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2024 Session Recap



Dear Friends,


It is an honor to serve you as your representative to the Virginia House of Delegates! After the completion of the redistricting process and the election last year, I’m proud to now represent Virginia’s 3rd House of Delegates District, which includes South Arlington and portions of the City of Alexandria. 

Every spring, shortly after the conclusion of the regular legislative session, I prepare a summary of new laws and actions taken by the Virginia General Assembly. This year’s regular legislative session took place from January 10th to March 9th, with an additional reconvened legislative session on April 17th to consider gubernatorial recommendations and vetoes. The General Assembly also returned for a Special Session on May 13th to vote on the two-year budget.


I serve as the Chair of the full House Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee. This committee deals with two of the Commonwealth’s three largest industries, agriculture and forestry. It also handles all issues related to environmental protection and policy, including conservation, safe drinking water, hazardous waste mitigation, clean air, and protection of our waterways. I am also a member of the Labor & Commerce Committee and serve as the Chair of the Labor & Workforce Subcommittee. In addition, I serve on the Public Safety Committee as well as the Communications, Technology, and Innovation Committee. 


The following is a summary of some of the issues addressed during the 2024 Regular Session. For an updated list of every legislative item considered and action taken by the General Assembly this year, visit www.LIS.Virginia.Gov and select Bills and Resolutions from the menu on the homepage. Please note that an asterisk (*) indicates an issue area where I introduced a bill or an issue that I worked on extensively

Thank you for taking the time to read through this letter. If you have any questions, concerns, or issues before our state government, please don’t hesitate to contact my office at (571) 336-2147 or by e-mail at DelALopez@house.virginia.gov. You may also always visit my website for more information at AlfonsoLopez.org. I look forward to hearing from you! 


PREDATORY TOWING & TRANSPORTATION/TRANSIT

* Predatory Towing. There is one issue that unites the residents of Northern Virginia across party lines more than any other: the intense level of frustration with predatory towing. This can all be attributed to over a decade of systematic efforts to undermine the towing section of the Virginia Code just as it relates to tows in Northern Virginia. Indeed, under the Virginia Code, victims of what would be described as predatory towing in any other part of Virginia, or the nation, could not sue the towing company. Only the Attorney General of Virginia could sue for damages. Also, the Attorney General was only able to seek civil penalties of up to $150 per violation, which is often less than the cost of the tow ($180). Moreover, the victim of an unlawful tow could not collect the recovered penalty, which went to the Literary Fund of Virginia. This created a disincentive to sue and (essentially) gave impunity to towers in Northern Virginia. To be clear, Northern Virginia was explicitly prevented from having towing ordinances that are NORMAL practice elsewhere in the Commonwealth and around the county.


I’m very happy to report that, after several years of work, my legislation (HB 959) finally fixes what has become an ostensibly legalized predatory towing system in Northern Virginia. Moreover, it ensures that all localities in the Commonwealth have the tools they need to address predatory towing practices. It is a local option bill that brings back equity and a more even playing field. 


HB 959 finally allows Northern Virginia localities to regulate the practice of “spotting” and other monitoring practices that enable predatory “smash & grab” practices. The bill also allows localities to require towing operators to secure a real-time authorization from the owner of the business or their representative to tow a specific vehicle, during normal business hours. Lastly, the bill also increases the fine to ten times the amount charged for unlawful tows and finally allows the victim of the incident to receive any money that is recovered. 


In addition, Delegate McClure’s bill HB 1287 ensures that localities in Northern Virginia have the right to require all towing operators to get a permit to engage in trespass towing (towing cars from private property). Because of a loophole, localities in Northern Virginia were only allowed to require towing operators to get permits if they tow within their jurisdiction but store the vehicles in another locality. Both of our bills will help make the towing system fairer and more efficient for everyone! 


METRO/WMATA Funding. As a part of the House and Senate passed budget, we provided $149.5 million over the next two years to improve our regional transit/transportation system and ease the burden on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and the METRO. As opposed to fully funding Virginia’s fair share of METRO, Governor Youngkin proposed that the Commonwealth only provide $35.7 million to METRO and require the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (which I’ve just been appointed to as a commissioner) pay an additional $98 million on top of the $340 million it already pays. This would aggressively drain NVTC’s trust fund and delay important transit projects across the region. I am proud to report that thanks to hard work and tough negotiations, we ensured that the Metrorail system, which is so vital to the region and Commonwealth’s economy, is properly funded. 


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & WORKER PROTECTION

* Increasing the Minimum Wage. The House and Senate versions of this bill, Delegate Ward’s HB 1 and Senator Lucas’ SB 1 would have built on the progress we made on the minimum wage in 2020. The bills would have brought Virginia in line with other states and increased the minimum wage to $13.50 an hour in 2025 and $15.00 per hour in 2026. I was proud to have shepherded both bills through the Labor & Workforce Subcommittee that I chair. Although they passed the General Assembly, unfortunately, the Governor vetoed both bills.


Paid Family and Medical Leave. After working on this legislation for several years, I was proud to help ensure it passed through my Labor & Workforce Committee and the House. Under this bill introduced by Senator Jennifer Boysko, Virginia would have established and administered a paid family and medical leave insurance program with benefits beginning January 1, 2027. Like programs across the U.S., Individuals would have been paid 80 percent of their average weekly wage for eight weeks each year if: they needed to take time to address their own serious health issue, care for an ailing family member, or care for a recently born or adopted child. Unfortunately, this bill was also vetoed by the Governor. (SB 373)


Small Business Procurement. As the former Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration under President Obama, this is an issue that is close to my heart. Legislation this year would have created a program to increase the amount of government contracting that goes to small as well as woman and minority-owned businesses. Instead, the Governor amended the bill to add a reenactment clause that delayed the entire effort and required another study of this issue. Per the wishes of the patron, these changes were accepted. (HB 1404) 


* Rural Broadband. I was proud to be the Chief Co-Patron of major legislation to address barriers to the completion of “last mile” rural broadband in Virginia. The legislation will enable Virginia to fully access unprecedented funding opportunities at the federal level to complete the rural broadband network. This will have significant positive implications for education and economic development in every corner of the Commonwealth. (HB 800/SB 713) 


* Expanding the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. My bill (HB 960), which has been signed by the Governor, increased the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit from $5 million to $7.5 million. This is an effort that I have been working on for years and I am glad we finally made it happen! This credit is used to rehabilitate/modernize historic buildings and has been used to effectively revitalize downtown areas and create/preserve affordable housing. A study found that the money spent in the first 20 years of the program created $4.5 billion in economic activity at a rate of $3.75 for every $1 in credits given out. This expansion will enable the program to grow and generate even more benefits for Virginia. 


HOUSING AND GENERAL LAWS 

* Protection for Renters in Condemned Buildings. My bill (HB 957) finally codified remedies for renters whose unit is condemned due to no fault of their own. In the past, unscrupulous landlords have let their units fall into such a state of disrepair that it gets condemned. The renter is then evicted and under the Code had no clear remedy against the landlord. Without a very good lawyer, which most tenants in this situation cannot afford, it is nearly impossible to get damages or other compensation. Under the bill, which was signed into law, the landlord shall be liable to the tenant for actual damages and must return any security deposit, any prepaid rent, and any rent paid by the tenant after the condemnation. 


* Junk Fees in Rental Agreements. The Governor has signed my legislation (HB 967) requiring that landlords include on the first page of any lease all mandatory fees that will be charged. Also, landlords may not charge any fees not included in the list unless they have the renter agree to an addendum, which authorizes the additional fee.  (HB 967/SB 405) 


* Leases in Other Languages. Far too often, immigrants and New Americans who do not speak English fluently fail to understand the nature of the rental leases they sign. My bill (HB 955) would have required landlords to provide a summary page, upon request, that listed the key components of an individual's lease, in any language that the local government in their area provides official documents. Unfortunately, the Governor amended the bill to the point that the intent was lost and I rejected his amendments. In the end, the Governor vetoed this bill.  I plan to continue bringing this bill back until it becomes the law of the Commonwealth. 


*Virginia Affordable Housing Trust Fund. My legislation created the Trust Fund in 2013 and I have fought to increase funding for its programs every year since then. The final budget increases funding for the Trust Fund by $25 million – up to $175 million over the course of the biennium. While this is significant progress, it is still not enough.  For every project that we fund currently in Northern Virginia, there are SEVEN that we don’t fund. In Southwest and Southside Virginia, that ratio is THREE TO ONE. That is why I introduced a budget amendment to increase the funding to $200 Million per year ($400 million over the biennium) which is the amount we need to address our affordable housing challenges, according to experts. 


College Athletes Compensation. After a great deal of debate, the General Assembly approved, and the Governor signed, legislation enabling Virginia student-athletes engaged in intercollegiate athletics to be compensated for the use of their name, image, or likeness. (HB 1505)


Tax Exemptions for “Confederate Organizations”. The General Assembly passed legislation finally eliminating the tax exemption (recordation, real, and personal property) status of organizations that honor the Confederate States of America. The Governor's amendments to delay enactment and study the issue were rejected and he vetoed the bills. (HB 568/SB517) 


Ensuring the Voting Rolls Are Correct. As we enter the Presidential Election cycle, it is increasingly important that we ensure that the voting process is efficient and secure. In recent years, the Governor withdrew Virginia from the “gold standard” for voting protection amongst the states – the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). The General Assembly passed legislation requiring the Commissioner of Elections to apply for, enter into, and maintain membership for the Commonwealth in, ERIC. As we enter this election cycle, it is very unfortunate that the Governor vetoed this legislation. (HB 1177/SB 606)   


Creating a Retail Marijuana Market. After making the possession of certain amounts of marijuana legal in Virginia, we have still not created a legal retail market for marijuana. Individuals may possess marijuana, but they may not legally buy it. Along those lines, the General Assembly passed legislation creating a retail market framework for marijuana in the Commonwealth, to be administered by the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority. Although a great deal of time and effort went into addressing this issue, the Governor vetoed the legislation. (HB 698/SB 448)  

EDUCATION 

* Increasing Access to AP and IB Credits. Poverty should never be a barrier to a child’s success in school. This year, I brought back my effort to assist high-performing, but economically disadvantaged students (as defined by those who are eligible for free and reduced lunch) in affording the cost of International Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced Placement (AP), and Cambridge Assessment Program tests. If a student takes one of these classes and then takes the exam, they can get both college credit and extra credit in high school. Advanced curriculums such as these make students more competitive college applicants and can increase overall college readiness. According to the College Board, it is estimated that the AP credits students earned in 2020 alone had the potential to also save Virginia families in excess of $130 million in college costs. Unfortunately, to earn the credits and fully benefit from the classes, students must take final exams, which, for example, can cost $53 per test for AP and $119 per test for IB (even after discounts for financial need). Indeed, a student taking a full slate of IB/AP/Cambridge courses may need to pay more than $700 for all the exams in one year. For a family of four living on $25,000 a year, that cost can be prohibitive. Unfortunately, the data shows that nearly half of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch enrolled in these courses do not take the exams. However, that may start to change as the final budget includes my amendment which creates and funds a program to cover all but $20 of the costs of a test for the IB, AP, and Cambridge programs for students on free and reduced lunch. 


* Incorporating Student Input on School Boards. Working closely with student advocacy groups, I brought back my bill (HB 958) to require the Commission on Civic Education to create model guidance on student participation in the work of local school boards, including best practices for adding a student representative to local school boards. This has been successfully done in several communities for decades and is valuable for the students and the community. Although it passed, the Governor vetoed the bill. I will continue to work with these outstanding students to increase youth participation and voices in the policy process. 

Ensuring Teacher Salaries Meet the National Average. We passed legislation requiring the Governor's introduced budget bills over the next four years to fund the Commonwealth's share of Standards of Quality-funded school positions, so we can increase the average teacher salary in Virginia to at least the national average by 2028. The Governor’s substitute amendments were rejected and he vetoed the legislation. (HB 187/SB 104)


Funding our Schools. The final version of the budget provides an additional $1.2 billion more for public schools compared to the Governor’s introduced budget, which cut Virginia’s direct aid to public schools from our General Fund by almost $300 million. That means nearly $25 million more for schools in Arlington and Alexandria. Our budget also includes money for 3% raises per year for teachers over the next two years. During the budget negotiations, the Governor did improve his position over his original budget plan. However, he still attempted to shortchange our schools, especially when it comes to support for English Language Learning (ELL) students. Northern Virginia localities would have lost millions of dollars to help ELL students if the Governor’s amendments had been accepted. Fortunately, the House and Senate budget negotiators were able to ensure our funding increases were in the final budget and the Governor’s wrongheaded amendments on this topic were not.


School Construction. By a bipartisan vote of legislators, we passed legislation authorizing all counties and cities to impose an additional local sales and use tax (at a rate not to exceed one percent) for revenue to be used for the construction/renovation of schools – if such levy was approved in a local voter referendum. Under current law, only Charlotte, Gloucester, Halifax, Henry, Mecklenburg, Northampton, Patrick, and Pittsylvania Counties and the City of Danville are authorized to impose such a tax. This would address the critical needs of school systems in Virginia to replace/renovate aging school infrastructure. Despite the wide support for this measure in school systems across Virginia and in the General Assembly, Governor Youngkin vetoed the bill


ENVIRONMENT, ENERGY, AND AGRICULTURE 

Getting Virginia back into RGGI. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has been incredibly successful in combating climate change and providing an indispensable source of funding for flood resiliency and energy efficiency programs in Virginia. Despite this, over the last two years, we’ve had to play defense against Governor Youngkin’s efforts to get Virginia out of RGGI. That is why we included language in the General Assembly’s budget to ensure our participation and roll back the Governor’s efforts. However, when it became clear that the Governor was willing to recklessly shut down our government to prevent Virginia from being in RGGI, it was removed from the budget. Given that the Governor would have likely ignored the budget language just like he ignored state law on the issue, it was decided that it was not worth risking the well-being of Virginia’s economy, our state employees, and those who depend on state programs with a shutdown. But, the fight will continue in court! 


PFAS – Forever Chemicals. The General Assembly has finally passed – and the Governor has signed – legislation that will start the process of monitoring and regulating the release of PFAS “forever chemicals” in the environment. (HB 1185/SB 243). 


* Chesapeake Bay Remediation – Wastewater. The final budget included $400 million in our version of the budget to improve wastewater treatment plants and help us reach our Chesapeake Bay clean-up goals. Without these funds, Virginia would not be able to meet them. 


* Coastal Flooding and Resiliency. The combined work of local elected leaders, leading environmentalists, the Army Corps of Engineers, and representatives of the Governor’s Administration developed a series of recommendations to begin addressing the crisis of flooding along the Virginia coasts, which will become law (HB 1458). The General Assembly also included $100 million for the Community Flood Preparedness Program, but the Governor zeroed much of that funding out in his version of the budget. In the end, we were able to ensure that the $100 million remained in the final budget. 


* Regulating Above Ground Chemical Storage Tanks. A decade ago, an above-ground storage tank filled with a hazardous chemical leaked in the Elk River in West Virginia and caused the counties around the state capitol to be without drinking water for a week. Shortly thereafter, we did a study of Virginia’s laws about these tanks and found that we needed improved regulations. I’ve fought for years to update our laws to prevent a disaster like the one at Elk River from happening in Virginia. This year, I was able to bring together the manufacturing community, agribusiness, and the environmental community in support of my bill (HB 949) which would have increased penalties for tank owners who fail to properly maintain them, increased training for tank inspectors, and would have implemented federal guidance/regulations. Despite the consensus on this issue, the Governor vetoed this commonsense bill


Getting Rid of the Minimum Wage Ban for Farm Workers. The General Assembly passed this long overdue legislation that finally eliminates the exemptions from Virginia's minimum wage requirements for (i) persons employed as farm laborers or farm employees and (ii) certain temporary foreign

workers. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed the bill. (HB 157) 


* Local Environmental Impact Funds. Working with localities, I submitted legislation (HB 953) allowing each local government to create a permanent Local Environmental Impact Fund using private and local monies to provide grants for the purchase of energy-efficient lawn care and landscaping equipment (including electric leaf blowers), home appliances, HVAC equipment, and micro-mobility devices. This would have enabled localities to take significant steps forward in limiting their carbon footprint as well as providing services to residents and businesses. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed the bill


* The Forest Sustainability Fund. The Governor has signed my legislation (HB 944) enabling the fund to compensate all localities that apply for grants to offset the tax revenue they forgo by limiting commercial use of their forest land. This incentivizes localities to preserve their forests. 


* Soil and Water Conservation Districts. I was able to secure $3 million dollars per year in the budget to help our Soil and Water Conservation Districts administer their programs. In the Governor’s amendments to the General Assembly’s budget, he reduced the support to $2 million per year. Thankfully, the $3 million was included in the final budget. 


Small Modular Nuclear Reactors. I strongly opposed this initiative before and during the session. The technology is unproven, and no project has worked in the U.S. yet. It is also incredibly expensive and not a good option for renewable energy funding when compared to wind, solar, and hydrokinetic energy. It also has serious potential impacts on ratepayers in Virginia. The bill permitted electrical power companies in Virginia to begin developing SMR projects and, even if they never created a working reactor, allowed them to recover any costs they incurred during project development from ratepayers. After many hours of negotiations, the Governor amended the bill to permit utilities to make requests for reimbursement annually with certain restrictions, including annual revenue limits and a requirement that overall project development costs recovered from ratepayers do not exceed $125 million. (HB 1491) 


* Large Animal Veterinarian Shortage. In my position as the Chair of the House Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee, I’ve been working to assist our farmers, especially small and family-owned ones. One issue that farms of all sizes have been dealing with is the shortage of large animal veterinarians. Vets that tend to cows, horses, and other farm animals are in short supply, due to the challenging nature of the work and the expertise required. This leads to delays and high costs for farmers. It also limits our ability to catch animal illness outbreaks early, which means higher food costs, fewer options, and the risks that whole food sectors may be knocked out by outbreaks. My legislation (HJ 43) provides for a comprehensive study of the issue and the creation of a set of legislative recommendations to solve them. 


* Blocking Efforts to Roll Back the Uniform Statewide Building Code. Despite the fact the Board of Housing and Community Development recently completed its triennial review of the building code and did not suggest that it was needed, the Governor began pushing for a blanket 25% reduction in regulations in the building code. Though this effort could undermine construction and safety provisions, the chief concern was that he would take out all the energy efficiency sections of the Building Code. My legislation (HB 950), which passed the General Assembly with bipartisan support, was drafted to ensure that such discussions remain where they belong, in the next triennial review. The Governor attempted to amend the bill to preserve his ability to continue his effort, but his amendments were rejected unanimously and he vetoed the bill. 


* Green Infrastructure Bank. The federal government has set aside hundreds of billions under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act for States with Green Infrastructure Banks to secure significant funding for renewable energy projects that assist with climate change. Senator Surovell and I put in bills, HB 968 and SB 729, to create the Virginia Clean Energy Innovation Bank. This entity could access federal funds (approximately $300 million this year), receive donations, receive state funding, and leverage private capital to finance clean energy projects, greenhouse gas emissions reduction projects, and other qualified projects. After extensive negotiations, we were able to get the bill passed. The Governor sought to amend the bill to give his administration more control over the bank, as opposed to the original structure that was more balanced between the Governor and the General Assembly. We rejected his amendments and the Governor shortsightedly vetoed the bill.


PUBLIC SAFETY & CRIMINAL JUSTICE

* Keeping Vape, Tobacco, and Hemp Shops Away from Schools and Daycares. Surveys have shown that 10-14% of high school students admit to using electronic cigarettes. Similar studies found that 5% of middle school students admit to vaping. For context, just 6% of people over 18 years old vape, and 11.5% smoke. The World Health Organization recently called for a ban on vape and tobacco shops near schools to address the epidemic of vape and tobacco use among children. I’m very happy to report that my bill (HB 947), which has been signed into law, makes it clear that localities, by ordinance, may prevent these shops from doing business within 1,000 linear feet of a child daycare center or a public, private, or parochial school. 


Preventing Vape Shop Sales to Minors. Additionally, the General Assembly passed legislation regulating the sale of vapes and other liquid nicotine or nicotine vapor products. The bills prevent direct-to-customer online sales, set up punishments for selling to minors, as well as banning sales in vending machines. It also levies a tax on vape products. (HB 790/SB 582) 


* Immigrant Defendants. Far too often in Virginia immigrant defendants are unaware of the immigration and naturalization consequences of their criminal proceedings. Even a misdemeanor may have immigration detention and deportation implications if the maximum penalty is more than one year in prison. With that in mind, I passed legislation (HB 972) requiring courts at the initial hearing for any misdemeanor or felony to advise the defendant that the criminal proceedings may have federal immigration and naturalization consequences. The bill also provided that no court or party shall inquire as to the immigration status of the defendant during any proceedings unless otherwise admissible. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed this effort to ensure that immigrants are aware of the unintended consequences if they are convicted or plead to a lesser charge that still has immigration penalties. 


Child Access to Firearms. We passed legislation making it a felony for a parent to negligently or willfully allow a child to access a firearm who has been determined to be a risk to themselves or others or shouldn’t have access to a firearm due to convictions or legal proceedings. (HB 36/SB 44) 


* Firearm Safety Device Tax Credit. Building on my legislation, the “Virginia Gun Safe Storage Act”, which was enacted last year, the General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed, a bill updating the “Firearm Safety Device Tax Credit” to include trigger locks and biometrics. (HB 35) 


Assault Firearm and High-Capacity Magazine Ban. The General Assembly finally passed legislation banning assault weapons and high-capacity gun magazines in Virginia. I was strongly supportive of this legislation and other similar sensible gun violence prevention bills this year. The bill creates penalties and prohibits a person who has been convicted of such a violation from purchasing or possessing any firearm for three years. The Governor vetoed this bill. (HB 2) 


Semi-Automatic Firearm Converter Devices. Fortunately, we were able to ban the selling or possession of devices designed to convert a semi-automatic firearm to shoot automatically. (HB 22/SB 210)


Keeping Guns Out of the Hands of Domestic Abusers. Under current law, people subject to protection orders or convicted of domestic abuse are required to get rid of or transfer to someone else, any firearms they possess. Unfortunately, the rules related to whom the gun could be sold or transferred were not clear enough. We passed a bill that would have simply required that sales or transfers in these cases were only made to people who can legally own the firearm, are at least 21 years old, and don't reside with the person who is giving them the firearm (and is prohibited from owning it). Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed this sensible gun violence prevention bill. (HB 46)


Requiring Safe Storage of Firearms Where Children Are Present. The General Assembly passed legislation requiring any person who possesses a firearm and lives with a minor or a person who is prohibited by law from possessing a firearm to store such firearm and its ammunition in a locked container, compartment, or cabinet that is inaccessible to the minor or prohibited person. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed this legislation. (HB 183/SB 368)


Plastic firearms. We passed legislation creating a Class 5 felony for any person who knowingly manufactures or assembles, imports, purchases, sells, transfers, or possesses any firearm that can be altered so that it is undetectable when subjected to inspection by the types of detection devices, including X-ray machines, commonly used at airports, government buildings, schools, correctional facilities, and other locations for security screening. The Governor’s amendments to the bills were ruled as not germane and he vetoed the bills. (HB 173/SB100) 


Additional Gun Safety Measures. The General Assembly passed legislation (HB 351) requiring any person who purchases a firearm to obtain/purchase from a licensed dealer a locking device for such firearm if a minor is present in such person's residence for 14 days or more in a calendar month. We also passed legislation (HB 466) requiring the State Police and the Attorney General to determine whether other states meet the same qualifications for Virginia to recognize the concealed handgun permit from those states. Under current law, most out-of-state permits are recognized in the Commonwealth, even if they are dangerously easy to obtain. In addition, we passed legislation (HB 585) providing that no home-based firearms dealer shall be engaged in the business of selling, trading, or transferring firearms at wholesale or retail within 1.5 miles of any elementary or middle school, including buildings and grounds. We created a 21-year-old age limit (HB 1174/SB 327) for purchasing a handgun or assault firearms. We established a waiting period of five days for the purchase of a firearm (HB 1195/SB 273). Finally, we passed legislation (HB 797) requiring that any course, class, or training to demonstrate competence with a handgun as required to obtain a concealed handgun permit must include a live fire shooting exercise conducted on a range, including the expenditure of a minimum of 10 rounds of ammunition, and provides that no course, class, or training that does not include such live-fire shooting exercise meets the requirements to obtain a concealed handgun permit. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed every single one of these sensible gun violence prevention measures.  


Deaths in Custody. The General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed, requiring law enforcement to report to the state and local oversight entities any time a person dies in their custody. It also requires the Department of Criminal Justice Services to produce an annual report on deaths in custody in Virginia. (HB 611)


Minimum Police Training Standards for Dealing with ID/DD individuals. The General Assembly passed legislation creating minimum training standards for law enforcement officers on communicating with individuals with an intellectual disability or a developmental disability. This will help prevent tragic, unintended situations from occurring in the future. (HB 1246) 


CIVIL RIGHTS AND INCLUSION

* Banning Offensive Terminology in the Code. As in previous years, I submitted legislation (HB 962) that removes the term "alien" as it pertains to persons who are not citizens or nationals of the United States and replaces it with synonymous language, as appropriate, throughout the Code of Virginia. The federal government is already moving away from this term and exemptions were included in the bill to prevent unintended consequences. It may seem small, but words matter. After passage in the General Assembly, the Governor amended the bill to turn it into a simple study. We rejected his amendment because there is no need to study this issue. The Governor vetoed the bill. Words matter – especially words that have been used as a slur over the years. Language that is offensive to groups or communities should not be in the Code of Virginia.


* Immigrant Driver Privilege Cards. Without a valid reason, driver privilege cards expire every two years instead of every seven like other licenses. This bill makes sure all Virginians face the same requirements. The legislation I passed in the General Assembly (HB 1454/SB 246) extends the validity of limited-duration licenses, driver privilege cards, and permits, and identification privilege cards, other than REAL ID credentials and commercial driver's licenses and permits, to a period of time consistent with driver's licenses. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed this legislation.  


Marriage Equality. After years of efforts by Democrats, I’m happy to report that the General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed, legislation preventing a marriage license from being denied on the basis of the sex, gender, or race of the parties and requiring that the Commonwealth recognize all such marriages. The bills provide that religious organizations or members of the clergy acting in their religious capacity shall still have the right to refuse to perform any marriage. These bills codify the right to marry given in the Obergefell v. Hodges and Loving vs. Virginia Supreme Court decisions. This means that even if these cases are overturned by the Supreme Court, interracial and same-sex couples will still be able to get married in Virginia. (HB 174/SB 101)


Marriage Age. On July 1st, Virginia will become the first state in the South to ban child marriage, by requiring that an individual be 18 years old to get married, without exception. Nearly 8,000 people in Virginia under 18 years old got married between 2000 and 2021. 80% of them were girls and the youngest was only 12. These children are often married to adults who are on average 4 years older than them. Young people in these marriages typically cannot leave home, enter a domestic violence shelter or even file for divorce until they turn 18. I am truly glad that I was able to vote to ensure that marriage is between consenting adults, as it should be. 


HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES 

Prescription Drug Affordability. The General Assembly passed legislation that would have created a Prescription Drug Affordability Board. The Board would have been empowered to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth and other stakeholders within the healthcare system from the high costs of prescription drugs by performing affordability reviews and in certain circumstances limiting the price that can be charged. While there was bipartisan support for this effort, the Governor vetoed the bill. (HB 570/SB 274) 

Colorectal Cancer Screening Coverage. The Governor signed into law legislation requiring that the costs of colorectal cancer screening be covered by insurance. (HB 238) 


Right to Contraception. The Democratic majorities in the House and Senate passed some very powerful bills to protect reproductive rights, including legislation that created a right to contraception in Virginia. Under this bill, the right would stand in the Commonwealth, even if the Supreme Court overruled precedent on this issue. Unfortunately, while claiming that he did not oppose the bill, the Governor amended it in such a way as to take away the protections. We rejected Governor Youngkin’s amendments and he vetoed the legislation. (HB 609/SB 237)

Reproductive and Menstrual Health Care Protections. The General Assembly passed two bills related to reproductive health care and menstrual health from Senator Barbara Favola. SB 15 would have prevented Virginia from extraditing anyone to another state if receiving reproductive healthcare in Virginia violates that state’s laws. States that have passed laws claiming that they can criminalize activity in the Commonwealth that they don’t like are attacking Virginia’s sovereignty. Sadly, the Governor does not understand the threat this poses and vetoed the bill. However, the Governor did sign SB 16, which prohibits the issuance of a search warrant, subpoena, court order, or other process for the search and seizure or production of menstrual health data. This is a commonsense protection for sensitive health data, and I was proud to support it. 

A Full Ban on Abortion in Virginia. Even with the new Democratic majority in the House, we still faced some very wrongheaded bills on abortion. One Republican Delegate introduced a full abortion ban from conception with the only exception being for the life of the mother. Thankfully, this measure was soundly defeated. 


STAY CONNECTED 

For the most up-to-date information about the Virginia General Assembly and our 3rd House District, you can follow me and my team on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Lopez4VA and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Lopez4VA. For additional information about constituent services, resources, and updates, please also visit my website at www.AlfonsoLopez.org. 


Thank you for taking the time to read through this update and for staying informed about our Commonwealth’s government. As I mentioned earlier, if you ever need assistance with a state agency, would like to express your support or opposition on a policy issue, or are interested in arranging a meeting with me virtually or in-person, please don’t hesitate to be in touch with my office by email at DelALopez@house.virginia.gov or by phone at (571) 336-2147. I look forward to hearing from you!


Sincerely, 








Alfonso H. Lopez

Member, 3rd District

Virginia House of Delegates  


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