With February come to a close, I can truthfully say that the legislative session so far has been eventful. We have seen a number of important actions from the executive branch, successes and failures in bipartisanship, and I am happy to report a number of my legislative proposals are on their way to the Governor’s Desk.
Before going into the details of this session. I want to make sure that you know that today, March 1 is Primary Election Day here in the Commonwealth. To find your voting location, please click here.
McAuliffe Gun Deal
The only way to get anything done in Richmond is to work across the aisle since both houses in the General Assembly have Republican majorities. You have probably heard by now of the deal on guns that Governor McAuliffe has negotiated with the Republican Leadership. It will make sure that guns are out of the hands of people who have permanent domestic protective orders taken out against them and change the state of gun carry reciprocity laws.
The deal, which was signed by the Governor recently is in the form of three bills that would (1) prohibit anyone subject to a permanent protective order from owning a gun, (2) allow State police to perform voluntary background checks on customers at gun shows in Virginia, and (3) reverse the decision made by Attorney General Mark Herring to not recognize reciprocity of concealed carry licenses from 25 states, while adding additional states to which we will have reciprocity.
While I am supportive of removing firearms from individuals with a permanent protective order taken out against them, I could not vote for an increase in reciprocity, when we already had a good law on the books.
Expansion and Tolling on I-66
Governor McAuliffe and members of the Virginia General Assembly announced an agreement to move forward on a plan to reduce congestion on I-66 inside the beltway by widening a four mile stretch from the Dulles Connector Road to Ballston, improving transit, and adding new options for single drivers.
The plan would be implemented jointly by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, and the Department of Transportation. The Transform66: Inside the Beltway project includes the following components—
- Widening of I-66 eastbound from the Dulles Connector Road to Ballston with lanes opening in late 2019
- Converting of I-66 during rush hours in the peak directions to dynamic tolling where HOV vehicles and buses travel free while others must pay a toll
- Enhancing carpool and other TDM strategies throughout the corridor.
While I am typically very excited for new programs that can increase transit options, I am awaiting to see how this develops.
Legislative Successes and Failures
HB 834 - Establishes the Virginia Growth and Opportunity Board to administer GO Virginia regional economic and workforce development projects so that we can continue to develop the New Virginia Economy.
HB 1348 - Provides that any person who smokes in a motor vehicle, when a child under the age of eight is in the motor vehicle is subject to a fine.
SB 117 - Protects Cyclists by requiring drivers to wait for a reasonable opportunity to open vehicle doors on the side adjacent to moving traffic.
HB 2 - Clean Power Plan - Requires the Department of Environmental Quality to receive approval from the General Assembly for a state implementation plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.
HB 4 - Right to Work Constitutional Amendment- enshrines an outmoded, conservative political point into our state’s constitution. This will be on the ballot in November.
HB 560 - Makes it more difficult to convict someone of brandishing a firearm by requiring proof that a person had the intent to induce fear in the mind of another.
HB 773/SB 41 - Prevents the state government from taking any action against a person or organization that discriminates based on a sincerely held religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one. This effectively legalizes discrimination against the LGBT community.
My Legislative Agenda
In addition to my work as caucus chair, I also wanted to give you an update on some of the legislation that I have been working on. You can see my full legislative agenda and bills that I have co-patroned here.
Continuing my work to combat heroin and prescription drug abuse
I have been proud to serve on the Governor’s Taskforce on Heroin and Prescription Drugs. Over the last two years I have worked with colleagues from all over the Commonwealth, and together we have made strides toward dealing with a problem that has been claiming the lives of Virginians in increasing proportion for many years. This year I have a few pieces of legislation that are being considered. HJ 79 is a study resolution that I filed once again in order to see a proper study done on sentencing alternatives for drug offences in order to see what we can do to alleviate our overcrowded jails and actually help people recover rather than lock them into a cycle of repeat offenses. Working across the aisle, I joined my HB 290 into being the Chief Co-Patron for HB 657, which gives the authority for the Department of Health Professions to develop criterion for indicators of abuse in prescribing and dispensing, and forward cases to the enforcement division. Last, HB 293 makes the PMP program more effective by outline exemptions for its use such as natural disaster and certain special cases.
Keeping our seniors safe
When the Commissions on Aging brought this to my attention, I was shocked that we didn’t already have programs that prioritize the investigation of seniors who are suspected of being financially exploited, especially those who are potentially being financially ruined by the suspected activity. This bill will ensure that when this type of activity is suspected it is reported to the police and investigated. Working across the aisle to ensure success on this important legislation, my HB291 has been laid on the table and I have joined as the chief co-patron of HB 248.
Working to make transportation decisions more equitable
Working with other legislators from Northern Virginia and am a Chief Co-Patron for HB 190 which updates the way the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority makes population based decisions to a more accurate method of using estimates in place of projections.
Thank you for taking the time to read my update. If you would like to see my entire legislative agenda, you can see it online here. If you have questions or need assistance you can always reach my office at 703-606-9705 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charniele L. Herring