The 2017 General Assembly is underway. This year is a “short session” and runs only 45 days, from Jan. 11 to Feb. 25. Virginia legislators will consider more than 1,500 bills and hundreds of additional resolutions. We will also consider amendments to the current two-year state budget which has a $1.25 billion dollar budget shortfall.
My legislative agenda makes voting easier, our roads safer, our Commonwealth cleaner, and our government better for all of us. I will continue to push for pay increases for law enforcement, teachers and other state employees; to adequately fund K-12 education; to protect universities from budget cuts; and, to embrace diversity. Here are some highlights from my legislative agenda for the 2017 session:
HB 2272: Establishes a recycling procedure for Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs.
CFL bulbs contain mercury, which is toxic to humans. However currently we have a recycling exemption in the Virginia code because most recycling facilities do not have the capacity to recycle mercury and other heavy metals. This bill eliminates the statewide exemption, but designates authority to localities to create recycling programs similar to how we recycle printer ink.
HJ 636: Directs the DEQ to study the economic impacts of litter on fishing, farming and water quality in urban streams.
We know litter is bad for the environment, but we don’t know just how bad it is for the economy. This bill, courtesy of Friends of Little Hunting Creek, would show hard data and provide better legislative guidance to address litter in our farmland and waterways, a first step towards stronger protection for our parks and streams.
HJ 575: Directs the Department of General Services to study infrastructure investments that yield energy savings.
New technologies are coming online almost every day that both save money and make our world cleaner. This bill would direct the Department of General Services to study opportunities for new infrastructure investments that would yield long-term cost savings to taxpayers and energy savings for our environment.
HB 1558: Safety restraint use in motor vehicles
It’s ridiculous that in 2017, people don’t still have to wear a seatbelt. This bill, courtesy of constituent Jonathan Tucker (West Potomac High School), finally closes the backseat exemption and would require all passengers in a motor vehicle to wear their seat belts. In 2014, 58 percent of backseat passengers killed weren’t buckled up.
HB 1561: Seat belts on school buses
This legislation requires new buses purchased by school systems to include seat belts when they replace their current fleet. Between 2005 and 2014, 106 people riding or driving school buses were killed nationwide. Five of those killed were Virginians. While buses do a good job of protecting against front and rear impacts, their safety designs do not protect against side impacts or rollovers.
HB 1453: Provides for dispensing of Nalaxone to reverse opioid overdoses
Opioid addiction is the worst drug crisis in the United States and it affects many of our family and neighbors. This legislation allows more people to be trained to administer the drug Nalaxone, which reverses the effects of opioid reversal. This is a bipartisan bill that would save lives.
HB 1559: Allow people to renew their ID cards online
Current law allows Virginians 70 and above to trade in their driver's license for a special Senior ID. However, they are required to renew their ID every five years, and renew in-person every other time. This means that we are making 80-year-olds spend their time at the DMV instead of enjoying their golden years. My legislation would allow people with IDs to renew them online every time and save a trip to the DMV.
HB 2182: Automatic voter registration
This legislation provides for the electronic transmission by the DMV to the Department of Elections when voters change their name or address, and automatically updating their voter registration. If the person is not already registered to vote, the Department of Elections will verify that the person meets all voter eligibility requirements and, if so, transmits the information to the general registrar.
HB 2275: No excuse absentee voting by persons age 65 and older
My legislation, championed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe would allow anybody over the age of 65 to vote absentee. This commonsense legislation would make voting easier and elections more accessible.
Budget Amendment: TANF benefits.
Virginia lags behind the rest of the nation in providing needy families with TANF benefits. This legislation will increase TANF benefits for eligible families by 10 percent for two consecutive years. If passed, this legislation will bring Virginia back into the middle of the pack in providing services for our neediest families.
HB 2271: Prevents victims of sexual assault from being forced to co-parent.
It’s horrible enough just to go through sexual assault, but to be forced to co-parent with that person is a burden no person should bare. This legislation would prevent victims from being forced to co-parent with the person who sexually assaulted them and prevents their attacker from seeking custody.
HB 2049: Removes suspended driver’s licenses as a penalty for nonpayment of fines and court costs.
For most Virginians, cars are their only way to get to work. However, if you are unable to pay court costs or other fines, having your license suspended is a common penalty — preventing you from being able to get to work to pay off your fine. My legislation would end that practice.
HB 2181: Allows people previously convicted of drug-related felonies to receive food stamps.
Virginia law currently prohibits persons previously convicted of drug-related felonies from receiving food stamps. This is misguided, and hurts the children more than criminals. You cannot buy drugs with food stamps. I have signed on as a co-patron to this legislation to reverse this policy.
WORKER AND CONSUMER PROTECTIONS
HB 2283: Private cause of action for wage theft
Currently, there are no protections for employees whose wages are stolen or unlawfully withheld by their employer. I have proposed legislation that will create three logical and ascending rules: first, if the wages are not paid, the employee can sue for their wages; second, if the wages are not paid and knowingly so, the employee can sue for the wages and attorney’s fees; third, if the wages are not paid and there was intent to defraud, the employee can sue for wages, attorney’s fees and the liquidated damages.
HB 1771: Minimum wage to $10.10
It is important for the welfare of Virginians and the economy that employees are paid a living wage. This will raise the minimum wage for individuals that are at least 25 years old and working for companies with over 15 employees. With these two qualifications this regulation will not hurt small businesses and raise the pay for people who may have families or other greater financial obligations.
HB 1395: Overturning the same-sex marriage ban
It’s 2017 and marriage equality is the law of the land. I’m proud to partner with Del. Sickles on this issue, as it is time to remove this discriminatory law from the Code of Virginia.
HB 1776: Adds gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability to the categories of victims whose intentional selection for a hate crime results in a higher criminal offense.
As the session progresses, I welcome your feedback. Please send me an email at email@example.com. Also, please come visit me in Richmond. It is an honor to serve as your state delegate.