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Legislative Update: One Week Left

 

We just finished our next to last week of session. It has been a pleasure serving the constituents of the 31st District and Virginians throughout the Commonwealth. Here is an update on the work I did during my penultimate week of the 2017 General Assembly Session.

 

Women's Health

On Tuesday, I spoke on the floor against HB2264, a bill that was designed to defund Planned Parenthood. However, the State contract with Planned Parenthood only covers screenings for sexually transmitted infections (STIs); the Republicans would rather see the spread of STIs than fund a Planned Parenthood clinic. If not screened for STIs, a woman can transmit things like Hepatitis B to her baby, and at some point 25% of babies infected with Hep B die from chronic liver disease. Rest assured, the Governor will veto this irresponsible bill.

Additionally, on Thursday, I appeared on the John Fredericks Show and beat up on Trump, along with a group of other Democratic lady lawmakers and political analysts. I warned John that the things President Trump stands for have only galvanized and mobilized a strong movement of resistance, particularly among women. I also, noted the importance of honoring the separation of powers among the three branches of government.



Children's Health

A bill I copatroned passed through the House this week and is on its way to the Governor’s desk. It requires each local school board, that employs a reading specialist, to have that specialist trained in the identification of students with dyslexia. The specialist must also squire additional training on how to give the students tools necessary to achieve academically. Reading and writing are so important for a child’s success, requiring school systems to provide resources to identify and help dyslexic children, especially early on, will prove to be a worthwhile investment.

 

My Child Protective Services bill to require the investigation of alleged child abuse or neglect on children age 2 or younger is making its way through the House. This early intervention could help reduce the number of infant fatalities in the Commonwealth and I expect it will make its way to the Governor’s desk as well.

 

Several of my budget amendments remain in the Senate budget. However, one that is close to my heart directs the Department of Social Services to participate in a federally funded program that enables extended family members to receive payments, if they can provide a permanent home for a relative who is in the foster care system. Research shows that foster children who are able to grow up with family have a much higher chance of flourishing; I hope this remains in the final budget.

 

 


Workforce Development

Another of my budget amendments is still in play. It enables welfare moms to continue to receive support services, including child care subsidies, for 24 months, rather than the current 12-month limit, if they are participating in a certificate or degree program. Since many training programs are two years, this will enable our most vulnerable mothers to obtain jobs with sufficient pay to support their families. The average wage of welfare moms in the Employment Program is $8.68--we need to ensure that these moms learn the necessary skills to land jobs that pay enough to support families.

 

My bill to grant scholarships to foster kids taking trade or certificate programs through the Community College System has also cleared the House. This is an important step in helping us reach our goal of 100,000 additional degrees or certificates by 2020.

 

Local Government

This week, my bill, that helps localities expedite transportation projects by removing a requirement related to utility easement approvals for projects on public land, cleared its Committees. Another bill of mine, that grants Local Governments more authority to negotiate leave benefit packages with constitutional officers, has made its way to the House floor.

 

I also sat down with the Virginia Association of Counties for an interview regarding some of the issues affecting localities. You can see that video here.

 

 


Sexual Assault

Two of my bills dealing with sexual assaults are still alive. SB 1501, which deals with the testing of the backlog of PERKs and notifying survivors passed its subcommittee. My bar bystander training bill has cleared its committee as well, and both bills will be heard on the floor of the House next week.



It’s hard to believe that there is only week left in session. So much has happened, and so much work remains. Next week, I will give you an update of all that has happened this session.

 

Thanks to everyone who has reached out to me with your support, concerns, and questions. Together we will move Virginia forward.

Legislative Update: Crossover Week

There are only two weeks left in session, but I am still hard at work in Richmond fighting for our values. This past week, I worked to defeat a bill that would have given the state authority to establish charter schools while leaving local school districts with the responsibility of funding these schools. Evidence shows that students in charter schools do not perform any better academically than the same cohort in public schools. Yet there continues to be pressure to undermine public schools and relax accountability measures for charter schools. The charter school bill passed on a 21-19 vote.


The Democratic Senators worked to stop a number of voter suppression bills, but they passed with the support of the Republican majority. A particularly disturbing bill passed that gives a state sanction to individuals who do not want to perform marriage ceremonies for LGBTQ couples. This protection already exists. The patrons of the bill would like to use the levers of the state in a divisive and hateful way. Unfortunately, the Governor will have  this and other offensive bills like anti-immigrant measures to veto.


Here is a more detailed update from this past week.


 

Budget

I will continue to fight for more education dollars for our schools. The Senate budget provides school districts with the State share of a 2% increase for teachers’ salaries. If districts gave teachers an increase last year, the school system can use the money for other expenses. The House takes a slightly different approach, but I expect the final version of the budget will make some dollars available for a teacher pay increase. Virginia teachers currently rank 35th in national rankings on pay and earn approximately $7,000 less, on average, than teachers making a salary equal to the national average. We must do better. Unfortunately, the acceleration of the VRS payment schedule was not reversed so that remains an unplanned expense for our school systems.

 

The Senate budget increases funding to higher education, reduces the ID/DD waiting list, slightly, and makes some inroads breaking the cycle of poverty. Three of my anti-poverty and workforce training measures are included in the budget. Because of the uncertainty in Washington, the Senate set aside $40 million in a reserve account.

 

Crossover:

Crossover was this week and 15 of my bills made it to the House in some form. You can find a full list here. Additionally, six of my bills have already been voted out of House Committees and are on their way to the House floor. These bills include:

 

Children's Safety: A proposal to require the investigation of alleged child abuse or neglect on children age 2 or younger. This early intervention could help reduce the number of infant fatalities in the Commonwealth. Last year children under two accounted for nearly half of all child fatalities.

 

Workforce Development: I am particularly proud of my bill to grant scholarships to foster kids taking trade or certificate programs through the Community College System. This effort will help us reach our goal of 100,000 additional degrees or certificates by 2020.

 

Community-Based Programs: A bill to create better reporting on incidents of serious injury from licensed community-based programs serving those with ID or DD. Since there are a number of individuals who are now being served in community group homes who were formerly served at the Northern Virginia Training Center, it is important that we monitor the quality of their care.

 

Sexual Assault: I worked with the Attorney General’s office on a bill to require that sexual assault survivors be informed if physical evidence submitted prior to July 2015 contains DNA evidence. My bill flew out of the Senate and I expect it will pass the House. Attorney General, Mark Herring noted that: “We are turning a page in how we are responding to sexual violence in Virginia, away from an older culture of violence or reluctance to bring some of these cases and instead to a broader understanding that survivors deserve compassion and respect and a response that is equal to the seriousness of these crimes.”

 

Aging Issues: Two of my bills help the Commonwealth deal with our fast growing aging population. One requires the Council on Aging to educate consumers on malnutrition and provide strategies for defeating this issue. Today, 13.9% of Virginia seniors are food insecure, a number that we have to work to reduce. The other proposal starts the conversation on the need to better train health professionals on providing geriatric care.

 

Housekeeping bills: VDOT gains authority to use a negotiated process among more traditional cost-based only approaches for determining the best deal in leasing air rights. Another bill grants Local Governments more authority to negotiate leave benefit packages with constitutional officers.

 

Commission on Youth

On Tuesday, I was happy to receive the 2017 Virginia Athletic Trainers Association Presidential Service Award on behalf of the Virginia Commission on Youth. The Commission was given the award for its work to strengthen concussion guidelines issued by the Department of Education. Requiring the Department to update its guidelines and expand them to include all students, instead of just student athletes was a good thing. As the Chair of the Commission, I was proud that the Commission received this.

 

Medicaid Expansion

Once again, I voted against language in the budget to require the General Assembly to approve expansion. There is a slim possibility that Medicaid expansion or similar such changes to the Medicaid program may be part of the Federal Affordable Care Act reforms. However, the tide seems to be moving towards a block grant for Medicaid type services. On a related matter, there seems to be a movement to limit the authority of the Governor’s office. It is very unwise to blur the lines of the executive and legislative branches of government.

 

Once again, I appreciate all of the calls and emails regarding legislation. Please know that your voices are being heard.  I will continue to work for my constituents in the 31st District and Virginians throughout the Commonwealth.

Legislative Update: Moving Forward

This week has been busy, and a number of my bills moved forward in the legislative process. As we anticipate crossover next week, I will continue to fight for common sense, solutions-oriented legislation that improves the quality of life for all Virginians.  Here is a brief update of my activities in Richmond:


Education

I continued to advocate for a budget amendment that ensures that the VRS payment schedule remains on the 2019 timeline. This will put local school systems in a better position to plan for the VRS payments while ensuring that dollars are available for teacher pay increases and small class sizes.

 

Also, my bill, that establishes a School Health Advisory Board to advise lawmakers on the appropriateness of administering medical interventions in our public schools, was referred to the Joint Committee on K-12 School Reform. I hope the Committee will see the value of this Board and recommend that the Board be established next year.


Child and Family Services

On Monday, the Senate passed my bill that requires local social services departments to respond to valid reports of alleged abuse or neglect of a child under the age of two within 24 hours of receiving a report. This early intervention could help reduce the number of infant fatalities in the Commonwealth.

 

My workforce-training bill has also passed the Senate. This bill enables welfare moms to continue to receive support services for 24 months, rather than the current 12-month limit, if they are participating in a certificate or degree program. Since many training programs are two years, this will enable our most vulnerable breadwinners to obtain jobs with sufficient pay to support their families.

 

Hate Crimes
 

People should not live in fear just because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. Unfortunately, though, the Republicans didn’t see it that way. My bill, that would have expanded the definition of hate crimes in Virginia to include those people, was struck down on a party-line vote in committee. But, rest assured, I will be back next year to continue to fight for equal protections for all Virginians.

 

Sexual Assaults

I am continuing to work to prevent sexual assault and improve services for survivors. Fortunately, I have scored a few more victories this session. As I mentioned last week, my bar bystander training bill made it through the Senate unopposed. This week, I passed a bill through the Courts of Justice Committee that would require law enforcement to inform survivors of sexual assault, who years ago submitted physical evidence for analysis, to receive notification if the analysis provides DNA information. DNA is critical to successful prosecution of these cases and there is no statute of limitations in some sexual assault statutes. It is also important to note that my bill enables the survivor of a sexual assault to refuse such information.

 

A Life Like Yours

Tuesday was Developmental Disability Advocacy Day;  I spoke on the Capitol grounds with Lt. Governor Ralph Northam to pledge my efforts to continue advocating for those with disabilities.


The next day, I was able to get a bill through the Courts of Justice Committee that grants more protections to blind parents.

 

Other Bills On Their Way to the House of Delegates

 

A few of my other bills have made it through the Senate and are on their way to the House, including one bill that requires the Department of Health to report critical incidents from licensed group homes to the Disability Law Center. This is an important step, given the number of individuals who were formerly housed at the Northern Virginia Training Center and are now being served in the community.

 

The Senate also passed my bill that helps localities expedite transportation projects by removing a requirement related to utility easement approvals. For a complete list of all my bills that are heading to the House, you can click here. There are also links to enable you to easily track them.

Legislative Update: Fighting for Our Values (Week of Jan. 23)

This has been another busy week of fighting for our values in Richmond. Here is a brief update.


Public Safety

Earlier this week, I spoke on the Senate floor against a piece of legislation that would allow any adult to give a minor a switchblade, dagger or any other knife as long as it was for “engaging in a sporting event or activity.” This is just bad public policy. I argued that this proposal would make it legal to give knives to toddlers.Why would you want to put our children at risk? Another negative effect of this bill could be the proliferation of these dangerous weapons among teenagers and gang members. Sadly, this bill passed the Senate on a party-line vote and will now go to the House.


Civil Disobedience

Also, on the floor this week was a bill that would have made civil disobedience a jailable offense by raising the penalty for unlawful assembly from a small fine to up to $2,500 and/or 12 months in jail. I was proud to stand with many of my fellow Democrats to speak out against this bill. Peaceful demonstrations are the core of our democracy. Through assemblies and marches, women gained the right to vote and African Americans reminded us of the principles embraced in our Constitution. Fortunately, the bill was handily defeated with bipartisan support.


Sexual Assault

On Wednesday, my Bar Bystander Bill flew through the Senate unopposed. This bill would encourage bartenders and others who serve or sell spirits in an ABC licensed establishment to undergo training to help prevent risky situations from culminating into sexual assaults. Evaluations of similar training programs have shown that these programs reduced reported sexual assaults in nearby college towns by 11 percent. That is the sort of thing that we can all get behind.


Death Penalty

On Monday, the Court of Justice committee defeated my bill which would have prevented those who have severe mental illness from being eligible for the death penalty. Those who don’t possess a full understanding of their crimes should not be subjected to the highest penalty. This bill did not dictate the parameters of determining guilt or innocence, it merely removed the death penalty as a possible punishment.


Health

A bill I co-patroned to make THC-A oil or CBD oil legal for treating certain medical conditions passed the Senate floor on Thursday afternoon. The bill expands the lists of conditions that may be treated with cannabis oil from epilepsy to things like HIV, cancer, complex regional pain syndrome and other conditions. This gives physicians another tool to help their patients and an important alternative to opioids for pain management. My bill could help combat the addiction epidemic that the Commonwealth is currently facing.


Aging

Yesterday, my bill, which directs the Council on Aging to advise the Department of Aging on a nutritional strategy to reduce food insecurity among seniors, was voted through the Senate unanimously. Currently, we have 1.4 million seniors in VA and 14% are food insecure. Having proper nutrition reduces the number of hospital stays people have as well as reducing the amount of time spent in the hospital. Another one of my bills, that directs the Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority to develop a curriculum in the field of geriatric healthcare, also passed. Since the aging population is growing exponentially in Virginia, it is important that we make sure that our seniors are receiving proper care.


Next week, I look forward to continuing my work here in Richmond, fighting for the issues important to constituents in the 31st District and Virginians throughout the Commonwealth.

Senate Committee Fails to Pass Favola's Police De-escalation Bill

Richmond, VA - On a tie vote, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee failed to pass a bill that would have made the training in de-escalation techniques a permanent part of the curriculum for the Department of Criminal Justice Services’ basic training of law-enforcement officers. The bill was patroned by Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington), and failed on a 7-7 vote.



Sen. Favola: “De-escalation tactics enhance officer safety and the safety of those coming into contact with police in situations that are very volatile. Police officers, like everyone else, harbor biases and perceptions about certain individuals, but these biases, even if they are held unconsciously, should not instigate aggressive behavior. Preventing the use of excessive force while enabling officers to create a more safe environment for both themselves and the communities they serve is a very worthwhile goal. I am disappointed that my colleagues didn’t recognize this.”

2017 Legislative Agenda

The 2017 General Assembly Session is about to begin and I am eager to continue advocating for the issues I am passionate about.  My legislative agenda focuses on protecting State funding for K-12 education, strengthening families, supporting vulnerable children and providing workforce-training opportunities. 

 

I will also introduce common-sense gun safety legislation and require that additional de-escalation techniques be incorporated into police training programs.  Public safety has always been a top priority for me. 

 

The 2017 General Assembly Session begins on January 11, 2017.  Specifics on key legislation are noted below.  If you scroll down, you will find information on upcoming town hall meetings.

 

Strengthening Families

 

Paid Family Leave:  Legislation directs the Commissioner of Labor and Industry to develop a framework with recommendations for implementing paid family leave.  The recommendations shall address which size employers shall be covered and under what conditions a payroll tax could fully fund an employee benefit package, that includes six weeks of paid leave at 80 percent of an employee’s salary.  Stakeholder groups would participate in developing this framework.

 

Kinship Assistance Program:  The Department of Social Services would be directed to participate in a federally funded program that enables extended family members to receive cash payments if they can provide a permanent home for a relative who would otherwise be in the foster care system.

 

Protecting our Youngest Children:  Child protective service workers would be required to investigate reports of neglect & abuse on children one year of age or younger.  This is intended to provide services to families who need assistance developing good parenting skills.

 

Health Family Visits:  Enable the Medicaid program to expand its “Healthy Families” program.  These community-based home visits are cost effective ways of ensuring children receive preventive care and families create safe environments for their children. 

 

Workforce Training:  Enable welfare moms to continue to receive support services for 24 months if they are participating in a certificate or degree program. The current limit on receiving services is 18 months. 

 

Public Safety

 

De-escalation Training Requirement Included in Law-enforcement Officer Training:  De-escalation tactics can enhance officer safety as long as officers are properly trained in what they need to do. A good de-escalation training program includes ways to improve communication skills, how to assess a subject's situation, how to know when you need backup, and proven safety techniques.  This training should help prevent the use of excessive force while enabling officers to create a more safe environment.

 

Reporting Lost or Stolen Firearms:  Requiring a person who lawfully possesses a firearm to report the loss or theft of the firearm helps deter gun trafficking and discourage straw purchasing.  Such reporting would also facilitate the return of lost or stolen guns to their lawful owners.  Additionally, this requirement helps law enforcement disarm individuals who may be ineligible to posses firearms.

 

Firearm Registration:  Registration of firearms could speed the identification of firearms used in crimes. Registration would also aid police in identifying the types of firearms to which an individual may have access.  This bill directs the Virginia State Crime Commission to study the feasibility and costs of establishing a firearms registration program for firearms purchased in the Commonwealth, including what categories of firearms should be registered along with the potential efficacy of firearm registration in reducing firearm-related deaths and injuries.

 

Women’s Health

 

Strike the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider Laws in Virginia: The bill strikes a Virginia law in an effort to conform to a recent U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.  The SCOTUS ruled that abortion restrictions, known as TRAP laws in Virginia, that require clinics to have facilities comparable to an ambulatory surgical center can have a devastating impact on women and force clinics to close.  Thereby, making abortion access not just difficult, but impossible. The June 2016 decision determined that the Texas law was so restrictive that the undue burden on women seeking an abortion violated the Constitution.  Based on this decision, Virginia’s restrictive laws should be removed from the books.
 

Preventing Sexual Assaults

 

"Bar Bystander" Training:  Addresses the need for sexual violence prevention education in the community by requiring the Alcohol Beverage Commission to include "Bar Bystander" training in the curriculum for licensure.  The intent of this training is to make bartenders aware of potentially risky situations and to give them tools to prevent opportunities that may result in sexual assault.

 

There are several town hall meetings coming up.  I hope you will attend one and share your thoughts and ideas regarding the upcoming legislative session.  The meetings are open to all and I welcome your input.

 

Thursday, January 5th, Arlington County Legislative Hearing

6:30 pm, Arlington County Board Room – 3rd Floor
Courthouse Plaza
2100 Clarendon Blvd, Arlington, VA

 

Saturday, January 7th, Fairfax Delegation Public Hearing

9:00 am, Fairfax County Government Center – Board Auditorium
12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA

Fairfax County residents or individuals speaking on behalf of a Fairfax County organization may sign up by noon Friday, January 6 for a 3 minute speaking slot at the link here.

 

Saturday, January 14th, McLean & North Arlington Delegation

1:30pm, McLean Community Center
1234 Ingleside Avenue, McLean, VA

 

You can also contact my office at 703-835-4845 or 804-698-7531 during session.  My district email account is also a good way to contact me at district31@senate.virginia.gov.  Many of you also come to Richmond to advocate for your special cause and I hope you will stop by my General Assembly office, Room 316. 

Protesters at HQ: NRA Turns 'What Should be a Fist-Fight Into a Murder'

BY NICHOLAS BALLASY JUNE 22, 2016

PJ Media

 

FAIRFAX, Va. – A Code Pink-led group of activists gathered out front of the National Rifle Association headquarters to call for an assault weapons ban in the aftermath of the mass shooting at an Orlando LGBT club...


State Delegate Barbara Favola (D-Va.) joined the group and thanked them for advocating in favor of stronger gun control laws.


“The Republicans who are defeating the reasonable amendments that were put forward are acting in a shameless way. I think they’re turning this into an election issue,” she said. “They’re trying to say, ‘well, if you accept any reasonable measure you are anti-Second Amendment,’ which is absolutely false and it’s very discouraging.”

 

Read more here.

 

 


Virginia Lawmakers Call on FERC to Study Cumulative Enviro Impacts of Planned NatGas Pipes

Jeremiah Shelor June 22, 2016

NaturalGasIntel

 

A handful of Virginia’s Democratic legislators have added their names to the list of those calling for FERC to cumulatively review the various natural gas pipeline projects planned to cross parts of Virginia and West Virginia.


The letters, using nearly identical language, were signed by Virginia Sens. Adam Ebbin and Barbara Favola, along with Dels. Kaye Kory, Alfonso Lopez, Marcus Simon, Sam Rasoul and Rip Sullivan. The letters were submitted to FERC’s dockets for ACP and MVP by the Sierra Club’s Virginia Chapter.

 

Echoing familiar environmental arguments against new pipeline infrastructure, the legislators cited climate change, impacts to protected species and habitats, impacts to air quality, the encouragement of new unconventional drilling, water quality impacts and “changes in the rural character” of the region as among the reasons to prepare a programmatic EIS.

 

Read more here.


Governor McAuliffe Announces 348 New Jobs In Arlington County

AlexandriaNews.org

June 17, 2016


Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today that Grant Thornton LLP, a leading U.S. professional-services firm, will invest $15.75 million to consolidate offices and grow its presence across the Northern Virginia region. Virginia successfully competed against Washington, D.C. for the project, which will retain 994 jobs and create 348 new jobs.


"Grant Thornton has made a wise choice selecting Arlington County as the place to expand its Atlantic coast operations,”said Senator Barbara Favola. “Arlington County and the entire Northern Virginia region offer a highly educated and technologically savvy workforce, coupled with first-class school systems and research institutions. Clearly, Virginia's investments in human capital are yielding positive results every day. We welcome Grant Thornton to the region."

 

Read more here.

Advisory Firm Agrees to Invest $15.7 Million, Add 348 Jobs in Arlington

by Tim Regan — June 16, 2016 at 3:40 pm

 

A large advisory firm will invest millions of dollars and create hundreds of new jobs by moving to a new home in Rosslyn.

 

The county and the state competed against the District of Columbia for Grant Thornton’s new office. More from the press release...

 

“Grant Thornton has made a wise choice selecting Arlington County as the place to expand its Atlantic coast operations,” said Senator Barbara Favola. “Arlington County and the entire Northern Virginia region offer a highly educated and technologically savvy workforce, coupled with first-class school systems and research institutions. Clearly, Virginia’s investments in human capital are yielding positive results every day. We welcome Grant Thornton to the region.”

 

Read more here