9/21/20 Facts from the Floor: Special Session Edition

September 21, 2020
Dear Friend,

This week we begin week FIVE of the Virginia General Assembly’s Special Session. I have been driving to the Science Museum in Richmond for 2 to 3 days every week for the past month to discuss and vote on a variety of bills. The main debate continues to focus around criminal justice reform with significant legislation being passed by the Democratic majority that was NOT mentioned in their campaign promises last fall. This legislation is reactionary and revolves around an agenda that does not prioritize law and order in our Commonwealth. The Senate has passed several bills that deal with our law enforcement officers and, in my opinion, impact their safety and their ability to do their jobs. We continue to see legislation dealing with parole and the early release of prisoners as well. My biggest concern is the timing of these bills and the message we are sending to our law enforcement who risk their lives on a daily basis to keep our communities and neighborhoods safe.

Here are some of the more notorious bills to come before the Virginia House and Senate this past week:

HB5013: This was a bill that would remove qualified immunity for our law enforcement officers. Qualified immunity is a legal defense which often prevents officers from facing civil lawsuits which would cause financial hardships to localities and to officers’ families. This bill was originally killed in the House but was brought back, passed, and sent to the Senate where it died in the Senate Judiciary Committee on a vote of 12-3. I do not sit on this committee therefore did not vote on this bill but would have voted against it had it come before me. I’m sure this bill will be back during the next regular session in a different form. Here is a link to the bill: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?202+sum+HB5013

SB5030: This bill is the 30-page omnibus Senate bill addressing several issues concerning police reform from prohibiting police procurement of securing military surplus items to ending no-knock warrants. I would have been supportive of parts of this bill including adding mental health training to law enforcement curriculum and including mental health professionals on training teams. Because this bill included multiple issues under one piece of legislation, I had one vote and chose to vote against it. This bill passed along a party line vote of 21D- 19R. Here is a link to the bill:https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?202+sum+SB5030

SB5035: This bill allows for the creation of “Citizen Review Boards”. Although I can see the benefit from an outside “advisory board” type of group (which we already have in Virginia Beach), this legislation is not that. This bill allows for a citizen group (not specifying where members come from) to make BINDING disciplinary decisions against police officers. This group will have unlimited subpoena power to call witnesses and demand evidence. The bill also specifies that current law enforcement officers may not sit on the board (although they arguably know the most about areas for improvement in their own communities). The devil is always in the details in these bills. I voted against this bill but it passed along a party line vote of 20D-15R. Here is a link to the bill: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?ses=202&typ=bil&val=sb5035

This past week the Virginia House of Delegates began to hear bills (virtually) that have passed out of the Senate. I was pleased that my nursing home visitation bill (SB5042) passed out of the House committee with a unanimous vote of 22-0! Unfortunately, other very good legislation did not pass out of the House committee, such as SB5025. This bill limited the powers of the Health Commissioner by requiring emergency orders be subject to approval by the Board of Health within 30 days and then renewed by the board every 30 days for up to 18 months. Another bill, SB 5109, which prioritized residents and employees of long-term-care facilities for COVID-19 testing, was killed in a House committee (after passing unanimously out of the Senate). It’s frustrating when a bill can leave the Senate with all 40 Senators voting for it unanimously, but, when it gets to the House, it is killed without even getting the debate it deserves.  

Here is a link to follow all the bills by subject brought before the House and Senate during this 2020 Special Session:  https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?202+sbj+SBJ

We still have not yet begun to discuss the budget which was one of the reasons we were called into Special Session. Since we are beginning, as of last week, to hear bills from the House in the Senate, I certainly hope our discussion and debate on budget changes will be happening soon. The majority of the work to amend the budget will be done by the more senior legislators who sit on the Senate and House Finance Committees. I will get one vote (yes/no) on the entire budget, Keep you posted! Thank you for listening and for being engaged!

Please let me know if my office can answer any questions for you or be of any assistance. I look forward to hearing from you all!

Take care,
Voting Information
Early voting in Virginia has started!! Find out when to vote, where to vote, and how to vote here: https://www.elections.virginia.gov/casting-a-ballot/

Important Dates for the Election:
September 18: Early voting starts.
October 13: Deadline to register to vote.
October 23: Last day to request an absentee ballot.
October 31: Last day to vote early in person.
November 2: Last day to request an emergency absentee ballot.
November 3: Election Day!

**In addition to supporting the Republicans running at the federal and state level, join me in supporting these local Republicans on the ballot. Local races do not have party designations after their names but it is important to know which party they affiliate with.
To find your closest voting location and hours, check here:https://www.elections.virginia.gov/…/early-voting…/
You can also request to have an absentee ballot mailed to you by clicking here: http://elections.virginia.gov/absentee

REMINDER: Two constitutional amendments will be on the ballot as well. Please join me in voting “YES” to both.

Amendment 1

Question 1: Vote YES to create a fair, bipartisan Redistricting Commission to handle the regular redistricting process and remove the process from the hands of legislators. Several other states have taken this approach to help end gerrymandering. This amendment has the support of both Republicans and Democrats and ensures our district lines are drawn without the influence of partisan politics.

Amendment 2

Question 2: Vote YES to provide additional tax relief for our disabled veterans. This amendment would allow for a veteran with a service connected disability to receive a break on personal property taxes associated with a vehicle. 

9/11 Tribute

Nineteen years ago, I was sitting in the cockpit of an H-3 on base at NAS Oceana when I heard the news of the World Trade Center terrorist attack. I saw the base prepare for war over the course of a few hours. I remember how we went home later that day and saw almost every house flying an American flag off their porch. We were united behind our country which was under attack. We need people to remember how it felt to be an American 19 years ago and make that unity a priority going forward. God Bless America. May we never forget….

Click Link to View

**Flu shots are out and available! Get yours today at your doctor or local pharmacy!

DMV Issues??Having trouble getting an appointment at the DMV, please call our office for assistance and we can help! 757-990-3080

Police Reform Press Conference

I was proud to stand with Sheriff Ken StolleMayor Bobby Dyer, and other local leaders to support the Virginia Beach men and women of law enforcement. Despite the numerous anti-policing bills rapidly making their way through the General Assembly recently, there are many of us fighting for them. We appreciate all they do to keep our communities safe, and we have their backs!

VPAP Mean Tweets

It takes thick skin to be in politics these day! Thank you to the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) for a few minutes of laughter during their annual fundraiser. If you have time, check out their website at https://www.vpap.org/ for all the daily political news and statistics from across Virginia!

Click Link to View Mean Tweets Video:

Virginia PawsitiVAty “Trailblazer Award”
This past session, I co-patroned a resolution that makes December Puppy Mill Awareness Month working with the Virginia PawsitiVAty Initiative. It was an honor to be one of the recipients of the Virginia PawsitiVAty “Trailblazer Award” along with a few of my colleagues in the Virginia General Assembly who worked on this resolution.

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!