Tuesday was crossover.
In the span of 36 hours the House of Delegates passed more than 200 bills. Some were unanimous and uncontentious, showing that we still can find common ground and govern our state on a bipartisan basis. On the other hand, there was a slew of bills that were hotly contested, triggering extended debate on the floor.
Two such bills were HB1387 and HB2432, legislation rooted in the culture war the Republicans remain bound and determined to inflict on Virginians. HB1387 would ban transgender students from playing sports consistent with their gender identity. HB2432 would forcibly out students to their parents, even if that could put the student in emotional or physical danger. Frankly, both are awful policy and could do real harm to children. Both bills passed the House, but I expect both will be voted down swiftly in the Senate.
My friend Delegate Dawn Adams gave a powerful speech on the House floor in opposition to HB2432. Her remarks eloquently sum up my sentiments and those of the entire House Democratic Caucus. To see her speech please click here.
Crossover week is also when we begin the process of passing Virginia’s budget. Budgets are all about priorities. The House Republicans have made it clear that their singular priority is providing tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy, while leaving most Virginians behind. Instead of making critical investments in education, mental health and gun violence prevention, the Governor and his Republican allies in the House would give big corporations and wealthy Virginians$1 billion in tax cuts. But under the Governor’s and House Republicans’ plan, the majority of Virginia households will get less than $50 in tax relief.
There is a clear philosophical difference on tax policy. The next two weeks of negotiations over the budget will put that difference on full display.
Virginia Democrats believe that our tax code should be fair, and progressive. Hard work should be rewarded, and everyone should pay their fair share. Republicans—particularly those running for President—want to be able to say that they cut taxes for big business (note Virginia businesses are not even asking for a tax cut) and wealthy Virginians. My Democratic colleagues and I will continue to fight for the values of hardworking Virginians.
On Thursday, House Democrats offered eight budget amendments to provide solutions to important issues facing Virginians. The amendments would have prioritized education, healthcare, public safety, and protecting a women’s right to choose.
We tried to re-prioritize the budget by removing $700 million in tax cuts and instead invest that money in our chronically-underfunded K through 12 public education system. No luck.
The budget remains a work in progress. Senate Democrats have produced a much better budget that actually reflects Virginians’ values. The Virginia Mercury and Richmond Times Dispatch both had good articles that summarized that state of the session at crossover. Click here and here.
Three of my bills have already passed their respective committees in the Senate. HB1581 is my bill that streamlines the process of overseeing and approving parent education seminar providers for divorcing parents. HB1590 gives law enforcement the tools to stop 911 operators from regularly facing harassment via call and text. And HB1587 allows Fairfax to hire contractors to remove unlawful signs from roadway medians. Each bill passed unanimously and they are all headed to the Senate floor.
Thursday we were thrilled to be joined by members of the Norfolk State University Spartan “Legion” Marching Band, who received what is called a “Center Aisle” presentation of a House of Delegates Resolution lauding their many musical accomplishments. The “Legion” band is universally recognized as one of the premier Marching Bands in the country. The band is a true Virginia treasure. Please click the picture below to see these remarkable college kids perform at this year’s Rose Parade.
I was pleased this week to meet with members of Clinicians for Climate Action, who are great advocates for all of my efforts to make Virginia a leader in climate action.
I also had the opportunity to meet with the Jewish Community Relations Council to discuss the importance of addressing the rising incidence of anti-Semitism in Virginia. And I met with the Virginia Maritime Association, discussing the enormous impact our maritime industry and Virginia’s port has on our economy.
This week I also got a chance to see several former colleagues and friends. Two in particular stand out. Former Delegate and Minority Leader David Toscano served in the General Assembly with distinction and was an outstanding leader of the Democratic Caucus. It was great to see him.
Kate Smiley, my former Chief of Staff, is now at McGuireWoods Consulting LLC, which celebrated is 25th anniversary on Thursday. Kate has been an outstanding addition to McGuireWoods’ Richmond lobbying team.
It seems all of my former staff have gone on to do great things—and work at McGuireWoods! My first Chief of Staff Matt Weinstein, who is an attorney at McGuireWoods LLP, has been appointed to the State Board of Elections. It is a crucial position to continue Virginia’s long history of safe and secure elections, and I am pleased that the Governor had the good sense to appoint Matt.
Come down and say hello if you can, and if my office or I can be of any help to you, please be in touch at 804-698-1048 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.