2018 Legislative Agenda

Education

HB 19 - 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.

HB 924 – Quality Rating Improvement System

Quality Rating Improvement Systems (QRIS) are an important way to assess and improve early learning programs in Virginia. Unfortunately, there are many programs that do not participate in Virginia Quality – Virginia’s current QRIS program. This legislation would require Virginia Preschool Initiative programs to participate in Virginia Quality to ensure that all Virginians have access to high quality early childhood education.

HB 937 – Standards of Learning Assessments Opt-Out

This legislation would allow students who have already met the requirements to graduate including the necessary verified credit through SOL testing to opt-out of taking additional SOL tests. Students who have no stake in receiving a passing grade are likely to underperform. However, low SOL scores can have a detrimental impact on schools and local school divisions. Rather than force students to take tests that they don’t need, we should find better ways to enrich their learning experience at the end of their high school careers.

Safe Drinking Water

HJ 94 - Department of Drinking Water Study

After the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, many public water programs across the country are reviewing their drinking water protections and infrastructure needs. The Virginia Department of Health’s Office of Drinking Water should conduct a comprehensive study of our drinking water infrastructure to identify ways that we can strengthen our regulations and rebuild our infrastructure. What happened in the city of Flint should never take place in Virginia.

Environment

HB 952 – 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 920 – Ban on Endangered Species Trafficking
Elephants, rhinos, and other endangered animals have been pushed to the brink of extinction by endangered species trafficking. To make matters worse, poaching has become an international crime racket. While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have issued clear bans on importation and domestic interstate trade, only states can regulate in-state sales. Virginia should join numerous other state in instituting a ban to protect endangered species and make it harder for criminal organizations to use poaching to finance their operations.

HB 921 – Cooperative Procurement
This legislation creates an exception to the current prohibition against cooperative procurement for constructions contracts. It would allow localities to use the same contract for small, energy efficiency related constructions projects without going through a new bidding process. This will make it easier and more cost efficient to make these important upgrades to local infrastructure.

HB1930 – Multifamily Net Metering
This legislation would allow multifamily buildings such as apartment complexes, condominiums, and homeowner associations to participate in a net energy meeting program, which incentivizes investments in solar and other forms of renewable energy. With so many multifamily homes throughout the 49th District, this bill would represent a tremendous opportunity for more renewable energy in our community.

HB936 – Neonicotinoid Ban on Public Lands and Residential Use
Pollinators are declining rapidly and pesticides with neonicotinoids are a part of the problem. They have been shown to weaken a pollinators’ immune system and other harmful effects that are contributing to their decline. This legislation would prohibit the use of neonicotinoids on public lands as well as for residential use. These pesticides should only be applied sparingly by trained professionals who can limit their harmful impact on our environment.  

HB 946 – Virginia Commission on Energy and the Environment
This bill will bring back the Virginia Commission on Energy and Environment. Under the Kaine administration, this commission reviewed the Virginia Energy Plan and made recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly for implementation. We need to bring back the Commission to review legislation that will strengthen environmental protections and encourage more renewable energy production. There is currently no public commission that reviews or works on this legislation outside of the regular legislative session. These are complicated issues and deserve more attention throughout the year so that we can start making real progress growing Virginia’s clean energy economy, addressing climate change, and protecting our environment for future generations.   

HB 1300 – Extend the Sunset on the Green Jobs Tax Credit
The Green Jobs Tax Credit offers a $500 tax credit for each new green job created in the Commonwealth of Virginia that pays at least $50,000. Just last year, this tax credit helped incentivize ninety-nine new green jobs in Virginia. Unfortunately, the tax credit sunsets this year even though we have a tremendous opportunity to create more green jobs in Virginia. This legislation would extend that sunset so we can continue to incentivize more good paying green jobs in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

HJ 93 – Stormwater Study for Mature Trees
Under the current stormwater regulations, preserving mature trees is not given credit as a way to reduce stormwater runoff. As a result, developers have an incentive to clear cut trees and install other forms of stormwater mitigation. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality should study this issue to review including preservation of mature trees as a form of stormwater management as well as determine how much credit should be given for a mature tree. With the strain that development is putting on our urban tree canopy, this will incentivize the preservation of more mature trees to improve our community and mitigate stormwater runoff.

Affordable Housing

HB 948 - 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 infrastructure and affordable housing should be a State concern on par with education, transportation, environmental protection, economic development, and the social safety net. 

Gun Violence Prevention 

HB 949 – 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 950 – 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

HB1300 – Small Business Definition Reform
Since I was first elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, I’ve been working to improve Virginia’s definition of small business in the Small, Women, and Minority-owned (SWAM) public procurement program. Under the current definition, all businesses are required to have fewer than 250 employees or less than $10 million dollars in annual revenue. This overly broad, one-size-fits-all standard makes it difficult for truly small, women, and minority-owned businesses to compete with large companies that still qualify under the definition. Instead, the Commonwealth should adopt the U.S. Small Business Administration’s small business size standards so that businesses in Virginia are classified as small based on their industry in a fairer and more transparent process.

Strengthening the Social Safety-net

HB 945 – TANF Ban Opt-Out
This bill allows Virginians who have previously been convicted of a drug-related felony to still obtain the TANF benefits they need to make ends meet and build a better life for themselves and their families.

Increasing Public Safety

HB 951 – Protect Children and Firefighters from dangerous chemical flame retardants

Flame retardants in upholstered furniture and children’s products are not needed, ineffective, and no longer 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.

HB 931 – Assaulting Transit Operators
Over the last five years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number and intensity of attacks on transit operators. This legislation would increase protection for these vital workers so they can keep our community and economy moving without worrying about becoming the victims of violence.

HB 942 – Address Confidentiality, real property records
Unlike some states, Virginia’s home address confidentiality program, which protects the address of victims of stalking or abuse who have relocated, does not extend to real property records. As a result, it can be difficult for victims to purchase a home without having a publicly accessible document with both their name and address on the same record. This legislation would extend this program to real property records to ensure these victims will be safe in their new homes.

HB 953 – Protection for Crime Victims
This legislation encourages bona fide victims and cooperating witnesses of crimes to come forward, report crimes, and assist in prosecutions without fearing that their immigration status will be questioned. It strikes the right balance between giving police the latitude they need to effectively investigate violations of state and local law, and giving immigrant victims and witnesses the limits and reassurances they need to feel safe about contacting the authorities. This will improve safety in all of our communities. 

Criminal Justice Reform

HB 941 - 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 with suspended licenses 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 947 - 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. 

HB 939 – Adoption by a person other than a spouse or parent
This legislation would allow a second parent to adopt a child without the first parent losing any parental rights.  Even with the freedom to marry, some children living in Virginia do not have legal access to both of their parents.  This legislation would ensure that the legal relationship between children and both of their parents is not dependent on the legal relationship between the parents.

HB 943 – Special License Plate: E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum – Out of Many, One – the motto of our nation. It symbolizes the strength that comes from unity and coming together for the common good. This license plate is for those in our community who embrace our diversity and wish to send the message that our Commonwealth is strongest when we work together.

HJ4 – Equal Rights Amendment
It’s long past time that Virginia ratify the equal rights amendment to the U.S. Constitution. After Nevada’s passage last year, we only need two more states to make it official. Virginia can and should be one of those states.

HJ 92 - Resolution affirming the Commonwealth’s commitment to diversity and safeguarding the civil rights and dignity of all Virginians

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. 

Making it easier to vote

HB944 – Preregistration
This legislation allows Virginians who are sixteen and seventeen years old to preregister to vote. This would enable them to be automatically registered when they become eighteen. Most Americans don’t pay attention to elections until they are just a few weeks away. Unfortunately, that is often too late for younger Virginians to register and vote in the election. Automatically registering them when they turn eighteen allows them to avoid that trap and ensures that they are able to exercise their right to vote. Preregistration increases democratic participation by making it easier for young people to vote. It also engages them in the voting process at a younger age and improves the likelihood that they will make voting a regular part of their life.