The first week of a General Assembly session is always busy. This one was no different.
The first order of business in the House of Delegates was to swear in our new members. It was particularly gratifying to see my six new Democratic colleagues take their oaths of office. We are a mighty 48.
I have been assigned to the following committees:
Courts of Justice, which handles all legislation affecting the civil and criminal justice system.
Finance, which focuses on a wide range of financial issues, and particularly taxes.
The re-named Commerce and Energy Committee. I was saddened to see the new majority delete the word “labor” from the former “Labor and Commerce Committee,” but pleased with the addition of the word “energy,” since this committee deals with a wide range of issues affecting our economy, including energy issues. Regular readers of this space know how active I have been in the energy area.
I have introduced ten bills, with several more to come. My bills deal primarily with energy, civil rights, and transportation. I will outline my bills in more detail in my next session update.
As you know, last year we conducted our business virtually. This session we are in person. My Democratic colleagues and I are remaining vigilant in keeping safe as the Omicron variant continues to spread. The new majority is not requiring vaccinations or masks. It is not hard to tell which side of the chamber is the Democrats–all masked–and which is the Republicans–no masks. I am asking that all in-person meetings in my office have a maximum of four people (not including me) and that you are masked and vaccinated. I hope to see you in person, or virtually if you prefer that option.
On Wednesday night Governor Northam delivered his final State of the Commonwealth Address. His speech touched on the remarkable, transformative work he was able to accomplish working with us. The list is long, including expanding Medicaid access, defending a woman’s right to choose, and confronting while also growing from Virginia’s dark past with respect to race. And we have generated an historic budget surplus. Governor Northam spoke with conviction in highlighting that we surely have more that unites us than divides us.
I was thrilled that the Governor highlighted two important bills that I carried : Jacob’s Law, and the Virginia Clean Economy Act . The VCEA put Virginia on a path toward clean renewable energy and jobs. Jacob’s Law passed before we gained the majority. It was the first legislation to advance LGBT rights in a generation, and strengthened surrogacy rights so LGBT Virginians can start families. These two remarkable pieces of legislation have been enormously impactful, and I am grateful to Governor Northam for being a champion of our environment and civil rights. Moreover as the only Governor in the United States who is a doctor, he lead our Commonwealth through this pandemic very effectively. Virginia has dealt with Covid significantly better than most other states. I thank Governor Northam for his leadership.
To see the Governor’s speech and his remarks regarding Jacob’s Law and the Virginia Clean Economy Act, please click here.
And speaking of leadership, our outgoing Attorney General Mark Herring has left a lasting legacy. And among his last acts was to issue a letter opinion on the subject of Governor-Elect Youngkin’s stated intent to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, also known as RGGI. I wrote Attorney General Herring, along with my colleague Delegate Charniele Herring, asking for his opinion. He responded emphatically: a Governor cannot unilaterally withdraw us from RGGI. We’ll see how this early skirmish with the new administration plays out. You can see the Attorney General’s letter here.Tomorrow, Governor-elect Youngkin will be inaugurated as the 74th Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Though it is clear we disagree on a number of issues, I look forward to trying to work with him and his incoming administration, to help improve the lives of all Virginians.
While I am a congenital optimist, that may be hard. The bills which repeal much of our progress are piling up. Repeal of the Clean Economy Act here. Repeal of the Red Flag Law here . Repeal of our progress on making it easier to Vote here, here and here. Repeal of guns in pre-schools and daycares here. An attack on a woman’s right to choose here. As I told the Arlington Board when they asked me my top three priorities for session: my top three priorities, in no particular order, are defense, defense, and defense.
The fireworks have already started. Our new Speaker issued an outrageous tweet during Governor Northam’s speech. Our Minority Leader, Eileen Filler-Corn, gave a fiery response the next day. As Greg Schneider of the Washington Post noted here: “it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”
I’m ready to go.
And so is the Democratic Caucus. Earlier today, the Democratic Caucus held a press briefing outlining our priorities. Here is a link to our 2022 Session Priorities.
One note to my Arlington constituents on the subject of redistricting: please know it has been the honor of my life to represent you in the General Assembly. I have been redistricted out of Arlington but will continue to serve Arlington until the next House of Delegates election. And as I stated in this article in the Sun Gazette even after I no longer officially represent Arlington “I’ll still be there fighting for Arlington.” Please click here to see the article in its entirety.