2/9/21 Facts from the Floor: Week Four

February 9, 2021
Dear Friend,

This past Friday was “Crossover” day in the Virginia Senate and House. For the Senate, this means that we finished voting on Senate bills and sent them to the House for debate and vote. In ONE DAY, here are a few things the Democratic majority passed:

· SB 1261:  Packed the court of appeals increasing the number of judges from 11 to 17 (includes adding 50+ lawyers for staff as well) – I voted no.

· SB 1443: Removed mandatory minimum sentencing for heinous crimes such as manslaughter, assault, and rape. – I voted no.

· SB 1406:  Legalized recreational marijuana with prioritization of the first licenses and loans to go to people with drug convictions – I voted no. 

· SB 1196: Required “cultural competency” training for teachers and principals and evaluation of their “cultural competency” in their regular assessments – I voted no. 

Some good news that came out of last week was my election accuracy bill. Election integrity is a long-standing priority for myself and for all Senate Republicans. Last year, in a study of 42 states, the Public Interest Legal Foundation found over 350,000 dead people on voter rolls. Maintaining accurate and up-to-date voter rolls is critical to ensuring the integrity of elections. My common-sense bill ensures deceased Virginians don’t remain on the voter rolls by requiring the State Registrar of Vital Records to provide a list of Virginians who have died to the Department of Elections on a weekly basis instead of a monthly basis. The bill passed out of the Senate by a vote of 34 to 5 and heads to the House next. Link to the bill: SB1422

The fight to open schools to ensure Virginia’s children can again learn in a classroom continued last week. I co-patroned a bill with my Republican colleagues that would require local public schools to make in-person instruction available to every student. The Senate approved this bill by a vote of 26 to 13, with eight Democrats voting in favor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published a study indicating in-person learning with proper safety measures has not “contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission” of COVID. With the science on the side of opening schools for in-person learning, it is difficult to justify keeping schools closed while our students fall further behind. Link to the bill: SB1303

Whenever there are changes to the federal tax code, Virginia makes adjustments to its taxation policies. When the federal government passed the CARES Act to respond to the pandemic, it included measures so businesses receiving the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan to keep their employees on the job wouldn’t have added taxes for utilizing the program. You might think it would be obvious that Virginia wouldn’t tax PPP funding either. But Democrats have a lot of spending priorities to fund. As a result, their bill conforming the state’s tax code to the federal government’s does not exempt PPP funds received. An amendment to the conformity legislation (that would have ensured these funds weren’t taxed) failed with every Democrat voting against this fairness measure. Then, as a compromise, Senate Democrats agreed to approve exemptions that would lower the potential tax burden on a portion of these funds up to $100,000. While not ideal, it does mean struggling small businesses won’t be taxed as much for keeping people employed by utilizing a federal program they were encouraged to use in the first place.

Also this week in case you missed it: Virginia abolished the death penalty (SB1165) and removed witness signatures from absentee ballots (SB1097). A lot of changes are taking place in our Commonwealth and we are well on our way to looking more and more like California, Oregon, and New York everyday!

If there’s an issue or bill about which you’d like to share your views, please call the Senate Message Center toll-free at (833) 617-1821. Or, you can send me an email at district07@senate.virginia.gov.

I’ll be back with an update next week, when we’ll be considering House bills and they’ll be considering ours. Until then, have a great week and keep in touch!

1. Quote heard from a Senator on the floor: “I wish the Governor would have spent as much time on COVID as he did on this marijuana legalization bill!”

2. Friday we worked from 7:30am until 11:30pm to have all the Senate heard bills before they crossed over. There is no limit to our work day in the Senate!

3. We now have a “post office” for outgoing mail set up for us by staff in the back of the Science Museum. We are definitely getting too cozy there!

4. Senator Dick Saslaw (D- Fairfax) turned “81” last Friday making him the oldest member of the Virginia Senate!  Senator Saslaw has been a sitting member of the Virginia Senate for 41 years and is the Senate majority leader (and no- there are no term limits in the Virginia General Assembly)!

5. Regular session has ended (on Friday, February 5th). It was 30 days in length. The Governor immediately called us into special session for two more weeks to get our work done and finish accomplishing his administration’s priorities! 

Wear Red Day
February 5th was “Wear Red Day” in the Virginia Senate to recognize the American Heart Association and to bring awareness of the issue of women and heart disease.

Exercise Is Key
No better way to prepare for a day in Richmond…..!

Black History Month

February begins Black History Month. The theme for 2021 is “The Black Family” and explores genealogy and the spread of Black families across the United States. Black History Month was started in 1976 by President Gerald Ford to honor the accomplishments of Black Americans throughout our history.

Virginia Beach Vaccine Update
On Monday, Jan. 25, the Virginia Beach Health District moved into Phase 1b of COVID-19 vaccinations. Vaccines will be given at the VB Convention Center. There is no charge. Phase 1b includes frontline essential workers, anyone age 65 and older, and those individuals age 16-64 years with high-risk medical conditions. People who fall into Phase 1b must pre-register to receive the vaccine through a new online portal. To access the portal, visit vbgov.com/vaccinatevb and input your personal information. Registrants must have a working email address. (Chrome is the preferred browser for the portal.)

Keep In Touch!

Call us!! The Senate of Virginia is operating a toll-free constituent hotline for the 2021 General Assembly Session. You can call 1-833-617-1821 to express your opinion on legislation Mon-Thurs 8:30am-5pm and on Fridays 8:30am-2:00pm. The message will be sent directly to your legislator’s office. (& yes- I love the plug in handset I got for Christmas for my cell phone!) You can also call my district office at (757) 990-3080 or send me an email to: district07@senate.virginia.gov.

Legislation Information
Click Here to View All Legislation
Click Here for Sen. Kiggans Legislation
To watch the Senate of Virginia’s daily meetings and committees, follow this link: http://virginia-senate.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=3

All session and committees are recorded so you can go back and watch previous debates. This is a great tool the public can use to track what is happening with our state government in Richmond.

**Additionally, if there is a bill that is coming before a Senate committee that you feel passionately about, you can sign up to speak in favor of or in opposition to the legislation. This can be found at the top of the page following the link above.

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

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!