We don’t do foreign policy in the General Assembly. That is not our job. Our responsibility is the Commonwealth of Virginia.
But the bubble we sometimes find ourselves in here in Richmond surely cannot –and should not– blind us to what is happening elsewhere. As my mother would say: “We are all citizens of the World.”
What is happening in Ukraine is as heartbreaking as it is alarming. The news and images coming out of Ukraine are devastating. The entire world order and future of democracy are at stake. I fear our children’s and grandchildren’s worlds will be forever changed.
As this week began, I asked on the floor of the House of Delegates that we observe a moment of silence for the courageous people of Ukraine. It was a moving moment. Please see here.
If you’d like to help the people of Ukraine, here is a link to an article that shares some available resources.
GOP Votes Against Constitutional Amendments –Again
This week House Republicans, for the second time, killed two historic potential Constitutional amendments: one that would remove the shameful and discriminatory ban on same-sex marriage that is still in our Constitution, and another that would enshrine into the Constitution the automatic restoration of voting rights for people who have served their time and paid their debt to society.
The Joint Democratic Caucus held a press conference on Thursday about this failure by House Republican Leadership. We reiterated how important it is that Virginians be allowed to vote on these amendments in the election this November. A majority of Virginians support these amendments. So why are six GOP members in the Privileges and Elections subcommittee the sole decision-makers on these bills? What are they so afraid of?
We upped the ante with a rally after the press conference. My friend Senator Mamie Locke pointed out the Governor’s complete and inexplicable silence on this issue. She urged him to speak up, and to let the people of Virginia decide. To see Senator Locke’s speech click here.
House Republicans still have time to do the right thing and bring these resolutions to the floor and put these issues on the November ballot. But because that is unlikely, Democrats are fighting –again– for a rules change that would allow us to bring it to the floor
This week the Governor signed his first veto. He vetoed HB 670, patroned by my colleague in the Arlington Delegation Patrick Hope. HB 670 would allow Arlington County to appoint an independent policing auditor, to work in conjunction with the newly authorized Community Oversight Board. The Governor described the bill as “anti-law enforcement,” saying the legislation would create an “overly powerful politically-appointed police auditor.” He’s got it all wrong.
The bill is necessary because of the unique structure of Arlington County’s government. Every other county and city in Virginia already has the authority that this bill would give to Arlington. Not only is the Governor wrong on the substance about what the bill does, but in his veto statement he cited the wrong bill number, and referenced the “Arlington County Board of Supervisors.” Arlington County doesn’t have a Board of Supervisors. Because of its unique structure as a County Manager form of government, it has a “County Board.” I don’t know whether the Governor’s actions and choice of words are purposeful or simply sloppy. And I don’t know which would be worse.
The County Board and our Arlington delegation will be working to convince the Governor that he should reconsider his veto. We’ll see. To read more about this issue click here.
Update On My Bills
My municipal net energy metering bill (HB 396) passed the Senate on Thursday and is headed to the Governor’s desk. It will be a major step forward for localities like Fairfax and Arlington, which are poised to up their game and use municipality-owned property (landfills, garages, and school rooftops) to install solar panels. Not only will this be helpful to those localities, but it will help relieve concerns in rural areas of Virginia about farmland and forested land being lost to solar installations. Urban and suburban areas of Virginia are eager to step up and be part of meeting the clean energy goals of the Virginia Clean Economy Act.
My bill reforming the way we compensate wrongfully convicted people (HB 397) passed the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, along with the six relief bills to compensate six men who were wrongfully incarcerated in Virginia for crimes they did not commit. I am proud that 11 (out of 13) of my bills will pass through the General Assembly by the end of session.
Annual Capitol Square Basketball Game
On Wednesday the Annual Capitol Square Basketball Game took place at the VCU Siegel Center. My staff and I cheered on the House of Delegates team. Of course, the House of Delegates team beat the Senate. More importantly, the event raised over $50,000 for the VCU Massey Cancer Center.
And speaking of sports, I was lucky this week to get the chance to meet Virginia Tech’s new football coach, Brent Pry, and legendary NBA Hall of Famer, and Virginian, Bobby Dandridge.
I also enjoyed spending time with the Presidents of a number of our outstanding Virginia universities: Gregory Washington (George Mason University), James Ryan (University of Virginia), Timothy Sands (Virginia Tech), and Katherine Rowe (William and Mary).
As public health experts predicted, COVID case numbers have continued to drop significantly as the country moves out of the most recent wave. The CDC has produced new masking guidance based on “community level” metrics. The “community level” determines the public health guidance each community should follow based on three factors: hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area. While some of Virginia, including Fairfax County, is currently in the low-level category, there are still several areas within the Commonwealth that are labeled in the high-level category and should remain vigilant on masking. To read more about this click here.
The final week of session will be a frenetic race to the finish. We still have a great deal of work to do, particularly the completion of our budget. I have high hopes that we will deliver a historic budget. Stay tuned.