With the first full week of this years General Assembly session behind us, the pace is starting to pick up in Richmond. Once again, I have been assigned to the Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee and the Privileges and Elections Committee, which will allow me to continue weighing in on health care, human services, and social justice issues and to continue working to open the elections process and make government more transparent and accountable.
The bills I am sponsoring this year are starting to be heard in various committees and subcommittees, and things are going quite well so far.
Last week, the House considered my bill to require nursing homes, assisted living residences, adult day care centers, child care centers, and certain other licensed group homes to report infectious disease outbreaks to the Department of Health. A serious outbreak of norovirus in an assisted living facility in Arlington last year went unreported for so long that 61 percent of the residents 85 elderly members of our community fell seriously ill. Were it not for an alert ambulance crew, this outbreak might have gone unreported altogether, resulting in who knows how much additional suffering. This bill will ensure timely reporting and response to these kinds of situations so we can protect the health and safety of these vulnerable members of our community. I am pleased to report that it passed the full House of Delegates on Friday and now heads to the Senate.
Governor Kaine asked me to carry a bill to allow military personnel and others stationed overseas to receive absentee ballots electronically. Having experienced the frustration of being stationed overseas and trying to get absentee ballots quickly enough to meet voting deadlines, I know what a difference this legislation will make to our men and women in uniform who want to vote. This was one of only two bills to make it out of the Elections Subcommittee on Friday during the same hearing where House Republicans again killed bills that would have allowed no-fault absentee voting and expanded absentee voting to pregnant women. Later on Friday, my bill passed the Privileges and Elections Committee unanimously, and I expect it to pass the full House of Delegates in short order.
Unfortunately, some other good bills did not survive the committee process last week. Two bills to close the loophole that allows people to buy firearms at gun shows in Virginia with no background check died on a near party-line vote Friday morning. Especially disappointing was the fact that these bills were rushed onto the committee docket at the last minute after the House Republican leadership learned that Virginia Tech families were planning to visit Monday to lobby for the legislation.
In addition to working on legislation, I was pleased to welcome visitors from a number of community groups last week. Constituents from the Virginia Organizing Project, Tenants and Workers United, and the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations, as well as fire fighters and dentists from Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax, stopped by to share their thoughts and concerns about various issues.
If you happen to be in Richmond, I hope you will stop by room 707 in the General Assembly building to say hello. Of course, you can always contact me at 703-549-3203 or [email protected] to let me know whats on your mind and how I can serve you better.