2022 Session: Week Six

A Rocky StartIt is no secret that Governor Youngkin’s administration is off to a rocky start. According to a poll from the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University (CNU), Virginia voters disagree with Governor Youngkin on several significant issues and are more negative than positive about his performance as our new Governor. 43% of Virginians do not approve of the Governor’s initiatives and direction so far, while 41%  approve and 16% are unsure. 

That is what we call in this business being “underwater.” 

Youngkin’s overall approval “is certainly lower than those of recent governors in Wason Center polling early in their term,” Center Academic Director Quentin Kidd said in a news release. To read more about this click here.

CNU also produced a “State of the Commonwealth” report, which concluded that most Virginians support teaching how racism continues to impact American society. 57% oppose Youngkin’s moves to ban the teaching of critical race theory, with only 33% supporting a ban. On a broader level, 63% of Virginians support “teaching how racism continues to impact American society today.”  As I said on the floor this week (more on that in a moment), we want our school kids to ask “why?”, and “what took so long?”, when learning about Black Americans’ struggles and contributions in American history. We want our kids to be critical thinkers. Problem solvers. 

The report also looked at Virginians’ views on climate change, COVID vaccine and mask requirements, an effort to put police officers in every K-12 school, proposed abortion restrictions, and tax cut proposals from Governor Youngkin. 

With regard to climate change, the report found that a majority of Virginia voters say climate change should be either a top priority (34%) or a medium priority (32%) for the Governor and General Assembly. Moreover, 67% of Virginians oppose Youngkin’s proposal to repeal the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) and 67% also oppose Youngkin’s proposal to pull Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). To read more about this and view the entirety of the “State of the Commonwealth” report by CNU’s Watson Center click here.

I am very pleased that a Senate panel on Monday rejected a Republican proposal to repeal the VCEA. Rolling back the VCEA would be a devastating mistake. Preserving the VCEA is a major win for the clean energy future of the Commonwealth. To read more about this click here.Our Brick Wall​The Senate is holding firm as our brick wall, blocking the passage of a slew of harmful bills that passed in the House. Democrats in the Senate voted to reject a bill to exempt any business with 10 or fewer employees from the state’s minimum wage law, along with several other bills aimed at rolling back worker protection laws we passed last year. Among the GOP legislation voted down are bills to freeze the minimum wage at $11 an hour; allow employers who provide healthcare to pay below the minimum wage, require the Virginia Employment Commission to provide unemployment benefits to people fired for refusing to comply with vaccine mandates; and the creation of new rules governing the creation of public employee unions. To read more about this click here.

The Senate Commerce & Labor Committee also rejected a House Republican’s bill that would have repealed a 2020 law empowering localities to give their employees the freedom to collectively bargain. Additionally, the Committee killed HB 336, 337, and 341, which were all intended to chip away at the freedom of public service workers to join a union and bargain collectively for a contract.

​​Black History Month

I spoke on the House floor this week as part of our daily speeches for Black History Month. I pointed out that every time a Black American accomplishes something for the first time– like Erin Jackson, the first ever Black woman to win an Olympic Gold Medal in speedskating in Beijing– it is important to also ask: “what took so long?” Each time we celebrate such an occasion, we also come face to face with the uncomfortable question of “why?”

And it is not just the heralded, famous athletes or public figures accomplishing Black “firsts.” I had the honor to tell my colleagues about Melody Mobley, who is an Arlingtonian and has lived a remarkable life. In 1977, Melody became the first Black female forester in the history of the United States Forest Service. In 1979, she became the first Black woman to graduate in forestry management from the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. Melody worked for the U.S. Forest Service for 28 years and had a trailblazing career before retiring in 2005. To watch my speech, click here.

It was also my honor this week to introduce Reverend Dr. Tracie Daniels to the House of Delegates at the beginning of the floor session on Tuesday. Dr. Daniels led us in an inspiring Invocation that day. Dr. Daniels is the Senior Pastor of St. Mark Baptist Church in Maidens, Virginia. St. Mark Baptist Church is located in the 56th House district, which is represented by Delegate John McGuire. A native of Louisa, Virginia, Dr. Daniels was licensed into the Christian Ministry in September 2000 and ordained in September 2003. Dr. Daniels is an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, and serves in the Richmond Alumnae Chapter. She is the Chief Academic Officer of Petersburg City Public Schools.

Dr. Daniels has four children, three of which are triplets. One of those triplets, John Daniels, happens to be my Chief of Staff. I enjoyed meeting John’s mom and listening to her inspiring words. To listen to Dr. Daniels’ prayer and hear my speech click here.

The budget negotiations between the House and Senate will dominate the last two weeks of the session. Both Chambers passed their budgets on Thursday. Both Chambers worked from former Governor Northam’s introduced budget (which he introduced just before leaving office) and made changes. Frankly, I like the Senate changes better than the House.

For instance, the House budget cuts Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, known as RGGI. I spoke out against that cut on the House floor. See here.  

The final budget no doubt will include raises for teachers –the issue is how big a raise. The Senate budget is better. The final budget will no doubt include more money for pre-k, K-12, and higher education. But the House budget makes cuts where the Senate does not. The final budget will no doubt include tax relief for Virginians, but the House budget does not target that relief to those Virginians who need it most.

Thanks to sound fiscal leadership by Governor Northam, our Democratic Majority, and former Appropriations Chairman Torian throughout the pandemic, we find ourselves with a unique opportunity to make generational investments in core services, as well as the opportunity to offer targeted tax relief to the working Virginians who were most impacted by the pandemic.

I will be watching the budget negotiations carefully, and remain hopeful that we will produce a historic budget.​Page of the week: Michelle Liu

Finally, I want to highlight Michelle Lui, who is a wonderful Page from my district. Last week Michelle received the Page of the Week Award. Michelle was nominated by several of her peers for always being on top of everything, from her contribution to the weekly newsletter written by the Pages to always looking for ways to help out. We are grateful to have Michelle as one of our Pages representing the 48th district. I can tell that she certainly has a bright future ahead of her.