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Last week the House and Senate adopted amendments to the 2016-2018 budget to address a projected $279.3 million revenue shortfall.  The Senate budget reflects its top priorities of supporting mental health programs, avoiding spending cuts for public education and safety net programs, and providing an overdue pay raise for all state employees and teachers.  Specifically, the Senate budget proposes a 3 percent raise for state classified employees, a 2 percent raise for college and university faculty, the state share of a 2 percent raise for public school teachers, and a 2 percent raise for state-supported local employees.  Instead of providing a raise for teachers, the House budget increases funding for school divisions, which may use the money for raises or for other priorities.   

Jennifer McClellan

The 2017 General Assembly Session is now halfway over as the House and Senate considered hundreds of bills on Monday and Tuesday covering a wide variety of topics such as immigration, voting rights, school discipline, student loans, Airbnb, the regulation of property carriers, charter and virtual schools, and public procurement.  

 

Jennifer McClellan

Next Wednesday marks the halfway point in the 2017 General Assembly Session. Over the past week, the Senate passed several bills to strengthen relationships between law enforcement and communities, align Virginia with the rest of the nation in punishment for theft, assist former felons who reintegrate into society after completing their sentences, expand Virginia’s anti-discrimination laws, and curb predatory lending.

Jennifer McClellan

We are now two weeks into the 2017 Session, and the pace has picked up dramatically. As we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and ushered in the Trump Administration, the Senate considered several bills introduced by Republican Senator Richard Stuart that increase penalties for civil disobedience. These bills are part of a troubling trend by Republican legislators in several states to quash civil disobedience and curb First Amendment rights in the wake of the Black Lives Matter Movement, Trump Presidency protests, and the recent Women’s March on Washington. In addition to Virginia, similar bills have been introduced in Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Washington.

Three of the bills considered in the Virginia Senate were killed in the Courts of Justice Committee on MLK Day: SB 1056 would have increased from a Class 3 to a Class 1 misdemeanor for crossing or remaining within police lines or barricades without proper authorization; SB 1057 would have doubled the maximum jail time to 10 years in prison for participating in civil disobedience that causes harm to a person or property; and SB 1058 proposed felony charges against protesters who block any road in Virginia, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

The final bill reported out of the Committee and was debated on the Senate floor Monday. SB 1055 increases penalties for failure to leave the place of any riot or unlawful assembly after having been lawfully warned to disperse. Rather than a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $500, such an offense would be a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail, up to a $2500 fine, or both. Given how broadly unlawful assembly is defined, this bill went too far.

Considering that many of the rights we enjoy today were the result of civil disobedience and unlawful assembly, I strongly opposed SB 1055, and spoke out against it on the Senate floor. As noted by the ACLU in its opposition to the bill, it is often hard to hear police orders to disperse from a protest because of the noise. This bill would subject bystanders to a protest to jail time, particularly those recording the protest who are ordered to leave. Fortunately, the bill was defeated on a 14-26 vote.

Senate Republicans also defeated bills in committee last week to increase Virginia's minimum wage (SB 785 and SB 979), remove unconstitutional TRAP regulations that require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as hospitals (SB 877), and to authorize DMV to issue driver’s privilege cards to drivers who can prove that they pay Virginia income tax, have valid car insurance, and meet statewide driving and road safety standards (SB 1345).

Some good news came out of the House of Delegates last week when a subcommittee killed HB 1612, the so called Physical Privacy Act, which was nearly identical to the North Carolina "bathroom bill" that cost that state an estimated $600 million in business and led to the defeat of Republican Governor Pat McCrory. I strongly opposed this bill, and am glad to see it fail.

To sign up for email updates or learn how you can follow me on social media, visit www.jennifermcclellan.com. If you would like to share your views on any issue, or would like assistance with a state government matter, please do not hesitate to contact me at district09@senate.virginia.gov or (804) 698-7509.

Tomorrow marks the half-way point of the 2017 General Assembly Session, known as "Crossover," when the House and Senate must complete work on their own bills.  Over the next two days we will debate and vote on hundreds of bills on the Senate floor covering a wide variety of topics such as immigration, voting rights, school discipline, student loans, Airbnb, the regulation of property carriers, and public procurement.  My Op-Ed in yesterday's Richmond Times Dispatch discussed some of the school discipline bills we will address.
 
You can watch the Senate floor sessions live or find archived video from earlier floor sessions here

Last week, the Senate passed a significant portion of the Governor's criminal justice reform package, which I was proud to co-sponsor.  SB 1188 (Sen. Edwards) ends  the policy of automatically suspending a person's driving license for a non-driving related offense. People whose licenses are suspended under these circumstances often have to choose between driving on a suspended license (risking further penalties) or not going to work to support their families. This currently affects 650,000 Virginians who have suspended licenses for non-payment of fines and a further 200,000 who have suspended licenses for non-driving violations. 
 
In a string of party-line votes the Senate passed several bills imposing further restrictions on voting.  First,SB 872 (Sen. Chase) requires voters submitting an application for an absentee, mail-in ballot to submit a copy of a photo ID. I voted against this bill because it does nothing to prevent voter fraud, as there is no way for local registrars to verify the validity of the ID and imposes additional barriers on the elderly, sick, or military personnel who may not have the ability to obtain a copy of one of the authorized photo IDs. 
 
Second, SB 1105 (Sen. Obenshain) requires local electoral boards to investigate whenever the number of registered voters exceeds the voting age population based on estimates calculated by the Weldon Cooper Center at UVA.  Unlike the US Census, the Weldon Cooper Center estimates do not represent an actual accounting of the population. Moreover, the estimates are only provided once a year, and are seven months old when released. These estimates do not provide an accurate basis for determining the voting age population on election day. 
 
SB 1455 (Sen. Black) makes it a Class 6 felony for any person who gives, offers, or promises any monetary payment to another in exchange for that person registering to vote, while making it only a Class 1 misdemeanor for the person who solicits or accepts any monetary payment from another in exchange for his registering to vote. No rational was given for treating the payer and the payee differently.
My Legislation
 
Three of my bills reported out of committee last week and will be voted on the Senate floor this week.

 

SB 1475 adds to the family life education curriculum guidelines regarding sexual assault age-appropriate instruction that increases student awareness of the fact that consent is required before sexual activity. It also adds instruction on the importance of family relationships. The bill reported from the Education and Health Committee 14-1.

 

SB 1494 establishes a legal framework to allow companies such as UZERV to pre-arrange rides with transportation network companies (like Uber and Lyft) or to request specific drivers whom they designate as their favorites. Without this legislation, companies such as UZERV cannot operate in Virginia. 

 

SB 1493 establishes capacity for Virginia to train K-12 teachers to teach computer science through a public-private partnership between Northern Virginia Community College and a non-profit.

 
You can track the progress of my legislation through the session  here. 
We're nearly one-third of the way through the 2017 Session.  This week is the last week Senate and House committees will act on bills before crossover, so we are in for long days.  
 
On Monday, the Senate considered SB 1055 increasing the penalties for failure to leave the place of any riot or unlawful assembly after being lawfully warned to disperse. I highlighted my opposition to this bill  in last week's newsletteron the radio, in my most recent Richmond Free Press update, and spoke against the bill on the Senate floor.  I'm pleased to report the bill was defeated  14-26.  You can watch my floor remarks opposing the bill  here.
 
In a victory for equality, the Senate passed SB 783 (Sen. Ebbin) prohibiting discrimination in public employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and SB 822 (Sen. Wexton) prohibiting such discrimination in housing.  I was proud to co-sponsor both bills, which passed 25-14. Unfortunately both face an uphill battle in the House.  
 
The Senate also passed several bills that I co-patroned to strengthen relations between law enforcement and communities, align Virginia with the rest of the nation in punishment for theft, and assist former felons who reintegrate into society after completing their sentences:    
  • SB 1047 (Sen. Lucas) expands mandatory training for law-enforcement officers to include fair and impartial policing, verbal de-escalation, and the needs of special populations;
  • SB 816 (Sen. Surovell) increases the grand larceny felony threshold from $200, currently one of the lowest in the nation, to $500; and
  • SB 1171 (Sen. Dance) "bans the box" by removing questions pertaining to criminal background from the initial job application for state employment and allowing localities to do the same. The prohibition does not apply to applications for employment with law-enforcement agencies, certain positions designated as sensitive, or in instances where a state agency is expressly authorized by a specific federal or state law to inquire into criminal history for employment purposes. Agencies may consider criminal history later in the process, but this bill removes a significant barrier for many to even be considered for employment.   
The Senate also passed 36-3 legislation to regulate predatory online loans.   SB 1126 (Sen. Surovell) makes clear that Virginia's consumer finance laws apply to internet loans made to Virginia residents or any individuals in Virginia, whether or not the person making the loans maintains a physical presence in the Commonwealth.
We're nearly one-third of the way through the 2017 Session.  This week is the last week Senate and House committees will act on bills before crossover, so we are in for long days.  
 
On Monday, the Senate considered SB 1055 increasing the penalties for failure to leave the place of any riot or unlawful assembly after being lawfully warned to disperse. I highlighted my opposition to this bill  in last week's newsletteron the radio, in my most recent Richmond Free Press update, and spoke against the bill on the Senate floor.  I'm pleased to report the bill was defeated  14-26.  You can watch my floor remarks opposing the bill  here.
 
In a victory for equality, the Senate passed SB 783 (Sen. Ebbin) prohibiting discrimination in public employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and SB 822 (Sen. Wexton) prohibiting such discrimination in housing.  I was proud to co-sponsor both bills, which passed 25-14. Unfortunately both face an uphill battle in the House.  
 
The Senate also passed several bills that I co-patroned to strengthen relations between law enforcement and communities, align Virginia with the rest of the nation in punishment for theft, and assist former felons who reintegrate into society after completing their sentences:    
  • SB 1047 (Sen. Lucas) expands mandatory training for law-enforcement officers to include fair and impartial policing, verbal de-escalation, and the needs of special populations;
  • SB 816 (Sen. Surovell) increases the grand larceny felony threshold from $200, currently one of the lowest in the nation, to $500; and
  • SB 1171 (Sen. Dance) "bans the box" by removing questions pertaining to criminal background from the initial job application for state employment and allowing localities to do the same. The prohibition does not apply to applications for employment with law-enforcement agencies, certain positions designated as sensitive, or in instances where a state agency is expressly authorized by a specific federal or state law to inquire into criminal history for employment purposes. Agencies may consider criminal history later in the process, but this bill removes a significant barrier for many to even be considered for employment.   
The Senate also passed 36-3 legislation to regulate predatory online loans.   SB 1126 (Sen. Surovell) makes clear that Virginia's consumer finance laws apply to internet loans made to Virginia residents or any individuals in Virginia, whether or not the person making the loans maintains a physical presence in the Commonwealth.
We're nearly one-third of the way through the 2017 Session.  This week is the last week Senate and House committees will act on bills before crossover, so we are in for long days.  
 
On Monday, the Senate considered SB 1055 increasing the penalties for failure to leave the place of any riot or unlawful assembly after being lawfully warned to disperse. I highlighted my opposition to this bill  in last week's newsletteron the radio, in my most recent Richmond Free Press update, and spoke against the bill on the Senate floor.  I'm pleased to report the bill was defeated  14-26.  You can watch my floor remarks opposing the bill  here.
 
In a victory for equality, the Senate passed SB 783 (Sen. Ebbin) prohibiting discrimination in public employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and SB 822 (Sen. Wexton) prohibiting such discrimination in housing.  I was proud to co-sponsor both bills, which passed 25-14. Unfortunately both face an uphill battle in the House.  
 
The Senate also passed several bills that I co-patroned to strengthen relations between law enforcement and communities, align Virginia with the rest of the nation in punishment for theft, and assist former felons who reintegrate into society after completing their sentences:    
  • SB 1047 (Sen. Lucas) expands mandatory training for law-enforcement officers to include fair and impartial policing, verbal de-escalation, and the needs of special populations;
  • SB 816 (Sen. Surovell) increases the grand larceny felony threshold from $200, currently one of the lowest in the nation, to $500; and
  • SB 1171 (Sen. Dance) "bans the box" by removing questions pertaining to criminal background from the initial job application for state employment and allowing localities to do the same. The prohibition does not apply to applications for employment with law-enforcement agencies, certain positions designated as sensitive, or in instances where a state agency is expressly authorized by a specific federal or state law to inquire into criminal history for employment purposes. Agencies may consider criminal history later in the process, but this bill removes a significant barrier for many to even be considered for employment.   
The Senate also passed 36-3 legislation to regulate predatory online loans.   SB 1126 (Sen. Surovell) makes clear that Virginia's consumer finance laws apply to internet loans made to Virginia residents or any individuals in Virginia, whether or not the person making the loans maintains a physical presence in the Commonwealth.

Jennifer McClellan

Last week, the 2017 Virginia General Assembly Session convened for 46 days to address thousands of bills and amendments to the state budget. After 11 years in the House of Delegates, I took the oath of office to serve in the Virginia State Senate. I am humbled and tremendously honored to have been elected by the voters of the 9th Senate District to succeed Donald McEachin, who now serves in Congress. I look forward to continuing the work I began in the House to improve public education, provide economic opportunity for all Virginians, and strengthen our local communities. I will continue to address the needs of my constituents through legislation and constituency services.

Part of serving you is keeping you informed of the issues we tackle during Session so that your voice can be heard. Therefore, as Senator McEachin did, I will provide regular legislative updates through this column, newsletters, and through my webpage and social media accounts.

This session, we will work to address a $1.26 billion budget shortfall. My top priority will be to protect the historic investments we made last year in K-12 education and fight any efforts to erode our public education system.

I will also work to support Governor McAuliffe’s criminal justice reform package, which includes bills to reduce the practice of suspending driver's licenses of people who cannot afford to pay court costs or commit non-driving offenses. Nearly 650,000 Virginians currently have a suspended driver license because they cannot afford to pay their legal fees and court costs. Another 200,000 have lost their licenses for offenses that have nothing to do with driving. For many, driving is the only option for getting to work, and they either cannot work or risk driving with a suspended license and racking up more charges and fines. Through this cycle, they are never able to pay their court costs and build a more productive life.

The Governor has also proposed legislation to raise Virginia’s felony larceny threshold from $200 to $500. Virginia’s current $200 felony larceny threshold is the lowest in the country, and was first set nearly 40 years ago. The purchasing power of $200 in 1980 is now over $500. Today, stealing a pair of tennis shoes or a purse subjects someone to enormous employment, housing and other difficulties that come with a felony conviction. While I support efforts to increase the threshold to $1,000, the Governor’s proposal is a good first step to align the punishment for theft in Virginia with the rest of the nation.

We will also consider legislation to address the immediate crisis facing Virginia’s mental health system—including strengthening mental health screening and support services in local and regional jails and the growing opioid addiction and overdose epidemic. Other legislation coming before the General Assembly includes bills addressing the school-to-prison pipeline, workforce training and development, meeting the needs of our veterans and military families, expanding voter access, and increasing the minimum wage and economic development opportunities for urban areas.

I look forward to providing an update on these and other issues coming before the General Assembly this year in greater detail as the session continues. To sign up for email updates or learn how you can follow me on social media, visit www.jennifermcclellan.com. If you would like to share your views on any issue, or would like assistance with a state government matter, please do not hesitate to contact me at district09@senate.virginia.gov or (804) 698-7509.

January 23, 2017
 
My 2017 Legislation
 
Due to the timing of my swearing in to the Senate, I am limited in the number of bills I can introduce this session. I have introduced 7 bills this year, which you can track here
 
SB 1475 calls for changes to the family life education curriculum guidelines that include age-appropriate instruction that increases student awareness of the fact that consent is required before sexual activity. I am carrying this bill on behalf of the Sexual Assault Resource Agency.
 
SB 1476  requires the Department of Education to develop and make available to each local school board, training for hearing officers in teacher dismissal hearings. I am carrying this bill on behalf of the Virginia Education Association. 
 
 
SB 1477 makes several changes to provisions relating to blind and visually impaired students, including (i) requiring a learning media assessment (LMA) to be administered as part of the initial evaluation and each reevaluation of each student with blindness or visual impairments or more frequently, if such student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) team so determines; (ii) requiring instruction in Braille reading and writing and accommodations for materials in Braille to be included in the IEP of a student with blindness or visual impairments commensurate with his IEP team's determination of his or her needs based upon the results of such LMA, and (iii) requiring the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired to assist the Board of Education and each local school board with ongoing professional development for teachers of students with blindness or visual impairments, including knowledge of and instruction in Braille and the administration and evaluation of LMAs. I am carrying this bill on behalf of the Association for Education and Rehab of the Blind and Visually Impaired. 
 
SB 1478 allows a court to modify a restitution payment plan or amend the amount of restitution due for good cause shown after a hearing in which the defendant, Commonwealth's Attorney, and the victim have been notified. I am carrying this bill on behalf of the Virginia Crime Commission. 
 
SB 1493 establishes the Computer Science for All Virginians Students Advisory Committee and Computer Science for All Virginia Students public-private partnership. I am carrying this bill on behalf of CodeVA.
 
SB 1494 allows brokers to arrange rides with transportation network companies (like Uber and Lyft) but with specific drivers whom they designate as their favorites.  The bill requires such brokers to be licensed by DMV and includes insurance requirements for TNC partner vehicles operating at the request of a broker. This bill was requested by UZERV, an innovative new business in the Richmond area.
 
SB 1519 adds meningococcal conjugate to the list of immunizations students must receive before entering sixth grade. I am carrying this bill on behalf of the Virginia Department of Health.
 
I am also co-sponsoring several bills, which I will highlight next week, and that you can track here.
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