This week we enter the cross over period of the 2018 legislative session, namely where House bills are considered in the Senate and where Senate bills are considered in the House. Thus far, I have had several legislative successes in the House Chamber including ensuring that a person sentenced above or below recommended guidelines be informed of the reason by the Court for the departure, removing barriers for families to adopt, and pushing for a comprehensive public-school curriculum that provides information on the risks of prescription drugs in response to the opioid health crisis that we are facing in Virginia.
While I have had success so for this year, there have been some common-sense measures that did not pass on partisan votes. I introduced legislation to help ensure that tree canopies that are lost due to construction are timely replaced. This measure helps our environment including enhancing our air quality in addition to improving the aesthetics of our neighborhoods. Additionally, my bill for no excuse absentee did not get to the floor. There are many reasons to vote absentee. The requirement that a person must provide personal information regarding the reason to vote early, one of which is to include a letter from a doctor, is outdated and unnecessary. It is time to make access to the polls easier and not cumbersome.
We have seen some bi-partisan gains which includes increasing the felony larceny threshold from $200 to $500 and reforming our system of restitution so that victims of crime have a better chance of being compensated. The threshold amount hasn’t been raised since 1980 when it was raised from $100-$200. Clearly, the conviction of a felony has a large impact on an individual’s life. In Virginia, if you are convicted of a felony, you lose your right to vote & possess a firearm. Additionally, an individual’s employment prospects are hampered especially in our metropolitan region where many jobs require a person to be able to obtain clearance.
In the next few days, we will consider expansion of Medicaid. The bill as filed, HB 338, contains a work requirement for able-bodied adult recipients of medical assistance services. My concern about the work requirement is that it unfairly targets poor people and unnecessarily expands government. Instead of tax dollars going to help people who are in need of healthcare, we would be forced to pay to oversee the requirements of this measure. This simply does not make sense. I believe our goal is to make sure that people who are in need are getting covered. In Alexandria, there are many who don’t have necessary coverage. By expanding Medicaid we can expand coverage and remove some burden from our local emergency room which handles cases of uninsured patients.