Author Archive

Update on Coronavirus (COVID-19) 3/30/20

March 30, 2020

Hello Friends,

It has been two and a half weeks since the General Assembly adjourned and Governor Northam declared a state of emergency for Virginia in response to the continued spread of COVID-19. We have all become too familiar with new phrases such as “social distancing”, “home quarantine”, and “shelter-in-place”. We’ve seen things none of us were expecting to see in 2020 such as toilet paper shortages in grocery stores, the closure of all schools, and the news monopolized by one subject no matter the channel. There have been some unexpected positives too: the bonus time with college students we almost said goodbye to after spring break, the quality family time we’ve had whether we wanted it or not, and the outpouring of love and support from community members from seamstresses making medical masks to teachers parading through neighborhoods just to see their students. It is a time we will not soon forget.

We all know business owners, employees, and companies (large and small) who have been impacted by the coronavirus. With our Hampton Roads area so dependent on tourism and visitors, I am dedicated to providing all the resources possible to our business community to enable them to get through this time and back on their feet as soon as possible. As a Member of the General Assembly, we receive daily updates from the Governor’s staff which I would like to summarize and communicate to you in weekly updates from my office. There are so many resources to help you and your family during this time. 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! We can get through this together!

Take care,
-Jen

Cases in Virginia:

The Virginia Department of Health website continues to update the status of cases in Virginia. Click here for the latest number of positive cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in Virginia: http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/

Virginia’s Coronavirus Homepage:

Virginia.gov has set up a website for all things coronavirus-related. All updates can be found here: https://www.virginia.gov/coronavirus-updates/ and the site will continue to update as Virginia takes new action to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Support for Small Businesses:

Virginia received a statewide Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Small businesses and non-profit organizations located throughout the state can now apply for a loan of up to $2 million from the SBA to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other expenses. More information can be found here: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance

Information about Stimulus Package for Business:

More information about the Stimulus Package can be found in the documents below from the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship: https://sbecouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Senate-Small-Business-Committee-Guide-to-the-CARES-Act.pdf

https://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/28e8263e-e7d4-4da7-a67b-077c54ba4220/9F7B494B2E355791B24536DC2162CF16.final-one-pager-keeping-american-workers-paid-and-employed-act-.pdf

Unemployment Insurance:

Governor Northam directed the Commissioner of the Virginia Employment Commission to waive the one-week waiting period to ensure workers can receive benefits as soon as possible.

Workers should apply to receive unemployment benefits if an employer needs to temporarily slow or cease operations due to COVID-19. Information on how to fill can be found here: http://www.vec.virginia.gov/

State Corporate, Sales, and Individual Taxes:

Businesses impacted by COVID-19 can request to defer the payment of state sales tax due March 20, 2020 for 30 days. When granted, businesses will be able to file no later than April 20, 2020 with a waiver of any penalties.

The Virginia Department of Taxation is extending the due date of payment of Virginia individual and corporate income taxes. While filing deadlines remain the same, the due date for individual and corporate income tax will now be June 1, 2020.

Information can be found at: https://www.tax.virginia.gov/

Tax Refunds:

The VA Dept of Taxation continues to process tax returns. The sooner taxpayers file, and file electronically, the quicker we can process and issue refunds. Through March 21, the Commonwealth has processed over 2 million returns and issued 1.5 million refunds.

Federal Tax Information:

The deadlines to FILE and PAY federal income taxes are extended to July 15, 2020.

Information regarding the IRS can be found at: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus

Utilities:

The State Corporation Commission (SCC) issued an order directing utilities it regulates, such as electric, natural gas, and water companies in Virginia, to suspend service disconnections for 60 days to provide immediate relief for any customer, residential and business, who may be financially impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Federal Housing Finance Agency:

The U.S. FHFA has directed Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to suspend foreclosures and evictions for at least 60 days due to the coronavirus national emergency. The foreclosure and eviction suspension applies to homeowners with an Enterprise-backed single-family mortgage. More information on the announcement can be found here: https://www.fhfa.gov/Media/PublicAffairs/Pages/FHFA-Suspends-Foreclosures-and-Evictions-for-Enterprise-Backed-Mortgages.aspx

Business Questions:

Any businesses with questions about essential vs. non-essential designations can send those inquiries to business@virginia.gov

Workforce Questions

For requests from workers needing additional assistance through the unemployment claims process, please direct inquiries to workforce@governor.virginia.gov

Closure of State Parks for Overnight Stays:

After consulting with Department of Conservation and Recreation Director Clyde Cristman, Governor Northam authorized the Director to close state park campgrounds, cabins, and bathhouses through April 30, effective at checkout on Friday morning.

This recommendation will make the official status of all state parks in Virginia day use only. Further information on State Park policies related to COVID-19 can be found here: https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/covid-19-update

REAL ID Enforcement:

Acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf issued a statement extending the REAL ID enforcement deadline from Oct 1, 2020 to Oct 1, 2021: https://www.dhs.gov/news/2020/03/26/acting-secretary-chad-wolf-statement-real-id-enforcement-deadline

Farms and Agribusiness:

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has published a number of operational guidelines for various farms and agribusiness, including Pick-Your-Own Farms and Farm Stands. Those guidelines can be found here: https://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/about-emergency-information.shtml

Emergency Request for Information on COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment:

Today the Commonwealth put out an Emergency Request for Information (RFI) in regards to personal protective supplies. That RFI can be found here: https://survey123.arcgis.com/share/9343b86bae904e67bc76d4c2d4b6a144

Virginia Medical Reserve Corps:

The Virginia Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is seeking individuals to volunteer with the corps. More information on the MRC can be found here: http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/mrc/

Child Care Hotline:

For parents needing to find a child care provider, they can call (866) KIDS-TLC or (866) 543 – 7852.

Department of Corrections:

The Department of Corrections will provide COVID-19 related updates on their website here: https://vadoc.virginia.gov/news-press-releases/2020/covid-19-updates/

Senior Services:

Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia is available to help seniors connect with food and other critical resources. They are also providing up-to-date information about COVID-19. You can connect with them by phone 757-461-9481 or their website https://ssseva.org/

Additional Information:

For a comprehensive list of actions Governor Northam has announced to combat COVID-19 in Virginia, visit virginia.gov/coronavirus.

The COVID19JIC@vdem.virginia.gov email is now operational. The email address account will be monitored by our Joint Information Center (JIC) staff and relayed to the appropriate subject matter expert. If you have questions, please reach out using the above email.

For information about best practices from the CDC, Click Here

For updated information from the Virginia Department of Health, Click Here

For updates from the City of Virginia Beach, Click Here

Business Update from Senator Jen Kiggans

March 20, 2020

As you all know, COVID-19 has had a major impact on our business communities. If you are a business owner, please know that I am very appreciative of the work you do and your investment in our community. I want to provide you with all the available resources to get us through this difficult time and am attaching below a number of resources from the federal, state, and local level. All this information is meant to be a tool to let you know that there is help out there during this stressful time. We are here for you and are in this together with you. Let us know how we can help.

Taxes:

Updated information from the IRS can be found at: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus.

Here are a few of the actions currently being taken by the IRS:

Individuals: Income tax payment deadlines for individual returns, with a due date of April 15, 2020, are being automatically extended until July 15, 2020, for up to $1 million of their 2019 tax due. This payment relief applies to all individual returns, including self-employed individuals, and all entities other than C-Corporations, such as trusts or estates. IRS will automatically provide this relief to taxpayers. Taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or call the IRS to qualify for this relief.

Corporations: For C Corporations, income tax payment deadlines are being automatically extended until July 15, 2020, for up to $10 million of their 2019 tax due.

This relief also includes estimated tax payments for tax year 2020 that are due on April 15, 2020.

Penalties and interest will begin to accrue on any remaining unpaid balances as of July 16, 2020. If an individual or business files their tax return or requests an extension of time to file by April 15, 2020, they will automatically avoid interest and penalties on the taxes paid by July 15. The easiest and fastest way to request a filing extension is to electronically file Form 4868 through a tax professional, tax software or using the Free File link on IRS.gov. Businesses must file a Form 7004.

State Business Tax Information:

Businesses impacted by COVID-19 can also request to defer the payment of state sales tax due today, March 20, 2020, for 30 days. When granted, businesses will be able to file no later than April 20, 2020 with a waiver of any penalties.

Attached is the Bulletin from the Department of Taxation: https://www.tax.virginia.gov/laws-rules-decisions/tax-bulletins/20-3

Also, here is the link for dealers to request the extension: https://www.business.tax.virginia.gov/VTOL/tax/Login.xhtml?utm_content=february_2019&utm_medium=email&utm_name=2019_secondq_interestrates&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=tax_preparer

The Governor has requested the Department of Taxation to extend the due date of payment of Virginia individual and corporate income taxes. While filing deadlines remain the same, the due date for individual and corporate income tax will now be June 1, 2020. Please note that interest will still accrue, so taxpayers who are able to pay by the original deadlines should do so.

Business Resources:

Following a request submitted by Governor Northam on March 18, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) today approved an Economic Injury Disaster Loan program for Virginia. Small businesses and nonprofit organizations throughout the Commonwealth affected by the COVID-19 public health crisis can now apply for low-interest federal disaster loans of up to $2 million from the SBA to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other expenses. To submit a loan application through the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, please visit disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/.

Items Required for Applications

1. Loan application (SBA Form 5), completed and signed (this is electronic/online in the portal). To see what the form looks like, an example can be found here.

2. Tax Information Authorization (IRS Form 4506-T), completed and signed by each applicant, each principal owning 20 percent or more of the applicant business, each general partner or managing member; and, for any owner who has more than 50 percent ownership in an affiliate business. Affiliates include, but are not limited to, business parents, subsidiaries, and/or other businesses with common ownership or management.

3. Complete copies, including all schedules, of the most recently filed Federal income tax returns for the applicant business; an explanation if not available

4. Personal Financial Statement (SBA Form 413) completed, signed, and dated by the applicant, each principal owning 20 percent or more of the applicant business, and each general partner or managing member

5. Schedule of Liabilities listing all fixed debts (SBA Form 2202 may be used)

Statement from the Governor’s Office:

A statewide ban on gatherings of 10 people or more at restaurants, fitness centers, and theaters, as well as a statewide recommendation limiting gatherings of 10 people or more at all other non-essential sites has resulted in many closures, negatively affecting small businesses throughout the Commonwealth. The Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity conducted a survey of these affected businesses to determine the economic impact of their losses for the disaster period as compared to the same period in the preceding year. The Department received more than a thousand responses from small businesses throughout all corners of the Commonwealth. Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) assistance to small businesses will lessen the economic burden business-owners face and improve the economic recovery outlook for the Commonwealth.

Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce:

The Hampton Roads Chamber is a resource for all local businesses. They have created a COVID-19 Business Resource Guide. This includes valuable information to help small and large businesses sustain themselves through this crisis here in Hampton Roads.

If you need assistance with small business matters during this crisis, or have any questions, please contact Jim Carroll at the Hampton Roads Small Business Development Center. Mr. Carroll will be conducting webinar training sessions on the Small Business Disaster Loan program to interested parties next week.

Again, I am very thankful for the valuable work of our local business community. As the situation progresses, I will provide updates via email and/or social media. I have attached a button below to direct you to my Facebook page. If there is anything that my office can do to be of assistance to you in this trying time, please contact us at: district07@senate.virginia.gov or by phone: 757-990-3080 (Virginia Beach office).

Thank you and stay safe,

-Jen

Update on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

March 18, 2020

Hello Friends,

I wanted to take a moment to update you on the actions that are being taken in reference to COVID-19 or the coronavirus.

The COVID19JIC@vdem.virginia.gov email is now operational. The email address account will be monitored by our Joint Information Center (JIC) staff and relayed to the appropriate subject matter expert. If you have questions, please reach out using the above email.

For information about best practices from the CDC, Click Here

For updated information from the Virginia Department of Health, Click Here

For updates from the City of Virginia Beach, Click Here

At the City Level:

Most services are continuing as normal, although the City is making temporary operational modifications to ensure the health and safety of the community and City staff. These changes will ensure continuity of important programs and services while modifying non-essential activities. In each area, staff is committed to working through situations with residents on a case-by-case basis. For the latest updates on services, cancellations, announcements and resources, visit emergency.vbgov.com.

City Council

  • Tuesday, March 17 formal agenda meeting was cancelled
  • A brief informal meeting is planned for a COVID-19 update and take action on one item
  • Planning and any other items that require a public hearing currently on the agenda for March 17 would be carried forward, with appropriate notification, to the April 7 agenda
  • Should applicants want their items deferred to a different date, they can work with staff

Libraries

  • All branches closed at least until March 27, 2020.
  • Use your library card to access e-books, digital magazines, music and movies, as well as research resources, online classes, SAT prep tests and more at www.VBgov.com/digital-library.
  • No items will become overdue while library buildings are closed and no additional fines will accrue on items currently overdue; no holds will expire on-shelf.
  • Library staff members are available to assist you at (757) 385-0150 or library@vbgov.com between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Recreation Centers

  • All centers are closed at least until March 27, 2020. Parks remain open although all events in the parks are canceled.

Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and The Adventure Park

  • Closed until at least March 27

City Treasurer

  • Conducting all transactions online, by email or mail. Call corresponding office with questions.
  • The following locations will be closed to the public:
    • Beach location – 420 Birdneck Circle, 23451
    • Kempsville location – 5340 Fairfield Shopping Center, 23464
    • Lynnhaven location – 2875 Sabre Street, Suite 500, 23452
    • Thalia location – 4001 Virginia Beach Blvd, 23452
  • Drop boxes at outlying locations can still be utilized.
  • Please see the contact telephone numbers and email addresses located on the Treasurer’s website: www.vbgov.com/government/departments/city-treasurer/Pages/default.aspx

At the State Level:

Governor Ralph Northam has already declared a State of Emergency in response to the virus and announced the closure of all Virginia schools for two weeks in order to try and limit person to person contact. Yesterday, the Governor announced additional measures that are being implemented to try and combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus:

Further Reducing Public Gatherings

Governor Northam told Virginians to avoid non-essential gatherings of more than 10 people, per federal guidelines. This does not include normal operations at essential services such as manufacturers, distribution centers, airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, grocery stores, or pharmacies.

Protecting High-Risk Virginians

Those with chronic health conditions or aged 65 or older should self-quarantine. Public health experts advise that individuals with underlying medical conditions and those aged 65 or older are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Governor Northam encouraged neighbors and friends to stay in touch and regularly check in with high-risk individuals.

Increasing Social Distancing

All restaurants, fitness centers, and theaters are mandated to significantly reduce their capacity to 10 patrons, or close. Restaurants are encouraged to continue carry-out and takeaway options.

Support for Affected Workers

Governor Northam announced the following actions to protect working Virginians impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak:

  • No waiting for unemployment benefits. Governor Northam has directed the Commissioner of the Virginia Employment Commission to waive the one-week waiting period to ensure workers can receive benefits as soon as possible.
  • Enhanced eligibility for unemployment. Workers may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits if an employer needs to temporarily slow or cease operations due to COVID-19. If a worker has been issued a notice to self-quarantine by a medical or public health official and is not receiving paid sick or medical leave from their employer, they may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. In addition, a worker may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they must stay home to care for an ill family member and are not receiving paid family medical leave from their employer.
  • Fewer restrictions. For individuals receiving unemployment insurance, Governor Northam is directing the Virginia Employment Commission to give affected workers special consideration on deadlines, mandatory re-employment appointments, and work search requirements.

The Office of the Governor is providing a Frequently Asked Questions guide for workers that have been temporarily laid off or discharged during this public health crisis.

Support for Impacted Employers

  • Regional workforce teams will be activated to support employers that slow or cease operations. Employers who do slow or cease operations will not be financially penalized for an increase in workers requesting unemployment benefits.
  • The Governor is authorizing rapid response funding, through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, for employers eligible to remain open during this emergency. Funds may be used to clean facilities and support emergency needs.
  • Governor Northam is directing all employers to follow U.S. Department of Labor guidance on workplace safety.

Department of Motor Vehicle Office Closures

  • Virginia’s 75 DMV offices, as well as mobile units, will close to the public. 
  • Online services will remain available, and anyone needing to renew a license or vehicle registration is encouraged to do so online.
  • For those who cannot renew online, or whose license or registration expires before May 15, DMV will grant a 60-day extension.

Courts

Governor Northam requested and the Supreme Court of Virginia granted a judicial emergency in response to COVID-19. From Monday, March 16 through Monday, April 6, non-essential, non-emergency court proceedings in all district and circuit courts are suspended absent a specific exemption. This includes a prohibition on new eviction cases for tenants who are unable to pay rent as a result of COVID-19. All non-exempted court deadlines are tolled and extended for a period of 21 days.

Utilities

The State Corporation Commission (SCC) issued an order directing utilities it regulates, such as electric, natural gas, and water companies in Virginia, to suspend service disconnections for 60 days to provide immediate relief for any customer, residential and business, who may be financially impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

For a comprehensive list of actions Governor Northam has announced to combat COVID-19 in Virginia, visit virginia.gov/coronavirus.

As the situation progresses, I will provide updates via email and/or social media. I have attached a button below to direct you to my Facebook page. If there is anything that I or my office can do to be of continued assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact me at: district07@senate.virginia.gov

Thank you and stay safe,

-Jen

PS Please look for my “Facts from the Floor” session summary in the next week.

Facts from the Floor: Week Eight

March 5, 2020

I’ve almost made it through to the end of my first session! With one week left to go, I can absolutely say there is a lot that is about to change in Virginia. Considering the outrageous number of new laws being enacted by this new majority in the General Assembly, it is challenging to fully comprehend just how different things are about to become.

For those who own and operate businesses in the Commonwealth, the changes are going to be especially dramatic – and expensive. Virginia Democrats are charging ahead to give Virginia the nation’s highest minimum wage. Only six other states and the District of Columbia have set their minimum wages that high. And, the states that have – California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York – are not renowned as great states in which to do business. I’m sad because my son’s summer landscaping and yardwork job at our church has gone away already as I know the church cannot afford to pay these high school students minimum wage any longer. As a parent, I know that it will be harder for high school students to find summer jobs. How will we keep them all busy, out of trouble, and away from too many video games?!

The adoption of a Virginia version of AOC’s “Green New Deal” will also cost our businesses dearly. Virginia Democrats are on board with this scheme, and they’re busy enacting it. It will mean substantial increases in electricity and energy bills for everyone, and businesses will be especially hard hit.

From proposals that will subject Virginia businesses to more lawsuits, new mandates, more stringent and costly regulations, the state’s job creators are going to have a harder time growing. Virginia’s reputation as America’s best state for business is, sadly, poised to become a thing of the past. Time will tell, but I don’t have a good feeling about it.

Some of the bills we voted on this week included:

-SB 462: Provides that any child of an active duty member or veteran who claims Virginia as his home state and file Virginia taxes for at least 10 years during active service is eligible for in-state tuition regardless of domicile. I voted YES for our veterans and this bill passed unanimously 40-0 out of the Senate and 100-0 out of the House.

-HB 1678: Extends from 7pm to 8pm the time at which polls close on election day. I voted NO because we have passed way too many election reform bills this session and I am suspect of the underlying consequences these bills have. This bill passed out of the Senate on a party line vote of 20-17 (3 people absent).

-HB 201: Allows any person who is qualified to vote to register to vote in person up to and including the day of the election. I voted NO for same reasons as above. Again, passed out of Senate on an almost party line vote of 22-18.

-HB 674: House version of the Red Flag law- grants the government the authority to seize a person’s firearms with an “emergency substantial risk order” but without a hearing or other opportunities for the target of the order to be heard and present evidence. I voted NO. It was initially a 20-20 vote with one democrat voting against it. The Lt. Gov. broke the tie, voted for the bill, and it passed out of the Senate headed to the governor’s office.

-HB 38: Prohibits a tanning facility from allowing individuals under the age of 18 from using a tanning device. I voted NO because I felt this was an over-regulation bill (and being a teenager who grew up in Florida, I know there are many other ways to get a sunburn if you try). The vote was almost a party-line vote of 22-18, with the bill ultimately passing out of the Senate headed to the governor’s desk for signing.

-HB 1442: Authorizes speed-monitoring cameras to take pictures of car license plates in school zones and construction zones for cars traveling 10 mph or more over the speed limit. I voted NO to this over-regulation bill but it ultimately passed out of the Senate on a 23-17 almost party-line vote and headed to the governor.

If you are ever interested in reading the full bill description or knowing more details, please go to the General Assembly homepage (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+men+BIL) and you can enter the bill number and track any bill as it goes through the process to become a Virginia law.

We had many groups from around the state visit our office again this week but the most meaningful was a visit from the families of the victims of the Virginia Beach shootings and some co-workers from Building Two. They came to advocate for an additional state-funded investigation which I support. There are so many unanswered questions and issues for these families along with areas not explored by the city investigation previously done. The House budget has language for the cost of this investigation and it will ultimately be up to the governor to decide if we get the funding we have requested ($77,000) or not.

We are down to our last week in the 2020 General Assembly session. I have learned an incredible amount and have been humbled on a daily basis to sit on the Virginia Senate floor representing the good people of my district. I have also been discouraged, enraged, and shocked at the direction the new majority has taken Virginia. If you think it’s frustrating to sit and read about what is going on in Richmond, imagine how I feel sitting here on a daily basis while so many awful bills come my way. Bottom line is, I need you on a ballot. Get up here and fight the fight with me. If not, then I need you working a poll, knocking on doors, texting your friends, and driving your neighbors to the polls. We must do better in 2020, 2021 and beyond, and we will with your help.

SENATOR KIGGANS’ TOP FIVE MOST SURPRISING THINGS SEEN IN THE VIRGINIA SENATE THIS PAST WEEK:

1- There is a panic button on the desk where the Lt Governor stands during session. He can push it at any time to call for help!

2- Rumor has it there is an escape tunnel behind the dais desk where the Lt. Governor stands. On a break, several of us asked him about it and he showed us the removable carpet and hole in the ground where a tunnel might lead. The Clerk says it’s where they access the wires and cables for the floor. I like the tunnel theory better!

3- We were at work on the floor this past Wednesday until 1:15am voting on bills. As one democrat stated on his social media: “This will be the second night in 2 weeks when we will adjourn after midnight. (And I predict at least one more). Way too much legislation was filed this year and too many bills allowed to go forward. (Not everything has to happen this year) Now we have limited time to get it all done, especially with so many complicated bills outstanding and only 40 members in the Senate. Next year? Filing fee for each piece of legislation. Or a limit on bills. Only way to avoid this train wreck.” TRUTH!!

4- We are picking “mean tweets” to tape with VPAP for an end of session bit of late-night humor and have chosen our favorite from twitter: “#JenKiggans needs to look the part if she wants a high-profile position. No one wants a leader who always looks as if she just rolled out of bed.” Posted 1 week before the election after an exhausting 9-month campaign. Gee, thanks for the support!

5- When someone hides the Lt. Governor’s gavel in your desk during a late night session, he will wait and wait and let you find it on your own. Then he will join the room shouting “Thief! Thief!” until it is properly returned! (That may or may not have happened to me this past week during one of our very late nights!)

There’s only one week remaining before this session comes to an end. With over 900 pieces of legislation still pending, the final days are likely to be very long. Stay tuned and look forward to my last weekly newsletter after session ends! (I’ll be switching to monthly newsletters after that!)

Facts from the Floor: Week Seven

February 25, 2020

We are down to the final couple of weeks of the General Assembly Session 2020. The house bills are starting to come our way for a vote in the Senate. This week also saw the Senate budget bill coming across our desks for a vote.

Last Monday started out with the Senate Judiciary Committee defeating the House “assault weapons ban” bill. Although the Senate version of this bill was pulled early in the session, the House had approved their version of the bill with just 51 votes in favor and not a single Republican voting for it. In committee, the legislation was blocked with four Democrat senators joining all six Republicans to “carry over” the bill until next session.

The legislation would have effectively banned multiple guns owned by tens of thousands of Virginians, turning countless law-abiding Virginians into criminals through no fault – and no action – on their part. Although the bill was not successful this year, it will be considered next year again.

On Thursday, we were here well-past dinner time discussing, debating, and voting on the budget (I always worry when they start ordering pizzas for the chamber!). When you are considering spending $138 billion of Virginians’ tax dollars, decisions should not be made lightly!

I was among the 11 senators who voted against this budget. The expenditures represent a nearly 12% increase over the current budget, far exceeding the rate of inflation or population growth. Considering the budget under which we are currently operating was 17% higher than the budget it replaced, spending by Virginia’s government has reached an alarming rate. I was told before session started to look at where the Democrats would spend their money and that would define their priorities. For this budget, I’d say that’s a pretty accurate statement!

As a result, it includes $9 million to provide driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, $50 million for Washington’s failing Metro system, and $7 million to increase the pay of some state employees to match the Democrats’ planned doubling of the minimum wage. The budget is also being used as an instrument to raise your power bill. By having Virginia sign onto the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), you’ll soon be paying more for electricity. The budget reflects hundreds of millions of dollars in higher taxes and fees, including a 8-cent per gallon hike in the gas tax.

I’m sure many of you have heard that one of our Republican senators proposed to provide a 3% raise for our Virginia Sheriffs’ Departments and was told by the Democratic Senate Majority Leader that they voted against the raise because the sheriffs had said they supported 2A rights and had threatened to not enforce gun control laws. This is a budget that spends too much on too many of the wrong things, while simultaneously charging taxpayers a lot more. For me, voting against this budget was the only responsible course.

Some of the other bills we voted on this week included:

-HB 967: Provides for the expedited issuance of professional credentials and licenses to the spouses of military service members. I voted YES and this bill passed unanimously 40-0 out of the Senate.

-HB 1150: Removes mandatory requirements for officers to report illegal immigration status for a person charged with or convicted of certain crimes. Jail officers are no longer required to ask the citizenship of any inmate taken into custody at a jail. I voted NO but this bill passed 21-19 along party lines.

-HB 257: Eliminates the requirement that principals must report certain enumerated acts that may constitute a misdemeanor offense to law enforcement. I voted NO because this bill would no longer require school administrators to call the police when a student engages in stalking, assault & battery, or threatens school personnel or the school itself. It passed out of the Senate with a 28-11 vote.

-HB 1070: Repeals the crime of expectorating (spitting) in public places. I voted NO and the bill did NOT pass with a vote of 14-24. (Take note: public spitting is still illegal in Virginia!)

-HB395: Increases the minimum wage from its current federally mandated level of $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour effective July 1, 2020; to $11 per hour effective July 1, 2021; to $13 per hour effective July 1, 2022; and to $15 per hour effective July 1, 2023. One of the Republican senators proposed an amendment to make the wage increase regionally mandated but this amendment was a 20-20 vote with the Lt. Governor voting AGAINST the measure. The originally proposed bill (as described) passed 21-19 along party lines with all Republicans voting NO.

-HB533: Prohibits the use of styrofoam food containers by certain food vendors. I voted NO to this bill and it passed out of Senate 23-13. I voted NO because I felt like this was an over regulation bill that would negatively impact small businesses.

If you are ever interested in reading the full bill description or knowing more details, please go to the General Assembly homepage (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+men+BIL) and you can enter the bill number and track any bill as it goes through the process to become a Virginia law.

We had so many groups from around the state visit our office this week including the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Hampton Roads Chamber, the Virginia Military Institute, the Girl Scouts of America (they brought cookies!), the Virginia Aquarium, Students For Life, and the Virginia Beach Library. If you’re planning a trip to the Capitol before March 7th, please stop by our offices in Room 518 of the Pocahontas Building and come see us!

There are only two weeks left in the 2020 General Assembly session. The final two weeks will be super busy as we complete the debating and voting on the hundreds of bills still being considered. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we continue to fight the good fight for our families and the future of our Commonwealth!

SENATOR KIGGANS’ TOP FIVE MOST SURPRISING THINGS SEEN IN THE VIRGINIA SENATE THIS PAST WEEK:

1- The Chesapeake Oyster Alliance brought steamed oysters from across the state for us to sample last week.. Apparently oysters taste differently depending on where they are from in Virginia. I think they all just taste better with tabasco!

2- The carpet in the Old Senate Chamber was designed by a Historic Carpet Specialist to match the olive green curtains which hang in the chamber. The carpet includes dogwood leaves and branches. (I’d love to know how you become a Historic Carpet Specialist!)

3- The Capitol Classic Basketball game held every year at VCU was quite the event with the Senate staff and legislators playing the House staff and legislators. The students from both house Page Programs were there to rally the crowd and cheer on their teams. The VCU Ram mascot, band, and cheerleaders all came out in force to watch the House win at the buzzer!

4- The Virginia Military Institute held a Legislative reception one night filled with students and staff from VMI. They had cookies and rolls in the shape of kangaroos which is their mascot.

5- I received a cookie last Monday in the shape of a gun with icing stating “Vote No HB 961” (the assault weapons ban bill). People are getting very creative these days when it comes to getting their message across!

Facts from the Floor: Week Six

February 18, 2020

This past week was “crossover” which is the deadline for having all the bills from the Senate pass over to the House for their vote before heading to the Governor’s desk in April to veto or sign into law. I had heard rumors of what to expect for “crossover” day but I had to live it to understand the gravity of exactly what was about to happen. “Crossover” day is customarily long, but this year may have set a record in the Senate. Convening to debate bills at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the Senate did not complete its work until 12:48 a.m. on Wednesday. For comparison, the Senate adjourned at 2:51 p.m. on crossover day in 2019, and at 4:16 p.m. in 2018.

What took so long? In part, the Democrat majority put off many of its most consequential – and controversial – bills until late in the legislative process. The other challenge was late changes to those bills – sometimes 80 pages in length – in an attempt to quell objections and assuage concerns. The combination of those two factors led to lengthy debates as Democrat senators had to defend their bills and answer questions about the last-minute changes made to them.

When their litany of bills become law and go into effect on July 1st, it is going to cost your family a lot more to live in Virginia than it does today. For example, the Democrats have a new transportation plan that raises the gas tax by 8-cents per gallon over the next two years in most of the state. They also approved a “Green New Deal” energy bill that will result in higher prices on electricity. The estimates of what the average family will pay for this range from $23 to $50 on their power bill per month. This will also significantly affect the southwestern parts of the Commonwealth where coal mining and coal related industry is the backbone of their local economies.

Some of the other bills we voted on this week included:

-SB 34: Allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses at the DMV. This bill passed 22-18 out of the Senate. I voted NO because I believe all immigrants should go through legal means to obtain citizenship before they are granted the benefits of American citizens (such as driving, voting- & paying taxes!).

-SB 183: Removal of war monuments/memorials. This controversial bill passed along a party line vote of 21-19. I voted NO as I believe these historical markers serve as important expressions of remembrance, pain, and patriotism and should be respected and protected.

-SB 67: Mandatory reporting of lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours after loss. This bill was actually DEFEATED in a 19-21 vote. I voted NO as it would have made criminals out of people who were victims of a crime.

-SB 1026: I was a co-patron on this important bill which allows pharmacists to dispense some controlled substances including fluoride, vaccines, naloxone, epinephrine, nicotine replacements, and most importantly, contraception without a doctor’s prescription. It passed by a vote of 38-2. I voted YES.

-SB 7: Incrementally increases the minimum wage in Virginia to $15/hour according to a regional wage increase. This bill passed 21-19 along party lines. I voted NO knowing the effect it would have on our small businesses and their employees.

-SB 219: Allows for automatic voter registration at the DMV or when renewing/applying for a license online. This bill passed along a party line vote of 21-19. I voted NO as there has been multiple cases of fraudulent voter registration in various states as a result of similar policies.

-SB 935: Allows for in state tuition for illegal immigrants. This bill passed on a party line vote of 21-19. I voted NO.

If you are ever interested in reading the full bill description or knowing more details, please go to the General Assembly homepage (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+men+BIL) and you can enter the bill number and track any bill as it goes through the process to become a Virginia law.

We had so many groups from around the state visit our office this week including Americans For Prosperity, Siemens Gamesa who manufactures offshore wind turbines, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the League of Women Voters, the American Association of University Women, the Virginia Maritime Association, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to name a few. If you’re planning a trip to the Capitol before March 7th, please stop by our offices in Room 518 of the Pocahontas Building and come see us!

This week we begin to vote on the bills from the House and we also start presenting our Senate to the House for their votes. Wish me luck as I present my legislation to the House committees and subcommittees. Stay tuned!!

SENATOR KIGGANS’ TOP FIVE MOST SURPRISING THINGS SEEN IN THE VIRGINIA SENATE THIS PAST WEEK:

1- Adjournment at 12:46 a.m. on Tuesday (after starting at 10:30 a.m.)! Nothing like working straight for 14+ hours! In the Navy we had a 10 hour aviation crew day so we didn’t do anything unsafe or make bad decisions due to exhaustion!

2- I voted on 189 bills in one day on Tuesday. Some of those bills affect the livelihood of rural Virginia, cost people their jobs, and close businesses. No need to wait until the last minute to pose so many life-changing bills in one day in my opinion!

3- Valentine’s Day: It looked like the Hallmark shop multiplied overnight in the Pocahontas building where our offices are. Red and pink streamers, hearts, flowers, and chocolates as far as the eye could see! You have to see it with your own eyes to believe it! It’s the only holiday we celebrate during session so everyone takes it to heart- literally!

4- The Virginia March for Life on February 13th brought thousands of advocates for LIFE and the unborn to our Capitol. So many young people (including two of my own children with groups from their schools) were there to march in support of women and unborn babies. It was heart warming to see so many people care about an issue that was recently spoken of so harshly in the Senate and House chambers.

5- Samples of different types of milk from the Virginia State Dairymen’s Association who visited the Capitol and gave us sample of the most delicious milk I’ve ever had! I’m a BIG milk drinker (with a cold glass of skim being my favorite) so this was a special treat during a rough week!

Facts from the Floor: Week Five

February 11, 2020

I got off my couch and ran for office because I felt like I was not being represented in government. Rather than continue to complain about it, yell at my TV during the nightly news, and do nothing, I figured out how to get on a ballot and communicate my message with thousands of voters who shared my frustrations. And here we are! Every day I am proud to have a say in the laws we are considering for Virginia. Although I feel frustrated that my party is in the minority and we are outnumbered on many votes, I do have a voice that I make count to represent my constituents who sent me here.

As the Senate completes its work on legislation filed by its members, you may have noticed that we are debating so much legislation that emulates measures already enacted in California and New York. Whether issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, doubling the minimum wage, forcing non-union members to pay union dues, or imposing strict new gun control measures, I sometimes feel like I am in a General Assembly session in Sacramento or Albany rather than Richmond! Now that the Democrats are in the majority, that party’s most liberal members are driving their legislative agenda.

In addition, Northern Virginians lead the key committees that consider and shape legislation in the Senate, such as Finance and Commerce and Labor. As you continue to read headlines about Virginia’s General Assembly approving legislation that sounds more suitable for California, you should probably look to the area surrounding Washington, D.C. for an explanation.

Some of the bills we voted on this week included:

-SB 1: Stops the suspension of driver’s licenses for an inability to pay a fine or fee. Passed 40-0 out of the Senate. I voted YES wanting people to be able to drive and get to work, etc.

-SB 624: Makes geriatric prisoners eligible for parole. “Geriatric” is defined as age 50 in this bill. I voted NO but this bill passed out of the Senate along party line vote of 21-19.

-SB 65: Removes the requirement to show photo ID to vote. I voted NO but the bill passed out of the Senate along party line vote of 21-19. I am adamantly against this bill and think it opens the door to voter fraud.

-SB 491: Removes the requirement for mandatory reporting to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for any illegal immigrant arrested in the state of Virginia. This bill passed along party lines 21-19, I voted NO.

-SB264: I co-patroned this bill giving full prescriptive authority to nurse anesthetists. Passed 40-0. I am fully supportive of advanced practice nurses having full prescriptive authority.

-SB 612: Authorizes a commission to replace Robert E Lee statue as one of Virginia’s two allotted statues in the U.S. Capitol. The Commission will choose a replacement. This bill passed along party lines 20-19. I voted NO.

-SB 64: Defines paramilitary activity (which is a Class 5 felony) as a person who assembles with another person with the intent of intimidating any person or group of persons by drilling, parading or marching with a firearm or any explosive or incendiary device. I voted NO but the bill passed 22-17. This is an attack on our First Amendment rights.

If you are ever interested in reading the full bill description or knowing more details, please go to the General Assembly homepage (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+men+BIL) and you can enter the bill number and track any bill as it goes through the process to become a Virginia law.

Virginians continue to come to see their Capitol being used to enact laws that will affect their Commonwealth. We had quite a few friendly faces from home stop by our offices this week, including the Hampton Roads 4-H Clubs, Virginia Midwives Alliance, the Virginia Association of Nurse Anesthetists, the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Children’s Health Investment Program of Southampton Roads, and the Independent Insurance Agents of Virginia. If you’re planning a trip to Capitol Square before March 7th, please stop by our offices in Room 518 of the Pocahontas Building and come see us!

Next week is “crossover” when all the bills from the Senate go before the House for a vote and vice versa. I’ll have a complete report on the progress in next week’s column. Until then, have a great week and stay tuned!

SENATOR KIGGANS’ TOP FIVE MOST SURPRISING THINGS SEEN IN THE VIRGINIA SENATE THIS PAST WEEK:

1- Watching our Republican Senate minority leader disagree with the Lt. Gov. and watching the Senate Clerk take both of them plus the Democratic majority leader out of the room for a “talking to” about professional courtesy and congeniality (I assume!)

2- Listening to the democrats propose not only removing Robert E Lee from Memorial Hall in the U.S. Capitol in DC but also taking the statue of George Washington (each state gets two statues in the Capitol).

3- Traditional visit from former Gov. Bob McDonnell who usually attends both party’s caucuses but was “uninvited” to the democratic caucus meeting this year.

4- My husband and I attended a reception at the Governor’s mansion only to have him leave with a copy of the “First Mansion” book about the history of the Governor’s Mansion, signed by the Governor’s wife with the inscription “To My Favorite Fighter Pilot….” for him!

5- Listening to one of the longest debates yet this session concerning a bill which caps training for barbers and cosmetologists to 1000 hours max before they can perform as independent stylists. I don’t want a cap because I think they need all the practice they can get before they take on some of these latest hair styles!

Facts from the Floor: Week Four

February 3, 2020

This week was some work! Although I am definitely in the routine now of subcommittee and committee meetings and daily floor sessions, I continue to learn every day and to still be in awe of my new job and responsibility. I have to take a few seconds to acknowledge a few key people who make my life exponentially easier in Richmond. My two legislative assistants, Tyler and Joe, keep my schedule moving, keep me (almost!) on time to all caucus meetings, and provide me with all the background information I need to make well-researched legislative choices. They track all constituent emails and phone calls and answer most of them, take meetings when I can’t be there, and make an entire pot of coffee without me asking every morning! They even work after hours and make sure I get safely to all dinner and night events. I am grateful for their help and thankful for their patience. We also have a legislative assistant, Samantha, who works out of our Virginia Beach office most of the week and holds down the fort while we’re in Richmond. Thank you three for all you do!

The biggest and toughest vote we took this week was SB 733 which removes the requirement for an ultrasound prior to an abortion, removes the 24-hour waiting period prior to an abortion, allows nurse practitioners to perform first trimester abortions, & repeals the requirement for medical professionals to provide certain information prior to an abortion. I am firmly against all of these provisions of the bill and spoke adamantly in opposition to this bill. We had an OB/GYN (who is our only physician in the senate) and myself (the only nurse practitioner) in addition to others speaking against this bill to no avail. I feel we are removing key educational components to women and not advocating for what is best for women nor the innocent life they carry. It was the first time our vote resulted in an even 20-20 split (one democrat voted in opposition). The Lt. Governor is always the tie breaker and he voted in support, thus the bill passed. More abortion bills will be coming in the following weeks.

Some of the other bills we voted on this week were:

-SB 631: Regulates shopping carts by allowing localities to give the business who owns the cart a notice the cart is misplaced and a fine for not cleaning it up. (I voted NO but bill passed 20-19)

– SB 263: Requires in person training for concealed carry permits. Code currently allows concealed carry training to be done either online or in person – neither training requires the actual use or demonstration of using a gun. In person training is not as accessible, not as often, and more expensive. (I voted NO but bill passed on party lines 21-19)

-SB 116: Removes the death penalty as sentencing option for mentally ill. Many of us, including myself, continued our “pro-life” stance and believe life in prison is sufficient if not worse punishment. (I voted YES and bill passed 32-7)

I had two of my bills come before a vote on the senate floor this week:

-SB 316: Changed the date of the primary election held in June from the second Tuesday to the third Tuesday due to school safety concerns. (The bill passed 24-16 & now goes to the House)

-SB 932: Prohibits cell phone use in active school crossing zones. (The bill passed 35-1 & now goes to the House). There is another bill which also passed which prohibits any person from holding a handheld personal communication device while driving a motor vehicle (SB 160). It goes to the House as well.

My SB 397 regarding nursing home standards of care and requiring staffing ratios, regular background checks, and education requirements for staff did not pass out of committee despite multiple advocates there to speak on its behalf. Instead, the committee voted to organize a work group to study a solution to nursing home conditions and staffing and gives me another year to meet with stakeholders to devise the best solution. You can read more about what happened to my bill in this great article written about it in the Daily Press: https://www.dailypress.com/health-fitness/dp-nw-nursing-home-staff-rations-20200129-lazysqrq3zcwxiw5l2mau7iele-story.html

If you are ever interested in reading the full bill or knowing more details, please go to the General Assembly homepage (https://virginiageneralassembly.gov/) and you can enter the bill number in the “Track a 2020 Regular Session Bill” block and track any bill as it goes through the process to become a Virginia law. Stay tuned for votes coming up this week including removing requirements to show photo ID to vote, expanding eligibility for parole, and prohibiting the rental or leasing of dogs and cats.

Besides listening to arguments for and against bills, I also get to welcome guests from my district and beyond to Richmond who are advocating for the groups they represent. This week I met with groups from the Boy and Girls Clubs of America, the Emergency Room Physicians, the Virginia Apartment Management Association, the Virginia Beach Hotel Association, the Dental Hygienists Association, the Virginia Counselors Association, and the Autism Society of Central Virginia to name a few! Come see us!

In closing, I leave you with my Top 5 Most Shocking things I saw this past week….

SENATOR KIGGANS’ TOP FIVE MOST SURPRISING THINGS SEEN IN THE VIRGINIA SENATE THIS PAST WEEK:

1- There are 11 women in the Virginia Senate (4 Republicans, 7 Democrats) .… 3 of us are named Jennifer! (There are 40 total senators.)

2- I was visited by casino representatives from Las Vegas and Chicago this week who were lobbying to get in on the Virginia gaming scene….. more on this when some decisions are made but the country is watching….!

3- There was actual debate on the floor about a 1909 resolution from then-President Taft to return Alexandria county to the District of Columbia as the original recession of that land to Virginia was deemed unconstitutional (Google it!). Sen Mark Obenshain (R) launched an attempt to reintroduce this issue to the senate but was faced with opposition from the Northern Virginia contingent. Credit to Sen Obenshain for thinking outside the box and suggesting Northern Virginia return to DC!

4- I learned that unless a legislator has committed treason, a felony, or a breach of peace, legislators are immune from arrest while the General Assembly is in session. This week saw a current delegate pulled over for DUI and released with a warning. In response, a resolution has been introduced that changes the law to avoid such situations going forward.

5- We actually debated a bill in the Rehab & Social Services committee concerning the removal of provisions that prevent the granting of mixed beverage licenses to strip clubs. They are currently only allowed to serve beer and wine. This bill was “passed by” or postponed until next year’s session.

Virginia lawmakers reject setting standards for nursing home staffing — for now

January 29, 2020

Daily Press

By Dave Ress

Sen. Jennifer Kiggans, seen during the opening of Virginia’s General Assembly on Jan. 8, said she’ll keep pushing for new regulations of nursing homes. (Jonathon Gruenke/Daily Press)

Brushing off — for the 16th time — a proposal to set minimum staff levels for Virginia nursing homes, which are ranked among the nation’s worst for the number of patients per caregiver, a state Senate panel decided to recommend a study group instead.

The Senate Health subcommittee rejected on a voice vote a proposal from state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach, that would have said nursing homes need to provide at least one direct care staffer for every six patients.

“Families are stressed to the max trying to make sure their loved ones get the care they need,” said Sam Kukich of Poquoson, after telling the panel about her late mother-in-law’s 55 falls while in a Peninsula nursing home and the 65 pounds she lost there because she didn’t get the help she needed to eat.

Residents who need help eating, showering, moving around and going to the bathroom get an average of two hours of direct care staff time a day, she said.

“A lot have given up,” she said.

Erin Hines, a certified nurse assistant from the Peninsula, said she often is assigned 20, 30 or 40 patients a shift.

“Call lights are going unanswered because there is no one to answer,” she said.

But Scott Johnson, a lobbyist for the state nursing home association, said the bill wouldn’t help because it was a one-size-fits-all standard. He said the real problem was that nursing homes have problems attracting enough good staff members.

Subcommittee Chairman Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomac, said the problem was serious but the cost to address the issue could be large. And subcommittee member Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, said that while nursing home shortfalls in care are egregious, she thought Kiggans’ bill would do more harm than good.

Kiggans said she would be back.

“These are my people,” she said, afterward. “This is why I ran for office.”

Most Hampton Roads nursing homes have fewer nurses and aides and more violations of health standards than the national averages, putting patients at increased risk of injury or untreated illness, Daily Press and Virginian-Pilot investigations found last year.

Inspectors found multiple violations of state standards of care at virtually every nursing home in Hampton Roads, a review of the latest round of reports shows.

Out of 64 area nursing homes, only two had no deficiencies in care reported, the papers’ analysis of U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services records found.

Many of the facilities where Hampton Roads’ most vulnerable adults live — those often unable to feed themselves, move around or even speak — exceed national averages for resident injuries from falls and open wounds from lying too long in one position, the newspapers found after reviewing several hundred pages of state inspection reports and federal data.

Roughly 60 percent of Hampton Roads homes reported patients having open skin wounds more often than the national average. The same percentage of homes reported above average numbers of residents became less mobile during their stay.

Since 2001, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has said homes needed to have enough registered nurses to provide 45 minutes of care a day for each resident. Only 11 of Hampton Roads’ 57 homes met this standard.

https://www.dailypress.com/health-fitness/dp-nw-nursing-home-staff-rations-20200129-lazysqrq3zcwxiw5l2mau7iele-story.html

Facts from the Floor: Week Three

January 27, 2020

Last Monday, I left my house in Virginia Beach at 4:30AM to get to Richmond before the Gun Lobby Day crowds assembled and the streets were shutdown. Little did I know that crowds of Second Amendment-loving people would be gathering well before sunrise. Regardless of your opinion on guns, I think we can all agree that Gun Lobby Day was an amazing showing of people exercising their First Amendment rights and doing so safely, courteously, and cleanly. I met so many good Americans that day out on the lawn who were here from all over Virginia and other states as a show of unity. Almost 30,000 people braved freezing temps and made a statement that both parties heard loud and clear. Additionally, the Capitol Police should be commended for their significant contribution in making Monday’s gathering uneventful. And a big THANK YOU to everyone from the 7th District who stopped by to see me! (I apologize if you stopped by and missed me due to meetings- please come back again soon!)

On the senate floor, the gun debate continued with discussion and voting on SB 240 (the “red flag” bill). After heated discussion and testimony from both sides, the vote fell on party lines with the “red flag” bill passing 21 D-19 R. My main concern with this bill was that it does not provide due process before a court order can take your guns. It essentially takes people’s weapons even if no crime has been committed and before they are proven guilty. It also allows people to be charged with illegal possession if they refuse to surrender their guns. The bill will “crossover” to the House mid-session and then will go to the Governor to be signed if it passes out of the House. Being in the minority in both houses definitely makes life more difficult here in the General Assembly.

I was able to present my mental health bill (SB 317) to the Health and Education committee, a bill that would provide a process for ordering home health nursing care when available to psychiatric patients after an in-patient psych hospital stay. In my opinion, this continuity of care is essential for not only patients but also their families. Having a set of eyes in the home to check on medication compliance, follow-up appointments, and provide community resource education and general support is a great starting point to helping patients maintain good mental health after an acute stay. We are still not including mental health improvements in the gun debate as much as I’d like but the discussion has started.

Other bills we discussed this week included:

SB 631: A bill which would fine business owners $500 for abandoned and stolen shopping carts left around town (I voted “no)

SB 780: A bill that provides immunity for campgrounds if a person is injured as a result of an inherent risk of camping (I voted “yes”)

SB 981: Expands the definition of expedited issuance of credentials for spouses of military service members on active duty (I voted “yes”)

SB 66: Prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of “sexual orientation: and “gender identity” in housing (I voted “yes”)

SB 656: Requires mental healthcare providers to share mental health information and records with correctional facilities when patients are imprisoned (I voted “yes”)

This past week I was assigned to the “Gaming” subcommittee which has started to discuss legislation regarding the lottery, casinos, and games of chance and skill in Virginia. I asked for your opinions on social media about these issues and received a wide variety of feedback. There is much debate about not only local future casinos but about online lottery sales, the allowance of having electronic “games of skill” in convenience stores, legalizing sports wagering, and changes in charitable gaming regulations. If you have opinions on any of these issues, I’d love to hear your thoughts as I research the pros and cons of each piece of legislation coming our way. Please email me at: district07@senate.virginia.gov and let me know what you think about the future of “gaming” in Virginia.

In closing, I leave you with my Top 5 Most Shocking things I saw this past week….

SENATOR KIGGANS’ TOP FIVE MOST SURPRISING THINGS SEEN IN THE VIRGINIA SENATE THIS PAST WEEK:

1- A women actually brought a 50 cal rifle to the 2A Lobby Day and seemed to be using it as a walking stick of sorts. (We used to mount 50 cals to the window of the H-46 helicopter in the Persian Gulf when times got tough. Never thought I’d see one used as a walking stick!)

2- During gun debate, our lawyers actually broke out the set of Virginia Law Code books we have on a bookshelf in the corner of the senate, dusted them off, and quoted from them. Impressive to say the least.

3- Wednesday was the annual Brunswick Stew day where “stew masters” from Brunswick, Virginia, actually come to the Capitol and set up shop to provide all of us with a delicious taste of their local favorite. The stew crew has been doing this for the General Assembly for 18 years!

4- I presented my first bill up for a full vote on the senate floor this week which was an environmental bill limiting the number of intentional balloons that could be released in a one-hour period from the current law of 49 to one balloon. When a new senator presents their first bill, not only do a large handful of incumbent senators ask harassing and ridiculous questions to the new senator, but then they all vote “no” before casting their actual votes, and when the entire process is complete, the chamber gives a standing ovation to the new member. Provided some comic relief during a stressful week…!

5- At the end of every senate floor session before we adjourn, the Clerk of the Senate reads the weather forecast aloud for that day and the next. (It’s a tradition left over from before we had The Weather Channel and weather apps!)