2024 Legislative Agenda: FILING BILLS

2024 Legislative Agenda: FILING BILLS

State Senators are limited to introducing 21 pieces of legislation this session, so I am hard at work putting the final touches on my package of bills for 2024. As you may have seen, I have already introduced one amendment to the Virginia Constitution, as well as four pieces of legislation, including one that I am carrying with my friend and newly-elected fellow Senator, Schuyler VanVallkenburg. 

● SJ 11: This proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution would finally remove the stain on our foundational document that prohibits marriage equality, replacing the prohibition with the affirmative right to marry for two consenting adults. 

● SB 101: Would prohibit someone who provides marriage licenses in Virginia from refusing to issue a marriage license based on the sexual orientation or race of any of the two parties to the marriage. 

● SB 100: Would prohibit so-called “ghost guns.” 

● SB 99: Would prohibit the carrying of an assault weapon in public. 

● SB 44: Would increase penalties on a parent if they leave a loaded firearm around a child and the child uses the firearm to commit violence. 

Over the next 24 hours, I will also file several pieces of additional legislation, including bills that would: 

● Increase penalties for removing or altering serial numbers on firearms. 

● Establish a retail market for safe cannabis use for adults 21 and older. 

● Create penalties for the killing or maiming of a companion animal. 

● Extend the deadline for the City of Alexandria to complete its investments in replacing its combined sewer overflow system, due to supply chain delays. 

● Strengthen the unemployment system by requiring the Virginia Employment Commission to provide claimants copies of employer responses to agency fact-finding and inquiries. 

● Require more timely and detailed responses from employers to the Virginia Employment Commission regarding employee separation. 

● Require the posting of the illegal gaming tip line in establishments licensed by Virginia Lottery. The tip line number is 1-833-889-2300. 

● Prohibit landlords from charging tenants for so-called “junk fees,” such as the cost of repairing equipment that is owned by the landlord. 

● Ban unscrupulous companies from trapping homeowners into advance sales contracts to list their home for sales for many years in advance, under penalty of increased costs on the homeowner. 

I expect to file several additional bills by the close of the week. 

Save The Date! Upcoming Alexandria Town Hall 

I will co-host a Town Hall meeting with the rest of the 39th Senate District delegation to the General Assembly on Sunday, Jan. 21, from 1-3 p.m. at Alexandria City High School. Along with Delegates Charniele Herring, Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, Alfonso Lopez, and Adele McClure, I will be responding to your questions, and listening for good ideas. 

Arena Proposal for Potomac Yard 

On Monday evening, earlier this week, I participated in a virtual town hall hosted by the Del Ray Citizens Association, to hear questions from the Alexandria community about the proposal for relocating the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals from the District to Potomac Yard. For those who participated, and patiently waited while we negotiated technical difficulties, I thank you. If you missed the opportunity to participate, either because of your schedule, or due to technical difficulties, you can view the meeting in its entirety online by going to www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCO5mjcB11M, which you can find on the Del Ray Citizens Association YouTube channel. 

It is clear that public-private sports/entertainment proposals do not always work out well for taxpayers and local communities; that’s why every proposal must be thoroughly vetted by elected leaders and the public, and tested with hard questions. To that end, I will continue to urge the Youngkin Administration to respond to important questions I have heard from the community about the proposal for Potomac Yard. 

Update on State Aid to K-12 

Last year, thanks to the leadership of Senate Democrats, Virginia partially lifted the Great Recession-era cap on state funding for public school support staff. Because of that change, the Commonwealth now will pay its share for 3,670 additional support staff for the 2023-24 school year. For localities in the 39th Senate District, that investment includes: 

● 46 additional state-supported staff in Alexandria, 

● 81 additional state-supported staff in Arlington, 

● and 517 additional state-supported staff in Fairfax County. 

Public school support positions, such as guidance counselors, teacher assistants and school nurses, are fundamentally critical to the success of Virginia’s children. Virginia needs to maintain its new expanded support for them, and continue the effort to pay them what they deserve. Many students have barriers to learning, and they require support beyond what some of the best public school teachers could provide. That’s why public school support staff play such an important role in helping Virginia’s students overcome their challenges, and gain an education that will help them uplift themselves and their communities. 

In reaction to the Great Recession, an arbitrary cap was imposed on the number of public school support staff the state would pay for; this action reduced state support by hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Since the cap was established in 2009, support staff decreased by 3,630 positions across the state; while at the same time, Virginia’s public school enrollment increased by more than 16,000 students. 

When lawmakers, led by Senate Democrats, pressed Governor Youngkin to agree to partially lifting the Great Recession-era staff support cap, that represented a significant policy victory that was years in the making. This means that the Commonwealth will finally pay its share of the costs for 3,670 additional support staff for the 2023-2024 school year. 

Virginia’s legislative research arm – JLARC – just last summer estimated that the state is underfunding the public education system by as much as $4 billion per year. The report concluded that Virginia spends less per public school student than our neighboring states of Kentucky, Maryland and West Virginia. 

During this next legislative session, which begins on Wednesday, Jan. 10, legislators must take into account the demonstrated need for more K12 public education funding, not less. 

As a senior member of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, I will fight to protect these hard-won investments in public education in the Commonwealth, and expand them where we can afford. 

Unfortunately, Governor Youngkin’s proposed 2024-2026 state budget would invest less in Virginia’s public education system, not more. That is unacceptable.