Happy Valentine’s Day, Friends!
This Valentine’s Day, I want to tell you about my love for Virginia’s public schools and my work to improve services so we can educate a 21st century workforce, my love for maintaining our safety net for Virginians who have fallen out of the middle class, and my love of protecting the quality of our water and natural resources. And I want to tell you Valentine’s Day isn’t the only holiday I’m celebrating today, because today is Crossover, the exciting day when all Senate bills go to the House. On Crossover Day, this is where my legislation stands.
Today, my foster care re-entry bill passed out of the Senate unanimously. This legislation will expand the options for young adults in the foster care program. Young adults between 18 and 21 will have 180 days rather than 60 days (the current time limit) to decide if they want to continue to receive independent living services.
My legislation to restore fairness to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program by rescinding the lifetime ban on ex-offenders convicted of drug possession also passed the Senate today with bipartisan support. Under current law, felons who are convicted of other crimes, including murder in the first degree, are eligible to receive TANF benefits, but possession of marijuana is a crime that will permanently bar needy families from getting help. If passed, families will be eligible to receive benefits provided the ex-offender complies with all obligations imposed by the court and the Department of Social Services, is actively engaged in or has completed substance abuse treatment and participates in quarterly drug screenings.
My domestic violence bill passed the Senate with bi-partisan support. This law would strengthen protections for survivors of domestic violence during the 72 hours when an emergency protective order is in effect. My bill prohibits abusers from physically possessing a firearm in the home of the victim during the duration of the emergency protective order. The Virginia Sheriffs Association, the Virginia Coalition of Chiefs of Police, and the Virginia Fraternal Order of Police support this measure.
My asbestos workers rights legislation to improve training for those who remove dangerous asbestos and to implement better reporting of health and safety violations, including more stringent penalties for employers who violate these standards, passed the Virginia Senate unanimously. Senator Adam Ebbin (D–Alexandria) co-patroned this legislation.
Also headed to the House is my Senate Bill 85, a bill that will expand education grants for students who begin their higher education at community college and transfer to four-year schools.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, but I am continuing to fight to improve the quality of life for all Virginians. Yesterday, my Health Benefit Exchange legislation took a back seat as the General Assembly postponed action to implement President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. A bill favored by the health insurance industry remains in play and will be used as a starting point when the legislature meets again in 2013. My legislation was preferred by consumer advocates and closely followed recommendations of the bipartisan Health Reform Initiative advisory panel, including strong requirements for transparency and accountability. Democrats and Republicans alike acknowledge the urgency of moving forward on reforming our health care system, but political posturing is holding us back.
Last week at a press conference in Richmond, I stood with members of the House and Senate Democratic Caucus to denounce the dozens of extreme, divisive Republican bills passed during the first month of session. Click here to watch the conference and hear my statement.
This Thursday, February 16, please join The Commonwealth Institute in honoring Senator Mary Margaret Whipple as she receives the Virginia Legacy Award. As you know, Senator Whipple has been a champion for quality education, a safe environment, affordable housing, and fiscally sound budget policies to sustain those investments. She broke new ground in Virginia politics by being the first woman to hold a leadership position in the Virginia General Assembly. For myself, as the new Senator from Virginia’s 31st district, Sen. Whipple’s legacy is both an inspiration and a call to action. More information is available at http://tinyurl.com/legacyaward.
I look forward to hearing from you! I invite you to follow me on Twitter @BarbaraFavola and on Facebook. You can contact my office directly at email@example.com or 804-698-7531 with any questions or comments you might have about this newsletter or any of the issues facing Virginia’s leadership this session. If you're in Richmond, come visit us in Room 322 of the General Assembly Building, located on Capitol Square.
Per special request, my mailing address in Richmond is:
Senate of Virginia
P.O. Box 396, Office 322
Richmond, VA 23218