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10/23/20 Facts from the Floor: Special Session Edition

October 23, 2020
Dear Friend,

After ten long weeks, the Virginia General Assembly has wrapped up our 2020 Special Legislative Session… well, almost. 

We convened in Richmond at the Science Museum on August 18th for a special session called by the Governor to discuss the budget, criminal justice reform, and COVID related legislation. Fifty-nine days later, we unofficially adjourned but will need to go back to Richmond after the election to discuss any amendments the Governor will propose on the budget passed by the House and Senate and three bills which were amended on his desk. Depending on the outcome of Amendment ONE on the ballot (concerning redistricting: vote yes!), that funding will need to be added to the budget and voted on as well.

Par for the course, the new democratic majority in the state of Virginia was successful in passing sweeping legislation which changed the laws of our Commonwealth in an expedient fashion oftentimes lacking sufficient input from critical stakeholders due to COVID restrictions.

Here’s what we advocated for but did NOT accomplish over the past 59 days:

–          All children in Virginia are NOT back in school and school nurses are still not prioritized enough to fund one in each school.

–          NO pro-business bills were passed during this special session.

–          We were NOT able to pass legislation (despite FIVE proposed bills) to curtail the Emergency Power of the Governor and his ability to declare a state of emergency indefinitely and continue his executive mandates.

–          We were NOT able to ensure a COVID vaccine will NOT be made mandatory when it is available.

–          We were NOT able to improve the transparency of the Virginia Parole Board and prevent violent criminals from being released early to our streets.

Here’s what did pass out of the House & Senate and is awaiting the Governor’s signature:

–          Citizen Review Boards which have the power to subpoena records and witnesses and impose binding punishment for our law enforcement officers. 

–          Bans on chokeholds and no-knock warrants.

–          Prohibition of law enforcement officer’s ability to pull over a car with a head light or taillight burnt out (The Governor amended this portion after an outcry of how dangerous this would make our highways), with exhaust that is too loud or search a vehicle based on the odor of marijuana.

–          A bill preventing police departments from acquiring certain equipment from military surplus (often at no cost with localities able to use equipment for special rescue operations).

–          A bill allowing criminal defendants who are convicted by a jury to opt for sentencing from a judge.

We did NOT pass a bill removing “qualified immunity” which protects law enforcement from civil liability if there is any ambiguity surrounding whether their policing actions were justified. 

I am proud to report that my nursing home visitation bill (SB5042) mandating a visitor policy at long-term care facilities that ensured a visit every ten days minimum has been signed into law by the Governor! Additionally, it is now a requirement for nursing homes to post and share their COVID19 related data publicly.

It was an honor to represent each and every one of you on the floor of the Virginia Senate every day of special session. My staff and I read each of the emails you send, listen to every voicemail and message, read each social media comment, and had the pleasure of talking to many of you in person and over the phone during the past few months. You have my word that I will continue to do my very best to represent the people of Virginia Beach and Norfolk who sent me there to be your voice in government. Please know that my office remains open to you and that I appreciate hearing your opinions and concerns. 

The next few months will be spent discussing and writing legislation to present at our next regular session in January. I will be in touch once we begin to hear what’s next on the General Assembly agenda. Stay tuned!

Stay well, keep in touch, and most importantly, get out there and vote on November 3rd!

Take care-

Jen

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. 

Tour of the Virginia Beach Department of Elections
Last week, I visited the Virginia Beach Department of Elections! Lines were long at the courthouse with an almost 2-hour wait to vote. I was able to see firsthand how the absentee ballots are processed & was able to have my questions answered about election reform (side note- only 60 people total have voted without an ID during early voting). The best part of my morning was meeting so many constituents who were in line! Thank you to everyone who came out & patiently waited to vote








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


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

Business Visits
Recently, I spent some time in Thalia stopping by small businesses to say hello and check on how things were going.

Hampton Roads Chamber: Military Citizen of the Year
Last week, the Hampton Roads Chamber recognized the “Military Citizen of the Year” and an impressive group of other nominees! It was an honor to attend and be a part of rewarding some amazing local sailors!

Click here for more information


Community Food Drive
Big THANK YOU to the Virginia Beach Freedom Church and Operation Blessing for their amazing community outreach event! It was awesome to be able to provide groceries to those in need and to spend the day with such a great group of volunteers!




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!

10/6/20 Facts from the Floor: Special Session Edition

October 6, 2020
Dear Friend,

Special session is not over! What we now refer to as a “very special session” started back on August 16th. The past two weeks were tough. We discussed the 2020 budget and attempted to pass budget amendments (all but one failed). We also began voting on criminal justice reform bills from the House, most of which differed from the bills we passed in the Senate.

The budget adjusted for the $2.7 billion shortfall we are experiencing due to COVID19 was developed and proposed by Democratic leadership from the Finance and Appropriations committees. Because of this, Republicans were left out of the bulk of the discussion and instead were able to submit floor amendments in an attempt to legislate our priorities through the budget. Some floor amendments proposed (and not passed) included: (keep in mind each floor amendment was voted on separately and failed along a party line vote of 21D- 19R)

–          Expanding the authority of the Capitol Square Preservation Council to review changes to monuments and artifacts within Capitol Square (brought due to the Speaker of the House removing Confederate statues in the middle of the night without prior notice to anyone)

–          Requiring the administration’s Chief Diversity Officer to provide the Finance and Appropriations Committee with an itemized list of expenditures made

–          Prohibiting any vaccination for COVID19 from being mandated on persons who object based on conflicts with religious tenets or practices

–          Providing a 5% salary increase for elected sheriffs, deputies, & regional jail officers

–          Providing a 20% increase for 3 months to personal care attendants who serve the elderly and disabled Medicaid recipients in the homes during COVID19 (from federal CARES Act funding)

–          Limiting the duration of a Governor’s emergency orders to 90 days and after that, requiring the Governor to convene a special session of the General Assembly to address the emergency

–          Ensuring the VDH (Virginia Dept. of Health) disseminates public health-related information consistent with the standards adopted by local government and requires vendors to keep contact information confidential and not used for any other purpose. (this was in response to the VDH BrdsNBz sexual health text line flyer mailed to homes of teenagers without prior parental consent)

–          Providing direct aid to parents of $500/child for reimbursements for educational and childcare costs incurred in response to COVID19 disrupting in-person instruction (from federal CARES Act funding). See video below to hear my thoughts on why this is needed:

To see a list of floor amendments offered click the following link: https://budget.lis.virginia.gov/amendments/2020/2/SB5015/Introduced/FR/

Regarding the criminal justice reform bills that have come from the House, here are some of the more significant ones:

HB5049: Prohibits law enforcement agencies from acquiring, purchasing, or accepting military surplus equipment or vehicles. This bill passed on a party line vote of 21D-18R. I voted NO because, in my opinion, we should arm our law enforcement with the equipment they need to do their job and should attain this equipment at the most reasonable cost. Additionally some of this equipment is vital to flood response in our region.

HB5069: Prohibits the use of neck restraints if law enforcement officers do use this maneuver in an official capacity unless it is “immediately necessary”. This bill passed along a party line vote of 21D-18R. I voted NO because, in my opinion, “immediately necessity” was not clearly defined for a law enforcement officer who may use this as his/her only recourse in an emergency.

HB5099: Prohibits the use of no-knock warrants. This bill also passed with a vote of 22D (one R)-18R. I voted NO as I feel prohibiting no-knock warrants puts both law enforcement and victims at risk as potential criminals would now be given warning before police entered the home thus eliminating the element of surprise.

There were several other House versions of criminal justice bills passed last week. Please visit this link to read more: https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?202+sbj+SBJ

Thank you all for your input on legislation over the past few months and for staying in touch and tuned in to the changes occurring in our Commonwealth. I ask that as we wrap up this “very special session”, you continue to watch closely and monitor how these legislative changes impact the safety of our communities and our law enforcement recruitment and retention. I have been, and will continue to be, a staunch defender and supporter of all those in law enforcement who put their lives on the line on a daily basis to keep our communities safe for our families.

Lastly, with less than a month left before the election, don’t forget to register to vote, apply for an absentee ballot if needed, or make a plan to vote in person either early or on November 3rd. Elections have consequences and we are seeing that here in Virginia. Exercise this precious right and make your voice heard! (see below for more information.)

Stay well, keep in touch, and thank you for all of your support!

Take care,
Jen

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. 


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

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


Soiree on the Bay
From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much to everyone who came out to the “Soiree on the Bay” event! It was a fantastic turnout and great to see so many old and new friends and supporters! Special thanks to Daniel Gade and Scott Taylor (& many other candidates!) for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend! We are excited to take back Virginia in 2020 and 2021!! (& very big thank you to my team for organizing such an awesome event- you guys are the best!!)






VB Republican Women’s Club

It is always an honor to speak at the Virginia Beach Republican Womens Club Luncheon! I am inspired by women who are interested in politics and ready to be involved! It was great to meet back in person too!

Please join me in support of Mayor Bobby Dyer



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!

9/1/20 Facts from the Floor: Special Session Edition

September 2, 2020
Dear Friend,

As we wrap up week two of our General Assembly Special Session, we continue to change the state of Virginia with one party (the Democrats) having unilateral control over the legislative and executive branches. This past week, the Senate continued to meet in person at the Science Museum of Virginia (despite one senator being quarantined at home due to a positive COVID-19 test last week). We spent many days in heated debate over several issues that no one campaigned on but that have come to light over the past several months of national unrest.

One of the most contentious bills we voted on this past week was SB 5032 which removed the mandatory minimum sentence of six months in jail for assault and battery against a law-enforcement officer. It also allows a judge or jury to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor (from a felony) in cases where an officer is not hurt. The bill passed along party lines with a vote of 21 (D) – 15 (R). I voted against this bill because I believe we should support our law enforcement officers by having stiff penalties in place as a deterrent for assaulting an officer. Especially in today’s climate, the message this bill sends to our law enforcement and to would-be aggressors is not right in my opinion. 

Another bill that passed on a party line vote of 21 (D) – 16 (R) was SB 5120 which is the companion bill to a budget amendment that allocates $2,000,000 for pre-paid absentee ballot stamps and ballot “drop boxes” (among other things). It also mandates the general registrar to notify the absentee voter of any ballot errors within three days of such finding. The absentee voter shall then be entitled to make necessary corrections before noon on the third day AFTER the election and his ballot shall be counted. I voted against this bill as I worry about keeping our elections fair and secure, especially after passing legislation during our regular session eliminating the requirement to show photo ID and allowing for no excuse absentee voting among other changes. I believe everyone has the opportunity to vote in this country and there is no voter “suppression” occurring in the way we currently conduct elections. Opening the door to fraudulent elections is NEVER the answer.

One thing I have heard from many of you since March and the beginning of COVID-19 is the question of why our Governor is able to mandate executive order after executive order with no input from the legislative branch. As it currently stands, Virginia law gives the Governor unilateral authority to declare a state of emergency for an unlimited amount of time without involving the legislature. This past week we voted on FIVE bills in committee which addressed this imbalance of power (SB 5001, SB 5008, SB 5048, SB 5077, SB 5111) including two (which I co-patroned) which proposed that the Governor’s emergency orders be limited to 30 days or 45 days before calling back the General Assembly. I voted in favor of all five bills, but all five were killed one-by-one in committee along party line votes of 8(D)-6 (R). I believe that no matter which party is represented in the Executive branch, the Governor (one person acting independently) should not be allowed to have this much power for an unlimited amount of time. 

Monday morning in my General Laws committee, we voted on a bill adding a civil penalty of not more than $500 as a punishment for people who do not follow the Governor’s executive orders. Currently it is a Class 1 misdemeanor only (which is not often enforced), but adding this fine allows people to be fined fairly easily for not following mandates like mandatory masks or gathering restrictions. I voted against this bill (which passed 9-5) because in my opinion, we should not make it easier to hand out monetary punishments to people and families who are already struggling financially, nor do I feel it is right to fine people for living their lives in a manner they feel is responsible.

From now until we are finished with the business of special session, we will be reporting to Richmond Wednesdays through Fridays. This allows us to do our “other jobs” Monday and Tuesday which is great because I miss my patients and helping people one-on-one. Although representing the Seventh District and having a seat at the table governing the Commonwealth is the honor of a lifetime, it is good to keep up with my regular job as a primary care geriatric nurse practitioner!
I thank you all for being engaged and for following state politics. Now more than ever, I need people to understand what is happening in Virginia and to be vocal and involved. Please forward my email to your friends who are concerned about the direction of our Commonwealth and keep them “in the know”. Let me know if there is anything I or my office can do to help you all navigate through any challenges you may be experiencing. We are here to help! 

Take care,
Jen

Election Reform
The battle in the Virginia General Assembly for fair and unbiased elections (as printed in today’s Richmond Times)……




Navy License Plate: 2021 SessionI’m proud to be the legislative sponsor for a US Navy specialty license plate in Virginia! There have been 210 prepaid plates sold but need to get to 450 before I can introduce it in the General Assembly during regular session. Thank you NAVY PLATE Virginia for helping to make this license plate a reality! Click here for more info:https://www.navyplatevirginia.com


A Tour of Richmond


Steve’s Airplane Build
Most people have cars in their garage but not us! For eleven years Steve has been building a kit airplane in our garage (keeps him out of trouble!) I am so proud of him because this past week he was able to paint it Navy blue and is about ready to stencil on the stars and bars so it looks just like a WWII plane!


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!