Opinion: Commentary: Spotlight on Three Important Bills

Opinion: Commentary: Spotlight on Three Important Bills

I am excited to be down in Richmond for this year’s legislative session which officially begins on Wednesday, Jan. 9. Each week I have written about some of the bills I will be introducing but today I want to focus on important bills that will be introduced by my colleagues.

One of the more interesting final preparations before the General Assembly convenes is deciding which bills I should sign on to as a co-patron. A co-patronage is similar to an endorsement. It says “I support this bill and plan to vote for it.” Members may ask other members to sign on as co-patrons when they think it will help them strategically to pass their bills. Already, I have been asked to co-patron over 60 bills. Today, I want to highlight three really good bills that I will be co-patroning.

The first is a bill from Del. Marcia Price that adjusts the protocol of the Department of Emergency Management. Currently, in the Virginia Code there is no language that instructs the Department of Emergency Management to have a concrete plan to help those with limited English proficiency. Delegate Price’s bill states that the department shall develop an emergency response plan to address the needs of individuals with limited English proficiency in the event of a disaster. This includes interpretation services and the translation of documents. I applaud Delegate Price for this critical piece of legislation which will no doubt save lives in the event of a natural disaster.

The second bill is authored by Del. Sam Rasoul. The bill makes it illegal to smoke in a car when a minor is present. Currently, in the Virginia code it is illegal to smoke inside a motor vehicle when a minor under the age of 8 is present. Furthermore, it changes the violation of this code from a secondary offense to a primary offense. Meaning that without this law a police officer could see a parent smoking with a 4 year old in the car and legally would not be able to issue a citation unless there was another reason to pull over that vehicle. This legislation is one of those good government bills that will help protect the health of our children.

The third is a bill by Del. Karrie Delaney of the 67th district of Virginia. The bill adds a section to the code of Virginia relating to arbitration agreements and sexual harassment or sexual assault. In the proposed new section, any provision or agreement that has the purpose or effect of concealing details related to the claim of sexual harassment or assault will be deemed unenforceable. The only exception to this clause is if the victim proposes the concealment. This is a great piece of legislation to ensure that all assaulters and harassers are brought to justice and cannot use agreements to silence and intimidate victims.

These bills are just three examples of the many exemplary pieces of legislation being proposed by my Democratic colleagues this session. I have also signed on to bills raising the minimum wage (HB1850), penalizing those who fail to report the loss or theft of their gun (HB1644), and prohibiting an insurance company from denying coverage due to one’s gender identity (HB1864). To view these pieces of legislation and others please make sure to visit lis.virginia.gov. I am excited to work with them and my Republican colleagues to improve our great Commonwealth during this legislative session.