The 2015 General Assembly session has come to a close and even with all the twists and turns I personally encountered this session it was still productive. First and foremost, I would like to say thank you to my fellow senators — both Democrats and Republicans — who stepped up to co-patron my legislation this year and assisted me greatly with speaking to the bills in committees and on the floor. Breaking my elbow and having the doctor say I could not return to Richmond for the final 27 days of session is not how I envisioned my final session going, but I am grateful for my friends and colleagues in both chambers who guided my legislation through the process. I had seven bills pass out of both chambers this session, and I look forward to Governor McAuliffe signing them this month.
The bills to secure funding for the Veteran Care Centers in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads (SB675, SB676) passed, and hopefully with the help of our congressional delegation appropriating more funding to the VA, we will be able to start building in a couple years to fill a critical need for our aging veterans.
The House of Delegates included money in the budget for a pilot program based on my bill SB 950. The budget approved by both chambers includes $500,000 for a Veterans Employment Grant Program to recognize Virginia companies who hire and retain veterans. The grant shall equal $1,000 per qualifying business for each veteran who has been hired, and who qualifies under the provisions, up to a maximum grant of $10,000 per business in the fiscal year. Any business interested in learning more about the grant or V3 should contact Mr. Andrew Schwartz, the executive director, at: Andrew.Schwartz@dvs.virginia.gov.
My bill, SB 1034, banning the manufacture, sale or possession of “palcohol” in Virginia passed both chambers, along with the House version patroned by Del. Lopez. It was supported by the Attorney General and will keep a dangerous product, powdered alcohol, off the shelves. I also worked closely with Sen. Ryan McDougal on SB 1032 to reorganize the ABC Board into an Authority and create a system where people are hired based on experience and merit over patronage. This will create a more streamlined, business-like model, while keeping the ABC system within the state’s control. I am still firmly opposed to privatization.
One bill that did not pass, SB 903, would have allowed the Supreme Court of Virginia to standardize the process for courts to create a specific docket for veterans who end up in the court system, for the express purpose of giving targeted monitoring, rehabilitation and treatment to veterans before incarceration. The goal is to move these offenders out of the court system and into productive lives in the community. My bill was passed out of the Senate but died in a House subcommittee. I would like to thank Del. Dave Albo who worked closely with myself and Commissioner John Newby to amend the legislation and try and get it passed through the subcommittee. I am disappointed the amended bill did not pass, and hope that they will reconsider next year.
It has been an honor to serve the people of the 36th district of Virginia and I hope to finish strong in this, my 24th year. I am not vacating my seat early and my district office will remain open through the end of the year to assist anyone with any issues or problems the have. Constituents should contact my office by email: email@example.com or by phone: 703-765-1150.