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:
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.
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.
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.