Virginia An ethics reform package passed the Virginia Senate on Monday. Unfortunately, the bill lacks teeth and is only a small step toward restoring public confidence in state government. I offered 14 amendments to strengthen the legislation and close some loopholes. I was able to change the membership of a proposed Ethics Council to include former, rather than current, legislators. However, my amendments ensuring gifts to all dependent children from lobbyists and guests of public officials would be reported were rejected. I was deeply disappointed that my amendments to limit gifts of travel solely to trips with educational value or those promoting trade with the Commonwealth were also rebuffed. In my view, the Rules Committee did not give this major legislation the attention it deserved.
This Tuesday, Feb. 11, marked “Crossover Day” for the legislative session, meaning that the Senate may only consider bills already passed by the House of Delegates and vice versa. Ten of my bills have passed the Senate and await consideration by the House.
Now that the Democrats control the Senate, we have been able to stop a number of regressive proposals from the other side of the aisle. One such bill was SB607, which would require the use of the electric chair for capital punishment cases when lethal injection drugs are unavailable. The electric chair is a relic of the 1800s and has since been ruled by multiple state Supreme Courts as violating the 8th Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Virginia is one of only four states that still use the electric chair. Fortunately the bill was re-referred to committee and is unlikely to reemerge this session.
Democratic control of the Senate also means that we are able to pass positive pieces of legislation. I have co-sponsored Sen. David Marsden’s SB590 to raise the minimum wage which I was proud to vote for as it passed the Commerce and Labor Committee. It was sent to the Finance Committee from which I hope it will reach the Senate floor for a full vote.
There has also been passionate discussion about bills put forward by Sen. Don McEachin of Henrico and Del. Rob Krupicka of Alexandria to eliminate the checkbox on initial state employment applications asking applicants if they had been convicted of certain crimes. There would still be an opportunity to check if applicants have criminal records later in the employment process. Too often, applications are dismissed when the box has been checked. Without giving ex-offenders full consideration, the struggles of long-term unemployment are perpetuated. If we are serious about reducing recidivism, we need to offer them a real chance at employment.
Please join Del. Rob Krupicka and I for a Town Hall Meeting at the Charles Houston Recreation Center (905 Wythe Street, Alexandria) this Saturday, Feb. 15, from 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts on legislation. I am active on Facebook and Twitter (@AdamEbbin).
It is my continued honor to represent the citizens of the 30th Senate District.