This Tuesday is “crossover:” the last day for the House and Senate to pass bills and send them to the other chamber. In the House Appropriations Committee, we have been working long hours and late nights to get through the hundreds of bills referred to this committee before crossover. We will complete our work by Tuesday and report the House biennial budget next Sunday, February 16, for a vote by the full House of Delegates.

Legislative Progress

Two bills of which I am the Patron passed the House of Delegates this week. House Bill 1249 – Manufactured Home Lot Rental Act, which grants additional legal protections for residents of mobile home parks when the park is sold, passed the House on Friday. House Bill 1495, which helps public schools be competitive in hiring retired law enforcement personnel as School Resource Officers, passed the House almost unanimously on Thursday. Both bills will now move to the Senate for approval.

Another bill that I introduced, the Community Policing Act, passed out of the House Appropriations Committee on Friday. The Community Policing Act will deter biased policing and increase accountability by creating a comprehensive database of the basis and outcome of every officer traffic stop.

House Bill 1251 also passed out of the Appropriations committee on Friday. I introduced HB1251 to end “balance billing” for emergency health care services. This legislation will remove covered patients from the billing process and guarantee theiremergency care is covered regardless of final diagnosis, while ensuring thatproviders are reimbursed the market value for the care they provide. HB1251 takes significant steps to protect Virginia families from surprise medical debt; we are glad to see it move on to a vote in the full House.

Lastly: Public defender offices are on their way to Manassas, Manassas Park, and Prince William County. Bills that would establish these new public defender offices passed the House and the Senate this week. House Bill 366, introduced by Delegate Carroll Foy, passed the House uncontested on Wednesday. Senate Bill 72, an identical bill introduced by Senator Surovell, passed the Senate on Monday. Prince William County is currently the only jurisdiction in Northern Virginia that is not served by a public defender office. I have strongly supported this legislation, which will bring more fairness to the criminal justice system for low-income defendants in the 52nd district. It is also supported by our new Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Black History Month

I was honored to recognize Black History Month on the House floor this week. I told the story of the first Black Greek-letter fraternity and its founder, Dr. Henry Minton. Dr. Minton’s exclusion from social and professional organizations despite his high achievements inspired him to form Sigma Pi Phi fraternity in 1904 with a group of fellow Black professionals. In keeping with the high standards upon which the fraternity was founded, Sigma Pi Phi is also known as the Boulé, meaning “council of noblemen.”

I am proud to share membership in this illustrious organization with historic leaders in the movement for justice and equality. Notable past and present members include: W.E.B. DuBois, Martin Luther King, Jr., Oliver Hill, Arthur Ashe, Attorney General Eric Holder, Congressman John Lewis, the late Congressman Elijah Cummings, former Virginia Delegate Matthew James, and two of my current colleagues in the House: Delegate Jeff Bourne and Delegate Don Scott.

In 1904 – the same year Dr. Minton and his colleagues wrote Sigma Pi Phi’s constitution – Virginia’s state constitution explicitly mandated school segregation, poll taxes and literacy tests, and the General Assembly had just voted to segregate streetcars. Last year, Virginia elected a record number of African American legislators. The General Assembly has its first African American House Majority Leader. Seven members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus hold committee chairmanships, including the first African American Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. Black history is not only the history of this Commonwealth; it is also our present and future.

I appreciate your ongoing support and encourage you to contact me if you have questions, comments or concerns about the 2020 General Assembly session.