I hope you have been enjoying the holiday season. I have been working with various stakeholders, advocacy groups, and constituents on my legislative agenda for the 2018 General Assembly session that kicks off on Wednesday, Jan. 10.
Here are the highlights of my legislative agenda for 2018. We have worked together on many of these ideas, and I hope we will make significant progress on improving the lives of Virginia's children and families in the 2018 session. I am introducing other bills as well, but these are the major subject areas where I will be spending most of my time and energy.
My legislative efforts will focus on teacher recruitment and retention. As chair of the subcommittee on School Leadership and Academic Outcomes, it is clear to me that Virginia must do a better job of supporting teachers and making teaching a desirable profession. To that end, I have submitted a bill that will redesign teacher preparation programs in our colleges and universities to enable education majors to be in the classroom after four years of study rather than five. This will reduce the opportunity cost of selecting teaching as a profession and accelerate the pipeline for teachers. Additionally, I will be asking for funding to support teacher mentor programs and principal leadership training.
Equal Taxing Authority for Counties
Many NoVA school activists and School Boards are asking the General Assembly to allow counties to enjoy the same taxing authorities as cities. Counties are providing the same services as cities and the discrepancy in taxing authority is really unfair. Moreover, diversified revenue streams would help counties counter swings in the real estate economy while still supporting vital programs such as public school funding, public safety and the arts. Specific revenue streams that could be enhanced include the cigarette tax and the application of a meals tax.
In Virginia in 2015, there were 155 hate crime offenses reported, including 71 assaults and 49 acts of vandalism or damage to property. This represents a 21 percent increase over the prior year and an increase in hate crimes was recorded in nearly reported category. Although the statistics may be alarming, shining the light on these crimes enables the state to identify trends and to better target educational and law-enforcement strategies. In addition to better enforcement of current laws, I will be introducing legislation that covers gender, gender identification, sexual orientation, and disability in the definition of a "hate crime."
Children's Health and Public Health
I will continue my emphasis on caring for the "whole child." My legislative proposals focus on the need to provide children with "trauma informed" care. Based on recommendations from the Commission on Youth, I will also be advocating for an inter-agency task force in the Governor's Office to help ensure that trauma-informed care is integrated into the programs and policies that are administered at the local level. Once again, I will be fighting to provide relatives financial support for providing a permanent home to kin who are currently in the foster care system.
Paid Family Leave
I will submit legislation that would require employers who offer sick leave to allow employees to use sick leave to care for a family member. Moreover, I also want to move the conversation about comprehensive paid family leave forward. To that end, I will be submitting a bill that covers paid family leave for employees in organizations with 50 or more employees. This expense would be covered in part by the employer and in part through a payroll tax on the employee. Specifics of the bill are still being negotiated.
I will introduce a bill that would enable local governments to prohibit the "open carry" of firearms in protests or demonstrations. Once again, I will submit a bill to require that lost or stolen firearms be reported within 24 hours. I also have a proposal to prohibit mechanisms that enable a semi-automatic weapon to fire faster.
Domestic Violence Prevention & Women's Health
I will resubmit my bill from a few years ago to take firearms away from domestic abusers with two misdemeanors or more for a designated period of time. Once again, I will attempt to remove the unconstitutional statute on Virginia's books that require women's health centers that provide five or more abortions a month to meet certain physical standards of a hospital. These requirements are medically unnecessary and are referred to as the TRAP law.
You can follow the status of my bills at https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?181+mbr+S86C. If you have any questions or comments about these bills, please don't hesitate to email me or my staff at email@example.com.
The 31st state senatorial district covers parts of Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties.