The 2018 legislative session adjourned “sine die” on March 10, and as dozens of cars with multi-colored bumper stickers and House and Senate license plates departed to different corners of the Commonwealth my staff worked through the weekend, helping me send out responses to 906 informative emails on 107 different topics that I’ve received from constituents. As I reflect on the session, it is impossible to ignore that we adjourned without adopting a biennial budget.
Crafting a budget is one of our primary constitutional duties as state legislators and leaving Richmond without one means that localities, school divisions, and state agencies cannot finalize their own budgets. Governor Northam, the House of Delegates, and Senate Democrats all agree on the merits of Medicaid expansion, with only Senate Republicans standing in the way — insisting on a version of the budget that excludes health coverage for 400,000 Virginians, strikes teacher pay raises, has fewer investments in renewable energy, and omits funding for background checks on firearm sales. I anticipate the governor will call us into a special session to adopt a budget within the next month.
After touch-and-go negotiations between House and Senate Conferees, the General Assembly has approved $154 million in funding for Metro (SB856) — Virginia’s portion of $500 million called for by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) General Manager Paul Wiedefeld to address essential capital funding needs. We were able to arrive at a sustainable solution for our vital transit infrastructure needs, but two proposed tax increases in Northern Virginia (on real estate transactions and hotel stays) that had been included in the original Senate version, were eliminated from the final bill. This change requires existing regional transportation funds from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) to be redirected to WMATA. I expect Governor Northam will amend the bill to preserve the $154 million while using less funding directly from NVTA. This would free up money for additional transportation projects.
Seven of my bills passed the General Assembly and await Governor Northam’s consideration. SB920 addressed the struggle experienced by the Tarantino family of Alexandria and will reduce the onerous 10-year waiting period for them to adopt a child due to an eight-year-old drug possession conviction — regardless of Mr. Tarantino’s record of honorable service in the military and his wife’s years of service with local nonprofits. Congressman Donald Beyer brought to my attention that predatory teachers who sexually abuse students have been recommended away to another school district by fellow employees to avoid scandal and lawsuits. SB605 will prohibit public school employees from “passing the trash.” SB918 will repeal a provision of the Code of Virginia authorizing the revocation of professional licenses from people who fall behind on their student loans. Student loan debt affects 44 million people in the United States, and I am thankful that Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) and Schuyler VanValkenburg (D-Henrico) led the House effort to address this issue.
An interim committee will be established to consider a large volume of legislation regarding election reform in the wake of several incidents arising in the 2017 election and to consider the implementation of no-excuse absentee voting. Five of my bills were referred to this interim committee including SB602, which would provide for “no-excuse absentee voting.”
Outright hostility from Republicans toward all gun violence prevention efforts resulted in a disappointing year. Over 60 gun violence prevention measures were put forward and defeated, including my bills to ban bump stocks (SB1), institute universal background checks (SB5), and prohibit carrying firearms while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs (SB2). Despite the current legislative stalemate, I am inspired by the movement taking shape in the wake of the terrible tragedy in Parkland, Florida. Young people across the country are taking action to demand gun sense reforms, and I urge like-minded supporters to join me in standing with them.
On Wednesday, April 18 we will reconvene for our one day “veto” session, when the General Assembly is to consider Governor Northam’s amendments and vetoes.
Now that session is over, I’m reporting to constituent groups and doing my homework for 2019. If your group wishes to request a legislative update, email my office at email@example.com. Also, please consider following me on Twitter (@AdamEbbin) and Facebook.
It is my continued honor to serve the people of the 30th District.