Newsletter from January 16th, 2019
Greetings from Richmond! Wednesday, January 9th was the first day of the Legislative Session and Governor Northam gave his second State of the Commonwealth speech to the General Assembly. In his address Governor Northam applauded the successes of the Medicaid Expansion and the lowest levels of unemployment in decades. He also urged bipartisanship and wanting to find common ground between the different sides of the aisle to ensure the Virginia General Assembly work for the people of this great Commonwealth. As the 2019 Legislative Session begins, I am considering numerous pieces of legislation that will come across my desk. I am honored to once again serve the people of the 29th Senate District.
Healthcare: Medicaid Expansion
Affordable and accessible health care is one of the most pressing issues for our Commonwealth. As a firefighter and EMT in Dale City for the past 20 years, I have seen the need for this first hand. Medicaid Expansion program is projected to enroll 375,000 Virginian’s by July. By allowing more Virginians to enroll in Medicaid we are able to provide critical access to health care and reassurance that a trip to the hospital won’t result in bankruptcy. Our work here is not complete as many families still struggle to access healthcare and we are working on solutions to increase options.
Criminal Justice: Decriminalization of Marijuana
At his State of the Commonwealth Address, Governor Northam advocated for the decriminalization of marijuana. Under this proposal, first time possession of petty amounts of marijuana would result in a civil penalty rather than a maximum 30-day jail time under current law. This is one of many criminal justice reforms that will be heard in this General Assembly.
Education and Health: Lead Water Testing
As a father of three school-age daughters, I know how important it is to have safe, healthy schools and daycare facilities. Quality drinking water - free of lead - in our schools and daycare facilities is vital to the health of our kids. That is why this year, I am continuing the work I passed in 2017 with SB1359 and introducing two new measures. The first measure requires reports of lead water testing by schools to be collected by the Virginia Department of Health and be available for review. The second measure requires child daycare facilities to either test for lead or provide bottled water meeting US Food and Drug Administration standards. The students, faculty, and staff of our schools deserve clean, safe drinking water and I will continue to advocate for water free from lead contamination.
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA):
For the last 96 years, men and women have worked together to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. In this 400th year of the Virginia General Assembly, we have the opportunity to make history and be the 38th state to ratify this constitutional amendment to allow men and women equal protections under the constitution. On Wednesday, I welcomed constituents which were here in support of the ERA. The ERA states: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” To add to the momentum, it was awe inspiring to see the thousands of postcards of support at the press conference last Wednesday. Yesterday, The Virginia Senate passed SJR284 by a 26 to 14 margin. This means that ERA is one step closer to ratification, and needs to pass in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Special thanks to my alma mater George Mason University (GMU) for holding a breakfast legislative reception, where GMU President Angel Cabrera discussed the growth of higher education in Virginia. Specifically, GMU has been designated a top-tier research university for the third year running. Since the designation of GMU, we now have four top-tier research universities in our Commonwealth. This will continue to bring tremendous opportunities to the students and faculty of George Mason and enable further discovery in both the humanities and STEM fields.
New to the Office!
I am happy to welcome two new interns, Victoria Farnsler and Mychala Walker, into the office of the 29th Senate District! Victoria Farnsler is from Stafford, Virginia and is currently in her last semester of her senior at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is studying political science with a concentration in politics and government and has hopes to go on to law school after graduation. Mychala Walker is from Woodbridge, Virginia and is currently in her second semester as a freshman at Virginia State University. She is studying political science and is excited to learn and grow through this wonderful opportunity. I am excited to see what these two bright students accomplish as they continue their studies and contributions to our Commonwealth.
Firefighters Memorial Walk
This Tuesday, I had the distinct honor of walking in the Virginia Firefighters Memorial Walk. This memorial walk raises awareness around the hundreds of service members who have died in the line of duty, as well as, due to cancers developed while serving our community as fire responders. In the past four months, Virginia has lost four firefighters to occupational cancers. Despite comprehensive cancer prevention education and policy changes, Virginia’s firefighters are being exposed and diagnosed with cancer at an alarming rate. As a Dale City firefighter for the past 20 years, I understand firsthand the importance of protecting these brave men and women. That’s why I am honored to have introduced two bills, SB1172 and SB1465, which aim to revise our cancer presumption law, as well as, finally include PTSD. I will continue to advocate for the men and women who serve as first responders and risk their lives everyday.