The 2021 General Assembly Session began this week. The virtual format for the House of Delegates means it is easy for you to follow along and advocate from home:
- Watch House committee and subcommittee meetings and the House floor session live every weekday here.
- See our daily meeting schedules and sign up to provide testimony before any committee or subcommittee here.
- Track the status of all introduced bills and legislators’ votes here.
Please contact my office at any point during session by calling 703-785-2224 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
My 2021 Legislative Priorities
As Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, my primary focus remains Virginia’s budget and I am the chief patron of the biennial budget bill: House Bill 1800. Our task this year is to revise the 2020-2022 biennial budget that was passed last year. In doing so, I will continue to prioritize education, health care, and workers’ rights.
As you know, the pandemic had a significant impact on state revenue forecasts in 2020. We responded first by freezing all new spending, then by addressing a $2.8 billion gap during Special Session. Through these measures, we managed to maintain Virginia’s strong fiscal standing. Now, while we focus on meeting new challenges and rebuilding our Commonwealth, the promising new revenue forecast will also allow for the restoration of funding to priority initiatives from the original budget.
Currently, the amended biennial budget proposed by Governor Northam is available for you to review online along with amendments submitted by General Assembly members. I applaud Governor Northam’s budgetary emphasis on forward-looking education funding, continued criminal justice reform, expanding broadband access, equitable health care, and fiscal responsibility.
I support amendments that will institute COVID-19 relief for our public schools; new measures to address racial disparities in infant and maternal health outcomes, including Medicaid coverage for doula care; and responsible contracting policies to protect workers against misclassification and wage theft. I will ensure the final budget includes an emphasis on workers’ rights and fostering financial security for Virginia families.
HB2174 would establish a new financial security program called VirginiaSaves. VirginiaSaves would be an optional, portable auto-IRA housed in Virginia529 to promote retirement savings for employees whose employers do not otherwise offer qualified retirement plans. I have championed the creation of a program like VirginiaSaves for many years. Under this plan, Virginia529 can do for retirement planning what it did for college savings. This is an opportunity for all Virginia workers to build long-term savings not tied to a single employer.
HB2175 would enhance my 2020 Manufactured Home Lot Rental Act and lay the groundwork for a comprehensive Housing Bill of Rights to address disparities in homeownership. Homeownership is one of the most reliable routes to building wealth, yet existing barriers to homeownership access and retention are the bedrock of the racial wealth gap in Virginia. Virginia’s housing crisis predated the pandemic but fostering housing stability is more important now than ever; an estimated 36% of homeowners have lost income since the start of the pandemic. This has disproportionately impacted communities of color. Virginia needs a Housing Bill of Rights so that every Virginian has the opportunity to achieve financial security and build wealth.
This bill would change Virginia’s foreclosure law by assisting homeowners in jeopardy of foreclosure with protecting their home. It would require a mortgage company to provide a 60-day notice period – rather than the current 14-day period – of a pending foreclosure auction and require that notice to include information on potential legal assistance and available housing counseling. The bill would also decrease the likelihood that a vindictive creditor would force the sale of a low-income homeowner’s residence to satisfy other debts.
The bill would also preserve the least-cost entry into homeownership: Manufactured homes. It would require localities to provide plans to maintain and improve existing manufactured home communities and ensure that residents of these communities are granted information about their rights and opportunities.
HB2176 would help ensure a healthy work environment for our teachers and all school board employees. Currently, the law requires school boards to educate their employees about bullying and adopt policies to prohibit abusive work environments, discipline employees who contribute to an abusive work environment, and prevent retaliation against employees who speak out regarding abusive work environments. This bill would specifically define the terms: “abusive conduct,” “abusive work environment,” “physical harm,” and “psychological harm.” The need for this clarifying language was brought to us by a constituent and former educator.
I am also sponsoring legislation to establish a capital outlay plan and authorize the issuance of bonds to facilitate capital projects at Virginia’s institutions of higher learning, for example: erecting a new academic building and residence hall at Virginia Tech and establishing a new George Mason University STEM campus located in Prince William County.
COVID-19 Vaccine Information
On Wednesday, January 27th, at 1pm, AARP is offering a COVID-19 vaccine information session with Alison Ansher, MD, District Director of the Prince William Health District. Prince William County residents are invited to RSVP to this event by visiting aarp.cvent.com/PWCvaccineinfo.
Prince William County is currently in Phase 1b of Virginia’s vaccine rollout plan. Groups included in Phase 1a and 1b are: Health care personnel, people living or working in long term care facilities, those 65 and older, those 16-65 years old with underlying health conditions, and frontline essential workers such as teachers, police, firefighters, grocery store workers, mail carriers, and more. If you are 65+ or 16-65 with an underlying health condition, please submit this interest form. The Prince William Health District will contact you to schedule an appointment.