Session Update: January 20, 2023

Another week in the books.

This week was as busy as the first.

On Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the House Democratic Caucus held a press conference unveiling our gun violence prevention agenda. It consists of a series of 17 bills, which provide solutions designed to keep Virginia families safe from gun violence.  You can find all 17 bills here. 

My bill, HB1579, would bar anyone convicted of a DUI twice within a 5-year period from being allowed to purchase or transport firearms. The ban would be removed after five years have passed with no further convictions for DUI. The links between alcohol and gun violence—particularly domestic violence—are clear, and the research demonstrates that alcohol misuse is a predictor of gun violence.

I also spoke that morning at a rally against gun violence. Our politics these days seems to be all about which side can use the word “parents” more often. I spoke to the many parents in the crowd, who are worried about their kids, and heartbroken by their kids having to endure active shooter drills and the painful reality that these kids know all too well that their school could be next. We are the party that cares about parents and their kids. Parents want their children safe from harm, and House Democrats will continue to work to address gun violence on behalf of those parents.

I had already had the chance to meet with my friends with Moms Demand Action. Their advocacy continues to be remarkable. It is hard to believe that this terrifically effective organization will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of its founding this year. I thank Moms Demand Action for being a true leader and partner in the effort to curb gun violence.

I also have a bill—HB1585—which would make it a misdemeanor for someone to wear heavy body armor (think military-grade, SWAT team body armor) in public. This is a law enforcement protection bill. The first member of law enforcement I told about this bill responded: “why would anyone other than law enforcement need to wear tactical body armor?” Good question. Anyone in body armor puts law enforcement at risk. Remember the recent Buffalo Tops mass shooting: a retired police officer confronted the shooter and shot him using his service pistol, but was unable to stop him because the shooter was wearing military-style body armor. The police officer and nine other people were killed. The bill has not yet been set for a hearing.

I have had 4 bills pass various subcommittees so far. HB1581 is a bill I am carrying on behalf of the Supreme Court of Virginia. It streamlines the process of overseeing and approving parent education seminar providers for divorcing parents.

HB1590 is a bill I am carrying on behalf of Arlington County. The bill addresses a concern that, believe it or not, is increasingly common all over the Commonwealth: 911 operators regularly face harassment by call and text, diverting them from their important task of protecting the public. This bill gives law enforcement the tools to stop it.

Another bill, which came from Arlington’s Commonwealth Attorney, HB1583, modernizes the code as it relates to peeping or spying into a person’s home. And finally, I am carrying HB1587 on behalf of Fairfax County. It allows Fairfax to hire contractors to remove unlawful signs from roadway medians.

There are many important bills and issues still in the pipeline, perhaps most importantly the work I am doing fending off efforts to repeal our progress made over the last several years. I am happy to report that the Senate stymied all five of the bills in that Chamber which sought to repeal our Clean Cars law. And there is an important issue I am deeply involved in relating to protecting ratepayers. My Affordable Energy Act, HB1604 is working its way through the process, and a controversial bill brought by Dominion Energy—relating to how the SCC sets its rates—is taking much of my focus and time as we negotiate that issue. Stay tuned.

I was disappointed this afternoon that the Criminal Law subcommittee voted down HB1584, my bill to update Virginia’s requirements for preserving biological evidence. Virginia does not adhere to the national standards that the vast majority of states do, and destroys biological evidence (including DNA evidence) after 15 years. As readers of this space will remember, I have carried several bills–too many bills–during my career for Virginians who were wrongfully convicted but ultimately exonerated, some after being imprisoned for over 30 years. To destroy potentially exonerating evidence before a person has been released from prison creates the risk–some might say certainty–that we will deny innocent people the opportunity to prove their innocence. I’ll try again next session.

My favorite part of any session is meeting with constituents and various organizations advocating on important issues before the General Assembly. I was pleased to meet with representatives from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, and the Virginia Credit Union League on Thursday. I also met with the Northern Virginia Family Services, the Pediatrics Association, the Fairfax Firefighters Association, the Virginia Medical Society, and the Virginia Interfaith Center this week.

Two weeks to crossover! Come see us if you can.