Commentary: What’s a Couple Thousand Bills, Anyway?

Commentary: What’s a Couple Thousand Bills, Anyway?

Jan. 11 marked the beginning of the 2017 General Assembly 46-day “short” session. My colleagues and I have begun considering the more than 2,394 bills introduced to date, including 35 of mine. And this week, when a Senate page collapsed in the chamber, we learned just how lucky we are to have a world-class pediatric neurologist presiding over the Senate.

The Senate welcomed four new members this year including Sen. Monty Mason (D-Williamsburg), who succeeded late John Miller, a friend and highly regarded education advocate, and Sen. Lionell Spruill (D-Chesapeake), who succeeds the now-Mayor of Norfolk, Kenny Alexander. I’ve enjoyed meeting Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg) and serving again with Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) who were both elected in special elections on Jan. 10. It’s a real pleasure to have my former colleagues in the House of Delegates, now-Senators Spruill and McClellan join me in the “higher body.”

While the sheer volume of legislation and short timeline pose a unique test for Virginia’s legislature, it’s not difficult to envision some of the other pressing challenges we have ahead — from codifying non-discrimination protections and defending the rights of all Virginians (SB783), to pushing forward towards common-sense criminal justice reform by updating our marijuana laws (SB1091, SB1269) and ending the practice of using driver’s license revocation as a punishment for those who cannot afford to pay court costs (SB1280). I’ll also be promoting several adjustments to our Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) including ensuring local input is considered when siting ABC stores and removing red tape for restaurateurs (SB1382).

I’m proud to work in concert with Governor McAuliffe’s priorities he laid out in his State of the Commonwealth Address last week to continue to build a new Virginia economy that is open for business (SB783), that invests in emerging technologies (SB1258), and that stands against policies that would set us backwards, morally and fiscally (HB1612); and, to promote a Virginian democracy that is accessible to its citizens and makes it a priority to break down barriers to the ballot box through no-excuse in-person absentee voting (SB1002, SB792) and automatic voter registration (SB1051).

I’m continuing my work to prevent gun violence, seeking to make it illegal to open carry while intoxicated (SB1267), or to allow toddlers to handle firearms (SB1266). I’m a proud founding member of the American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention, and it’s my pleasure to work organizations like Everytown and MOMS to end gun violence in the Commonwealth.

These bills reflect the progress that many Virginians desire. Nobody, from Alexandria to Wytheville, should face criminal penalties for marijuana possession (SB1269). It’s also paramount for government officials to operate with transparency and accountability (SJ289).

While I continue to strongly support progressive principles, I also renew my commitment to work with senators on both sides of the aisle on the General Laws and Technology Committee; the Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee; and the Privileges and Elections Committee as well as on the Senate floor. I am grateful for the chance to make progress towards the conservation both of nature, and of our democracy.

Amid a flurry of committee meetings, briefings, and session, it is wonderful to get to connect with folks from home. Thanks to those who joined me on their lobby days on Martin Luther King Day and throughout the first week of session. I thoroughly enjoyed learning from passionate Hayfield High School students Mahad, Aaron and Mosha about the Virginia Student Training And Refurbishment (STAR) program, and representatives from from the Center for Alexandria’s Children and the American Cancer Society. It was my pleasure to be joined by gun safety advocates from Moms Demand Action, the Mount Vernon Unitarian Universalist Church and Everytown Against Gun Violence and gun rights proponents from the Virginia Citizens Defense League as well.

I’m anticipating a productive, bustling, session over the coming few weeks. I look forward to hearing the opinions of 30th District residents; it helps me to be a better senator. Please send an email to If you’d like to keep up on our day-to-day activities, please follow @AdamEbbin on Twitter.

Please join me and Del. Alfonso Lopez at my Arlington town meeting where we will answer your questions and provide an update on the 2017 legislative session:

  • Saturday, Feb. 11, 2-4 p.m. at Arlington Mill Community Center, 909 S Dinwiddie St, Arlington.