Over 1,000 students (including many in the 49th District) 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. This bill will grant access to in-state tuition at Virginia colleges and universities to undocumented students. It would also cover Virginia residents seeking asylum in the United States and their children. 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. I have been working on this legislation since my first year in the House of Delegates and will keep fighting until it is the law of the Commonwealth!
Tens of thousands of tons of municipal solid waste are dumped into Virginia's landfills each year, which then leech almost a million tons of methane—a greenhouse gas—into the Earth's atmosphere. This bill would seek to address that problem by charging a fee for each ton of out-of-state waste dumped into Virginia landfills, the proceeds of which would then be deposited into a special account dedicated to addressing the effects of climate change in Virginia.
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.
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. 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
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. In compliance with expert guidance from the FBI, my 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.
Supporting Small Businesses & Growing Our Economy
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, a business in Virginia is considered "small" if it has fewer than 250 employees or less than $10 million 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. My legislation moves Virginia closer to a more realistic—and more fair—SWaM procurement process.
Strengthening the Social Safety Net
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
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.
Criminal Justice Reform
After working on this issue for a couple years, I am proud to be carrying the Governor's bill to end the suspension of driver's licenses due to the inability of someone to pay a court fine or fee. 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. As Governor Northam said, we should not be putting families in this situation and we should be punishing folks for being poor.
Protecting Vulnerable Virginians
This legislation would repeal several sections of the Virginia Code that mandate the reporting of undocumented immigrants to federal authorities by various law enforcement officials and county clerks. It would also prohibit the police from reporting the immigration status of any crime victims or witnesses. This is necessary in order to encourage 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 improve overall public safety across the Commonwealth.
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.
In Virginia, there is currently no provision that mandates immediate notification to people whose passport numbers or military ID numbers are stolen in a security breach. This bill would fix that hole in the Virginia Code.
This bill would repeal sections of the Virginia Code mandating that institutions of higher education report the immigration status of their students in certain cases.
[Bill # TBD]: Creating a Civil Rights Division within the Office of the Attorney General
I have been working with the Attorney General and his office to create a Civil Rights Division with the authority to investigate civil rights abuses across the Commonwealth. The bill language has not yet been finalized—but will be available soon!
Making It Easier to Vote
This bill would provide for the automatic voter registration of Virginia citizens through the Department of Motor Vehicles—along with an opt-out for those who choose not to register. This bill will encourage more participation in our elections and ensure the protection of voting rights for all Virginians!