Facts from the Floor: Week Four

February 19, 2022

Dear Friends:

We have finally settled into our routine here in the General Assembly. We are about halfway finished with our regular session and have had our fair share of victories, compromises, and defeats. It’s definitely a different atmosphere with a Republican Governor, a Republican controlled House of Delegates, and an election year on the calendar in 2023 for the Virginia Senate. We are seeing less aggressive legislation come our way and the super partisan bills that we do see are not as threatening since we know they will die a quick death in the Republican House. Balanced government is a beautiful thing!

A big item of discussion this week was removing the mask mandates that have plagued our schools and our students. On his first day in office, Governor Youngkin issued an Executive Order giving parents the right to determine whether their child wears a mask in school. Some school boards adhered to the Governor’s order, changing their school systems’ mandatory masking policies to optional ones. Other school boards chose to take the Governor to court, claiming that Senate Bill 1303 (SB 1303) from the 2021 session made the masking of school children mandatory. The Virginia Supreme Court declared the law neither constituted a mask mandate nor required school boards to adopt one.

Three days after the Supreme Court of Virginia’s ruling, the Senate of Virginia passed Senate Bill 739. The bill allows PARENTS to make the decision of whether a child wears a mask in school – not the school board or school administration. Three Democrat Senators joined every Senate Republican in approving the legislation, and a few days later the bill passed out of the House with bipartisan support as well.

Unlike most of the bills passed by the General Assembly this session, this legislation will become effective almost immediately upon passage. Governor Youngkin amended SB 739 to make it “Emergency” legislation, making it effective upon his signature on the final version. He gave local school divisions until March 1st to come into compliance. We listened when parents spoke at the ballot box last November and will continue to fight for parents’ voices and parents’ rights to decide what is best for their children!

Here are some other interesting bills we voted on last week:

SB214: Allowed for public bodies to conduct all-virtual public meetings where all the members who participate do so remotely. The debate focused around the legislative work we conducted last year when the Senate met in person and the House met virtually. There were significant challenges conducting our legislative work entirely virtually last year and I voted NO to this bill. It FAILED on a bipartisan vote of 19Y-21N and will not move forward.

SB104: Eliminates ALL mandatory minimum sentences in the code of Virginia (except for aggravated murder of a law-enforcement officer). This bill was a continuation of the “weak on crime” bills passed last year and does not look out for the victim by ensuring minimum sentencing for certain crimes. I voted NO to this bill as did the majority of my colleagues. The bill FAILED on a bipartisan vote of 17Y-23N.

SB652: Requires an applicant for an absentee ballot to provide on the application the last four digits of his/her social security number. This was a step in the right direction for election integrity, especially concerning absentee ballots, and I voted YES to this bill. The bill PASSED on a bipartisan vote of 29Y-11N.

SB440: Provides immunity for arrest and prosecution for hazing and involuntary manslaughter if a person in good faith seeks or obtains emergency medical attention for a person who has received bodily injury by hazing or renders emergency care for a hazing victim. The intent of this bill was to assist in preventing serious injury or death from college hazing incidents. I voted YES to this bill and it passed 30Y-10N out of the Senate.

SB656: Requires the Dept. of Education to develop and adopt policies for ensuring parental notification of any instructional material that includes sexually explicit content and to provide alternative instructional material at the parents request. This bill stemmed from the issue of parents wanting more of a voice in their children’s education that we saw during the past election cycle. I voted YES and the bill passed on a bipartisan basis of 20Y-18N.

This past week also brought Defending Life Day, a day when pro-life activists from across Virginia come to the Capitol to meet their representatives. We saw many friendly faces from home who visited, including a group from Catholic High School in Virginia Beach. I am always so impressed when people from home make the trip to Richmond to advocate for issues important to them!

Stay tuned for more exciting news about crossover and the last half of session! I’ll be back next week with the latest updates from Richmond. 

Until then, have a great week!


1) The LT. Gov. Winsome Sears was able to break her first tie vote: SB137regarding discretionary sentencing guidelines. After a short recess, the Lt. Gov. voted NO with the Republican caucus but the vote was later recalled and split along partisan lines with the bill passing with unanimous Democrat support (21Y-19N).

2) One of the Senators brought a rescue beagle to a committee meeting where her animal rights bill was to be presented. Staff quickly told her no animals were allowed (despite the nature of the bill) and the dog (after a warm reception!) was whisked out of the room.

3) We caucus everyday with our own parties about 30 minutes before our floor session starts. Usually we discuss caucus news, announcements, and controversial bills coming before us for a vote that day. We have also started to invite candidates who want to run for office in the Virginia Senate in 2023 to introduce themselves. Campaign season will be here soon and we must take back the Virginia Senate!

4) Senate Republicans have tried to repeal laws passed during the two years of one-party Democratic rule including collective bargaining, increases in minimum wage, returning voter ID requirements, and easing of the parole process. Democrats have killed all of these GOP initiatives calling themselves the “Brick Wall Caucus” that prevents rolling back of some very progressive legislation passed in 2020 & 2021.

5) The ridiculous plexi-glass cages are still up and we are still boxed in and struggle to see and hear each other! Very frustrating!! Tear down these walls!!

School Nurse Legislation

Many of you may remember I patroned a bill last year to require every public school in Virginia to have at least one school nurse (currently this is not a Virginia public school requirement). My bill did not pass last year (despite COVID and our kids out of school!) but was turned into a study. My subsequent bill passed out of Senate Rules Committee requiring schools to report health data to the Board of Education as a vehicle to get more nurses into Virginia’s schools and provide more health services of all types to our children. 

Constituent Visits

It was great to welcome the students of Catholic High School to Richmond to advocate for life! I am proud that they took time to visit and share their opinions on such an important issue. So nice to have Bishop Knestout from the Catholic Diocese of Richmond here with them! 

Morning Prayer

It was an honor to have leaders from my home parish of Saint Gregory the Great Catholic Church (Virginia Beach, VA) visit the Senate and to say the opening prayer for session last week! We certainly need many prayers around here and I am so thankful for their support!