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2018 General Assembly Session Highlights

Governor Northam signing Senator McPike's Senate Bill 664.

Here is a listing of some of our legislative accomplishments, organized by topic, from this past General Assembly session. 

Healthcare 

  • Medicaid Expansion - The House of Delegates has now passed two budgets that include Medicaid expansion, however the Senate has yet to vote on these budgets. The program would provide access to health care to nearly 400,000 working Virginians, who live at 138% of the federal poverty line. The influx of federal dollars will allow the state to improve health, stabilize hospitals, and re-prioritize funds for historic investments in every level of education as well as provide raises for teachers and correctional officers.
  • Suicide prevention accountability - HB 569 (Del Gooditis) requires the Department of Behavioral Health to report information related to their anti-suicide programs across all stages of life to the General Assembly each year. 
  • Stroke Care - SB 867and SB 868 (Sen McPike) improve stroke care in the Commonwealth by collecting and analyzing data on stroke outcomes to better inform the regional Stroke Triage Plan. 
  • Air Ambulance Services -SB 663  (Sen McPike) requires hospitals to provide a cost range to patients choosing air ambulance transport, when the situation is non-emergent, so patients have more information to make an informed decision. 
  • Firearms and mental health treatment -  SB 669 (Sen Deeds) prohibits a minor at least 14 years old, who is ordered to undergo involuntary mental health treatment, from accessing a firearm.  
  • Mental Health Awareness Training for first responders-  SB 670 (Sen Deeds) requires mental health awareness training for firefighters and emergency medical services personnel to recognize signs within themselves or among their peers.
  • CBD & THC oil -  SB 330 and SB 726 (Sen Dunnivant) allow for the regulation and dispensing of these oils from a licensed facility for the purpose of treating patients with epilepsy and other diagnosis. 

Education 

  • Addressing the teacher shortage -  Several pieces of legislation were passed that would make it so that teachers could keep their licenses for longer, and other measures that would help make it easier for those that want to teach in Virginia schools can.  SB 103 (Sen Suetterline) provides stronger reciprocity for teachers who are spouses of Armed Forces members.
  • Certification Programs in High School -SB 664 (Sen McPike) gives school divisions greater flexibility in offering modular industry certification courses at the end of the year, after SOLs are completed, to better prepare students for the workforce. 
  • Computer Coding as Language Credit - HB 443 (Del Carroll Foy) allows high school students to take a computer coding class to fulfill the foreign language requirement for graduation with a standard or advanced diploma.
  • Student Borrower resources - SB 394 (Sen Howell) passed to help borrowers navigate student loans by establishing a student loan ombudsman. In addition to helping Virginians understand their financial commitments, the ombudsman will also help resolve complaints from borrowers against companies that engage in predatory practices.
  • Professional licensure protection -passed HB 1114 (Del VanValkenburg) to protect people who struggle to make their student loan payments from losing their professional licenses. Abolishing a backwards practice of penalizing working people by taking away their means of paying back their loans. 
  • Tackling the School-to-Prison Pipeline - We made significant progress toward ending the school-to-prison pipeline by reducing the maximum length of school suspensions. This measure helps address the disproportionate harm that students of color and students with disabilities face with long term suspensions.  HB 1600 (Del Bourne) limits long-term suspensions to 45 days, unless there are aggravating circumstances.  SB 170  (Sen Stanley) limits suspensions for kindergarten through 3rd grade to 3 days, unless aggravating circumstances exist. 
  • Recess in Elementary School -HB 1419 (Del Delaney) provides flexibility to allow for more unstructured recess time in elementary school.

Economic Development & Consumer Protection

  • Innovative economic development- Democrats and Republicans worked together to pass a bill that would incentivize businesses to bring good jobs to Southwest and Southside Virginia by making it easier for out of state business to relocate to economically depressed areas in Virginia. 
  • ABC Licensing -SB 647 (Sen McPike) streamlines process for online application for ABC license for increased efficiency and responsiveness. 
  • Workforce Development in the classroom - HB 632 (Del Bulova) requires the Board of Education to develop curricula in career investigation, which would help even elementary school students to become exposed to technical and trade education. This initiative will help students become career-ready and help businesses have access to a skilled workforce.
  • Employment for Persons with Disabilities -  SB 652 (Sen McPike) requires state officials and private sector to work together on strategies for increasing the employment of persons with disabilities through the state procurement process.
  • Credit Report Freezes -SB 16 (Sen Petersen & Sen McPike) reduces the fee charged when a consumer asks for a security freeze on their credit report.

Transportation

  • Bipartisan Metro Funding Deal -SB 856 (Sen Saslaw)  secures funding to improve Metro through both capital and operating improvements. Virginia will fund $154 million a year in permanent funding, partnering with D.C. and Maryland to ensure that the transit system can better serve Northern Virginia. This bill will help attract more national industries to the region, and return Metro to a state of good repair so it can continue to take thousands of cars of the roads each day.
  • EZ Pass FeesSB 643 (Sen McPike) passed, which requires VDOT to give a whole year before charging $10 fee for not using the EX Pass FLEX in the FLEX mode. A full repeal of this fee has failed for several years.

Criminal Justice Reform

  • Raising the Felony Threshold- There were 7 bills in the Senate alone to raise the felony larceny threshold, including SB 102(Sen McPike) to raise it to $1500. Ultimately, these were combined into SB 105(Sen Suetterline), which raised the threshold from $200 to $500. Virginia’s felony bar has not been raised since 1980 and is tied with New Jersey for the lowest in the nation. Raising the threshold has been a major criminal justice reform focus for Democrats for at least two decades.
  • Court fines reform- HB 202 (Del Mullin) ensures than anyone convicted of a crime is informed of their option to either pay a fine or complete community service. This bill will help low income Virginia's avoid unnecessary legal issues due to unpaid legal fees.  
  • Feminine hygiene products for female prisoners -  HB 83 (Del Kory) finally addresses the deeply troubling issue of the lack of feminine hygiene products in our correctional facilities in Virginia. 

Public Safety

  • Sexually Violent Predators -SB 267 (Sen Howell) amends the law to allow DOC officials to use modernized evidence-based assessments protocols in identifying & analyzing sexually violent predators.
  • Criminal History Check for Childcare Providers -  SB 121(Sen Wexton) removes the sunset for criminal history background checks for employees of child care providers.
  • Witness Testimony - SB 420(Sen McDougle) allows witnesses to be accompanied by certified facility dogs when giving testimony.
  • Protective Orders - HB 262(Del. Miyares) allows a judge to grant sole use and control of a cellular telephone number to a person petitioning for a protective order on grounds of domestic abuse. 

Sexual Harassment

  • Mandatory training for legislators and staff -  HB 371(Del Robinson) instructs all members and staff in the General Assembly must go through sexual harassment training. 
  • Personal space training in schools HB 45(Del Filler-Corn) includes personal privacy and personal boundaries training in schools curriculum.  

Opioid Crisis

  • Educating the Dangers of Prescription Drugs HB 1532 (Del Herring) encourages schools to incorporate the dangers of prescription drug addiction into health education, an important step in addressing this crisis.
  • Naloxone for Correctional Officers -HB 322 (Del Bourne) allows correctional, probation and parole officers to possess and administer naloxone, the life-saving drug that can reverse an overdose.
  • Prescription Monitoring Program -SB 226 (Sen Stanley) requires veterinarians to participate in the PMP.
  • Home Hospice Program Drug Disposal - HB 501 (Del Hodges) requires home hospice programs to develop procedures for the disposal of drugs.

Notable Resolutions

  • Women Veterans WeekSJ 36 (Sen Wexton) designates as third full week of March 2018, and each succeeding year, Women Veterans Week.
  • Martin Luther King Jr AnniversarySJ 38 (Sen McClellan) commemorates the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
  • Fallen State Troopers– SR 22 celebrates the life of Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen III and HJ 177 celebrates the life of  Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates.
  • Father Creedon– SR 23 (Sen McPike) celebrates the life and memory of Father Gerry Creedon from Holy Family Catholic Church.
  • GMU Alumni AssociationSJR 83 (Sen McPike) commemorates the 50thanniversary of the George Mason University Alumni Association.
  • Bel Air Elementary School– SR 36 (Sen McPike) commemorates the 5thanniversary of Bel Air Elementary School in Dale City.
  • Manassas Symphony OrchestraSR 10 (Sen McPike) commemoratesthe 25thanniversary of the Manassas Symphony Orchestra.
  • Sonnie P. Penn Elementary SchoolSR 24 (Sen McPike) commemoratesthe 20thanniversary of Sonnie P. Penn Elementary School in Prince William County.
  • Child Protection Partnership– SR 75 (Sen McPike) celebrates the work of the Child Protection Partnership to protect children from abuse and neglect in Prince William, Manassas, and Manassas Park.