Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This is the last week before the crucial crossover deadline when all legislation has to be passed by its chamber of origin or the bill is automatically killed for the year. I'm proud to report that my bills to protect tenants from retaliatory eviction, ban powdered alcohol, reform the definition of small business, and expand the nonresidential cap for net-metering (renewable energy) in Virginia are all moving forward.
In addition, my legislation to protect veterans from source of payment housing discrimination has been referred to the Virginia Housing Commission for further study. Also, my legislation addressing Cyber Stalking was referred to the Crime Commission. I am hopeful that we will be able to reach a consensus this summer on these bills that will produce positive legislation next Session.
Unfortunately, my measures to enact sensible, commonsense gun laws such as prohibiting children under the age of four from using a firearm and limiting high capacity gun magazines were killed in subcommittee. Also, the full Commerce and Labor Committee defeated my measure to Ban Child Labor on Tobacco Farms in Virginia.
As we near crossover, I urge you reach out to me if you have questions or concerns about any piece of legislation. You can reach me at my Richmond office by phone at (804) 698-1049 or by email at DelALopez@house.virginia.gov. I look forward to hearing from you.
Alfonso H. Lopez
Member, 49th District
Virginia House of Delegates
Solar Net-Metering Bill Approved by House Subcommittee
I am proud to report that my bill to double the non-residential project cap for solar net-metering customers from 500 kilowatts to one megawatt was combined with identical legislation from Delegate McClellan (HB1950) and passed by the House Commerce and Labor Energy Subcommittee.
HB 1912, which originally raised the cap from 500 kilowatts to two megawatts, was amended to reflect a compromise among various stakeholders.
By embracing this simple, common-sense change to the existing law, Virginia can reduce its overall carbon footprint while also closing the investment gap for clean energy.
While this is an important step forward, the Commonwealth needs to be doing more to make smart, sensible investments in clean energy to grow a new Virginia economy and protect our environment for future generations.
Ending Veteran Homelessness
On any given night, there are over 600 veterans in the Commonwealth experiencing homelessness. From June 2014 to the end of 2015, it is estimated that more than 2,000 veterans in Virginia will face homelessness. Of the 2,000, approximately 1,500 will need a form of financial assistance to return to housing.
My bill, HB 1910, seeks to make it easier for homeless veterans to get the housing they so desperately need and deserve. Virginia is already increasing the number of rental vouchers made available to homeless veterans and their families. This bill makes it unlawful for a housing provider to refuse to rent to any veteran, including veterans paying rent, with a voucher or another form of financial assistance.
While HB 1910 did not pass out of subcommittee, it was referred to the Housing Commission where I will work on it over the summer with the relevant stakeholders. I am confident that we will be able to reach an agreement so that we can address this important issue next year.
Banning Child Labor on Virginia Tobacco Farms
Offering testimony in support of the bill were representatives from the Human Rights Watch, Child Labor Coalition, and Association of Farmwork Opportunity Program.
Sparked by a report released by the Humans Rights Watch last summer, HB 1906 sought to protect children from the dangers of working in tobacco fields.
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.
Human Rights Watch has done some extraordinary work to shine a light on the plight of these children. Unfortunately, the House of Delegates refused to take action and protect these kids. I will continue to raise awareness on this issue and bring the legislation back in 2016.
House Subcommittee Kills Sensible Gun Violence Prevention Bills
Late last week a House Subcommittee of Militia, Police, and Public Safety defeated two of my commonsense gun violence prevention proposals.
HB 1904 sought to make it a class one misdemeanor if a parent knowingly gave their child, under the age of four, a firearm. Another measure, HB 1909, would have prohibited the sale and possession of high capacity gun magazines in Virginia.
A 2011 study analyzing data kept by the Virginia State Police found a clear decline in the percentage of crime guns that were equipped with large capacity ammunition magazines after the federal ban was enacted. The percentage reached a low of 10% in 2004 and then steadily climbed after Congress allowed the ban to expire; by 2010, the percentage was close to 22%.
The measure also had broad public support. A CNN poll conducted in December 2012, found that 62% of the public support a ban on high capacity ammunition magazines. These findings were bolstered by a Quinnipiac University Poll in January of 2013, which showed that 59% of Virginians support banning high capacity ammunition magazines.
Unfortunately, these sensible provisions, which share broad public support, were again tabled for another year.