Wednesday, Jan. 8
Today marked the opening of the 2014 Virginia General Assembly Session. The Session kicked off with the 48th Annual Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast, where I joined 900 other Virginians to offer prayers for our country, armed forces, and legislators. It was an early start to a busy day, but an inspiring way to kick off the new Session. During the first floor session of 2014, all the new and returning members took our oath of office to serve our country and our Commonwealth. Speaker William Howell announced the 2014 Committee assignments, and I was honored to be reappointed to the Finance Committee; Transportation Committee and Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee. We closed for the day in remembrance of peace activist and former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. In the evening, I joined members from the House and the Senate to attend Governor McDonnell’s final State of the Commonwealth and farewell address.
Thursday, Jan. 9
With only 60 days to discuss thousands of bills, resolutions, and amendments, we hit the ground running. It was a busy day full of meetings with several constituents and colleagues as we discussed different pieces of legislation and how they would affect Virginia. I had the privilege of meeting with several members of the Veterans for Foreign Wars as part of their lobby day. I also met with Dr. Angel Cabrera, President of George Mason University. GMU is one of the fasted growing universities in the country and provides a tremendous benefit to our Fairfax community. GMU was also just named a top 100 public university in the country! The evening ended by celebrating our newly-elected Attorney General, Mark Herring at his inaugural gala.
Friday, Jan. 10
Friday was the end of a short, but full, first week. I joined Dr. Cabrera and several other George Mason faculty for a meet-and-greet breakfast. Before an early floor session, I attended the Militia, Police, and Public Safety Committee’s first meeting of 2014. Throughout the day, I was busy finalizing my 2014 proposed budget amendments before the submission deadline. I submitted a total of six budget amendments focusing on education and health services issues. That evening, I joined friends and colleagues at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to celebrate the inauguration of our new Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam.
Saturday, Jan. 11
Saturday was Inauguration Day for the 72nd Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe. After being selected to serve on the Common Ground for Virginia Transition Team, I was thrilled to be in Richmond with the new Governor and his family to celebrate. The General Assembly met in a Joint Assembly in the House Chamber at 11:15. We then joined the McAuliffe, Northam, and Herring families on the Capitol portico for the inauguration ceremony at noon. The weather was not ideal (to be kind) but the rain let up and the sun actually came out for a couple of minutes during Governor McAuliffe’s address to the Commonwealth for the first time as Governor. He thanked Governor McDonnell for his service and facilitating a smooth transition and called for cooperation in the General Assembly for a productive Session. The festivities continued with an inaugural parade showcasing marching bands and floats from across the Commonwealth, and the day ended with the Governor’s inaugural ball at the Siegel Center to celebrate our new state officials.
Sunday, Jan. 12
After a jam-packed start to Session and the Inauguration, I returned home to the 41st District. I welcomed the opportunity for a brief rest and to spend time with my family before heading back to Richmond in time for a 7:30 a.m. meeting on Monday.
Monday, Jan. 13
I started Monday morning early with several meetings, including the first Finance Committee meeting of the year. The Finance Committee joined the Appropriations Committee for a joint meeting with the new Secretary of Finance, Ric Brown. In between meetings and a short House floor session, I met with a constituent from the Military Officers of America Association. After the floor session, my first bill was up before the Civil Courts Subcommittee - HB 551, which would have allowed individuals filing a will or codicil with the clerk’s office two options for the lodging and safekeeping of these documents. 41st District resident, Richard Golden of Burke, drove to Richmond to join me and testify in favor of the bill. Unfortunately, the Subcommittee “gently laid the bill on the table,” essentially defeating it for this Session.
Tuesday, Jan. 14
I started my day with the first meeting of the Transportation Committee. With the start of the judicial nomination process, we had a slightly longer House floor session. We voted to approve the first batch of candidates recommended by my colleagues on the Courts of Justice Committee. After the floor Session, I had my next bill, HB 550, before the General Laws Subcommittee on Housing. Tena Bluhm, another fellow 41st District resident, joined me to explain how the procedures recommended in the bill would alleviate the burdens on volunteer-managed homeowners associations. The Subcommittee recommended the bill to the full committee for a vote.
Wednesday, Jan. 15
This morning I was busy meeting with several constituent groups and learning about the issues that mattered to them. Among the groups I was honored to meet with, were Fairfax County members of the Virginia Fire Fighters. I appreciated the presentation of their legislative priorities for this Session. After the floor Session ended and several meetings, I presented my bill HB 545 before the Privileges and Elections Subcommittee on Campaign Finance. I have been a strong advocate for making elections more accessible to all eligible voters, and HB 545 would have extended the polls closing time by one hour to 8 pm. Unfortunately, the Subcommittee recommended that the bill be “laid on the table,” essentially defeating it. That evening, I joined members of the House and Senate for Governor McAuliffe’s first Joint Session Address. Governor McAuliffe again called for bipartisan reform and cooperation in the 2014 General Assembly. Immediately after the Joint Address, we walked over to the Governor’s Mansion to end the evening with a reception of General Assembly members and their families and appointed members of the Governor’s Cabinet.
Thursday, Jan. 16
To start the morning, I joined several of my Democratic House colleagues on the leadership team (I currently serve as Deputy Whip for the Democratic Caucus) for breakfast with Governor McAuliffe at the Governor’s Mansion. I then balanced my time between my full Transportation Committee and Militia, Police and Public Safety Subcommittee, which were meeting at the same time (which is not uncommon here!) After the floor session, I joined the House Democratic Caucus for a press conference to present our agenda for the 2014 General Assembly Session. We highlighted our priorities for the 2014 legislative session, including SOL reform and quality education, mental health reform, affordable health care and growing the economy. At the press conference I was pleased to have the opportunity to again speak about HB 545, calling for continued reform to make it easier for Virginians across the Commonwealth to cast their ballots.
Friday, Jan. 17
After a short floor session with full House of Delegates, I wrapped up some final business of the week and hit I-95 headed towards the 41st District to spend the weekend back home in the district with my family. I will head back down to Richmond early Monday morning to start another eventful week!