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Update from Richmond: "sine die" edition

Senator McPike and 2018 Senate Page, Jacob Kirkland, in the Rotunda of the Virginia State Capitol Building.

The General Assembly is working feverishly to finish the business of the Commonwealth so we can adjourn “sine die” today.  Yet, there is still much work to be done. The House and Senate still have not agreed upon a biennial budget, so the General Assembly will have to go into Special Session and return in the coming weeks to negotiate a deal.  I support expanding Medicaid, so that we may recoup our own federal tax dollars to improve access to healthcare, increase services for mental health and substance abuse, eliminate the waiting list for persons with developmental disabilities, and save money on several other programs that we could better invest in other priorities, such as public education.  While there are vast differences between the Senate and the House proposals, I am hopeful that we can work towards the best deal for the people of the Commonwealth.

I would to take a moment to acknowledge the Senate Page Leadership Program, a prestigious youth leadership program that brings young Virginians down to Richmond to work in the General Assembly alongside Senators and Delegates. This year, I appointed Jacob Kirkland from Manassas Park Middle School to represent our community. Jacob participates in band, chorus, debate team, and math team back home. Here in Richmond, he not only worked on the floor of the Senate, but his class participated in a “mock session” where the pages wrote, debated, and passed their own bills. Additionally, this year’s page class listened to various speakers and lectures, raised over $10,000 for the local food pantry, and toured many historic and educational sites around Richmond. Congrats on your hard work, Jacob! You did a great job this session!

Other Bills of Note:

  • Women Veterans Week: Senator Jennifer Wexton introduced, SJ 36, which serves to recognize the incredible contribution of female veterans across the Commonwealth.
  • Metro Funding: SB 856 makes changes to reform the metro system in coordination with D.C. and Maryland. Metro is vital to the the success of our robust economy in Northern Virginia. To ensure its safety and reliability, Virginia must identify a reliable revenue stream to fund maintenance into the future. Furthermore, this deal includes a floor on the regional gas tax, which will fund Metro in WMATA jurisdictions. In Prince William, Manassas, and Manassas Park, these funds will go towards other transit such as VRE and PRTC.
  • Computer coding as a language credit: Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy introduced HB 443, which allows high school students to take a computer coding class to fulfill the foreign language requirement for graduation with a standard or advanced diploma.
  • Car Seats: For the safety of the youngest Virginians, HB 708 requires children ride in a rear facing car seat until age two or until they reach a weight limit as stated by the manufacturer.
  • Recess: Delegate Kerrie Delaney’s SB 273 allows elementary schools to include more unstructured recess time into their school day. Recess encourages development of social skills, team building, and critical thinking, while also improving focus and mental health.
  • Qualified Education Loan Ombudsman: SB 394 creates a student loan ombudsman office to  fostering a culture of transparency between loan providers and student borrowers through offering various methods repaying loans, reviewing borrower complaints, and educating borrowers of their consumer rights. This legislation is one step towards a more fair and effective system for student loan borrowers.

In addition to legislation, the General Assembly also celebrates significant milestones or achievements of community groups, and honors the memory of inspirational Virginians. For example, we celebrated achievements of the George Mason University Alumni Association, VT Football Coach Frank Beamer, Bel Air Elementary School in Dale City, the Manassas Symphony Orchestra, and the Child Protection Partnership. We also honored the lives of fallen State Troopers, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen III and  Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, as well as our very own priest from Holy Family Catholic Church, Father Gerry Creedon.

It is my honor and privilege to serve you in Senate of Virginia. I look forward to coming home and seeing you out and about in the community.