Newsletter: 2017 General Assembly Session-Volume 4

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. 
 
To contact me on legislative matters or for help with a state agency contact the my office at (804) 698-7509 or district09@senate.virginia.gov.
 
You can also stay informed about General Assembly activities by  following me on twitter and  liking my Facebook page