As the Commonwealth of Virginia faces an extraordinary health, economic, and social crisis, we see even more clearly the essential need to protect workers, support education, promote healthy environmental policies, and secure accessible, quality healthcare for all Virginians. To provide growth, security, and opportunity for our Commonwealth, we must make policy decisions that lead to equity and that prioritize actions on livable wages, education, housing, environmental justice, and health resources. The pandemic crisis highlights our need for new ideas and updated infrastructure, including comprehensive legislation that targets data and technology, election safeguards, food and housing security, and good governance.
The 2021 General Assembly: This year’s General Assembly was demonstrative of the ways in which engagement and community are the leading forces of behind triumph and change in the Commonwealth.
SB 1187 – extends direct access to physical therapy services from 30 to 60 days.
SB 1188 – establishes the Virginia Agriculture Food Assistance (VAFA) Program. The program assists Virginia’s farmers and food producers in donating, selling, or providing agricultural products to charitable food assistance organizations.
SB 1189 – enables Virginia to enter into the Occupational Therapy Interjurisdictional Licensure Compact with other states. The Compact would allow for licensed OTs and OTAs to practice in other states within the Compact.
SB 1314 – directs the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority to establish an Office of Education and Labor Market Alignment (the Office) to coordinate data analysis on workforce and higher education alignment and translate data to partners. The Office will provide a unified, consistent source of information or analysis to better assist policy development and implementation related to talent development. The Office will partner with the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, institutions of higher education, the Virginia Employment Commission, GO Virginia, and other relevant entities to offer resources and expertise related to education and labor market alignment.
SB 1319 – calls for a study to evaluate the regulations that govern solid waste management in Virginia. The task force will study available options to divert the following from Virginia’s landfills: food residuals, organic waste, and baseline recyclables generated or originating from outside of the Commonwealth.
SB 1396 – the Equity in Wastewater Treatment Act, establishes equitable access to wastewater treatment as Commonwealth policy.
The 2020 Special Session: This Session was initially called for the legislature to address changes to the budget in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it did. However, this Session became an illustration of the Commonwealths’ commitment to the advancement of racial equity and criminal justice reform by taking bold and necessary strong first steps.
SB 5035 – This legislation is permissive, enabling localities to grant stronger review and disciplinary authority to their review boards, including subpoena power and the ability to issue findings on incidents, such as the use of force by a law-enforcement officer, death or serious injury to any person held in custody, serious abuse of authority or misconduct, allegedly discriminatory stops, and other incidents.
The 2020 General Assembly: This year’s General Assembly was a powerful testament to the ways in which grassroots efforts can impact policy and legislation. We were able to pass measures that affect the lives of Virginians in significant ways: the Equal Rights Amendment, gun safety reforms, protections for women’s reproductive health, non-discrimination policies for LGBTQ+ communities, healthcare access, immigrant resources, and so much more. I was pleased to pass 13 bills this session:
SB 401 – provides protections from frivolous lawsuits that seek to stifle freedom of speech and freedom of press
SB 403 – returns the custody of the Virginia War Memorial Carillon to the state’s Division of Engineering and Buildings
SB 404 – provides consumer protections in healthcare insurance by restricting short-term limited duration insurance plans
SB 406 – defines environmental justice by outlining the Virginia Environmental Justice Act and creates the framework by which state agencies will monitor the impact of policies and projects on communities of color, indigenous communities, low-income, and fenceline communities
SB 407 – establishes the Virginia Revolutionary 250 Commission that will plan, develop, and perform programs and activities to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution, the Revolutionary War, and the independence of the United States
SB 408 – protects victims of domestic violence by letting them know when abusers have appealed a protective order
SB 410 – requires each school board to maintain a water management program for the prevention of Legionella at each public school building in a given local division
SB 528 – establishes a residency requirement for City of Richmond council members to reside, throughout their term on the council, in the election district from which they are elected
SB 910 – increases the number of teachers serving English Language Learners in every school district
SB 935 – allows those who meet eligibility standards to receive in-state tuition regardless of immigration status.
SB 991 – establishes the Office of New Americans within the Department of Social Services, as well as an advisory board, to assist immigrant integration within the Commonwealth on economic, social, and cultural levels
SB 1032 – assists indigent individuals in accessing legal aid in civil cases in a more efficient manner
SB 1045 – provides consumer protection for the testing and reporting of quality standards of THC-A and cannabidiol oils produced by permitted pharmaceutical processors
Our Continued Focus Areas
Healthcare is a human right. Every Virginian must have access to safe and affordable coverage. This is particularly essential now that we are faced with an unprecedented health crisis that has forced millions out of jobs, causing them to lose their health insurance at a time they need it the most.
Investments in essential industries is critical. Our current economic crisis is unprecedented, and to address it effectively, we have to invest in industries that are crucial to the health and safety of the Commonwealth, that value and support care work, and that focus on improving our infrastructure.
Expanding access to mental health services is critical, especially as we face issues of social crisis. As the pandemic disrupts the norms of social behaviors, we have to expand the care and attention that we provide to children, families, our elderly, and those experiencing the trauma of isolation.
Housing is a fundamental human right and access to safe housing is particularly important during a health crisis that requires us to stay at home. The policies to support housing in Virginia include the extending the federal eviction ban into effect for all residents, a long-term plan for the homeless and housing insecure, increasing relief for renters and home-owners, and expanding tenant right and protections.
The Care Economy is vitally important to the strength and maintenance of the Commonwealth. The care economy is wide-ranging and includes quality childcare, home healthcare, domestic work, long-term care, and hospice facilities. We see its increasing value as workers seek childcare for young children who have been displaced from school and as long-term care facilities are hit hard by COVID-19. The current crisis spotlights even more keenly how the care economy is imperative for the future of the Commonwealth.
Education must remain a top priority for Virginia, especially as we work to address disruptions to learning, support our educators, target areas of inequity, and examine how technology can be used to foster creativity and critical thinking. Developing pathways for a safe continuation of academic effort and for returning to classrooms and colleges will help students, families, and educators identify their next steps. Importantly, addressing the areas of inequity that have been highlighted by the crisis will strengthen the Commonwealth for all Virginians.
Data and technology play increasing roles in each of our lives. And yet much of our government and agency technology infrastructure is outdated or incompatible with our current needs. Finding efficient and effective applications for improved technologies will help us to respond better to the needs of Virginians.
Elections are the foundation of our democracy. Ensuring that everyone can participate safely in elections is essential. Additionally, we must protect our election technologies, ballots, and processes so that the integrity of the electoral system is maintained.
Food security is an essential good, especially during a time of crisis. Food security refers to all the parts involved in bringing food from farm to table. To support this vital structure, we must protect Virginia’s small farms, ensure a safe and healthy working environment for workers, and invest in farmers markets and local agriculture.
Good governance refers to the management of all governance structures and how to organizational structures in ways that reduce friction and increase efficiency.