VIRGINIA PRIMARY IS TUESDAY: DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!
On March 1st, Virginians will have the opportunity to choose their Democrat and Republican nominees for the next president of the United States. I am excited to support Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as I believe she is the most qualified and able candidate from either party. This Saturday is the last day for in-person absentee voting, which takes place at your local registrar's office: here are links for Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun. You can find your polling location here. See you at the polls!
BILLS ON THE GOVERNOR’S DESK
Three of my bills have passed both chambers of the General Assembly and now await Governor McAuliffe’s signature. SB 136 requires the State Corporation Commission to hold a hearing in an area affected by a new electrical line if the local governing body requests such a hearing. This makes it easier for communities to stay updated on the construction projects that affect them. SB 361, another local government bill and a tree conservation effort, will allow localities to post signs on private property due to be redeveloped with a single family home. Finally, SB 328 will add observation and reporting techniques to the curriculum for nurse aide education programs. I am proud that these measures received strong bipartisan support.
CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
Overall, the budget produced in the Senate is a “win” for children and families in the Commonwealth. The budget includes a 2% raise for teachers, as well as $120.6 million for additional classroom support that does not require matching local funds, among other enhancements for public K-12 education. I support the increased state funding because localities need additional resources to put great teachers and the latest technology in every classroom. The Senate budget also includes $5 million to enhance children’s mental health crisis response services.
TANF RECIPIENTS RECEIVE WORKFORCE TRAINING
I’m very proud that my budget amendment to expand workforce training for TANF recipients made it into the budget. The Senate allocated $4 million to five community colleges that will allow low income parents to further their economic opportunities, enabling them to provide additional financial support and stability for their children.
My bill protecting juveniles by restricting solitary confinement in correctional facilities died in the House Criminal Law Subcommittee on the same day that the Washington Post published a strong endorsement of my bill and the effort to reform juvenile isolation laws in Virginia. However, both the Senate and House budgets would close one youth detention facility and use the savings to reinvest in community based programs. These proposals are versions of a more comprehensive proposal introduced by Governor McAuliffe. I support efforts to promote community and family based rehabilitation over more punitive methods and will continue my efforts to reform the juvenile justice system.
As I said in my floor speech, I am disappointed to tell you that, yet again, Virginia failed its 400,000 uninsured residents who desperately need access to affordable health care. Governor McAuliffe’s budget included $3 billion from the federal government that would create $157 million in budget savings based on Medicaid Expansion that both the House and Senate Finance Committees removed in their proposed budgets. Without Medicaid Expansion, hospitals close, Virginia families are less healthy, and our economy suffers. Although I am pleased to support new investments that strengthen public schools and improvements in mental health services for children, this budget is marred by its failure to close the coverage gap.
Next week, I will speak on the Senate floor in celebration of Women’s History Month, which is March. When you go into the voting booth on Tuesday, remember the women who fought for the right to vote. Their success is a testament to the power of conviction, passion and courage.