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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.