Opinion: Commentary: Last Week of Session

Opinion: Commentary: Last Week of Session

Last week was the penultimate week of the 2020 General Assembly Session, and there’s no sign of things slowing down. We worked long into the wee morning hours last Wednesday night in order to complete our committee work and hear all revenue bills before the deadline. We have now passed so many impactful pieces of legislation that there are simply too many to list. Many are on their way to the Governor’s desk to be signed. Here are just a few significant highlights:

My seatmate on the House floor, Delegate Bourne, patroned HB 7 which adds discrimination on the basis of income to the list of unlawful discriminatory housing practices.

Virginia will become the first southern state to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This is a carbon-cutting program which will also direct 50% of its revenue to energy efficient programs for low-income families.

Delegate Herring’s bill, HB 1, will allow any voter to vote by absentee ballot without an excuse.

SB 1, introduced by Senator Stanley, is a bill that repeals the requirement in which a driver’s license can be suspended based on the nonpayment of fines or costs.

HB 789, from Delegate Bagby, eliminates predatory lending practices by capping interest and fees.

Virginia is now set to become the first southern state with comprehensive anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ residents.

HB 1547, introduced by Delegate Lopez and known as the DREAM Act, expands in-state tuition eligibility to undocumented student residents at Virginia’s public colleges and universities.

HB 108, a bill patroned by Delegate Lindsey, will designate Election Day as a state holiday. I introduced this bill last year.

Delegate Delaney’s bill, HB 414, removes the red tape regarding rooftop solar projects and distributed energy.

Simple marijuana possession is decriminalized, with a civil penalty of no more than $25.

Spurred on by the concerns raised by my constituents, I diligently worked with stakeholders, my colleagues, and bill patrons to ensure that an exemption for au pairs was included in a minimum wage bill. During these discussions, it was determined that the best solution for offering this amendment would be in the omnibus bill, Senator Saslaw’s SB 7, rather than in SB 804. The amendment agreed to was: "Any person participating as an au pair in the U.S. Department of State's Exchange Visitor Program governed by 22 C.F.R. § 62.31." Moreover, I have been named a conferee on both the minimum wage bills, SB 7 and HB 395, so I am confident that we will be able to come to an agreement that includes this amendment that will protect the important au pair program.

Last Wednesday, I spoke on the floor regarding the importance of the passage of the Domestic Worker Protection Act as we put into motion plans to overhaul Virginia’s minimum wage. Personal care aides and home health aides are the top two fastest growing occupations by demand in Virginia, yet they have some of the lowest wages in the country. My own aged parents live with me and this may be the last session I can leave them on their own without the assistance of a home health aide. So, I am particularly sensitive to the importance of this bill.

I am also a conferee on SB 481 concerning the issue of mandated 40 hours of sick leave a year, and HB 533, my bill that rolled up into Delegate Carr’s polystyrene ban. The bill has a generous two year ramp up with necessary hardship exemptions included. I am hopeful that our Senate conferees will agree that this is a necessary first step to ridding our environment of the scourge of styrofoam.

Finally, I am a conferee on the two casino bills, HB 4 and SB 36. We are busy, but in a good way, getting great things done for our community and the Commonwealth.

It is always an honor to serve you in Richmond. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office at DelPKrizek@House.Virginia.Gov throughout this legislative session with questions, concerns, or legislative opinions.