Sine Do or Die

Sine Do or Die

On Saturday evening, March 9, the 2024 General Assembly session adjourned sine die. “Sine die” is Latin for “without day,” and in legalese, if you will, it means “indefinitely.”

2,390 pieces of legislation were introduced during the legislative session, excluding commending and memorial resolutions, and of those, 1,098 passed. While the percentage of bills that passed trended upwards this year over the recent past, the percentage of bills passing the General Assembly with more than 40% voting in opposition increased to 27%, the highest since 2021. That being said, there were many areas where the General Assembly came together to compromise and tackle the issues that our constituents sent us to Richmond to address. 

Our Democratic majority had a very successful session, passing a slate of progressive bills. These bills prioritize public and higher education, expand access to mental healthcare and substance abuse treatment, combat gun violence, revitalize our infrastructure statewide, protect abortion and reproductive healthcare, bolster our economy, and support Virginia’s working families. Our majority blocked legislation that sought to restrict voting and reproductive rights, and blocked legislation to give tax breaks to the very wealthiest, just to name a few measures unpopular with the majority of Virginia’s electorate. 

There are many democratic priorities that I hope become law and are not vetoed by the Governor. HB 1 incrementally increases Virginia’s minimum wage to $13.50 by January 1, 2025, and $15.00 an hour by January 1, 2026. HB 2 bans the sale, purchase, manufacture, transport, or transfer of assault firearms. The bill defines an assault firearm as a semi-automatic rifle or pistol with a fixed magazine capacity of over 10 rounds or the ability to accept a detachable magazine. HB 570 establishes a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to combat high costs of prescriptions. SB 373 establishes a paid family and medical leave insurance program to ensure that hardworking Virginians do not have to choose between paying their bills and caring for a sick family member. 

I am pleased to report that twelve of my bills are headed to the Governor’s desk. I am most proud of those bills which passed after multi-year efforts, including HB 1157 which establishes a policy of consultation with Virginia’s federally recognized tribal nations on actions and projects with potential impacts on their environmental, cultural, and historic significance. This legislation was the top legislative priority of Virginia’s federally recognized tribes, and I was honored to be chosen to carry it. 

Another key victory was the passage of HB 698 and its Senate companion SB 448 carried by Senator Rouse, which creates a legal adult-use cannabis retail market. As you know, in 2021 cannabis was legalized for adult-use, but with no legal framework for sales outside of medical dispensaries. This left open a $3 billion per-year illicit market with untested and dangerous products on the street. Here’s some of what I said on the floor of the House: “The fact of the matter is that drug dealers don’t ID. They are not checking for age. Those products aren’t lab tested for purity or potency. They don’t accurately label them, and they don’t use childproof packaging. This bill mandates all of those things and more. We need to bring this into a regulatory framework that will protect our children and our Commonwealth, and that’s what I’m trying to do here.”

The very last bill to pass this Session was the budget. A government’s budget is a showcase of its values. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am proud of the work our body did to produce a fiscally responsible budget that meets the needs of our citizens to keep Virginia moving forward. Our budget provides a 6.75% pay increase for our public school teachers, invests $500 million in additional support to our most vulnerable students, supports an additional 3,440 DD waiver slots and increase in provider rates, provides $30 million in funding to combat the opioid epidemic, invests $110 million for community violence intervention programming, provides $200 million to the Community Flood Prevention Fund to support flood mitigation, and sets aside $1 million to expand the availability of early childcare centers, and much more. I was successful in securing over $153 million of the $370 million I requested in the budget that includes important initiatives for the 16th district, including dedicated funding to support WMATA, a Northern Virginia firefighter occupational cancer screening pilot program, and support for an African American Research Fellowship at Mount Vernon requested by the community based charity, Black Women United for Action. 

Now, the Governor has the momentous task before him of taking action (or not) on the bills the General Assembly has sent to his desk. The Governor has already taken action on the 84 bills sent to him before session ended that were considered "7-Day Bills.” Of those, he signed 64, amended 12, and vetoed 8. The deadline for him to sign, amend, or veto all other legislation is April 8 at 11:59 p.m. Alternatively, if a bill has no action taken on it by that time, then it automatically becomes law. On April 17, the General Assembly will reconvene to consider the Governor’s actions on these bills as well as his changes to the biennial budget.