The annual General Assembly session is well underway. What began in a Jamestown church in 1619 as a six-day meeting of the House of Burgesses, comprised of 22 white British male settlers, has evolved into the modern Virginia House of Delegates and Virginia Senate that is meeting currently for its 46-day “short” session. The issues have vastly changed but history is still being made.
Eileen Filler-Corn of Fairfax, the new Democratic Leader in the House, is the first woman to lead on either side of the aisle in either body. Charniele Herring of Alexandria continues in her role as the House Caucus Chair and Mamie Locke of Hampton remains the Senate Democratic Caucus Chair. This is also the first year that the Commonwealth's voters elected three women (all Democrats) to the U.S. House of Representatives. At no time in Virginia’s history have women held more power than today.
This session marks Virginia's chance to become the 38th (and final) state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution. I was honored to speak on and vote for ratification as a member of the Privileges and Elections Committee, and will do the same when it heads to the Senate floor.
The Burgesses certainly did not even conceive of the fundamental equality of women and minorities and would have flabbergasted that we will be considering sports and casino gambling in this year. After all, it was in 1619 when Burgesses outlawed games of chance with the penalty of a 10 shilling fine — one shilling would go to the man who caught the gambler and the rest to “charitable and pious causes.” Other 1619 legislation required every settler to plant six mulberry trees.
Flash forward 400 years and we are considering non-partisan redistricting, how best to allocate $1.2 billion in prospective additional revenue and the fairest way to fund transportation improvements in Southwest Virginia. We’ll also be considering the governor’s incentive plan for Amazon to locate one of its HQ2 sites in Arlington and for Virginia Tech to locate a $1 billion-plus Innovation Campus in Alexandria which will grow the tech talent pipeline to attract high-wage 21st Century jobs to Virginia.
I’ve introduced 25 pieces of legislation on a variety of topics ranging from marijuana decriminalization and domestic violence protections to campaign finance reform and e-cigarette taxation. My constitutional amendment to allow Virginia’s Governor to seek election to a second consecutive four-year term passed the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee 8-6, and 6 of 6 of my bills heard on Monday in the Senate Courts of Justice and General laws committee are moving on. The bills include legislation to codify non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in public employment (passed 11-3) and housing (passed 13-1). Bills to stop the destructive cycle of debt caused by license suspension for non-driving related offenses (passed 13-0 with one abstention) and for the non-payment of court costs and fees (passed 14 to 0) advanced to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.
The process to consider the governor’s amendments to the existing biennial budget has begun as members also introduce amendments. I’ve introduced several with an eye to modernizing our election systems and one to provide some funding for the Task Force Commemorating the Centennial Anniversary of Women's Right to Vote, on which I serve. The Centennial will occur in 2020 and I believe the state should be observing it with a museum exhibit, traveling exhibits for different regions, lectures, publications and a school curriculum as well.
Though the past of our state is complex, and its legacies are often mired in injustice, I am confident that our future is bright, and the history of tomorrow will be that of progress and inclusion. It is an honor to be a small part of building this path forward. I hope you’ll be able to join me at one of my four town hall meetings to help me best represent the people of the 30th District in this duty:
Mount Vernon: Saturday, Jan. 19, 9:30-11:15 a.m. at Walt Whitman Middle School (2500 Parkers Lane), with Senator Surovell and Delegate Krizek.
Lee District: Saturday, Jan. 19, noon-2 p.m. at Hayfield Elementary School (7633 Telegraph Road), with Senators Barker and Surovell and Delegates Mark Sickles and Paul Krizek.
Alexandria: Saturday, Jan. 26, 10:30 a.m.-noon at Minnie Howard School Campus (3801 W Braddock Road) with Del. Mark Levine
Arlington: Saturday, Jan. 26, 2-3:30 p.m. at the Walter Reed Community Center (2909 16th Street South) with Del. Alfonso Lopez
In case of severe weather please visit adamebbin.com or my twitter account @adamebbin for updates.
It remains my honor to serve the people of the 30th Senate District.