I hope you had a safe and enjoyable Labor Day. The House of Delegates has largely completed its consideration of House Bills since returning to work on Tuesday. Next week we will be voting on more bills sent to us from the Senate as we begin to wrap up this Special Session.
Governor Northam has signed our legislation funding important voter access measures for the November 3 elections that are necessary in light of COVID-19. The elections budget will fund prepaid postage for absentee ballots, codify the removal of a witness requirement for absentee ballots, authorize local registrars to establish secure absentee ballot drop-off locations, and institute a “cure” process so that no one’s absentee ballot is discarded due to immaterial omissions.
The legislation goes into effect immediately, so make sure your friends and family know: It will be safer and easier than ever to vote early or absentee in Virginia this year. Request an absentee ballot here.
This is all in addition to the sweeping voter access laws your new majority passed during the regular 2020 General Assembly session. These earlier reforms removed the requirement that voters provide an “excuse” to vote absentee, created a 45-day period to vote early in person, eliminated an unnecessary voter ID law, and established an automatic voter registration system.
Virginia is now a national leader in voting rights and pandemic response measures that increase voter safety and accessibility.
The State of Special Session
The Virginia House of Delegates passed a collection of bills during Special Session that would significantly reform the Commonwealth’s criminal justice system, support those impacted by the pandemic, and make Virginia more equitable overall.
This includes legislation that: Creates law enforcement civilian review panels and a Marcus Alert system, prohibitsno-knock search warrants and chokeholds, demilitarizes our local police, and ends qualified immunity (although this was tabled by the Senate). Other criminal justice reform bills passed by the House update law enforcement training and transparency standards, set up automatic record expungement for certain convictions, allow those incarcerated to earn credits on their sentences, and more.
Public health legislation passed by the House would provide paid leave for workers quarantining due to COVID-19, allow for workers’ compensation for those infected on the job, expand telemedicine services, and more.
This is just a sample of the noteworthy legislation passed to date. It is now the “crossover” period, when the House and Senate vote on the other chamber’s legislation. Bills that pass in both chambers will go to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
Care Safe Update
There has been more progress in distributingPersonal Protective Equipment (PPE) to Virginia’s home care workers. As you know, the Department of Medical Assistance Services mailed cloth masks to Medicaid members earlier this summer. Now, agencies employing home care workers will be able to request monthly supplies of PPE including masks, hand sanitizer, and gloves. This is a great step towards protecting those who are caring for our most vulnerable Virginians during this difficult time.
Please reach out to my office with any questions or concerns regarding Special Session or any other matters we can assist with. Look for announcements on budget progress next week!