The week before crossover is always frenetic. And this one certainly was.
The week started with a hearing on my HB1582, a bill to compensate Mr. David Kingrea for his wrongful conviction and incarceration for a crime he did not commit. Like the stories of numerous (too numerous) individuals for whom I have done this before, Mr. Kingrea’s story is tragic. Wrongfully convicted of child sexual abuse, Mr. Kingrea served a year in prison, and then had to spend 8 years on the Sex Offender Registry. That, of course, dramatically affected his ability to find work, or even visit his son in school.
Years later, after he had been released from prison, Mr. Kingrea’s accuser admitted that his accusation of sexual abuse had been fabricated. The Virginia Court of Appeals granted Mr. Kingrea a writ of actual innocence, and under our law Mr. Kingrea became entitled to compensation for his wrongful incarceration—though, unfortunately, not for the years he wrongfully spent on the Registry. Kingrea — who had maintained his innocence throughout his trial and incarceration — has a young son with a serious health condition. The relief awarded to Mr. Kingrea will provide critical support for Mr. Kingrea and his son. I am pleased to report that HB1582 passed the House of Delegates. To see my presentation on the bill, please click on the picture below.
I had hoped my HB1862 would also get out of committee. But no such luck. The bill is based on the Uniform Faithless Electors Act and would ensure that no Virginia Presidential Elector could switch his or her vote in the Electoral College. Electors take an oath to vote for the Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates who won Virginia’s vote. The bill would require that if the Elector violates his/her oath, and tries to switch their vote, that person would be automatically removed as an Elector and replaced by someone who would vote the way Virginians had voted. Needless to say, in a close election, an Elector who violates an oath—a “faithless elector”—could affect the outcome.
This is already the law in 30 states. But the Republican majority chose not to protect our democracy, and to allow Electors to switch their vote. It voted down HB1862. To see the entire presentation and vote on HB1862, please click the picture below.
Later that day, I spoke on the floor to convey my disappointment. To see my floor speech, please click the picture below.
Thursday was Energy Day, the day in every session when a flurry of energy-related bills all come before the Commerce and Energy Committee. This Energy Day was actually somewhat historic, as a major bill sought by Dominion Energy (HB1770) was dramatically watered down in the face of fierce opposition from the environmental community, the business community, and eventually the Governor. I led the strategy for the House Democrats. It is exceptionally rare for Dominion to not get what it wants from the General Assembly.
The drama is far from over, however. The Senate version of the bill contains the original language Dominion wants. Negotiations and high stakes votes no doubt still await us as the process continues and the bill moves into a conference committee between the two chambers. Stay tuned. The Richmond Times Dispatch and the Virginia Mercury both did good articles covering the developments. Click here and here.
Equally historic is my bill HB1604, which I carried with Delegate Lee Ware (R-Powhatan). Known as the Affordable Energy Act, it restores the authority of the SCC to review Dominion’s electricity rates and lower those rates when the SCC determines that customers will be overcharged. It passed. Unanimously. And it is headed for the House floor.
Rate reform has been a long time coming, and we are finally making significant progress. The Senate version, co-patroned by my partner in passing the Clean Economy Act, Senator Jennifer McLellan, and Senator Creigh Deeds, has already passed the Senate. The vote in the House Committee was remarkable, and I am grateful to the broad coalition of consumer advocates, environmental groups, businesses and business groups, who supported me and Delegate Ware in this effort.
My bill HB1588, which would create the Electric Vehicle Rural Infrastructure Program (the “EVRI Program”) to incentivize private developers to install EV charging stations in rural Virginia, unfortunately died late Friday. The Biden administration’s success in getting federal money for charging infrastructure is focused on interstate corridors, but will not–at least in the short term–do much for rural EV charging infrastructure. We need charging infrastructure everywhere in Virginia to accelerate our transition to EVs, and the EVRI Program would accomplish that.
While the bill had passed out of the full Agriculture committee and an Appropriations Subcommittee, the full Appropriations committee voted it down. Senator Marsden’s Senate version is still alive, so all is not lost. We may still be able to get this important idea through. The bill has garnered support from advocates across the political spectrum, including Conservatives for Clean Energy, the Virginia Automatic Dealers Associations, and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation.
I was pleased to meet this week with some remarkable students from VCU, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and members of the Virginia Parent Teacher Association.
And finally, the week ended on a high note as the House was led in prayer by Pastor James Gibson of the First Baptist Church of Chesterbrook, a historic Black Baptist church in Mclean. Organized in 1866, First Baptist Chesterbrook has been a pillar in the Mclean community for nearly 160 years. I was honored to invite Pastor Gibson to give the daily invocation for the House of Delegates. To see his invocation please click on the first picture below.
Crossover is Tuesday, and the lightning-quick pace will continue as we work to complete
all of our legislation by the end of session on February 25.
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 email@example.com.