My Legislation

The General Assembly convened on January 10th for a 60-day "long session." During this time we will address thousands of bills and adopt the bienniel budget for the Commonwealth. 
 
I have introduced 22 bills in the 2018 Session General Assembly Session. You can follow my bills and their progress through the General Assembly on the LIS website.

Criminal Justice Reform
 
Although Virginia abolished parole in 1995, Virginia juries were not instructed for another five years until the Supreme Court of Virginia held in Fishback v. Commonwealth of Virginia that they should be.  SB 100 requires new sentencing proceedings for those defendants convicted of nonviolent felonies prior to the abolition of parole who were sentenced before the date of Fishback decision.

SB 734 is a measure I introduced in 2015 and 2016 to require law enforcement to record custodial interrogations where practicable, and require the Department of Criminal Justice Services to establish, publish, and disseminate a model policy or guideline for law-enforcement personnel for the recording of custodial interrogations.  Initially a recommendation of the Innocence Project and drafted in consultation with law enforcement, this bill addresses the growing concern over false confessions leading to the wrongful conviction of innocent defendants by codifying what is quickly becoming a best practice for law enforcement.  This year, the Roosevelt Institute at George Mason University, a non-partisan, student-run think tank focused on drafting and implementing policy proposals on the state and local level, asked me to introduce the bill again.

Education

SB 101 strengthens my bill from last year adding information on the law and meaning of consent (including instruction that increases student awareness of the fact that consent is required before sexual activity) to high school family life education curriculum. That bill permitted the curriculum to include such criteria, while SB 101 requires it. 

SB 456 seeks to address the teacher shortage by requiring the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop and make available annually to each public elementary and secondary school teacher in the Commonwealth a voluntary and anonymous school climate survey to evaluate school-level teaching conditions and the impact such conditions have on teacher retention and student achievement.  Virginia is facing come very difficult decisions on how to manage our teacher shortage. There are two sides to this equation. The first side is how to encourage young people to become teachers, and to support their efforts to complete a high-quality teacher preparation program. The other side is how we keep our best teachers in the classroom. We know teacher salaries play a part in teacher recruitment and retention, but this bill will provide the data we need to inform state and local policies to address the crisis.  

Health Care

SB 287 provides for the collecting of information about spinal cord injuries to allow the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) to develop and implement programs and services for persons suffering from such injuries.  Currently, the DARs receives data regarding brain injury from the Department of Health, but has not received spinal cord injury data since 2008.  This bill was requested by the United Spinal Association of Virginia, which was founded in 2015 to provide support and resources to those who receive a spinal cord injury.  This bill will allow them to reach the estimated 10,000 individuals across the state living with spinal cord injuries to provide support services.

SB 292 clarifies that when a woman who qualifies for state medical assistance reports to a public health agency that her pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, the Board of Health is required to fund an abortion without requiring any report of such rape or incest to law enforcement. This was requested by Planned Parenthood advocates of Virginia.
 
Currently health care professionals with prescribing authority are not allowed to dispense medications on site; a pharmacist must be employed to dispense medications. This presents an additional barrier to reproductive health care access, either through an extra step to get prescriptions like birth control pills by leaving the provider and going to a pharmacy, or by increasing costs by forcing reproductive health providers to employ pharmacists. SB 293 authorizes on-site dispensing of controlled substances and devices without obtaining a license from the Board of Pharmacy, provided that such controlled substances and devices have been prescribed for the purposes of reproductive health and are dispensed in good faith within the course of his professional practice.  This bill was requested by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia.

SB 354 authorizes the State Health Commissioner to accept, review, and issue a certificate of public need (COPN) for the establishment of a new ambulatory surgery center located in Planning District 15 for the provision of ophthalmic services.  This bill was requested by an ophthalmologist in Ashland who has found it increasingly harder for to use hospital operating rooms to perform eye surgery and the Virginia Coalition to Reform COPN.  Virginia’s COPN laws require healthcare providers and facilities to obtain permission from the Department of Health before they can offer certain services, purchase certain equipment or expand their facilities.  COPN laws were originally implemented in the 1970s with the intent of controlling health care costs and increasing access to care. Unfortunately, the laws did not achieve this and the federal government and 15 states have repealed their COPN programs.  According to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Virginia currently has the 11th strictest set of COPN laws in the country.   As the state has unsuccessfully grappled with COPN reform over the past few years, the current COPN laws continue to block health care access and increase the cost of health care.
 
In 2004, the General Assembly passed a law prohibiting new methadone clinics from opening within 1/2 mile of a school or daycare.  The law grandfathered existing clinics.  In 2014, I sponsored HB 722 to close a loophole in the law by prohibiting any existing clinic from moving to within 1/2 mile of a school.  However, the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA) seeks to take over a grandfathered clinic and current law prohibits them from doing so.  SB 455 will provide a limited exception allowing RBHA to take over an existing grandfathered clinic. 

Housing
 
"Inclusionary Zoning" is a term used for zoning ordinances that encourage or require the creation of housing that is affordable to people of all income levels.  Virginia refers to these ordinances as "Affordable Dwelling Unit" ordinances, and in one code section (15.2-2305) the General Assembly has authorized very limited use of these ordinances through a confusing and cumbersome process that applies only to land subject to rezoning or special exception applications.  However, in a different code section (15.2-2304) a few jurisdictions have much greater freedom in crafting affordable dwelling ordinances.  These localities are free to pass straightforward ordinances that require all developers to create a certain number of affordable units in exchange for density bonuses.  SB 290 applies code section 15.2-2304 to all jurisdictions in Virginia, providing more flexibility in the authority granted to localities to pass affordable dwelling unit ordinances and increase the stock of affordable housing.  This bill was a recommendation of The Virginia Poverty Law Center.

Public Safety

SB 288 requires lost or stolen guns (excluding antiques) to be reported to local law-enforcement or State Police within 24 hours. This bill was requested by the Richmond Police Chief Durham.  Stolen and lost guns pose a significant risk to community safety.  The lack of mandatory reporting of stolen guns also enables gun trafficking and straw purchasing by eliminating accountability and allowing individuals whose guns end up used in connection with crime to simply say that the guns were stolen, thwarting the ability of law enforcement officers to solve violent crimes. 

SB 360 allows local governments to prohibit the possession or carrying of firearms, ammunition, or its components in public spaces during a permitted event, or events that should require a permit based on local permitting processes.  This bill is a recommendation from Governor McAuliffe’s Task Force on Public Safety Preparedness and Response to Civil Unrest, which was established through Executive Order 68 (2017) after the violent civil unrest that occurred in Charlottesville on August 12 when Neo-Nazis and white supremacists from 35 states descended upon the city as part of a “Unite the Right” rally, many with the intent to agitate the crowd or incite violence.  Large gatherings with the potential for violence pose significant threats to public safety, which can be exacerbated by the presence of firearms.  The After Action Review conducted of the state’s support of the City of Charlottesville leading up to and on August 12 identified that this type of event signals a new era of protests.  Event organizers are becoming more sophisticated, with some soliciting “professional agitators”.  Accordingly, we must equip state and local governments and law enforcement with the necessary tools to prepare for these types of events and put necessary public safety precautions in place.  When a pro-Confederate rally occurred in Richmond a month later, the Commonwealth could ban firearms for any permit granted for demonstrations at the Robert E. Lee Statue on Monument Avenue because it is state property.  But the City of Richmond was powerless to do so anywhere else along Monument Avenue or elsewhere.

Transportation/Driving

SB 291 codifies existing budget language in Item 442 A of the 2017 Appropriation Act that authorizes the Department of Motor Vehicles to establish, where feasible and cost efficient, contracts with public-private partnerships to provide for simplification and streamlining of services through electronic means. The bill codifies electronic services that the Department of Motor Vehicles has created pursuant to existing budget authority to provide simple, fast, efficient, and secure titling and registration of vehicles for customers and lienholders.

SB 359 provides that the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles may, in lieu of the requirements established by the Department of Education for driver education instructor qualification, accept 20 years' service with any local police department by a law-enforcement officer who (i) retired or resigned while in good standing from such department, (ii) was certified through a criminal justice training academy, and (iii) has been certified to teach driver education by the Department of Criminal Justice Services. Current law only allows the Commissioner to accept 20 years' service with the Department of State Police by a person who retired or resigned while in good standing from such department in lieu of such requirements for driver education instructor qualification

Miscellaneous

SB 289 specifies that the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council shall not redact from any document or form made available to the public any business name.

SB 353 authorizes the Department of Conservation and Recreation to convey certain real property adjacent to the White Oak Technology Park in Henrico County to the Economic Development Authority of Henrico County in return for the grant of an open space easement and the dedication of a natural area preserve on a portion of the White Oak Technology Park property.  This was requested by Henrico County.

SB 355 designates the areas that constitute the service territory of the City of Richmond's natural gas utility.  This bill was requested by the City of Richmond.

SB 356 establishes an Office of Inspector General for Richmond City.  The inspector general shall be appointed by the council, and the duties of the inspector general shall be to conduct such investigations as are authorized by the Code of Virginia for a local government auditor.  This bill was requested by Richmond City Council.
 
In Virginia, individuals filing death certificates have the option to do so electronically or in paper form. SB 357 eliminates paper death certificate filings with the State Registrar in order to streamline the process of filing death certificates online only.  This bill was requested by a funeral home director in Charles City County.
 
Currently, local voting registrars must advertise every voter registration event they attend or sponsor.  SB 358 exempts registrars from the advertising requirement when the event is closed to the public (such as events at public high schools) or when the registrar is not the sponsor of the event, but rather an invitee.  This will open up opportunities for registrars to get more rising high school seniors registered and educated on the importance to vote.  Additionally eliminating the required advertising for events where the registrar is an invitee, allows him or her to more freely engage in events without the prohibitive costs of advertising.  This was requested by the Richmond Registrar to facilitate voter registration activities at high schools.

SJ 38 commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The resolution is a recommendation of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission, which I chair.

SJ 42 extends state recognition to the Wolf Creek Cherokee Tribe of Virginia within the Commonwealth.  This was requested by the Wolf Creek Cherokee, who reside in Eastern Henrico.
 
As always, if you would like more information or to express your thoughts on legislation before the General Assembly, please contact my office at (804) 698-7509 or district09@senate.virginia.gov. You can also stop by my office in the Pocahontas Building located at 900 East Main Street. My offices are located in E512.
 
You can also stay informed about General Assembly activities by following me on Twitterliking my Facebook page, and following me on Instagram.
 
Click here to see my 2017 legistlationmy 2016 legislationmy 2015 legislationmy 2014 legislation, and my 2013 legislation. To learn more about my legislation from prior sessions, visit my "Member Bio" page on the General Assembly website. 

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