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Update from Richmond: Health, Public Safety, Veterans Initiatives

Members of Prince William Education Association with Senator McPike.

Greetings from Richmond!

This week started off with several great visits from Prince William and Manassas educators. I met with the Prince William School Board, the Manassas School Board, and members of the Prince William Education Association to discuss teacher pay and retention, High School Redesign and the renewed focus on career and technical education. One of my focuses is to connect students with local businesses and exposure to the real-world skills through internships, apprenticeships, and credential programs.

Bills that Passed this Week

Earlier this week, the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor took up my bill, Senate Bill 654, which would require that health clubs and fitness facilities have a working automated external defibrillator or AED on the premises. The American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine have advocated for the availability of AED’s in health clubs and fitness facilities since 2002 due to the risk of cardiac emergency during physical activity. For each minute that defibrillation is delayed, the chance of survival is reduced by 7-10%. Yesterday, this bill passed the Senate with a final vote of  28 in favor and 11 in opposition. Watch it here.

Yesterday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 202 and Senate Bill 423 to prohibit discrimination in public employment and housing. To ensure Virginia is an open and inclusive commonwealth, I support prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, disability, or status as a veteran. These two bills now need to be vetted and voted on in the House of Delegates before they can be sent to the Governor for signing.

Important Bills that Failed this Week

Earlier this week, the House of Delegates took up several measures intended to reduce gun violence and improve public safety.  Unfortunately, a subcommittee voted down a measure to ban “bump stocks”, the add-on device that allowed the Las Vegas shooter to kill so many so quickly. Read more about these here. Similarly, I offered Senate Bill 653 to keep the presumed ban on dangerous weapons in houses of worship, and give church leadership the power to decide if and when they allow weapons. Many churches now have security guards and other safety measures and I trust clergy to make their own decision on how to protect their congregation on private property. My bill was defeated in committee and instead, the committee voted to remove the weapons ban all together. Members of local clergy reached out to me in opposition to the repeal.

I am also disappointed that several pieces of important legislation on Medicaid Expansion failed in the Senate Education and Health committee this week. Recent polling conducted by the Hospital & Healthcare Association showing 83% of Virginians are in favor of increasing access to care through Medicaid expansion. While these pieces of legislation failed in committee, I will continue to fight for improving access to healthcare for all Virginians. It is still possible that we could reach an agreement to expand Medicaid for 400,000 working Virginians through the budget process. Read the specifics here.

Veterans Initiatives

On the theme of veteran employment and job creation, I have introduced language this year to create the Veterans Entrepreneur Capital Resources Program within the Small Business Financing Authority. The program would provide below market loans to veterans of any era who are starting a small business. This initiative is supported by the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations.  

Last month, the Commonwealth unveiled its first Department of Veteran Services office inside the Pentagon. This marks the 30th DVS office in the state and will serve tens of thousands of transitioning service members and their families at the DOD headquarters. Virginia has the fourth largest veteran population in the nation, as we home the Pentagon and the largest Naval base in the world. This new office can help access services, including programs for healthcare, mental healthcare, housing, education, and employment. To learn more about DVS and their programs, visit https://www.dvs.virginia.gov/.

The Hylton Performing Arts Center at George Mason University is hosting the Veterans and the Arts Initiative in the coming weeks. The initiative makes long lasting connections between service members, veterans and their communities through artistic expression. For more information, visit the website here: http://hyltoncenter.org/veterans/

Town Hall Meetings - Please join me for one of the following town hall meetings:

South Prince William Town Hall
with Senator Scott Surovell and Delegate Elizabeth Guzman
Saturday, January 27, 2018
12noon to 2pm
Forest Park High School
15721 Forest Park Dr, Woodbridge

Manassas Town Hall
with Delegates Lee Carter and Danica Roem
Saturday, February 17, 2018
1pm to 4pm
Bull Run Regional Library, Community Room B
8051 Ashton Ave, Manassas

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 district29@senate.virginia.gov. 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.

Sincerely,
Jeremy