars in their garage but not us! For eleven years Steve has been building a kit airplane in our garage (keeps him out of trouble!) I am so proud of him because this past week he was able to paint it Navy blue and is about ready to stencil on the stars and bars so it looks just like a WWII plane!

If you are overwhelmed or need help finding specific answers to questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office. The email is: district07@senate.virginia.gov and our phone number is: 757-990-3080. As always, it continues to be an honor to serve and represent you all as the State Senator from the 7th district. Stay safe and well out there!