General Assembly members are back in Richmond today for a two-week Special Session to allocate federal relief funds and appoint judges. For the first time in over a year, we are meeting inside the Chamber of the State Capitol. Therefore, during the Special Session you can contact my Richmond office at 804-698-1052.
Special Session Preview
The purpose of this Special Session is to quickly and responsibly deliver over $3 billion in stimulus funds granted to Virginia by the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The apportionment will take the form of a stand-alone budget bill separate from the commonwealth’s biennial spending plan, since federal relief means we don’t need to touch Virginia tax dollars. Even while leaving the commonwealth’s General Fund intact (in fact, with a surplus of about $2 billion), your Democratic majority is proposing a set of historic investments this week:
- $700 million to achieve universal broadband access by 2024 – Read my op-ed with Senator Janet Howell in the Roanoke Times on this critical, leading-edge project
- $250 million to improve the air quality in Virginia’s public schools through energy-efficient HVAC upgrades
- $935 million to replenish Virginia’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund – protecting employers from tax hikes – and to accelerate much-needed improvements at the Virginia Employment Commission
- Substantial funding to strengthen Virginia’s behavioral health system, including community-based services, the Marcus Alert program, permanent supportive housing, and substance abuse treatment services
- $353 million for small businesses and Virginia’s tourism and hospitality industries
- $411 million for clean drinking water and to support wastewater and stormwater infrastructure
- $111 million for financial aid – on top of the $833 billion in federal relief dollars going directly to Virginia colleges and universities – to make higher education more accessible and affordable for Virginia’s students
- And much more
Last week our office released a survey of our constituents’ experiences with the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC). If you are a constituent of the 52nd House District and you have previously contacted our office regarding issues receiving unemployment compensation or contacting the VEC, please let us know whether your case was resolved: delegatetorian.org/vecsurvey.
You may know that Virginians across the commonwealth have been experiencing benefits delays, unresolved claims issues, and a slow response rate from the VEC since the beginning of the COVID-19 unemployment crisis. All legislative offices have been able to do for individual cases is forward claims information to the VEC. However, seeing the severity of the problem, the General Assembly and Governor Northam have acted over the last year to improve the VEC’s performance through increased oversight, funding, staffing, and system upgrades. Additionally, in May, a federal judge ordered the VEC to clear its backlog of over 92,000 claims by Labor Day. The VEC recently disclosed its backlog has been reduced to 40,000 claims since then, but many new cases have likely been added and Virginia’s legislative oversight body reports the VEC’s call center operations have gotten even worse.
I will meet with the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) again in September to hear interim findings on their study of the VEC’s management and performance. While our office unfortunately has only limited influence over the outcomes of individual cases, our constituents’ experiences with the VEC can shape future policy and funding decisions.
In July my re-election campaign received some exciting new support:
- An endorsement by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia
- An endorsement by the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club and an “A” grade on their 2021 scorecard
- Backing by the Virginia Education Association Fund for Children and Public Education
- An endorsement by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters
Now you can keep up with the great causes that are joining #TeamTorian on my new campaign webpage: delegatetorian.com/about-luke/our-supporters
Top State for Business
Despite the hardships we faced during the pandemic, we are building back a stronger, more resilient, and more equitable commonwealth. This July, Virginia was named CNBC’s Top State for Business, earning record-breaking back-to-back titles. This is what happens when you have a government that recognizes we thrive when we invest in our businesses, our people, and our communities. We’re not taking our foot off the gas; we’re going to keep passing policies like paid family leave and paid sick days that will help our businesses recruit top talent and make Virginia a welcoming place for business and families.
Please reach out if I can be of assistance or answer any questions about Special Session. You can always contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.