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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.