We are entering the final weeks of the 2018 General Assembly Session. There are only 2 weeks left before what is known as “Sine Die,” the last day of session. Our last day is March 10th, and we still have much work to be done. Last week, we debated and voted on the budget, and there were several other House bills that cleared the Senate. As I have said before, this year I and my House colleagues have been focused on “Practical Solutions to Everyday Issues,” prioritizing the real problems people talk about at home.
The most important thing we do in the General Assembly is our work on the budget. Thursday the House of Delegates passed a proposal that will now go to conference to be amended with the Senate’s version. For the first time in my 23 years of service, I voted against passage of the budget for the sole reason that Medicaid expansion is not the best course for Virginia’s budget or for all our citizens young and old.
Let me share with you why I voted against this budget. The House budget includes a plan to expand Medicaid, albeit with some conservative reform elements. Every single Member of the House wants to provide healthcare to our citizens. We have adopted policies and provided the necessary funding with state resources, and done so without entangling Virginia with a failed federal policy and the strings that come with it. We are now heading down a path we have not travelled before and becoming more like Washington, and moving further away from the Virginia way. While I respect my colleagues who are supporting this plan, I could not in good conscience vote for House Bills 29 and 30. You can view my floor speech on the budget here.
I am against the plan because our current Medicaid system needs to be reformed, not expanded. I am leery of the federal government when it promises “free” federal money. Finally, one cannot ignore the significant deficits facing other states that have chosen to expand Medicaid. While I applaud the work of our Appropriations Committee and know firsthand how hard we all worked on areas such as teacher pay raises and prudent investments in the reserve fund, I could not support the proposal to expand Medicaid. I hope when the budget arrives in conference, changes are made so that I can support final passage of the budget.
Congratulations to Virginia's Teacher of the Year Michelle Cottrell-Williams
On Tuesday, the Virginia House of Delegates presented House Joint Resolution 188, commending the 2018 Virginia Teacher of the Year, Michelle Cottrell-Williams. Michelle has spent her career working hard, and is most deserving of the honor of being recognized with a center-aisle presentation on the floor of the House of Delegates. As Chairman of the House Education Committee, it was an honor for me to join Delegate Alfonso Lopez, D-Arlington, in presenting Michelle with House Joint Resolution 188 (HJ 188). HJ 188 acknowledges her commitment to our students, not only in her role as Chairman of the Social Studies Department at Wakefield High School, but for her numerous school, division, and statewide responsibilities she has also assumed. Michelle embodies the dedication and commitment to serving, teaching, and inspiring the students of Arlington and the Commonwealth. She is essential to helping our students reach their full potential.
Among her many school activities, Michelle has served as an instructional lead teacher, a member of the Project LEAD team, a member of the Wakefield High School Internal Modifications Committee for Design and Construction, a Blackboard Course Mentor for Secondary T-Scale New Hires, and chair of the Social Studies Department. She has reached out beyond her school by assuming other division and statewide roles, including as a Virginia Department of Education Standards of Learning Trainer for Regions 4 and 5, a planner and organizer for the “We Are All Arlington!” daytime student event, and a speaker at various events. Michelle represented the Commonwealth as a nominee for the 2018 National Teacher of the Year. You can view the presentation of HJ 188 here.
Adoption Reform Agenda Has Passed the Senate
The Senate this week passed three adoption bills that will help more children find loving adoptive parents. House Bills 241, 227, and 291 all passed through the House with bipartisan support earlier in the Session. They now lay at the Governor’s desk for his signature.
- House Bill 227, sponsored by Delegate Christopher Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, requires courts to consider the results of a national criminal history background check conducted on the prospective adoptive parent. The legislation is in response to a case where a young female was found dead from an overdose. After an investigation it was learned that her adoptive parent had a long felony criminal history.
- House Bill 241, sponsored by Delegate Emily Brewer, R-Suffolk, shortens the length of time, from three years to two years, which a child must live with a close family member before adoption proceedings can begin. The closest relatives of a child provide that child with the best chance of success during a tumultuous time.
- House Bill 291, sponsored by Delegate Chris Collins, R-Winchester, simplifies access to adoption files regarding court orders for adoptees and/or adopters so they can more easily obtain personal vital record.
I supported each of these bills and I am happy they have received bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House. I hope the Governor Northam will sign them into law. As a parent of an adopted child, I know just how important these bills are.
Last week, Governor Ralph Northam signed two of my bills into law. House Bill 761 authorizes the issuance of revenue-sharing special license plates for members and supporters of the Virginia Future Farmers of America (FFA) Foundation bearing the legend WE ARE THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE FFA. What a great way to celebrate Future Farmers of America Appreciation Week! House Bill 776 adds Albemarle County to the list of counties that may, by ordinance, regulate parking on secondary highways.
In addition to those two bills being signed into law, the Virginia Senate passed House Bill 916, with a 40 to 0 vote. This bill requires the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services to administer Long-Term Employment Support Services and Extended Employment Services to assist individuals with disabilities with maintaining employment. The Senate passed House Bill 1148, with an amendment, with a 38 to 0 vote. This bill will be able to begin the dialogue on the inequity of the revenue sharing agreement between the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Finally, House Bill 1599, which adds members of the investigations unit designated by the State Inspector General to investigate allegations of criminal behavior affecting the operations of a state or non-state agency to the definition of law-enforcement officer, passed the Senate, with a substitute, with a 38 to 0 vote.
House District Advisory Committee Meeting Reminder
I have invited members of the 25th House District Advisory Committee (HDAC) to come to Richmond and experience the Virginia General Assembly this Thursday, March 1st, as a special thank you. We will be meeting in Room E 200 B of the Pocahontas Building, located at 900 E. Main Street in Richmond, at 9:15 a.m. Our other local legislators have been invited to stop in for a visit and we will have special guests joining us as well!
If you would like to attend our Thursday HDAC meeting, please respond today, if you have not done so already. You may do so do so by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org (please put Attention: Pam in the subject line), or you may call our Administrative Assistant, Pam Stump, at 804.698.1025. If you are not an HDAC member, but are interested in joining, please contact my Communications Director Will Wrobleski by email at email@example.com or by phone at 603.660.8811. I look forward to seeing you Thursday!
In Case You Missed It
My Legislative Director, Judy Wyatt, Communications Director, Will Wrobleski, and I are here to serve you. If you need help with a state government agency or issue, we can be reached by phone at 804.698.1025 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our address is Post Office Box 406, Richmond, Virginia 23219. For scheduling requests, please contact my Administrative Assistant Pam Stump in my Richmond office.
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Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.