2017 Legislative Agenda

Education

HB 1857 - DREAM Act

As a result of the recent presidential election, over 1,000 students currently enrolled in Virginia colleges and universities are under threat of losing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and with it, their hopes of being able to afford tuition at Virginia’s state colleges and universities. These are students who meet all of the other requirements for in-state tuition, but could be denied this opportunity because of their immigration status. These children know no other home but Virginia. We have invested in their education from kindergarten through twelfth grade. This legislation will allow us to fulfill our investment so that these students can stay in the Commonwealth and help build a new Virginia economy.

Safe Drinking Water

Lowering lead action levels (Bill number not yet assigned)

The water crisis in Flint should be a wake-up call for the entire country. Our drinking water infrastructure is crumbling and we need to strengthen our safe drinking water regulations so that our children are protected from lead in their drinking water. The first step is to lower the lead action levels from 15 ppb to 5 ppb so that we can ensure action is being taken if lead is found in our drinking water. This will make our water system more resilient and give us quicker clues if there is possible contamination. Virginia cannot sit back and wait for a situation like Flint to happen in the Commonwealth.

HJ 639 - Department of Drinking Water Study

In addition to lowering the lead action level in Virginia, we need the Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Drinking water to do a comprehensive study of our drinking water infrastructure to identify ways that we can strengthen our regulations and rebuild our infrastructure so that what happened in Flint never takes place in Virginia.

Budget Amendment – Additional funding for the Water Supply Assistance Grant program

The Water Supply Assistance Grant program uses state dollars to help localities with the cost of replacing lead service lines in Virginia. If we want to keep lead out of our drinking water, we need to invest in our drinking water infrastructure so that replace lead pipes throughout Virginia. With just $4 million dollars per year, we could replace around 1,000 lead service lines per year in the Commonwealth.

Environment

HB 1870 - Require DEQ to notify local TV and radio stations of a spill in Virginia waters

Virginia’s current notification requirements only require the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to notify a local newspaper if a hazardous spill has been reported in Virginia waters. In order to bring our notification requirements from the 1850’s just to the 1950’s and ensure a timelier notification for residents, we need to ensure that local TV and radio stations are notified.

HB 1859 – Hazardous Waste Site Inventory

Virginia currently does not have a one-stop list of all the sites in the Commonwealth that pose a hazard to human health or the environment from toxic substances. The public has a right to know if one of these sites is in their community and poses a hazard to public health. This bill simply consolidates existing lists of hazardous waste sites maintained by the state and federal government, and puts that information in a format that the public can easily access. It also provides a mechanism for DEQ to add new sites as it becomes aware of them.

HB 1860 – Storage Tank Safety Program

Virginia does not currently regulate above ground storage tanks that contain dangerous substances other than oil. This legislation would create a regulatory framework for construction standards, registration requirements, certification, inspection, notification and other requirements for tank owners. In 2014, chemical storage tanks in West Virginia leaked chemicals into the Elk River contaminating water for 300,000 people and requiring the Governor to declare a state at of emergency. We need a program to ensure that our storage tanks in Virginia are being properly maintained so we don’t have the same crisis in Virginia.

HJ 640 - Public Lands Day

Our public lands in Virginia are a critical natural resource that should be celebrated, preserved, and protected. This resolution recognizes the importance of public lands to the residents of the Commonwealth and the significant contribution they make to our economy. We cannot take this resource for granted if we want to ensure future generations of Virginians are able to enjoy them.

Affordable Housing

HB 1867 - Dedicated source of funding for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund

This legislation implements the recommendations of the Virginia Housing Commission that the General Assembly dedicate 20% of the recordation tax collection each year over $325 million to the Housing Trust Fund. While this legislation faces an uphill battle in our difficult budget climate, we must create a dedicated source of revenue for our Housing Trust Fund if we want to make a substantive investment in affordable housing throughout Virginia. I believe that housing and affordable housing should be a State concern on par with education, transportation, environmental protection, economic development, and the social safety net. 

HB 1869 – Clarify Virginia’s law regarding responsibility for pest mitigation for landlords and tenants

Under current Virginia law, there is a conflict in the statute defining landlord and tenant responsibilities for pest mitigation. Depending on how these provisions are interpreted by a judge, it could be the landlord or the tenant who is ultimately responsible for the costs associated with pest mitigation. This legislation makes it clear that a tenant is responsible if they delay in notifying a landlord of an infestation or are at fault for the infestation. Otherwise, the landlord is responsible. This clarification benefits both sides and helps avoid bringing conflicts to the courts.  

Gun Violence Prevention 

HB 1865 – Close background check loopholes

When a background check is requested by a licensed dealer in Virginia, the State Police have until the next business day to complete the check or the gun can be legally sold. This bill closes that loophole and gives State Police five business days to conduct the background check so that we can ensure an individual who would otherwise fail the check does not walk away with a gun.

HB 1864 – Access to Firearms by Children

This legislation makes it a class one misdemeanor to give a child who is four years old or younger a firearm. Nationwide, hundreds of injuries and child mortalities result from a child discovering an unlocked and loaded firearm and pointing it at himself or herself, at a friend, a parent, or at a sibling. Handing an infant or child a loaded gun goes beyond child endangerment, neglect, or improper handling of a firearm. A 3‐4-year-old child is only just becoming capable of correctly naming colors, remembering parts of a story, counting, understanding time, and sorting objects by shape. They are not yet capable of handling the responsibilities of firearm safety. In Virginia, it is illegal to hand a gun to a person with the mental capabilities of a four-year-old. This bill would make it illegal to hand a gun to an actual four-year-old. 

Supporting Small Businesses and Growing our Economy

HB 1858 – Streamlining SWaM certification for federally certified businesses

This legislation allows federally certified small, women, and minority-owned business to be automatically certified in the Commonwealth of Virginia for the purposes of SWaM certification. Obtaining federal certification requires an extensive process so we can rest assured that federally certified businesses are truly small. In addition, the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity has a major backlog of companies applying for certification. This will help streamline the process, cut red tape, and speed certification for companies that are already certified as small, women, or minority-owned.

HJ 638 – Study of unitary combined reporting for corporate income taxes in Virginia

This resolution requires the Department of Taxation to study the implementation of unitary combined reporting of corporate income taxes in Virginia. Today, many large, multi-state corporations can shift income earned in Virginia to subsidiaries in other states where tax rates are lower or businesses aren’t taxed at all. To counter this practice, 24 states have passed laws that require companies to add up all of the income from all entities and apportion it to the states where the money was made. By enacting combined reporting, Virginia could gain more than $100 million a year and also end a tax advantage that local businesses don’t share.

Strengthening the Social Safety-net

HB 1863 – Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) reporting requirement

This legislation requires the Department of Social Services to maintain data on the number of TANF beneficiaries that are granted a hardship exemption on the state imposed two-year time limit. Working with a constituent group this summer, I requested this information so that we could evaluate the current requirements of the hardship exemption. If we do not know how many people are receiving this hardship exemption, we won’t know how effective it is at allowing those in need to continue receiving TANF benefits.

Increasing Public Safety

HB 1866 – Allow all lawfully present Virginians to obtain a driver’s license

This legislation allows Virginians who are authorized to be in the United States to obtain a driver’s license. Unfortunately, due to the current wording in Virginia code, immigrants with certain authorized statuses are allowed to live and work in Virginia, but not obtain a driver’s licenses. Not only is this the right thing to do, it will also increase the safety of our roads because these Virginians will undergo the training and testing required to obtain a license. 

HB 1861 – Protect Children and Firefighters from dangerous chemical flame retardants

Flame-retardants in upholstered furniture and children’s products are not needed, ineffective, and no long required by state regulators. Despite not being required in Virginia, manufacturers nationwide have added them to upholstered furniture and a variety of baby products to comply with a 1975 California flammability standard. In 2013, California changed its requirements, but this legislation would ensure that products sold in Virginia are free of the worst of these chemicals to protect the health of both firefighters and children. Flame-retardants added to polyurethane foam products have been shown to be ineffective in fire protection. They generate excessive smoke and toxic chemical byproducts that expose firefighters to a toxic soup, including cancer-causing chemicals.

Criminal Justice Reform

HB 1862 - Protecting financially vulnerable Virginians who are unable to pay court fines and fees from losing their driver’s license

This bill requires courts, prior to suspending a driver’s license for non-payment of court fines and costs, to hold a hearing to inquire into the reasons for the non-payment. Unless the court finds that the defendant is intentionally refusing to obey the sentence of the court or has not made a good faith effort to obtain the funds, the court shall not suspend the defendant’s driver’s license. In Virginia, there are 647,517 individuals suspended only for non-payment of court fines and costs. Many Virginia residents rely upon their driver’s licenses to get to work and complete other necessary daily tasks.  When a person’s driver’s license is suspended, they may face a difficult dilemma – obey the suspension and potentially lose their ability to provide for their families, or drive anyway and face further punishment, and even imprisonment, for driving while suspended.

Protecting Vulnerable Virginians

HB 1868 - Ban Child Labor on Tobacco Farms

Between May and October 2013, Human Rights Watch interviewed 141 children, some as young as seven, who worked on US tobacco farms in 2012 or 2013. The children worked in four states — North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia — where nearly 90 percent of tobacco grown in the US is cultivated. Young children should not be working in direct contact with tobacco. They are especially vulnerable to nicotine poisoning due to their size and stage of development. Indeed, a recent report from the Surgeon General suggests that nicotine exposure during adolescence may have lasting negative consequences for children. In order to protect kids from the hazards of tobacco farming, this legislation prohibits the employment of a child under the age of 18 to work with tobacco plants or dried tobacco leaves unless he or she is employed by a parent or guardian that owns their own farm/business. 

Resolution affirming the Commonwealth’s commitment to diversity and safeguarding the civil rights and dignity of all Virginians (Resolution number not yet assigned)

Throughout last year, there was a sense of uncertainty and fear among many communities across our Commonwealth and across the nation. This resolution is to affirm our commitment as a Commonwealth to the values of diversity and inclusiveness that respects the dignity and worth of all Virginians regardless of race, color, gender, religion, ancestry, national origin, immigration status, marital status, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or familial status. Furthermore, as elected leaders, we need to make sure that the General Assembly denounces all acts of hate speech, hate crimes, harassment, racial bias, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-immigrant activity, and harmful bias and discrimination in all forms. Our commonwealth and our nation are founded on the principles that everyone is created equal and that we should be able to live our lives free of persecution. We need to stand together and embrace these values because they are at the core of what it means to be an American and a Virginian.