I am excited to be hosting my annual Town Hall meeting with Senator Chap Petersen this Saturday, January 25. The meeting will take place at Fairfax City Hall from 9 to 11 a.m. There is a lot to talk about and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and questions. We will bring the coffee and bagels!
The first full week of session started off with ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The resolution passed on a bi-partisan vote of 59Y to 41N in the House. An identical resolution passed the Senate 28Y to 12N. In addition, last week, the Senate passed four bills related to gun safety - these include universal background checks for commercial transactions (SB70), reinstating Virginia's one-handgun-a-month law (SB69), providing local governments with the ability to prohibit firearms in public buildings or publicly-permitted events (SB35), and implementing a "red flag" law that allows a court to temporarily prohibit a person that poses a substantial risk of injury to himself or others from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm (SB240). The latter includes strong due process protections and penalties against anyone who knowingly makes a false claim against another.
I believe that these are reasonable safety measures and support their passage. For example, when Virginia passed the one-hand-gun-a-month law in 1993, Virginia was identified by ATF as the #1 state on the East Coast for the trafficking of guns used in criminal activity. By 1996, Virginia had dropped to #8 on the ATF list. Unfortunately, the law was repealed in 2012. I also deeply appreciate the many thoughtful (and passionate) emails I've received from constituents on both sides of this issue. Thank you! Chap and I are ready to help answer any questions at the meeting.
First Bills Out
Several of my bills have now moved through the House and are on their way to the Senate for consideration.
One of these bills (HB519) is designed to help reduce the number of evictions in Virginia. Last year, a Princeton University study found that five cities in Virginia ranked in the top 10 for national eviction rates. In response, the General Assembly made several changes to our eviction laws designed to help people stay in their homes when possible, while recognizing that owners of rental properties rely on timely rent to pay their bills as well. However, none of these reforms mean much if someone facing the pressure of an eviction isn't familiar with their rights or the legal process. My bill requires an eviction notice served on an individual receiving rental assistance to include information about how to contact legal aid. I was pleased that the Virginia Association of Realtors, the Apartment and Office Building Association, and the Virginia Poverty Law Center worked with me and supported the final bill.
Another bill (HB516) adds dual enrollment courses to the coursework that is eligible for a student to fulfill the advanced coursework requirement for high school graduation. Dual enrollment courses are taught by college faculty and have the added benefit of being portable to future higher education. Promoting dual enrollment has been a priority for Virginia since it is strongly linked to workforce development. However, without this bill, there is a disincentive for students to consider this option since it doesn't meet advanced coursework requirements. Shout out to Fairfax County Public Schools for asking me to submit this bill.