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Update from Richmond: Credit Freeze, Stroke Care, & Dominion Bill

Constituent groups visiting Senator McPike in Richmond, including the Muslim Association of Virginia, the Prince William Chamber, students from Virginia21, and Supervisor & Mrs. Jenkins.

Dear Neighbors, As we approach “crossover” next week, the Senate is moving rapidly to meet strict deadlines to act on all legislation introduced by Senators. This has lead to many long days in both committee and floor debates, but we are moving through many important pieces of legislation. Even so, I still made time to meet with constituent groups that visit Capitol, including the Muslim Association of Virginia, Virginia21, the PWC Chamber of Commerce, as well as Neabsco District Supervisor and Mrs. Jenkins.

Bills that passed this week:

I introduced Senate Bill 38 to eliminate the fee that credit rating agencies charge when you want to freeze your credit. There was a bipartisan effort to address this issue and a compromise was reached to instead lower the fee from $10 to $5 and that compromise bill was advanced. I would still prefer zero fee associated with this, but it is a move in right direction.

Another one of my initiatives, Senate Bill 652, passed from the Senate and will now be taken up by the House of Delegates. This bill brings together a variety of stakeholders in industry and state government to discuss state policies that will advance employment opportunities for persons with disabilities through state procurement.

Senate Bill 867 was also successful. This bill improves stroke care across the Commonwealth by collecting and analyzing data on stroke outcomes so that we may improve our approach to stroke care in the Commonwealth.

Yesterday, the Committee on Rules passed my Senate Joint Resolution 48 to bring together stakeholders to investigate the feasibility of school based health centers. There are 18 other states that are leveraging existing healthcare dollars in their schools to improve health of students. There have been proposals year after year to bring more nurses and counselors into our schools, and this could be one approach to doing so in the future.

Additionally, Senate Bill 966, also known as the Dominion “rate freeze” bill, passed from the floor of Senate after a long and arduous debate. There were positive components of the bill, including grid modernization investments, energy efficiency programs, increasing renewables, and burying the Haymarket power lines. However, after much analysis and discussion, I continue to have concerns about the transparency of financial transactions on the part of Dominion, so I did not vote for this bill. This is a unique issue because customers do not have a choice in who to purchase their electricity from. The Virginia Constitution gives the State Corporation Commission authority to oversee the rates and require refunds or rate reductions when customers are overcharged, and this bill diminishes that authority.

Bills that were rejected this week:

I am greatly disappointed that my Senate Bill 642 to help firefighters that are diagnosed with cancer after exposure to carcinogens was unsuccessful in the Committee on Finance this week. The committee sent the bill to a workgroup to be studied over the course of the next year. It is my sincerest hope that the measure is taken seriously because first responders and their families deserve better from the Commonwealth. This is something I will continue to fight for.

Another bill that was assigned to the Committee on Rules yesterday was Senate Joint Resolution 4, the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA is an amendment to the US Constitution that has been ratified by 36 other states. The language of the amendment reads: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” The committee room was packed with supporters from across the Commonwealth. After brief debate, the resolution failed on a voice vote. Supporters in the room began singing We Shall Overcome until the committee agreed to redo the vote with a show of hands. It failed on a 5 to 10 vote, but it was a very powerful moment in the committee room. You can view the meeting at this link. Choose the “Video” link for Feb 9th Rules Committee and view from 0:28:00 to 1:07:00.

Mark your calendar: I will participate in two upcoming town halls.

MANASSAS TOWN HALL with Delegates Lee Carter & Danica Roem
Saturday, February 17, 2018
1pm to 4pm
Bull Run Regional Library, Room B
8051 Ashton Ave, Manassas

DALE CITY TOWN HALL with Delegate Elizabeth Guzman
Sunday, February 18, 2018
3pm to 5pm
Beville Middle School
4901 Dale Blvd, Dale City

The General Assembly is in session until mid-March, so please feel free to contact my Richmond office at (804) 698-7529 or via email in the coming weeks. It is my privilege to serve you in Senate of Virginia. Please use  this link to read and track my legislative initiatives this year. There are many issues that the General Assembly will consider in the coming weeks, and I will continue to update you on their progress. Please also follow me on Facebook and Twitter for real time updates from Richmond.