Facts from the Floor: Week Two

February 19, 2022
Dear Friends:

With ceremony and speeches from Governors new and old behind us, the second full week of the 2022 General Assembly session was filled with the work of hearing and passing bills! For us, that means performing two different but related tasks: either you’re presenting your legislation to your colleagues or passing judgment on theirs.

We have over 2,400 bills and resolutions to be considered during this year’s 60-day session. The 40 members of the Senate of Virginia have filed nearly 800 bills. I have filed ten as the Chief Patron (you can see my proposed legislation here:  https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?221+mbr+S109C). With only a very few exceptions, the Senate must act on those bills by February 15, the date referred to as “Crossover”- that’s the day we send all of our Senate bills to the House to be heard and voted on.

Virtually every meeting, hearing, or floor session conducted here in Capitol Square is livestreamed daily while we’re in session. If you’re not near a computer or mobile device, you can also watch the sessions later. To access video of our floor or committee sessions, either live or later, go to virginiageneralassembly.gov.

There’s been a large amount of media analysis about the Senate of Virginia this year. Our chamber still has a narrow, two-seat Democrat majority. That has led some observers and media speculators to assess the prospects for Governor Youngkin’s agenda by wondering how many – if any – Democrat Senators are willing to vote for some of the Governor’s initiatives.

It is far too early in the session to make a final determination on what the ultimate outcome will be on a wide variety of issues. Because Lt. Governor Winsome Sears now presides over the Senate, it only takes one Democrat to join with Republicans to pass legislation when it gets to the floor. Getting bills to the Senate floor for those votes is a lot more challenging.

As an example, the Privileges and Elections Committee considers legislation related to the conduct of elections. That committee would be assigned legislation requiring voters produce identification in order to cast their ballots. But although the Senate has 21 Democrats and 19 Republicans, a two-seat majority, the Privileges and Elections Committee has 9 Democrats and 6 Republicans, a three-seat majority. This committee has been able to kill a whole host of election reform bills that Republicans brought last week including trying to reinstate the voter ID requirement, getting rid of same day voter registration, and repealing the practice of ballot drop boxes.

Effectively, “the deck is stacked” on several key committees, not just Privileges and Elections. Senate Democrats have a nine-seat majority on the Commerce and Labor Committee, which considers just about everything related to the businesses and Virginia’s economy, and a six-seat majority on the Finance and Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for writing Virginia’s budget.

While these disparities do not necessarily doom Governor Youngkin’s agenda, they definitely make it a lot harder to get things passed for the Republicans in the Senate.

Two examples of this are two bills I brought before subcommittee (Health & Education: Public Education Subcommittee) this week:

SB 570: Governor Youngkin’s bill relating to a ban on “divisive concepts” in our public schools

SB 766: Ban of transgender men from participating in women’s sports

SB 570 would have required each public elementary or secondary school principal to ensure that no curriculum utilized or instruction delivered in the school includes inherently divisive concepts, as that term is defined in the bill, regardless of whether such curriculum or instruction is provided by a school board employee or any other individual or entity. This bill was a headline for Gov. Youngkin’s campaign to give parents more involvement in our education system. Unfortunately, based on a partisan vote of 2 Dem -1 Rep the bill was not recommended for reporting.

SB 766 would have required each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) “males,” “men,” or “boys”; (ii) “females,” “women,” or “girls”; or (iii) “coed” or “mixed.” Under the bill, male students are not permitted to participate on any school athletic team or squad designated for “females,” “women,” or “girls”; however, this provision does not apply to physical education classes at schools. This bill was brought to me by a concerned constituent who wanted to ensure every female had a chance at fair competition in their sports. This bill was intended to protect female sports but again was shaped into a partisan debate. After the debate, it was not recommended to report by a vote of 2 Dem – 1 Rep.

In Case You Missed It: The Washington Post picked up the story about these bills: read it here

One example of a successful bill that I patroned and had passed out of committee this week was:

SB 572 which directs the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs and the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, in conjunction with the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, to examine the waiving of fees associated with permits necessary to establish a small business for veteran-owned small businesses. I am thankful to Commerce and Trade Secretary Carin Merrick for her help speaking to my bill. It passed out of committee unanimously on a 15-0 vote and will head to the floor of the Senate this week!

Despite some chilly temperatures outside, we had some very friendly faces from home visit my office last week in Room 518 of the Pocahontas Building(see photos below!)….midwives, emergency physicians, optometrists, members of the Police Benevolent Association, and the Spirit of VMI PAC visited our office!

If you’re in Richmond over the next few weeks, please stop by and say “hi.” Or, you can always let us know your thoughts on an issue being considered by dropping us an email at District07@senate.virginia.gov.

Stay tuned and keep in touch! I’ll be back next week with more news from Richmond!

Until then, take care-


1) Democrats in the Senate stood and said they’d vote for bringing back the voter ID requirement when we would vote for mandatory vaccines (guess that’s not happening anytime soon…)!

2) The flowers, scaffolding, and decorations from Inauguration weekend have all now officially come down. Governor Youngkin and his staff are officially IN and the old administration is OUT!

3) We heard a bill in committee lessening the fees prisoners pay for things from jail.. Part of the debate reminded us that on July 1 of this year, 5,000 prisoners would be released to the streets due to recent Democratic laws that have made it easier to release people on parole.

4) One of the Senate Democrats dropped a new resolution to bring BACK the mandatory mask requirement in the Senate… As if our plexiglass cages weren’t enough!

5) Last Friday there were 4 Democrats out for COVID symptoms. Remember these are the people who wear at least 1 if not 2 masks on the floor daily. There were no Republicans out with COVID symptoms Friday.

Constituent Visits

One of the best things I do as a legislator is to welcome my constituents to their Capitol! I appreciate when people feel so strongly about an issue that they take time to visit me and tell me their opinions. Last week I met with local emergency room doctors, optometrists, police officers, & midwives among others! You are all welcome anytime!

Clean Energy Award

It was an honor to receive an award from Conservatives for Clean Energyrecognizing my work in the Virginia Senate to consider alternative energy sources while keeping costs down for consumers. Thank you for the recognition and congratulations to Virginia Delegate Tony Wilt on his award in the House!