Session begins with House Democrats pushing for open government


The opening week of the General Assembly reminds me of the first week of a new school year, with Delegates and Senators from one end of Virginia to the other reacquainting themselves, meeting new colleagues, and learning their way around new offi

ces.  After the opening formalities on the first day of the session, the first order of business was a vote on the rules that will govern how the House of Delegates operates for the next two years.  Two years ago, the House Republican majority pushed through a rule that allows as few as two Delegates to kill any piece of legislation in subcommittee with no recorded vote, depriving the people of the opportunity to know who voted how on important issues.  To correct this, House Democrats offered amendments to require subcommittee votes to be recorded and also to allow a live television broadcast if the daily proceedings on the House floor.  Unfortunately, House Republicans once against thwarted our efforts at open-government reform, so citizens will remain in the dark about key subcommittee votes.
However, as part of my own open-government agenda, this week I re-launched my website, with some key open-government improvements, such as posting my daily schedule online so constituents have a better picture of who tries to influence public policy and how.  By partnering with Richmond Sunlight, a project of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, my website now includes a new online tool that allows constituents to monitor the progress of each of my bills.  I hope you will take advantage of these tools to stay up-to-date on my efforts.  You will see that I have filed an ambitious slate of legislation with a combination of bold ideas and small steps forward.  Here are just some of the bills I will be working on over the next couple of months:
– In addition to fighting the effort to dismantle the State Air Pollution Control Board, I am sponsoring legislation to aggressively reduce Virginias greenhouse gas emissions based on the recommendations of the Nobel prize-winning International Panel on Climate Change, and I hope to exempt several key energy-efficient products from sales tax. 
– Affordable housing remains a priority, and I am working with the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness on a renewed effort to create a Rental Assistance Pilot Project.  Additionally, in response to community efforts to preserve more than 500 units of affordable housing at Hunting Towers, I have a bill to allow the Virginia Department of Transportation to account for workforce housing in price negotiations when it sells property acquired during project construction.
– I have proposed a bill to create a statewide Advanced Medical Directive Registry, which is an important tool to establish who may make decisions on your behalf during a medical emergency.  While this will benefit all Virginians and get critical information to emergency responders, it is a particular priority for same-sex couples, who do not enjoy the legal benefits of marriage.
In addition to my own bills, I will be working with my General Assembly colleagues to strengthen our mental health system, repeal the misguided driving abuser fees, and defend initiatives in Governor Kaines proposed budget to expand access to high-quality pre-kindergarten, bring payments to foster parents closer to the national average, expand health care access to the uninsured, and make smart investments in higher education that will strengthen Virginias economy.

Of course, I welcome your ideas and feedback, so I hope you will get in touch at 703-549-3203 (which forwards to my Richmond office during the session) or at and let me know if there is anything I can do to serve you better.  It is an honor to serve you, and I am hopeful that over the next two months, my General Assembly colleagues and I will be able to make progress for all Virginians.